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Ep. 152: Dr. Daren Graves - Transformative Power of Critical Consciousness

June 10, 2021 Dr. Daren Graves Season 1 Episode 152
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 152: Dr. Daren Graves - Transformative Power of Critical Consciousness
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Full PreFrontal
Ep. 152: Dr. Daren Graves - Transformative Power of Critical Consciousness
Jun 10, 2021 Season 1 Episode 152
Dr. Daren Graves

Kofi Annan once said, "Education is a human right with an immense power to transform. On its foundation rests the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development." The question is, how do we help developing minds gain the knowledge of the self-evident or the invisible structural oppression that creates and sustains inequity so that their learning experiences foster a sense of agency over one’s own condition to ultimately commit to taking action against oppressive forces? 

On this episode, author, developmental psychologist, and  associate professor of education at Simmons University, Dr. Daren Graves, talks about the concept of critical consciousness first conceived by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire that acknowledges that inequality is sustained when the people most affected by it are unable to decode their social conditions that help sustain it. Dr. Graves explores the question of what role teachers and educators play in cultivating critical consciousness in students so that they undergo a metamorphosis to become highly-engaged citizens whose work elevates the human condition. The key implication is that raised critical consciousness is a mark of strong Executive Function skills in those who understand and have natured their own individual capacities by transforming their thoughts, emotions, and beliefs to take actions that makes them the  conduits for social change.

About Dr. Daren Graves
Dr. Daren Graves is an Associate Professor of Education and Social Work at Simmons University and Adjunct Lecturer of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research lies at the intersection of critical race theory, racial identity development, and teacher education. Dr. Graves has reported on his work in a variety of publications including Schooling for Critical Consciousness: Engaging Black and Latinx Youth in Analyzing, Navigating, and Challenging Racial Injustice (Harvard Education Press, 2020). He also co-teaches Critical Race Theory in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Graves serves as co-Chair of the AERA Hip Hop Theories, Praxis & Pedagogies Special Interest Group.

Website: https://www.darengraves.com/

Books:
-
Schooling for Critical Consciousness
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed  by Paolo Freire
- Cultivating Genius by Gholdy Muhammad
- Below The Surface by Rivas-Drake and Umana-Taylor

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Show Notes Transcript

Kofi Annan once said, "Education is a human right with an immense power to transform. On its foundation rests the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development." The question is, how do we help developing minds gain the knowledge of the self-evident or the invisible structural oppression that creates and sustains inequity so that their learning experiences foster a sense of agency over one’s own condition to ultimately commit to taking action against oppressive forces? 

On this episode, author, developmental psychologist, and  associate professor of education at Simmons University, Dr. Daren Graves, talks about the concept of critical consciousness first conceived by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire that acknowledges that inequality is sustained when the people most affected by it are unable to decode their social conditions that help sustain it. Dr. Graves explores the question of what role teachers and educators play in cultivating critical consciousness in students so that they undergo a metamorphosis to become highly-engaged citizens whose work elevates the human condition. The key implication is that raised critical consciousness is a mark of strong Executive Function skills in those who understand and have natured their own individual capacities by transforming their thoughts, emotions, and beliefs to take actions that makes them the  conduits for social change.

About Dr. Daren Graves
Dr. Daren Graves is an Associate Professor of Education and Social Work at Simmons University and Adjunct Lecturer of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research lies at the intersection of critical race theory, racial identity development, and teacher education. Dr. Graves has reported on his work in a variety of publications including Schooling for Critical Consciousness: Engaging Black and Latinx Youth in Analyzing, Navigating, and Challenging Racial Injustice (Harvard Education Press, 2020). He also co-teaches Critical Race Theory in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Graves serves as co-Chair of the AERA Hip Hop Theories, Praxis & Pedagogies Special Interest Group.

Website: https://www.darengraves.com/

Books:
-
Schooling for Critical Consciousness
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed  by Paolo Freire
- Cultivating Genius by Gholdy Muhammad
- Below The Surface by Rivas-Drake and Umana-Taylor

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Sucheta Kamath: Welcome to Full PreFrontal: Exposing the Mysteries of Executive Function. Those who listen to us often know that this is podcast that tries to fulfill three goals, many more, but three primary goals. One is to explain what executive function is, what's the role of prefrontal cortex in self actualization, by translating the research findings from many, many fields, including neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and many more into meaningful bits that apply to everyone's life. second goal we have is to connect the plight of the current self with this aspirational future self. And more and more, we bridge the gap between the two, there's a chance that we can actually take care of the needs of the future self and become a better version of ourselves faster. And with great strategies. And last, but not the least, is to help people create a some sort of playbook for not just personal success, but success as a community member, as an activist as a change maker. And that so much depends on exact mastery of executive function, because that centers around self control. So as we talk about this, one of the things that has been on everybody's mind is how do we talk about becoming the best and the greatest citizens of this American life here and those who are listening to all other parts, we get listeners from 90 countries. So I'm very, very excited about that. So the most important thing, though, is how do we understand experiences of those who are not, do not belong to the majority. And particularly after George Floyd's death, we have had incredible a chance to open some dialogue regarding that. So with that in mind, I was just going to make a reference to a journalist just published a book about, you know, operations of FBI and it was so interesting, there was something that she mentions in her book, which is a story that goes many, many in 2001 LA Times reporter, Eric Litchblau, I think wrote the story titled "FBI settles black agents discrimination lawsuits." And it was very interesting, because in that, one of the things he writes that a federal judge on Monday approved a sweeping settlement in a 10 year old lawsuit between the FBI and some 500 current and former agents who contend, contend they were systematically discriminated against, because they're black. And the experience of those black agents was treated every individual when they mentioned, it was treated as a minority. It's an exceptional experience of one individual. But when collectively everybody gathered together, there was a systematic, systematic behaviors, and they included, not, you know, hiring practices or promotional practices, their ability to join a lead teams like SWAT teams. The reason I'm mentioning all that is, when we look around, and we think opportunities, this is land of the free and opportunities are created equal. The question really is, is it so? And if it is, then should we be complacent? And if it is not, should we take action? And what are the fears and barriers and with that in mind, that's why it's my great pleasure to invite this incredible researcher, Dr. Darren Graves. He is an associate professor of education at Simmons University, where he research his research lies at the intersection of critical race theory, racial identity development, and teacher education. His work has been published in numerous academic journals, including developmental psychology, applied developmental, developmental science, and youth and society. He also co teaches critical race theory in education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and he's currently serves which is very interesting, I want to talk to him about his co chair of AERA hip hop theories, praxis and pedagogies special interest group. One of the reasons he is joining us is because of his incredible book, which he co authored with Dr. Scott Seider, which is called Schooling for Critical Consciousness: Engaging Black and Latinx Youth in Analyzing, Navigating, and Challenging Racial Injustice. Welcome, sorry, took a while to set up the stage. But welcome to the podcast. How are you today?

Dr. Daren Graves: My pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me and I'm really happy to be here and looking forward to this conversation.

Sucheta Kamath: So I asked a lot of my guests about executive function and their own understanding of their own executive function. And since your work is it taking a deep dive in critical consciousness, well, how would you describe your own critical consciousness and your awareness of your own abilities as an individual learner? but also as a person who's trying to make an impact?

Dr. Daren Graves: Yeah, that's a great question. I appreciate it, I think my muscle, you know, I'm, I'm thinking of critical consciousness, you know, as being in a drawing from Paulo Freire's definition, a conception of critical consciousness, as you know, the ability to recognize no social and political forces, and then to be able to take action against them, right, and especially to the extent that they might be, you know, holding others down or oppressing others. And so, my own critical consciousness is really rooted. In my, in my family, and then, in the tradition, I in the African American tradition of education, right. And so, I come from a legacy here in the US, where, you know, education was denied to my ancestors, you know, either outright or through, you know, you know, not providing anywhere near the means that we would need to, to have, you know, high quality schooling, and that was very much based on faulty notions of black folks as not being intellectual or not being capable of, you know, being, you know, highly intelligent. And so, in that, in that context, you know, we come from a legacy, we being black folks, you know, in America come from this legacy of, you know, seeking education, seeking schooling, in the face of all those challenges, as a means to both, you know, affirm our own humanity, affirm our own, you know, become author, you know, authentic authors of our own futures, and also to, you know, to help transform the larger society to remove those barriers and obstacles from us as black folks and everyone. And so I come from a long legacy of educators, in my family, and otherwise who have instilled in me the importance of, of learning, more achieving highly. And that my success comes not when I succeed, but when those who come behind me succeed. So I'm standing on strong shoulders, and I need to be strong shoulders for the people coming behind me.

Sucheta Kamath: I love that. And you exemplified that through your work and, and the teachings you do, and in different communities that you belong, including the Muslim community lecture, I had an opportunity to listen to you about that as well. So just to get a little bit more in depth clarification about the, you know, Brazilian educator that you mentioned, Paulo Freire's, definition of critical consciousness, which you summarize, in many places, including with your colleagues, that inequality sustained when the people most affected by it are unable to decode their social conditions, I just think that's such a powerful way to think that you're basically trying to survive, but to take a look at your condition in the context of others requires some type of awakening, or some type of experiences that takes you outside your realm of being. So can you tell us a little bit about this decoding process? What social conditions, because the conditions are designed to make you not aware of them? Right, exactly. So how would you explain or elaborate on that?

Dr. Daren Graves: I really appreciate that. Yeah, you know, the, the, you know, the systems that are at play, whether they're, you know, systems that are, you know, organizing people's opportunities on the basis of race, or gender, or sexuality, or religion or, you know, ability disability, like all of these, these systems are super powerful and operate. So, and I've been operating since before we got here, and probably since, you know, maybe after we're gone, but because they're so pervasive, and they're odd. And like you said, they're sort of organizing ways for you not to really think about them. Even the people who are most affected by them, right, might not even understand how that they're operating or how they're operating. Right. And so I think we have, you know, a narrative in the in the United States that very much centers, people's efforts and decisions right as the things that will help in an effort right and that that will that will be rewarded or not right and In terms of you know, and it really presumes that there is a level playing graph, right. So if you presume a level playing ground where everybody has the same opportunities, right, then people, then you're you should be judged on. I mean, your progress and your success is really a function of, you know, how hard you try, did you make the right decision, so on and so forth, right. And so with that, you know, an over belief in that meritocratic system then leads, even the folks who are victimized by some of these systems of oppression, to see their own lack of relative success, or some of the symptoms of those systems as a function of their own, you know, poor decision making, or, you know, cultural features that, you know, that, you know, might be disconnected from, you know, the institutions like school, and otherwise, we're where people attain success. And so it really, you know, can can lead to situations where, you know, you are blaming yourself or your own community, for issues that are really about structures that have been placed on top of your community, that are really constrained, you know, the options for for agency, you know, moving forward, and so there does need actually to, you know, and for folks who have privilege, that that there's very much you know, that those systems of privilege are very invisible. So for that's a whole different story for the folks who have privilege. But for the folks who don't, there's still often needs to be unintentional project to help the, you know, these communities, see what the systems are, that are that are constraining their possibilities and how they operate, so that they can have that, as you described in awakening to then figure out what to do next.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, two thoughts come to my mind. One is the story of Benjamin Franklin, who was, it was I heard, I had never heard it phrased that way. But he perpetuated the myth of rags to riches, where he, as the printing press owner, actually announced an initiative if people brought their rags, he could give trade something and then eventually, he became very rich. And and so he always put this narrative out that if you work hard, if you, you know, tried your best, you, every citizen of this country has that potential and opportunity. But it's a lie. It's a myth a little bit because those opportunities not not created equal. And second thought was Beverly Daniel Tatum talks about this invisible escalator, right moving, and an eye, moving escalator on which the people with privilege are automatically propelled towards progress. And the ones who are walking at the same pace but can never reach? Can you tell? So I'm going to tie this back into the topic that we can talk about is your developmental psychologists, before we begin with this work of critical consciousness in youth, can you take a moment to talk about the psychological makeup and struggles of the marginalized children and youth? And what are they battling with that might get overlooked by traditional educational approach?

Dr. Daren Graves: Yeah, this is a great question. So as a developmental psychologist, I'm super interested in an identity development writ large, and it's particularly racial identity development, and so on, which is really like the impetus for the project of the book. And so but let me just say it like this, you know, you know, when it comes to issues of race, and other kinds of identities, rights, socially constructed identities, we are all bombarded with, you know, so many messages about who people are who we are, you know, on the basis of race, on the basis of gender, are there other identities that have really profound impacts on how particularly young folks see themselves, right? And so, if we're trying to understand how, you know, young students of color, for example, you know, come to see themselves writ large come to see themselves as students come to see themselves, as, you know, folks who can, you know, thrive in schools, that's coming in the face of that, you know, a tidal wave of messaging and a tidal wave of ideas that have existed for now, like, you know, centuries, that have called into question the ability of, you know, certain groups of color to be, you know, to do as intellectual beings at all right. Lots of lots of messaging about, you know, people of color from a deficit lens that release that reframe them as deviant, dangerous, you know, bodies that need to be policed. minds that are not fully formed and need, you know, lots of help to overcome that, you know, so on and so forth. And so what that really means, so what I'm always concerned about is, you know, and these messages are coming from, you know, lots of different places, it comes from media, it comes from institutions it comes from, it's in the air, right? It's It's, it's, it's virtually impossible to not be impacted by the, by the, by these ideas. And so I'm very concerned about in the face of these tidal wave of, of ideas about particularly young folks of color and their communities through a deficit lens, what does that mean for how they come to see themselves right, and it's not uncommon, sadly, for any of us, whether we are in that you know, minorities group or not, to then to internalize, you know, the messaging and the the problematic ideas that underpin different people, different people's races and identities, right, which for for students of those identities means that you could be seeing yourself through that a deficit lens, right. And there's lots of research that shows that this definitely happens. I mean, the most famous example of this came in the 1954, Brown versus Board of Education case where the Clarks, maybe, and I can't remember the man's name. But the Clark, they were both doctors, psychologists, and they do this famous doll test where they would put white dolls and black dolls in front of black students, and they'd say, which doll is nice, which doll is bad, what doll is mean? Which doll is smart with dollars? Right? And what you would and what you found is that, you know, young black children, were little looking at the black dolls and, and, you know, evaluating them as dumb, worse, bad mean, you know, especially relative to the white dolls, which has real implications for you know, how they're seeing themselves. That same doll experiment has been replicated in the in the 21st century, and we're still seeing that those same outcomes, right. And so that just speaks to, you know, you know, the ways in which there are huge barriers that are being put in front of, you know, particularly communities of color and young folks of color around, you know, developing a healthy sense of identity and a healthy sense of self, a healthy sense of who I am, who I can become. And so that those are the kinds of issues and those are reinforced, again, those are reinforced by teachers. Those are reinforced by, you know, lots of institutions, media, so on and so forth. And so, I'm really interested in thinking about ways we can be intentionally helping young folks of color in particular develop, you know, a positive sense of identity, because those positive positive identities is associated with all the kinds of outcomes we're interested in are young folks, whether it's academic engagement, achievement, civic engagement, resilience, so on and so forth.

Sucheta Kamath: That's excellent. Thank you for clarifying that. Because I think, you know, we literally, I mean, from educators perspective, people think that students come, and all students are made equal, because they're sitting in front of me, but what psychological and historical, cultural background they bring are so diverse, and one may not be privy to that. It's interesting. Soon, I'm gonna publish another fantastic guest, Richard Grinker, and he's an anthropologist, a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, and he talks about this. His work is about disability and stigma associated with social construct, you know, and one of the interesting stories that in his books, he right writes about that in 2002, Japan decided to change the Japanese word for schizophrenia, permanently remove it from the like official vocabulary because it connotated permanently ruptured mind and replace the word with integration disorder. And now, 10 years later, 20 years later, there's a deep psychological impact on the way people see with those diagnosis and their acceptance has changed. And so similarly, I think what you're saying and I didn't kind of set the stage that well with the FBI story, what I was saying is when they investigated the stories of those 500, who had filed a lawsuit or one example was one of the agents who served in Chicago in Omaha said that the white agents would post photographs of apes over his family pictures at his desk and subjected him to other racist treatment which is very subtle, very, but it was a culture that was one it was permitted and second, It was not objected or penalized. And so as you talk about critical consciousness, I think what I'm hoping to hear further about is changing the ones who witnesses and those who experience it. Right? So, so tell us about first question comes to mind, are educators able to contribute to helping change identities, because what part of their education really prepares them? Because identity we think about from subject of study comes from anthropology, sociology, cognition, you know, so much more complex. So how do you see education being the place where this happens?

Dr. Daren Graves: Well, yeah, this is a great question. So schools, you know, are, are can definitely impact and does impact people's sense of identity. And so part of what, so there's a few ways to think about it. You know, there there are some folks who say, and I understand this, right, well, is it my job? Your, you know, as an educator, or parenting? Is it educators jobs to really be helping students, you know, figure out how to navigate identity? And I have I have two responses to that. One, is that whether we like it or not, it just is right. It's just happening, right? Yes, almost, it's almost like, yeah, you know, some of the debates around sex education in schools, right, there's some people will say, Well, I don't want my children learning about sex in schools, and I can understand that, right. And, you know, there's a lot, especially, you know, those of you those educators who work with, you know, like grades, you know, six through, you know, and above will say, look, whether you like it or not, like young folks are learning about sex in schools, they're just learning from each other. Right. And so, the question becomes, like, what, you know, what do we source? Right, exactly? What do we as adults, should we, as adults we doing to help, you know, intervene in that process? And I say, it's a similar thing with schools like whether, you know, based on, you know, who's visible in the curriculum, who's visible as staff and experts around them, you know, what are the kinds of relationships between students and teachers, what kind of relationships between, you know, teachers and the communities, there's a million different ways that whether you're thinking about it explicitly, in that way or not, are sending powerful messages to young folks about their identity. And so that's my way of saying, whether you like it or not, it's happening. The other way I think about it, too, is, you know, it's, it's a, you know, a kind of a poor feature of the way that you know, K to 12, schools are going in the United States. But when you do early childhood education, by the way, when you're doing that early, early childhood education, that identity development is the job. That's the job, that's what that's what teaching is, like, the folks are not getting, you know, graded on whether they can, you know, apply the Pythagorean Theorem or not, or right, they're really getting graded on, you know, their, their social, and emotional, you know, capabilities, right, and what happens, unfortunately, the further we move away from early childhood education, the job of, you know, what teaching means, or what being a good teacher means moves further away from explicitly thinking about identity development, and way more focused on like delivering curriculum, you know, being an expert in the content area. And I think that's a massive problem, because, of course, if especially from a developmental psychology perspective, the entirety of that the entirety of life is a process of developing identity, of course, but we're sending folks, young folks, we were making young folks go to school every day for you know, seven hours a day. Right? That and we've already made the case that school is is impacting people's identities, right. And so we would have, at times whether it's in, you know, let you know, you know, pre adolescence, especially adolescence, I mean, these are times of massive, you know, um, you know, opportunities for folks to be thinking about and developing identity. And yet the teachers in those in those grades are really moving away from that, right and thinking more about delivering instruction. And what I'm saying, by the way, is, especially when you get into adolescence, you know, that you know, here's what a lot of schooling sounds like, right? And when you're in a classroom, Hey, guys, come on, get it together. Guys meet No, stop talking. You know, guys do that, you know, a lot of redirection, right? But what's happening is, we were making young folks go to school, rightfully so. And they're trying to figure out who they are in the process. Right? They're trying to figure out who they are. And we're sitting there going, No, no, stop that stop that we need to like, do the math problem now or read this, right. And so I'm really urging educators in a variety of ways to really understand that, again, whether they like it or not identity developments happening, and they need to be figuring out, you know, how, if at all, they need to be playing a role in that and that doesn't necessarily always mean you know, pulling some Separate social and emotional identity, you know, curriculum out from the side, like, you know, even if you're a math teacher, right? You, whether you know it or not, whether it's through your curriculum, whether it's how you're interacting with folks, you know, people are learning about their identities. A really great example is a very, really famous sort of social, psycho. I think it's more but well, it's a psychology experiment, where they've asked like, 1000s of US children to draw to basically draw a scientist, right? And when they draw scientists, right, it's all, you know, like, 95% of these pictures are of white men. Right? And so what does that mean? That means that if you're not a white male, if you're not a white man, or young, white man, right, becoming a scientist, you know, and that's we're doing some intentional work around this becoming a scientist means overcoming your race, and your identity, right, and your gender identity to then, you know, Buck the odds to become a scientist, as opposed to, of course, there's scientists come in all shapes and sizes and identities. But again, if we're not being intentional, about helping young folks understand that, that it shouldn't be a surprise when we're having issues, you know, engaging folks who basically aren't white men, right to be, you know, to engage in the in the field in the study of science, or, or whatever the, you know, the topic is, and so some of this work is yes, of this work, it takes on many different forms, right around helping young folks develop a sense that, yes, I am an intellectual being, I am a site, I come from a community of scientists, or mathematicians or so on and so forth, right? The way my teacher interacts with me, and my community helps me understand that I am capable of all these things, right? So this week, educators are doing this, whether they're doing it willingly or not, and I'm urging educators that they need to be way more intentional about thinking about the ways that they are sending messages to help students develop a positive sense of identity.

Sucheta Kamath: I love that I was recently in a in an author's release, you know, Janice Kaplan, new book called Genius of a Woman, she and in that she tracks stories of women in variety of ways. And she she refers to another experiment that was done to talk about different fields, and who is the pinnacle or representative of that field, and not a single woman, the children could not name a single woman. So the belief was, if I can't, if I don't see them, if I don't know them, they must not be good at it. It was never viewed as there was no opportunity, right? And so anyway, in her book, she talks about all these amazing scientists who actually were either married to or they're, you know, including Albert Einstein's wife, who also was quite a bit of talented mathematician. So let's talk about now the critic applying your your, you know, your theory to practice effort that you did with with Scott. So in this book that you know, you and in your research project, actually, you talk about how schools can help black and Latinx youth resist the negative effects of racial injustices and challenge its root causes? So in order to do that, what was the status what children doing? Were they aware such oppressive practices existed? Did they even know that there was an opportunity, or it was only facilitated by the educational experience?

Dr. Daren Graves: That's a great question. So our our research project predominantly took place in high schools, right. So we were really dealing in this case with adolescents. We were intentional about not presuming that the students were coming. And this is a very, by the way, very Freiren, Paulo Freire kind of way of thinking about it. But we were, we were presuming that the students were coming in with some knowledge already, with some understanding already, right? That they weren't coming in as, as you know, empty as blank slates, that the schools were then there to, like, fill out for them. Right. So we didn't want to presume that, that they were coming in without any, you know, knowledge of this. And by the way, given that they were, you know, young black and Latinx students in a lot of, you know, prominent kind of East Coast cities, we were more likely to presume that they did have some sense of what was going on. And so we tried to organize our...

Sucheta Kamath: And there were five schools that you studied, right?

Dr. Daren Graves: Right. Okay. Five high schools, schools that had missions that were intentionally around, developing either some measure of critical cost justness or and/or civic development, and we were trying to figure out what kind of different different kinds of approaches that schools took to help young folks both understand how you know, that these how the social forces are at play, and then what they could do about it. Okay. And so and we actually fall in a great part about this study is that we actually followed the students from the beginning of their first year in high school to the, to their very end, there was a longitudinal studies, we got to see how this look and look, you know, over time, which we're also super interested in. So, we, and we, and then the kind of data we collected both quantitative and qualitative data, we use surveys to measure different components of critical causes to see, you know, how, if at all, critical consciousness was developing over time, right? And then we also collected qualitative data.

Sucheta Kamath: Can you give us examples. Yeah. What kind of questions judge the critical consciousness in students?

Dr. Daren Graves: Oh, yeah, they were just different. I mean, so for me to explain that I have to dive a little deeper into the ways that we have, we're conceptualizing critical consciousness, which has basically three, would you? Yeah, basically, three?

Sucheta Kamath: Yes, please. I meant to ask you that first. Yes.

Dr. Daren Graves: So if you remember, my definition was that I was using was the ability to recognize these forces and to take action against them. And so we see critical content is having three components. One is social analysis, right? That's the recognition part understanding, like, you know, that these systems exist and how they exist. We also see this, another component is social action, right, which refers to a variety of types of actions you can take in order to like, you know, push back against the system. And then we have this third piece that we that's called political agency, which is kind of the bridge, we see that as the bridge between analysis and action. And political agency is sort of like, it's basically like efficacy, right? It's the feeling that you can make a change, right, if you want it to, right, and so I'm with you, we're actually different scales, that were some that were looking at analysis skills, you know, like, so. I don't know, if I'm gonna remember the exact types of questions. But these are going to be questions that are really going to be asking about student's ability, or a sense of understanding how different you know, systemic forms of oppression work, right? We'd have questions around action, we have some surveys that were on action, that were really asking students about, you know, senses of, you know, what they could do, what they have done, right to be able to push back against these systems, and then the questions and then the surveys around political agency, were really focused on their belief in their own capabilities around doing any of the work that were involved in transforming the systems. And so we collected data that showed and, you know, I don't think it's, I'm, you know, giving away too much by saying that, yes. And all of these schools, you know, over four years, we saw growth in all of those dimensions, which really helped us answer the question like, was critical consciousness developing? Before I keep moving on real quick, we did see, and we'll come back to this, we did see that certain schools, maybe the students showed more growth in one of the components compared to the others. So some of the schools that really showed more growth in terms of action versus analysis, versus agency. Okay, so that's that piece. The qualitative piece, which is even more fascinating to me, was, you know, the many, many, many, many days and our full days and hours, I think we spent over 360 days, full days in different schools unbeliev doing for the observations, you know, and then doing periodic interviews with students and students in particular, and also some teachers as well, to really connect the dots. And this gets the original question about how much the schools were influencing their their critical consciousness. So we were asking, we were trying to do both observations and ask specific questions that really linked, you know, the growth that we the growth that we were seeing in the students to specific practices that we were seeing in the schools. And we felt most comfortable about that when we identify practices that we saw ourselves through our observations, when that when those matched up with the ways the students themselves identified those practices as influencing their ability to either do the analysis or the action or gain some sense of agency. So, so that so that that was the data, the data was really trying to both can is about see Was there any growth until we could say yes to that, and then the qualitative piece was really trying to figure out well, how what How if at all, can we attribute what was going on in the schools to that growth, and if you want, I can talk a little bit about the things that we saw, or the things that the students identified. 

Sucheta Kamath: I love that. And for our listeners, I'll summarize a few things here that, you know, you saw that many factors that influenced positive youth outcomes. And what you saw was greater resilience, better mental health, higher self esteem, and of course, higher academic achievement, which probably would be the only interest factor of interest might be for educators. I'm not using here but no, no, but I think this is what we want. We want children to be resilient. So, uh, so tell us, maybe you can walk us through a couple of schools, what they were doing, you have such incredible stories that you talk about, including, you know, the countries that banned, you know, visiting the neighborhoods, such interesting stories. Yeah, not. So let me talk about to to share a few.

Dr. Daren Graves: Yeah, sure. I think I'll probably I'll share probably, I'll try and share three, that one that kind of speaks to each component. Right. And I'll make it quick, I promise. So one, you know, one of the some of the schools did really well with, you know, their students did really well with the social analysis piece of critical consciousness. And then though, and those schools and that, you know, those schools, we found is that they often built it, you know, into their core curriculum, right, whether it was within sort of the traditional classes, like English or social studies or other things or are creating their own class that all students took that really introduce them to, you know, frameworks for understanding how these systems work, right. And so one of the schools that we highlighted, they introduced these students to what they call the three I's, the three that and by "I", I mean, the letter I, three I's framework, which was a way, which is a way of categorizing the different ways that for example, racism can manifest. And in that regard, it was no, it can happen on an Interpersonal level, right between people, it can happen on an Internalized level, which we've been talking about already, the ways in which we absorb, you know, these messages around race attitude, right, exactly. And then I think that kind of it can happen on an Institutional level, right, which happens to policies and structures. And so in this class is social engagement class at all, I think, in this case, all ninth graders took, right they learned about this framework and got a chance to play around with it. And then what we saw is that because, you know, all the ninth graders were taking this, we started to out the both throughout ninth grade and beyond the way that other core classes would then use that framework in their own classes. And so one of the examples we highlight in the book is how the English, I think the ninth grade English class, was utilizing Toni Morrison's, The Bluest Eye, write a book text, they probably teach anyway, as a way to help them understand notions of internalized racism and internalized standards of beauty. Right? So those schools who did that really gave students a lot of important tools for analysis. For action, we saw what we saw is a similar kind of model. But in this case, we saw models where, you know, in one of the schools, students in the 12th grade, took a this is the path that all 12th graders had to take. Okay. So again, the incorporation into the, you know, the everyday schooling of the students, where they learned, actually different theories and methods of organizing, okay. And then after taking this class, in the first in their first semester, they had a senior year graduating culminating project that that, you know, required them to choose a topic of importance to them in their community, do the research, and then and then produce and, and, and, and perform what they call this changed the world project where they had to take, you know, the learnings that they had done about this specific topic, move it out into the world and do some kind of action and whether that action was in the form of, you know, confronting institutions that were doing things that were discriminatory, whether that was just, you know, doing a public service announcement, so folks in their community, you know, could understand what's going on. The example that you gave was that you mentioned was of students for whom the French consulate had actually declared their their neighborhood the neighbor that they go to school in and they live in as essentially a no go zone for French citizens, if you're going to come to travel to this city, don't come to this neighborhood because it's scary. The school found out about it, the students found out about it, they did a lot of research and they ended up confronting, you know, the general console in that city to urge them to change that essentially a travel ban right to their community, which they eventually did, which was amazing, right? And so in those in those cases, the schools built building the action Part of build doing the action out in the world as part of the as part of the learning as part of the core learning. The last thing I mentioned is schools where we saw, you know, students displaying high agency, right, the feeling that they can do it make changes is that, you know, these were schools that, that that provided meaningful, again, usually through, you know, core courses, meaningful opportunities for the young folks to be to shape the school environment, right. And so we talked about an example where schools, were one of the schools through 11th grade civics class gave the students an opportunity to revise an unfair school policy, and this, and these students in this case, you know, decided to try and make a revision to the the school Technology Policy, right, the ability for them to be able to use their phones or their tablets, right, to be able to do you know, work and, and, and other things. And so the school, the students went through this whole process of again, you know, research making a whole presentation to the faculty, they presented to the faculty, the faculty, did they give them what they wanted immediately? No, they actually scaffold it a process for them and said, Hey, wait, we have some real questions about this. Right? pushed back a little bit in ways that were both genuine and some also about scaffolding a process for them to understand like how this works in real life. And then at the end of that process, you'd get students saying things like that, like the textbook definition of agency, they would say things like, Wow, I didn't know schools, would listen to young students, right. And now that I make now that I made a change here, I feel like I can't make a change anywhere, right. And so those are the kinds of different practices that we saw. And we feel comfortable attributing the prat those practices to the results that we saw, because we all there was also backed up by the many interviews we did with students over the you know, over the years, where the students would say that, you know, I learned about, you know, I became more aware about food deserts, you know, in my, you know, in my community. And it was my social engagement class that really helped me see this in ways that I hadn't seen before. So we had lots of amazing data for on the qualitative end, where we got to see for ourselves the ways that the schools were scaffolding these processes. And then amazingly, students organically telling us the ways in which those processes impacted their thinking.

Sucheta Kamath: I mean, there's so many examples made my heart Just Dance, and eyes teared up sometimes, but there was one example of Terrance, who said achievement as resistance. And that was such a, that as achievement as resistance was such a powerful way to keep at school, recognize that there are a lot of forces who would are banking on me dropping out, or they don't care if I don't finish, but if I care, I have some agency. And I mean, that's just the most beautiful thing. And, you know, it's really interesting. So my real question is, Why is this not happening everywhere? Why is critical consciousness curriculum is not all pervasive?

Dr. Daren Graves: Right. Right. I think? Well, that's, that's a tough question. And I think the answer, sadly, is politics. And so what do I mean? Yeah, I mean, there's so much research, you know, even beyond the research that Scott and I did, that shows that and like you said earlier, like, even if you're just only interested in, you know, you know, high test scores, or, you know, high, you know, achieve, you know, academic achievement, we have the data that shows that critical consciousness and positive racial identity is very much, you know, statistically I quote, you know, correlated with outcomes, like GPA or test scores, or, or whatever it is that you're interested in. And so, in those in the, under those circumstances, you It makes the question even more so like, Well, why isn't everybody doing this especially right, in the context where, you know, family, you know, all these researchers and policymakers are trying to figure out especially for students of color, like, well, how can we, you know, make sure that we can you know, that we're not seeing these disparate outcomes right. And so what again, why would we not be doing this across the board? I think the reality is, is that the note you know, Paulo Freire said that you know, in in his work that we read the word in order to read the world, right? In other words, that we learn these, these, you know, functional literacy and numeracy is not just for their own sake, right. But so that that we can they can eventually become critical literacies and transformative literacies right. And to me, that does not sound like a really radical notion, right that we are, we are teaching students skills so that they can become authentic authors of their own future. That does not sound radical to me. It becomes it becomes radicalized, unfortunately, in the in the context of students who have been minorities on the basis of race and other things, right? Because what that what, in order for them to become, right authentic authors of their own future, they're going to have to we're going to have to surface you know, ugly dynamics like racism like patriarchy. Right, like ableism. Right. And instead of looping back, right, right, it's a looping back to the beginning parts of our conversation. There's ways in which Windows systems are invisible and aren't talked about that, that that's kind of our that's sort of a goal, right? That's sort of the ideal in United States that we shouldn't be encumbered by these systems. Right. But, you know, sadly, because you know, did you know, different parts of the society are in different places around their sense of whether we should be foregrounding those issues, thinking about those issues at all, right now that now that we're talking about racism, or ableism, or, you know, these other isms, that now makes it to those people seem like a radicalized project, right, and now, and maybe even, um, you know, a form of indoctrination. And so I think my response to that is as follows. And again, this sort of takes on the, you know, the kind of way that Freire looks at education, that education is inherently political. Now, I want to, I want to, I want to, like, distinguish between political and partisan, okay, partly, you know, education being partisan, that I can understand, especially in the US context, that would not be an outcome that we're looking for. Right, that does more lean into the realm of, of indoctrination, but I don't under I don't know what education. I don't know what an apolitical education is, like, I don't even know what that means, right? We make everybody go to school in the United States, right? And a big reason for that is so that they can and a lot of reason for that, right. So that, you know, folks can be, you know, useful and educated, contributing members of our democracy, right, one of the biggest, you know, reasons that people were scared of democracy when it was first brought up was like, these people don't know nothing like me, people can't, are people gonna make decisions about how to be governed if they don't know nothing? Right. And so, we Yeah, we solved that problem by I don't know, sending making people go to school. And so schooling in that just in that level alone, right, is inherently political. And so in this regard, if we're, you know, so yeah, so in this regard, yes, we're doing critical consciousness is, you know, the political realm, you know, of education comes right into the, into the front and center, because the whole notion is, is that, you know, what does it mean to be to have a vibrant democracy if folks can't participate in that democracy are not allowed to participate in that democracy one way or another? And so I think what it really involves is helping people understand that while Yes, we are, you know, helping young folks think about some of these issues like racism, that that doesn't mean we're trying to indoctrinate them into a certain way of thinking. And I think the real concern is that a lot of this work that foregrounds, you know, race, or racism by some folks is that we are teaching young folks to hate, hate America, or to or to hate white people, right, which is so far from the truth, like we are just trying to talk about and by the way, critical consciousness is for everybody, right? We're all participating in these, these systems of oppression that we all need to figure out how we're doing, what we're how we're recognizing and what we're doing about it. And either in terms of reinforcing it, or repress or trying to dismantle it. But the point is that this is the kind of work we need to do in the face of the reality of the system to help young folks see themselves in a way that isn't through the deficit lens, and to into your point, to take days to give them a sense of agency to be able to do something about it. So there's lots of platitudes about how, you know, America is going to become a better place because our young flee the children are the future and our young folks are going to are going to make the changes that we can't, but that doesn't happen magically. Right. And that definitely doesn't happen. If you're, if you're, if you're a child who doesn't have any sense of agency, over their own future doesn't have a sense of identity that says, you know, you can and should be making positive changes for yourself and the larger community. So that's what this work is about. And I think if we did that, in a way that was part of the mainstream, you know, no one would push against that no one would say, Wait, wait, why are you trying to help students become authors of their own future, but when it becomes when that process, foreground some of these other systems that are more taboo and that are harder for people to to want to reckon around, then the people get nervous about whether or how this work should be done.

Sucheta Kamath: You know that this is so well said and you're kind of kind of mirroring the the concepts that, you know, Paulo Freire talks about in pedagogy of the oppressed, there's a portion there that he talks about fear of freedom, you know, freedom would require the them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift, it must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an idea located outside of man. Nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion. I just love that. So I think I'm wondering, as we talk about the oppressed, what do we talk about? What How do we address the critical consciousness of those who are not intentionally oppressing, but they are part of the system that's benefiting them. And they may feel incredibly uncomfortable, if certain parts have pointed out about the privilege that comes their way? And this is where I feel there's such a rub. How do you see this apply? To all children?

Dr. Daren Graves: Yeah, and adults? Yeah, this is important, right? So in turn, so look, the way these the way these systems of oppression, they've been going since before we got here, and they're gonna probably be going since as is after we're gone. And so I think part of the deal is to help people to understand that because these are systems that churn and they go, whether we like it or not, that it's, you know, I think there's a there's a, there's a sense that like, all these systems are just going to peter out, like the you know, the old people are going to go away, and you know, pass on, and then the new people will come in, and then that'll usher the era, you know, a new era. And that's just so not the case. That's just not what history dictates, right? All you have to do is look at the, you know, the, you know, what happened in Charlottesville? What was it like four or five years ago, those were not old people walking around with torches on a campus that was those were young folks. Right? So that's one to like, these systems of oppression, like, based on what you were your quote from failure, they're upheld by people who have power and by people who don't, right, they're all held by both groups, right. And so there's no way that we're going to dismantle these systems, without the folks who have the privilege engaging in this work. And I think US history dictates this, right? There ways in which, you know, you know, when we made big leaps forward in terms of social justice, it's often occurred when, you know, folks with privilege have decided to get on board this process and become part of the process that usually leap, you know, make helps us make big steps forward. So, so this work needs to be done with, you know, for example, if we're talking about racism, it definitely needs to be done with white folks, for example, we're talking about patriarchy definitely needs to be done with men. Okay, and so what is the way that we can help folks do this, folks with privilege do this without feeling, you know, overwhelmed by like, guilt or shame, or whatever kind of negative emotions that might, you know, make them not want to be part of this process? What we need to be done is to help them understand that like, this is not, you know, you should not feel shame, guilt around having privilege, right? Because, like I was saying before, we're born into these systems, like nobody asked to be nobody asked to have unearned privilege, right? And so, I reject approaches that either tried to shake the tree and shame people for just having privilege. Right, I think that's a problem. And I reject approach and and I reject notions where people feel like, Oh, I have privilege, therefore, I just need to like, you know, be quiet. Shut up, you know, wallow in my guilt, because that's also not going to be helpful. Like, Is that helpful for you? No, this is not going to help dismantle any of these systems of oppression, to have the folks of privilege just sitting there wallowing and guilt and shame about it. Now, we need people to it, it's going to require action. And so in that regard, I think we need to help reorient folks who have privilege, to think to feel less shame and guilt about whether they have privilege or not, and more guilt and shame around. How are they utilizing their privilege or not, right? So if you want to feel a sense of like, you want to feel a sense of like, you know, guilt or whatever, to help, you know, push you forward. It should be around what are you doing about the privilege that you have? Right, that's the thing that your move is for, and, and we all need to think about that because like I said, again, even when we all let's say we all decided, you know, locked arms together agreed that like, the systems of oppression are bad and we want to get rid of them. It's, you know, it's gonna take so much work, even when we all agree, right? To make them go away because they're so powerful and so pervasive. We had a constitution that gave everyone the right to vote. And then we needed to have better, you know, amendments to make that actually happen, then we had to have more, you know, the Civil Rights Act, you know, after that to really make it and we're still dealing with it, right. And so it's always gonna take tons and again, building on your Freire quotation, it's, it's a process, it's not a destination, it's always going to require us to do work. So we need people's energies focused on getting involved in that work, whether it's work, they need to be doing themselves and or work they need to be doing collectively, from their different levels of power and privilege. And, and to realize that, like, Look, you might have power and privilege. Great. You didn't ask for that. But now you got it. Now, what are you gonna do about it? Right. So, so I think that's, I think that's the key to this issue. I think too often, we have either approaches that are misguided, or approaches that are misinterpreted, that really framed the issue as like, all you have privilege, therefore, there's nothing you can do, right? Like you just have it, all you can do is just go away, right? Or just not be who you are. And that's just not useful. So we want to give folks a privilege, guess what I send to the agency around, there's something you can do about this?

Sucheta Kamath: Absolutely. And, you know, I love I'll end this, that, you know, one of the beautiful things, you you say in your book is that critical consciousness, consciousness is the is an antidote for oppression. And this is how you just explain how this is possible. And and the other very positive message you you leave us that you see measurable, as you said, objective, subjective, and transport transformative changes in youth, which is what we want. And I just can't imagine the power of if we have such kind of army of new generation who poses and problem posing pedagogy that, you know, very talks about, which is really like taking contemplation into saying, being serious about problems that we see, and not just turning the other, you know, turning your back and saying, Oh, my God, I'm feeling overwhelmed. So as we end, do you have any suggestions for our listeners? What books tend? You tend to look at that you find inspiring, and that influence your thoughts?

Dr. Daren Graves: Yes. Um, let me see. Let me say one other thing, right before that. That's okay. I think yes, we, you know, we're also long overdue for a revisioning of what schooling needs to be right in this country. Right? We, the way I describe it is we have we have like a 19th century school schedule that are prepared that's preparing students for 20th century jobs, right? So we, we are way overdue of trying to figure out what school needs to be. And I think this, you know, the pandemic moment that we've had, right, that really forced us as really kicked in jump started a process of re envisioning schools, what school needs to be, and I think that critical consciousness needs that, you know, needs to be a part of that needs to be a part of that re envisioning. So let me just select 

Sucheta Kamath: And executive function, training exact children how to think for themselves and manage their lives, with intention.

Dr. Daren Graves: 100% Thank you for saying that. In terms of books that i think you know, that you could read more about, I would start with Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, which really helps you orient, you know, orient yourself to the the political nature of education, and the kinds of authority you need to have with students, right. And in a very different model, it's way more of a reciprocal model of teaching and learning between students and teachers that are vertical, then a more of a vertical authority model where the teacher has all the information, all the expertise and is just depositing it in to the students head. That's not what we're trying to do. We need to see our young folks, as having expertise and are in those communities is hard as being experts on their own condition and drawing from that. So that's one book that I would mention, another book that I would mention is Below the Surface by two great scholars, one, Deborah Rivas-Drake and and Adriana Umaña-Taylor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, who've done amazing research. It's a very readable, readable book about racial and ethnic identity, right? And so if you're really interested in creating about what racial ethnic identity is, and how to promote positive racial, ethnic identity, I would I would, I would suggest that book and the last book I would I would suggest, is Cultivating Genius by Dr. Gholdy Mohammed, which I think is this a beautiful example of, you know, through, especially like literacy curriculum and otherwise, how we can be meaningfully integrate. Some of the key components are critical consciousness, especially around you know, identity, especially around analysis into our everyday lessons. And so I would highly recommend that book as a way As a way of as one type of example of how we could be meaningfully incorporating critical consciousness type work into our schools.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, my goodness, so I have to admit, I have not read the other two Paulo Freire's book because of your and Scott's work I got introduced to it last year. So I can't wait to read these two books. I'm wondering curious if you are familiar with Baba Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste. He, I will send you some information about it. But he is from India he is he he was the champion of speaking against oppression and creating the critical consciousness and changing the voice and giving agency and his work had great influence on MLK. And they had they were in correspondence with each other, which I recently found out but very interesting. Well, that's all for us. Now. Thank you for tuning in and joining this deep and meaningful conversation. If you are enjoying our podcast and love what you're listening to please share and like us on many social media and spread the word because this is important work. And to me, you know, executive function skills is changing the way you look at the world. become more aware so that you understand the the changes you make benefit, not just you but others. And lastly, there's so much so much work to be done in the community that where you belong and the larger community that you don't see. But that change is not possible unless we pause, reflect and then respond and not react. So if you don't practice critical consciousness, you will be in the mode of reacting and that's not good for anybody. Right? Exactly. So thank you so much, Darren for being with us and and being absolutely an incredible guest I am so grateful. Thank you. 

Dr. Daren Graves: Absolutely, my pleasure. Thank you.