What Makes a School "Good?"

What Makes a School "Good?"


Chris Stewart (aka @citizenstewart) and Sharif El-Mekki from the Center for Black Educator Development shed light on the complex dynamics of healthy education and equipping our future generations with the tools for navigating a diverse world.

"What does it mean to be culturally, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically safe?"

They kickstart the conversation with the quintessential query. A phrase which echoes throughout their discussion as they underscore the importance of safety in all its facets, contending that schools must be a sanctuary for students : a place where security extends beyond mere physical borders, but envelopes cultural and intellectual spheres as well. For our speakers, a school is not just a fortress - it should serve as a fertile ground for holistic development.

Chris, a staunch advocate of diversity and a critic of Eurocentric educational paradigms, passionately argues: "That's why you absolutely need your best and brightest and most culturally responsive folks in your schools." The idea reverberates across the entirety of the conversation, acting as a litmus test for the true measure of a great school - one that embodies the same diversity it preaches and encourages.

Taking a swing at the state of current affairs, they delve into the discouraging circumstance of having a lack of Black political figures calling into question a system that often shuts down large segments of its student population into ruin.

The focus then shifts to making schools not just multicultural but also intercultural entities. They discuss the necessity of a curriculum that not only encompasses Black history but spans the experiences of various marginalized groups. This panoramic view aids students in understanding the patterns of oppression and manipulation used across cultures, thus vitalizing the link between education and global understanding. They pull no punches as they address the seductive lure of individualism and the divide-and-conquer tactic it often spawns.

Sharif argues for schools to adopt a Disney-like attention to detail in designing experiences. From entrance procedures to classroom dynamics, a deliberate and meticulous planning effort is key to cultivating an environment that engages and stimulates. They take a firm stance against policing in schools, expressing concerns over the detrimental impact it has on students' growth and mentality.

Teachers surface as stalwarts of the educational ecosystem throughout the discussion. The significance of supportive educators who intervene in unfair situations and make students feel seen and heard is underscored. At the same time, both speakers don't shy away from calling out those staff members who turn a blind eye towards their students' struggles.

Both Chris and Sharif grapple with the challenging terrain of renaming spaces associated with problematic figures, the rewriting of history from diverse perspectives, and the resistance often faced in this process. A profound quote captures this thought: "Our kids need to be decoding that. They need to be thinking about that because there are material problems that come with not knowing how things are named."

Underscoring the urgency to question and disrupt the existing power dynamics, Sharif extols the value of a culturally-well-rounded education that includes all people. They call for a transition from a Eurocentric perspective to a humananistic point of view - a place that reflects the world in all its variety by drawing upon the experiences of the 'red', 'Black', 'yellow', and 'white' people.

But the call-to-action doesn't stop there. The discussion concludes with an invitation to the wider audience to join the conversation and effect real change within the education system.

In their dialogue, both Chris and Sharif leave no stone unturned in scrutinizing the intricate, multi-dimensional landscape of education. From culture and safety, to curriculum and teachers, this conversation serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding and reshaping the education system for a more diverse and inclusive world. It is as much an exploration of current issues as it is a call to arms for everyone to contribute in creating a more inclusive and just society.


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