Roberto German 00:00
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. Welcome back to our classroom. In this episode, I'm joined once again by Tiffany Jewell, and we're gonna be talking about Magnet Schools. Yes, indeed. Tiffany is the black biracial number one New York Times bestselling, and number one indie bestselling author of This Book Is Anti-Racist and The Anti-Racist Kid. She's a twin sister, first-generation American cisgender mama and anti-bias, anti-racist educator who has been working with children and families for two decades. She lives in the homeland of the Pocumtuc in the Nipmuck with her two young storyteller’s husband, a turtle she's been with since nine years old. And a small dog that has a big personality. Welcome once again, Tiffany Jewell. And so let's move into part two of this interview. I wanna talk about magnet schools because you address this topic in your book. And so what about magnet schools? You know, why you talk about magnet schools. What's the problem?
Tiffany Jewell 01:33
You know, and like, I don't wanna--
Roberto German 01:36
What did they do to you?
Tiffany Jewell 01:37
I went to a magnet school. Oh. So my elementary school was one of the first magnet schools in our district. Because-- so in the 19... 1954, right. Like, segregation becomes illegal and we moved to integrate schools. What happened was the move to integrate was focused primarily on the south, because the north is fine, but the north wasn't fine. And so when it comes to the 1960s, they're like, "Oh, our schools are really segregated." Okay. They're just looking at schools too, by the way, and not looking at the neighborhoods. And the-- again, the impact of redlining that led us to these like neighborhood schools being super segregated. So in the 60s in Syracuse, one of the things that they decided to do was to shut down some schools. And so there was one school, I can't remember the name right now, one school up near Syracuse University area that was almost a hun-- it was like 90 something percent black. And they had black administrator, they had black teachers. This might have been in the-- like later 60s and 70s too. And they shut the school down and they sent all those kids to different schools in Syracuse. And so what that means is families and kids can't be connected to their neighborhood school anymore. And so they did that. That was their first wave of like, integration was like shutting the blackest schools down and moving them into whiter schools. That didn't work. So then what they did was they asked teachers, they were like, "Anybody gonna volunteer?" And I think of like over 500 teachers in the district, nine volunteered. And a couple of them were black teachers. Right? A couple of them were white. That wasn't enough. So they were like, okay, we're gonna do busing. But again, white folks aren't gonna volunteer to bust their kids into black schools and neighborhoods. Because traditionally, white neighborhoods and white schools have more resources. Especially when you look at like Syracuse too. And the redlining map, like all of our, like blacker schools were, like, the ones that were in our-- the hazard neighborhoods. And so also neighborhoods that don't have a lot of home ownership, so there's not a lot of tax money going into those schools. So then finally they were like, "We need to figure this out. Let's try magnet schooling." Because magnet schooling came about in the late 60s, 70s, as this kinda like new wave of, like, integrating schools. And so we had one of the schools-- I grew up on the south side. And so a couple of our schools in the south side became magnet schools. And one of them opened up a full day kindergarten program and they were like blown away by how many folks were like lining up to go to that school.
And a lot of white families needed that 'cause they're working, right? They need childcare for their kids too. And so they had that. There was another magnet school that was maybe around language arts. And then my school became like the math science magnet school. And so I went to a magnet school not realizing that I was a part of the integration experiment in our city. You know, or they would've-- if they didn't work, they would've changed the ways they were. But magnet schooling worked as a way to integrate our schools a little more. My school was still predominantly black and brown folks. But we had, you know, like we had some white kids busing in I don't . who they were, but most-- 'cause most of the kids were neighborhood kids. Like we all walked to school. A lot of us walked to school. But thinking of the school with a full day kindergarten program, they went from like 70% black to like, over the course of two years to about 30% black. Which is like-- first I'm like, where did all the neighborhood kids go? A lot of those kids, I think, came to our school. Hi doggie. Woo. Sorry, my dog just walked in.
Roberto German 06:01
Oh, it's all good.
Tiffany Jewell 06:05
And so that was like part of the whole-- like magnet schooling was fascinating to me 'cause I was like, I went to a magnet school. But why was that important? Like, I didn't realize why it was important other than like, we got some extra math and science classes. And so also when you look at like testing, our school was labeled as like deficient with testing, but not in math. But they were in language, but that was like the focus, right? Like, they focused on how we were deficient in language scores. And then, you know, our principal had a very clear program on how to like, integrate some of the language work with the math and science and stuff. But then the school board didn't wanna give them money to do those programs either. And you're like, okay, like I don't understand how this is working. So magnet schools are fascinating to me because they came about as a way to integrate our schools. And now they're kind of like charter schools in a way where you have to, like, some of them have intense application process. And, you know, neighborhood folks don't always get their, like, neighborhood school is their first choice. And I think that's a big problem. Like, for our family, we didn't look at it as-- my mom didn't look at it as a magnet school. Like it was the school that she and her-- she went to. You know, like it was our neighborhood school. There was no other school she would've considered because she had to walk us to school and then take the bus downtown to work. Like any other school we couldn't have gotten to. She didn't want us on the bus when we were in kindergarten. So really looking at like, magnet schools have really changed. And are they serving the purpose of our schools being integrated? And I'm gonna say no because our schools are more segregated now than they were when we were there in the-- in as kids. I think integration like peaked in the late 80s, early 90s. And then they started moving towards focusing on the achievement gap in schools instead of like still integrating our schools and neighborhoods. And I don't know how I feel like about all of that. I'm still figuring it out. I don't like the achievement gap, the vernacular, but there's-- like, I'm still processing a lot of stuff too.
Roberto German 08:21
No, there is a lot to process there. There is a lot to process there. And it is interesting to think about whether the magnet schools are serving their original purpose or not. I do find it highly problematic that individuals that live right in the community, right where the schools are at who have been there forever, do not have access to their local school.
Tiffany Jewell 08:51
Right. Like sometimes you just need to go to your local school because you need to be able to walk to school and walk home without like having your caregiver there, but your neighbors are there to like see you on your way, you know? Like sometimes that is like the most important thing for a family to have. And that isn't always the case anymore.
Roberto German 09:13
So should we scrap magnet schools?
Tiffany Jewell 09:18
No. I think it's really important to have different types of schools. So the district I'm in now, we don't have magnet schools. Like, it's small. We just have four public elementary schools and then there's a bunch of private schools and one or two charter schools. Charter schools is like a whole other conversation too. I think magnet schools can be really powerful. Like for me, I think going to a math science magnet school like helped me to feel like a very confident kid in math and science, which like traditionally a lot of females don't, especially in the 80s. Like, we didn't see a lot of female scientists, mathematician or scientists or mathematicians. And so like, I grew up into feeling really confident in math and science and I loved it. And that was like what I pursued all the-- like in high school I took all the, like, extra science courses and I took advanced math. Like, 'cause it really grounded me and I loved it. It just kinda made sense. And so I had a great experience in magnet schools, but I think we need to look at the purpose of them again and look at like how they are serving our communities. Are they serving our communities? And if the goal of magnet schooling was around integration in the beginning, how can it come back to that be and not like become this elite thing and turn them-- they're like-- sometimes they feel like private schools which is messed up. So I don't wanna scrap them yet.
Roberto German 11:00
Just rethink them.
Tiffany Jewell 11:02
Yeah. Yeah. It's almost like we need to go back.
Roberto German 11:03
And revisit the purpose. Yes.
Tiffany Jewell 11:07
Roberto German 11:11
And then, you know, figure out, well, what are the action steps that need to be implemented for us to get closer to its original intent.
Tiffany Jewell 11:23
Yeah. And, you know, a lot of that would be like school boards and school committees looking to the community. Like, what do you need for your children here in this district, in this ward? What do your children need too? Because if you're not serving the community-- like I always think schools should be community centers and they're not anymore.
Roberto German 11:51
Tiffany Jewell 11:53
Yeah. I mean, they're closed, they're shut down, you know, after school. Like, they're not-- I mean, sometimes there are places where you can go and there's a craft fair, there's like another event going in and you get to walk around like the high school or whatever. But they don't-- like, covid kinda shut parents out of schools and caregivers and it's-- schools are having a really hard time finding the balance of having caregivers back in school too.
Roberto German 12:21
Yeah. I have a pending interview with A.J. Crabill, former Kansas City, Missouri School Board Chair and Texas Education Agency Deputy Commissioner. And he's got a book coming out titled Great on Their Behalf: Why School Boards Fail, How Yours Can Become Effective.
Tiffany Jewell 12:41
Roberto German 12:42
And I'm interested to hear from him and there's some connections here that I think will be made between this interview and his interview because we don't talk about school boards enough. We don't talk about their responsibility. We don't talk about the reality of school boards and how they impact what's happening with our schools and with our communities. And we definitely don't talk enough about who is serving. Who's at the table. You know, who's at the school board table. And do we have all the representatives at the table. Are they really from the community, invested in the community and making decisions for the betterment of the community?
Tiffany Jewell 13:29
Right. Yeah. No, they're not. One of my favorite, I don't-- it's not favorite, but one of the things I do is I'll watch our local school board meetings with like my checklist of the, like, all the, like, tenants of the culture of white supremacy. Right? And then I'd be like, yep, here's fear, here's perfection, here's urgency. You know, it's one of those things where you're like, why are we still like moving in the interest of white domination? When it-- why are we not centering kids in our decision making? Why are these meetings so late at night where kids like, my kids can't attend them and they wanna. They wanna know what's going on, so. There's a lot where like school board stuff, it just feels very inaccessible. And, you know, maybe the meetings are public, but nobody knows when and where they are. Nobody's sharing that. Like schools, like the school principals often forget 'cause they don't even know either like, or, so.
Roberto German 14:38
It's a lot. It's a lot there.
Tiffany Jewell 14:39
I'm looking forward to that episode. And then I will forward it to all of our school board members.
Roberto German 14:45
No. Well, I'm gonna end up modifying my schedule here and it's gonna have to-- this is gonna have to be the next episode. There's a natural segue here between what we're talking about right now with magnet schools and school boards and what A.J. Crabill has to offer. And so let's move into a couple of fun questions that I have for you.
Tiffany Jewell 15:15
I like the fun ones.
Roberto German 15:17
You know, folks, listen, I'm gonna let you inside of our circle. All right? We have a little text thread. We have a group chat. And in our group chat we'll throw out songs of the day. All right. Music, man music as a way to just, you know, connect us all and, you know, help bring out the different things that we're feeling and whatnot. And so music is definitely a part of our relationship. Myself, Tiffany, Lorena, [inaudible 00:15:51]. And so that Tiffany, what is your song of the day?
Tiffany Jewell 15:59
I'm a little embarrassed to share the song. Well, so first of all, Mary J Blige's Real Love is always running through my head. Roberto knows this.
Roberto German 16:09
Yes. Yes. She has stated-- she has expressed this before.
Tiffany Jewell 16:14
It's always there. And it is what, like drives me through-- propels me through the world. But my youngest kiddo, he's six, he started creating this-- he loves music, he loves singing, and he sings at the top of his lungs. It's beautiful. He's got a really beautiful voice. But he's been singing the Backstreet Boys I want it That Way.
Roberto German 16:40
[m] I want it that way [m]
[m] Tell me why... [m]
Tiffany Jewell 16:46
It's like-- Right? It's always in my head now and it's in his voice.
Roberto German 16:52
Aren't you so mad at him?
Tiffany Jewell 16:54
A little bit. But also, who's the one that introduced him to it? So it's like my fault. I've been like, sneaking other things onto his playlist. 'Cause he'll be like, "Can we listen to my playlist?" But I have to do it strategically. And so I'm like, "Okay, which Boys II Men song am I gonna put on this week? Like, which Rihanna's song?" Like, so that's the one in my head. I'm sorry. It's not that fun or exciting.
Roberto German 17:20
Oh, it's a trip. Oh, it's a trip.
Tiffany Jewell 17:23
Like, I'd rather it be like a Jodeci song or something.
Roberto German 17:27
Oh, wow. Wow. All right.
Tiffany Jewell 17:29
What's in your head? What's your song?
Roberto German 17:31
Well, the thing is, it's not my song. There's a couple songs that are stuck in my head and I'm really irritated with my kids. And I'm irritated with my fr-- I think it was my friend Heniva who put them on to this zombies movie. So I think the movie's called Zombie Land.
Tiffany Jewell 18:01
Roberto German 18:03
And they got a couple songs like they're very catchy. I'm not gonna front. They're very catchy, but it's driving me insane. Like, I can't even take it anymore. My kids sing it one-- like the next time they singing it, I might have to-- I might have to like, put 'em on time out or something. I don't know. Like--
Tiffany Jewell 18:27
I always go like, "Can you turn your volume down?" And then I just shut the door.
Roberto German 18:32
Not only do they not turn their volume down, but if I shut the door, like they just gonna turn it up.
Tiffany Jewell 18:40
Oh, I'm sorry.
Roberto German 18:41
You know, I feel like they're targeting me.
Tiffany Jewell 18:44
Roberto German 18:45
[m] Have you ever heard the story of the human and the zombie? [m]
[m] I think I heard it vague [m]
I'm like-- I know. You see what I'm saying? Like, I'm gonna send it to you just to like. I feel like other people need to feel my pain. I feel like other people need to feel my-- I'm gonna send both of them to you.
Tiffany Jewell 19:07
All right. I will send you a recording of, I Want it That Way then.
Roberto German 19:10
You know, like, I can't front. You know, like, I think I could rap with that. You know, little Backstreet. I was more of an NSYNC guy.
Tiffany Jewell 19:19
Roberto German 19:19
But you know.
Tiffany Jewell 19:20
I was too. But listening to the two now, Backstreet Boys are better. They were also more fair in like, who got to sing.
Roberto German 19:29
You know, that's a good-- that aligns well with the work that we do, with the equity work that we do. You know? Like, I might have to go back and listen to some of their songs and give them some props.
Tiffany Jewell 19:40
I will say though, that the song that was like-- I listened to a lot of music while I was writing Everything I Learned About Racism, I Learned in School. A lot of music that I listened to, like, middle school, like, when I was writing that section, I listened to the music. I listened to middle school. But the like overarching song was the, like, Juicy from Notorious B.I.G. Like that was the overarching song.
Roberto German 20:04
That was a big song. That was a big song.
Tiffany Jewell 20:06
It was a big song. And it just like, you know, in the very beginning he's like...
[m] This album's dedicated to the teachers who told me I'd amount to nothing [m]
Roberto German 20:15
Yeah. Oh, that was hard.
Tiffany Jewell 20:16
Roberto German 20:18
That was hard. Yeah.
Tiffany Jewell 20:20
We all had those.
Roberto German 20:21
Right. And we're like, immediately I'm hooked.
Tiffany Jewell 20:25
Roberto German 20:27
Like you saying the thing I wanna be saying.
Tiffany Jewell 20:30
Right. And the little chorus like...
[m] You know very well who you are [m]
And I was like, hmm.
Roberto German 20:36
Tiffany Jewell 20:37
Roberto German 20:38
[m] Reach for the stars [m]
Tiffany Jewell 20:40
Roberto German 20:41
Yeah, man, that was good. That was good. And that song, see now here we go. Now we're in teacher mode. That song would pair well, like if I'm in the classroom and I'm, you know, I'm teaching this stuff and I'm teaching about like advocating for yourself and addressing people that try to squash your dreams or whatever, put you down. I would pair that with a song he had on his next album, which is Sky's the Limit featuring 112. You know, so it's...
[m] Sky's the limit [m]
[m] And you know, it can't be fun [m]
[m] You gonna keep pressing on [m]
[m] Sky's the Limit [m]
[m] And... [m]
You know I just--
Tiffany Jewell 21:24
I remember the video more than like--
Roberto German 21:27
[m] Have what you want [m]
[m] Be what you want [m]
[m] Have what you want [m]
[m] Be what you want [m]
So I would pair that because it also just shows his trajectory, you know? But even with his trajectory and success and whatnot like that, he was still pushing that theme. It's like, nah, I'm pressing forward. I'm moving forward. I'm achieving my goals. I'm going after my dreams, regardless of the individuals teacher or otherwise that are speaking against my potential. Or regardless of the circumstances.
Tiffany Jewell 22:07
And then you pair that with the autobiography of Malcolm X.
Roberto German 22:10
Oh my. Oh, wow. This is going all the way in. All the way in.
Tiffany Jewell 22:16
I'm just gonna like stack it. You're like, I'm gonna ease you in and then we're gonna--
Roberto German 22:21
Ease you in. Lord. Wow. Wow. That's good.
Tiffany Jewell 22:26
Yep. I write about the autobiography of Malcolm X in this book and how I had a teacher in college, she was like, "Okay, we don't have a lot of time for the semester. So we're-- you can choose between reading this book, 500th something page book or watching Thelma & Louise."
Roberto German 22:46
Tiffany Jewell 22:48
Guess what? My class of a whole bunch of white girls picked.
Roberto German 22:53
I'm guessing that Thelma & Louise was an easier pick.
Tiffany Jewell 22:59
Roberto German 23:01
Tiffany Jewell 23:02
I was so mad. I was like, you made me buy this book with like three hours of work study pay. You know, like.
Roberto German 23:08
Tiffany Jewell 23:09
Roberto German 23:10
Tiffany Jewell 23:12
Yep. I still have it. I've read it, can't tell you how many times I've read it.
Roberto German 23:16
Powerful. Yeah. One of Lorena's favorite books. And yeah, one of mine too.
Tiffany Jewell 23:24
Roberto German 23:25
Tiffany Jewell 23:26
That's why I always leave the light on, even when I'm not home. Leave the bathroom light on. Like, he teaches us so many things.
Roberto German 23:31
Mm. Wow. Oof. All right. Before we do like a whole episode on the biography of Malcolm X. No, I'm writing it down for the next time. If you had an opportunity to have lunch with any author, dead or alive that writes about schools and or racial justice, who would it be and why?
Tiffany Jewell 24:01
Oh my gosh.
Roberto German 24:03
Yeah. I'm modifying my stuff now. I'm, you know, like, I'm not giving y'all softballs anymore.
Tiffany Jewell 24:08
I know. I mean, I would love to become best friends with Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. And she's up in my area right now. Like, she's working at one of the universities. And I'm like, how can I just like-- I just need to show up on her door one day. I would love that because her work is so based in understanding the different developmental stages of children. Like her work really centers children. And so I-- like--
Roberto German 24:38
Her book would pair well with your new book. You know what I'm saying? Like, why are all-- Why Are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria would likely pair well with Everything That I Learned About Racism, I Learned in Schools.
Tiffany Jewell 24:51
Roberto German 24:52
We gotta make that happen.
Tiffany Jewell 24:57
Yeah. Thank you. I will definitely like, get-- like deliver-- hand deliver a copy in a very non-creepy stalkery way. So I would love to sit with her. I think as long as I don't have to do most of the talking, I can just listen to her. But I would also really love to have lunch with Danzy Senna, who wrote Caucasia and New People. She is very like, light black biracial too. And she's interesting. And like, her books are fiction, but her book Caucasia was the first book that I read when I was like, in my early 20s where I saw myself. And so I'd just love to like, talk with her about experiencing the world through a similar lens.
Roberto German 25:50
I see what you did, Tiffany, you snuck in too.
Tiffany Jewell 25:54
I did. I am not a rule follower.
Roberto German 25:56
No. I gathered, I gathered and so I'm not surprised. And, you know, one of the tens of textured teaching is flexibility, so.
Tiffany Jewell 26:07
Roberto German 26:08
I'm honoring that.
Tiffany Jewell 26:09
Thank you. Thank you for honoring that.
Roberto German 26:10
I'm honoring that. So Tiffany, what's a message of encouragement that you have for the people?
Tiffany Jewell 26:15
Yeah, I have a lot of encourage-- So, the thing is I love working with children and their families because it's where the hope is. And so I guess like my message of encouragement is to like, keep centering children and their families. Like don't leave the families out. I encourage you to center the families with the children and to build those like, strong relationships because that's where like the constant hope and inspiration in our work is. And as soon as we start to leave them out, then we forget what we're doing. And we might as well stop.
Roberto German 26:53
That's right. That's right. Keep the children and the families center. Well, where can people follow you?
Tiffany Jewell 27:05
Mostly on Instagram. I'm not on Twitter much at all. I don't even know if I'm on Facebook anymore. Instagram, my-- right now my account is set to private because there were a lot of, like, bots coming in and I was like, I don't wanna deal with it. But I do like go through it and confirm folks every now and then,
Roberto German 27:28
Tiffany Jewell 27:31
Roberto German 27:32
And what does the M stand for?
Tiffany Jewell 27:34
Roberto German 27:35
Tiffany Jewell 27:36
That's my middle name. I don't know how my mom came up with it.
Roberto German 27:40
Well, that's-- you got good [inaudible 00:27:42] conversation the next time you chopping it up with mom.
Tiffany Jewell 27:46
Roberto German 27:48
Tiffany, as always a pleasure. Wow. You gave us so much. So much to unpack here. Listen, I jotted down some notes.
Tiffany Jewell 27:57
Roberto German 27:58
We have some further episodes that we're gonna have to dig in. So we're gonna have to, you know, once I do the interview with A.J. Crabill, I might have to have both of y'all on at some point to talk about school boards and talk about magnets. And we're definitely gonna have to have a conversation about the Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Tiffany Jewell 28:25
Roberto German 28:26
And we are just gonna-- I don't even know where we gonna start and where we gonna finish, but we gonna do some picking apart. We're gonna do some picking apart and making some connections with what we're experiencing today because there's-- Malcolm X gave us so much, so much to learn from. And obviously there's much happening today that's, you know, connects with his message. And so interested to dig in to that wonderful literary work by this influential and powerful man. But also to continue learning from you in our classroom. Thank you, Tiffany.
Tiffany Jewell 29:07
Thank you for having me. This has been fun.
Roberto German 29:09
Yes, yes, yes. We're gonna do it again. 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, and society, go to multiculturalclassroom.com. Peace and love from your host, Roberto German.