Roberto German 00:01
Welcome to our classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of, but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host, Roberto German, and our classroom is officially in session. In this episode of our classroom, we're gonna be talking about ABAR in STEM, anti-bias, anti-racist focused in STEM, joined by Liz Kleinrock, a Korean-American transracial adoptee. Queer Jewish anti-bias and anti-racist educator of both children and adults. Liz creates curriculum for K-12 students specializing and designing inquiry-based units of study. In addition to work as a classroom teacher, Liz also works with schools and companies to facilitate learning for adults that supports anti-bias and anti-racist practices. Liz is the author of Start Here, Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community. Published by Heinemann. With us today, Liz Kleinrock. I wanna start with something I noticed in page 130 of your book, Start Here, Start Now. Dr. Angela Chan Turrou, I don't know if I'm pronouncing her last name right. Okay. Doctor-- Dr. Angela Chan Turrou of-- of UCLA of the Teacher Education Program Express. "ABAR and Mathematics is important because it means recognizing that there's an inequitable system currently in existence and we need to strive to be educators who are seeking to transform or disrupt that system." In addition to Start Here, Start Now, which obviously I'm highly endorsing, what are three resources you recommend for new math teachers and why these resources?
Liz Kleinrock 02:13
Thank you for that question. Oh my gosh. Okay. So there's so many books and I did pull a couple. One that I do quote in my book is From Rethinking Schools. I have Rethinking Mathematics. This is all about teaching like social justice topics through the lens of math. It is mainly like middle school and high school, but I did find a lot of the examples that are given in here 'cause it's written as an anthology. A lot of different teachers gave different like case studies and examples of their own practice. And thinking about what are kind of like the pieces that are still applicable to elementary school since most of my experience is teaching like K through six. So I really like this one. Another book that I only got maybe like a year ago and this one is for high school, is High School Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustice. It's kind of similar to the Rethinking Math book, but it's just... it's more. And so I really love and appreciate that. I think it's really great to be able to hear from a lot of different teachers and perspectives since there are so many different types of schools working with so many different, you know, students of different demographics and identities. And then the last book is not specifically a math text. But my friend Alex Shevrin Venet's book, Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education, I think is just a really important book for any educator. And realizing that I had had so many negative experiences with math, that I actually began to demonstrate some sort of trauma, like shut down responses like when I was in middle school and in high school in math class. Just noticing, you know, just how your students show up, thinking about their prior experiences, what they might be going through. And I think it's just a really good book to help set up any teacher for building relationships with students and examining their own practice. So highly recommend as well.
Roberto German 04:13
Yeah. And I-I read that section in your book. Well, I bounced around in a lot of sections, but you talked about that math trauma you had and-- and I-I had a similar experience when I was on brother Kwame's platform Kwame Sarfo-Mensah. I-I talked about the fact that I, you know never saw myself as a math person. So thank you for identifying that in your book. We-- we won't go fully there, but I could definitely relate. And I've been trying to challenge myself to-- to rethink the way I see myself as it relates to-- to math. You know, I wish I had these resources. I wish my teachers had these resources. I-I wish folks were teaching in a way that truly drew me in when I was in K-12 and uninterested in math because of the way it was being taught and because I-I did not see myself as a math person. And-- and there's a paragraph on page 131 that-- that also drew me in. And I highlighted three sentences within that paragraph that I wanna read. And then have you react to. And-- and you could share what you were thinking when you wrote those lines. You can speak about how it resonates with you in this particular moment, or-- or you could just make the connection that perhaps you did not articulate in the book. So here are the three sentences. Bob Moses, civil rights activist and author of Radical Equations describes mathematics as a tool of liberation. I'll stop there before I go onto the other two sentences.
Liz Kleinrock 05:49
That still resonates with me. I actually have this book too. This is his book. I highly recommend it too. Bob Moses is such an incredible, or was such an incredible human. He is definitely somebody who I wish I had known about as a student. I think learning about his legacy, his passion, how he applied mathematics to all of the civil rights work and like the intersection of activism and math. And I think it would've just made it far more relevant and meaningful to me 'cause those were already things that I was interested in as a student. I just never really saw math as connecting to anything I really cared about as a kid. I very much believe this. And another text that I've read recently that's really cemented my belief that's math as a tool of liberation, is Heather McGhee's book The Sum of-- Sum of Us. I really loved her perspective as an economist in looking at how racism and white supremacy ends up impacting everybody on this quantitative level also which is something that I hadn't really explored before. So definitely still very much believe this. And I do think that for some people who might not be as on board or as fluent or maybe a little bit more, you know, apprehensive about all of the social justice work that's going on, sometimes presenting folks like that with number sets, with data sets sometimes make it a little bit harder to refute that these things like the-- these systemic inequalities are everywhere and that are impacting people of different identities really differently.
Roberto German 07:29
Thank you. Thanks for sharing that. Awesome. The next statement. In today's world, economic access in full citizenship depend crucially on math and science literacy.
Liz Kleinrock 07:43
Very much still agree with that too. Just very much in agreement. I think about-- I'm sure that for many educators out there, especially if you've worked in actually any type of school, doesn't matter if it's private, charter, public have probably been in some sort of meeting about testing data, especially math testing data. And especially in how black students, especially black boys perform in math classes. And thinking about how so many schools out there look at those-- that-- those data sets and think, well, there must be something wrong with the population. It must be something on the students. Not how are we examining our curriculum, our pedagogy, the way we think about people and kids of different identities approaching with certain subjects. I think being able to develop this literacy in a way that is meaningful, that is irrelevant can be such a game changer when we see the types of disparities that folks of color, folks of the global majority are up against in our society. I think I rambled. Hope that makes sense.
Roberto German 08:51
No, no, no. There's-- there's so much to unpack there, especially when we're talking about testing and how it's impacting different demographics. So appreciate your insight there. Last statement, financial literacy is also a key component in a social justice math curriculum.
Liz Kleinrock 09:09
Interestingly, this one, I know I wrote this and I'm not sure it actually-- like that statement resonates with me as much as it did when I wrote it. I think there's just a lot of nuance that isn't super clear in that particular sentence. I do think it is a-- financial literacy is a really important component like, of math, of just of education period. It shouldn't have to just be math. That there are things that schools can do to equip their students to go out into the world to be able to navigate all of, you know, the things that they're going to experience. And I still think-- I mean, it reminds me kind of modular quote about like the master's tools are never going to, you know, break down like the master's house. And especially in the society that we live in that is driven by capitalism, that understanding how to navigate and survive within that system yes, is important. And we also have to start thinking about alternatives. Like what are we going to do to dream of a different system that is not going to, you know, put some people at like the-- the bottom of like the social hierarchy based on how much money that they have. So I think I would just wanna dive into that statement a little bit more.
Roberto German 10:25
I appreciate your honesty there. You know, I think sometimes it might be hard for author to recognize that and say, "You know what? I wrote this at this time, but I think differently." And what you're saying around financial literacy connects to something that I heard from [inaudible 00:10:43] somebody I-I recently interviewed and he-- he had a-a similar perspective. He elaborated on that, but there-- there's some alignment there. Move on. On page 135, you state, "Becoming an ABAR focused STEM teacher does not mean we abandon teaching concepts like subtraction and the water cycle. It simply means that we shift the lens through which we teach our content." Can you elaborate on this statement, particularly what it means and looks like to shift the lens through which we teach our content?
Liz Kleinrock 11:24
You know, I think that like when I do a lot of professional development with educators and like lots of different backgrounds and different schools, a really common concern or like perceived barrier that comes up is, I don't have enough time. Like I already have these standards, I have this curriculum. How am I going to have time to like do social justice work on top of all the things that I have to do? And so the idea of shifting your lens is recognizing that this is not this like add-on to your curriculum. It's not like a separate class. It's not a separate part of your day. It's really shifting the perspective and lens through which you're teaching. So for example if one of my standards is like multi-digit multiplication, yes. Like my students need to know how to multiply large numbers a hundred percent. And if I want to make this more relevant and applicable to them and keep this lens, I'm gonna teach 'em how to do that by engaging with some real world problems. That like for example, in the book, I talk about a unit that I did when I was teaching fourth grade where we looked at the cost of living in Los Angeles, we looked at the average minimum wage compared to like the average rent in different parts of the city and how much entry level jobs were paying. So still hitting those standards but using, you know, this different perspective like the shift in the content and the, like, the number sets that we're bringing in to make it more relevant and meaningful to students.
Roberto German 12:51
Yeah. And that was, from what I recall, reading something that was eye-opening to the students. I-I think it was written there that students reacted in a way where like, wow, we didn't know it cost this much to-- to live in Los Angeles and had a question like, Hey--
Liz Kleinrock 13:08
Absolutely. And there were a lot of kids were like, oh-- 'cause we’d-- I remember dividing that up into, you know, the wants versus needs. Like the things that we need. We need shelter, transportation food. And then the things that they want. Like if a kid decided I want like an annual pass to Disneyland. That's really expensive. Like how is that gonna fit into your budget? Like, you wanna buy yourself like a PlayStation five, how is that going to fit into your budget also? And hearing-- hearing like nine year olds come up to me and be like, "Ms. Liz, like, I don't think I can afford all of this." And it's like, well, welcome to being an adult. Yep. It's super great.
Roberto German 13:46
It's a wonderful lesson. It's real life that-- that they're having this practical application and that is gonna stick with them much more than some of the stuff that, you know, we've been doing. So let's-- let's continue to push folks to-- to shift their lens, shift their approach. On 142 of your book you-- you quoted Chris Whitmeyer, I don't know if I said his last name right. Correct me if I didn't. Looks like I did. And he stated, "Students need to be able to look at issues that might be using science to fuel discrimination in order to recognize and combat them and use science as a tool of empowerment to make the world better." Can you offer a couple current examples of issues that might be using science to fuel discrimination?
Liz Kleinrock 14:39
Yeah, I think a lot about the battles right now over including and teaching about LGBTQIA+ identities, issues, history that some people might try to take the like purely scientific approach and say, Nope, that when it comes to gender, even though gender is not the same thing as sex, that there is a biological basis for this. We can look at chromosomes. Like you are what you are when you're born and like, that's it. So I certainly see some STEM being weaponized there to silence the community, especially the trans and non-binary community. And we have, I know I'm supposed to be talking about current issues and we-- we have seen like so much of this in history as well down to, you know, scientists perpetuating falsely the belief that black people, for example, don't feel pain the way that white people do. Which leads to black people, especially black women not being taken seriously when they go to the doctor. We still see the legacy of that today. So there's a lot of really unfortunate examples. Yeah.
Roberto German 15:41
Right. Reminds me of some-- an article I read when Serena Williams was giving birth and some of the difficulty that she experienced with the service that she received in the hospital she was at. You know, I think she almost died. Terrible. And they, you know, she was letting them know like, "Hey, something's wrong" and you know, "I need this, I need that." And they just weren't listening to her until she really got in their face about it. Terrible. All right, so if you had an opportunity to have lunch with any scientists or mathematician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Liz Kleinrock 16:22
I thought about this really hard 'cause there's a lot. I think if I could pick any scientist I would want to meet to Bessie Moses. And if you're not familiar with her, she was a Jewish woman who was right at like the cutting edge around birth control and gynecology. She is one of the people that we can credit for having Planned Parenthood today. And even though she was operating in like the 1920s in Baltimore one of the first birth control clinics I think in Baltimore, she was really dedicated to training nurses of all different identities. She trained white doctors, black doctors in gynecology and contraception. Frequently worked with women's colleges to try to empower women as much as possible. She's a really amazing, powerful figure. And not a lot of people know about her. So I'd wanna-- I'd wanna meet up with her.
Roberto German 17:21
Thanks for sharing. I'm not familiar with Bessie Moses, but I have to do some research. So what's the message of encouragement you wanna share with the audience?
Liz Kleinrock 17:31
I think for folks who are trying to engage with, you know, STEM subjects and anti-bias and anti-racism, they can feel very much like this isn't your field or your lane, which is something I hear a lot in professional development. A lot of teachers will say like, this is just for humanities. It's, you know, what we're reading and what we're writing about but you know, numbers are just objectives. So like, why does this fit in? There is like rarely anything such as objectivity when it comes to education, especially public education. So just knowing that, yes, there is very much a place and a need for this perspective and this pedagogy in the subject that you're teaching and that maybe revamping your entire curriculum feels like a really big lift and it feels really impossible and you can still start somewhere. I know like, that sounds really cheesy, but picking one standard or one unit you know, that's up and coming and just, you know, trying something a little bit different with your students and see if they just, you know, respond differently and I have a feeling they probably will. So don't give up. You can start small. Try to build capacity and community with the other teachers at your school to see if they'd be willing to maybe come in with you to do this together so it doesn't feel like you have to do this alone.
Roberto German 18:53
I don't-- I don't think it's cheesy at all because I think sometimes people rush and they try to do too much and they get overwhelmed. So I think that's solid advice for folks to chip away at things. You know, try one thing, reflect that, try something else, gradually build up. I think that's solid. Liz, I appreciate your time. We were able to dig in in this short window of time and really make it happen. Again, love what you're doing. Love-- love the book. Start Here, Start Now. Folks, if you don't have it, be sure to support Liz's work. Get yourself a copy of this book. Encourage the school to get some copies for the teachers. It's a guide to anti-bias, anti-racist work in your school community. It breaks down ways that you could approach the parent community, which I think, you know, all of us probably need to, you know, either strengthen that. Or-- or maybe you're starting out and you have some reservations of-- of how to loop parents into the work that we're doing, especially with all the craziness that's happening. It also provides advice on-- on getting student buy-in and how to empower them to-- to help co-lead in this work. And then certainly for folks, I mean, we-- we talk a lot about the different sections of the book, but, you know, obviously, I wanted this interview to focus on STEM. I-I-I wanted this to focus on science and math because I also hear a lot of what Liz was sharing in terms of some of the pushback, some of the resistance, some of the reservations that-- that folks have in terms of doing anti-bias, anti-racist work in the science and math classrooms. It is possible. You're not gonna be the first, you're not gonna be the last. There are resources and we-- we need to challenge ourselves to wrestle through the discomfort of trying on something new and exploring something new. It's new to us because, you know, the-- the system really doesn't want it to be exposed. But folks have been doing this work. So thank you, Liz. Keep pressing on. And hope to connect with you again.
Liz Kleinrock 21:04
I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you today. I'm glad it worked out.
Roberto German 21:09
As always, your engagement in our classroom is greatly appreciated. Be sure to subscribe, rate the show and write a review. Finally, for resources to help you understand the intersection of race bias education in society, go to multiculturalclassroom.com. Peace and love from your host, Roberto German.