Luncheon speaker advice on understanding urban youth

Michael Eric Dyson, author, radio host, and professor of sociology at Georgetown University, assured the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Luncheon attendees Saturday at NSBA's annual conference in Nashville that he was there to be a cheerleader for them, and to discuss how they can help themselves, help their boards, and ultimately help their students.

In a lively talk heavily laced with music references old and new, Dyson shared some suggestions for board members faced with the challenge of governing urban school districts.

  1. Learn about rap music, beginning with Kendrick Lamar's "September Butterfly." Dyson described the lyrics as a young man struggling to come to grips with what it means to be young and black in America. This would enable board members to see the depth and intelligence that some young people have that does not fit into the curriculum taught in schools. It also would help board members to understand the suffering so many young urban youth are experiencing, told in song. Dyson urged members, "Get in tune with the young people you are serving, understand the target population, what motivates and moves them."
  2. Get your kids something to eat. Dyson urged board members to imagine being a child who is hungry yet expected to learn. When children are not properly nourished, their brain development is challenged and brain ability is compromised. Boards cannot impact student achievement by only focusing on the educational aspects; they must also look at the social condition. He stated, "They can't be fed intellectually because they aren't fed physically."
  3. Teach them to think for themselves. Dyson urged attendees to consider the negative message sent when corporal punishment is used as discipline. Children need to be talked to and encouraged to use their minds. "When you teach children to think for themselves, you teach them to celebrate the joy of their existence."
  4. Teach students to appreciate and love strong women. Citing Harriet Tubman as a prime example, Dyson talked about the many strong woman in history who should be viewed as role models for today's students.

Also at the luncheon, CUBE chair Van Henri White welcomed members and energized them with music and dance. 

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