Last week, a fellow Light Up Learning Board member came across this 2016 article from The Atlantic, and I thought it was particularly apt at this moment to share it in our history, as we all try to work out how to move definitively away from systemic, ingrained racism in our world. Written by Paul Tough, whose 2009 book ‘Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America’ profiled the black American educator, Geoffrey Canada, this article is a long but perceptive and well-reasoned read, exploring how children and young people learn the resilience we believe (and know) they need in order to thrive equally in the world.
Its key message is that young people need 4 important mindsets or beliefs if they are going to be able to persevere:
- A sense of belonging – ‘I belong here’
- A growth mindset – ‘my ability and competence grow with my effort’
- A sense of self – ‘I can succeed at this’
- A sense of purpose – ‘this work has value for me’
Children who grow up in adverse circumstances, however, often don’t believe any of these things. Schools can make a difference, and I have seen schools do fabulous work in mindsets 2-4 especially. It struck me, while reading the article and reflecting, and while reading heartrending accounts over the weekend of the exclusion felt by black and minority ethnic people, that where we can all do so, so much better is in developing and sustaining a real sense of belonging. Schools, families, mentors, coaches … everyone can play their part in making this happen. We are all in this together, we are all genuinely equal, we should all belong … And we have to stand up, say this, mean it, and do something about it.
Change often happens not as a smooth evolution, but more akin to the movement of tectonic plates, with a build up of intolerable pressure until they can stand no more, the earth gives way in a resounding earthquake, and new land is formed. George Floyd’s death released the tectonic plates. let us regroup on the new ground, as equals, where we all belong together.
There is no going back in life, only forward. Let’s do it side by side, listening to the hurt of the past, illuminating the real stories, redressing the issue of privilege, with humility and sorrow, but with hope for the future, and a determination to ensure we all, all, all have an equal sense of belonging in this world.