This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. discusses the debate over how to combat racial inequalities in America’s public school system, with Dr. Steve Perry, noted educator, motivational speaker, and founder and head of the Capital Prep Schools.
Announcer [00:00:15] From the University of Texas at Austin, KUT Radio, this is In Black America.
Steve Perry [00:00:23] For me, education is a tool for social justice. It’s not an end unto itself. It’s just a strategy. And every revolution has begun the same way. Somebody went into a room and said, Yo, you know, we got to put up with this, right? And they broke it down as to why you have to put up with it. And people in the room like, you know what? It does make sense. And thus a revolution was born. That’s education. Dr. Martin Luther King said in his last book, Where Do We Go from Here? Community Chaos. He said that America does not know what to teach or how to teach. That’s Dr. King and Dr. King. So this desire that I have is really rooted in a commitment to social justice that was born out of living in poverty for the first 25 years of my life. And what that amounted to was my mother and another woman. They were on the tenants association and our public housing project. And seeing my mother had to fight for things that I didn’t understand, why she had to fight. What made me think that I needed to quote unquote, educate people. But I thought I would educate them through becoming a politician, which ultimately I found out was just not for me.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:01:28] Steve Perry, noted educator, motivational speaker and founder and head of Capital Prep Schools. Perry is the voice of a generation of people. Champion has been fighting for disadvantaged children and families for more than 30 years. His skills are hard fought and has been bestowed them as well. Adolescent years in Middletown, Connecticut, all the way through his graduation from an Ivy League university. On May 17, 2020, we observed the 66th anniversary of the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. U.S. Supreme Court decision. In a decision issued that day, Chief Justice Warren noted that in the field of public education, the doctrine of separate but equal has no place as segregated schools are inherently unequal. As a result, the court ruled that the plaintiffs were being deprived the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Today, more than 60 years later, the debate continues. I’m John L. Hanson Jr. And welcome to another edition of In Black America. On this week’s program, Public Education in America with Dr. Steve Perry In Black America.
Steve Perry [00:02:41] It could be the greatest thing to ever happen to American education, period. Sadly, because we’re allowing the teachers and the teachers unions and the teachers associations and states that they say are right to work, states to not teach. Right now, in the biggest cities in the United States of America, there are overwhelmingly minority children are not being taught at all. It’s not they’re not being taught well. They’re literally not receiving any instruction. And anyone who tells you anything different is patently lying. They’re lying. So these same people are hitting with the best man. They are literally. They’ll send home what they refer to as a packet, which is the equivalent to directions from IKEA. And basically telling you to read them yourself and figure it out. That ain’t teaching. That’s not teaching at all. And if that’s teaching, then why are we have these buildings open anyway? What we need is 40, $5,000 million buildings. If that’s teaching, let’s just keep set up.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:03:47] As we enter the 21st century. The education of children of color in this country is still fragmented today, more than 60 years after Brown v Board of Education. The debate continue over how to combat racial inequalities in the nation’s public school system, largely based on residential patterns and differences in resources mean schools in wealthier and economically disadvantaged communities across this nation. Dr. Steve Perry has been a vanguard in the fight for equal education in this country. He is the founder and head of Capital Prep Schools, the author of six books and a respected guest on many of our network news programs. Perry offers insight to parents, children and many politicians to assist them in a better understanding of what matters in the education of our children. Recently, In Black America, I spoke with Dr. Steve Perry.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:04:41] Dr. Perry, with the current events that’s taking place, particularly in Minneapolis, with the killing of George Floyd and the killing also, Mark Aubrey, as a Black man living here in America and also a father, how are those two incidents affecting you?
Steve Perry [00:04:58] Last night, my son’s wife and I went out to get what I, you know, lemonade and we got back to the house. We live near the near the shore. So I said to my son, I’m about to go for a walk. And my youngest son said, I’ll go with you. I said, All right. And so when we got out the car, he said. Are we going to get shot? And as he and I walk the beach just at its core, when I say my son and I walked on the beach, that should evoke visions of placid joy arrival something good then only good notion. My son and I, both of whom had hoodies on because it was going to last night. My son kept looking over his shoulder, looking out to see who was coming to get us. Myself, about eight years old. He’s 14 years old, sophomore high school. And for him and me, it sparked a conversation about what is going on in America. And he said that I don’t oh, this sounds wrong, He said, But I look at those fires and I see beauty. He said, What else are we supposed to do? He said, I just want to live. He said, My friends just want to live. We don’t want to bother nobody. We just want to live. He said, But I’m in the neighborhood, in the suburbs, and I’m concerned about my safety. So how is it affected me? Man It’s part every day. Yesterday started with me just feeling really emotional. And this is ridiculous. You know it. It makes no sense. That when a camera because I was in 1991 when the Rodney King situation unfolded, when they tried to kill him, I remember sitting in my college dorm room. And I remember thinking, finally they caught these fools. They on tape. It’s over now. They never going to be able to do this again. I could not have been more wrong then, but to see people like that disgusting, vile murderers, police officer and the other murderous police officers that were with them in. Minneapolis. To see him looking dead at somebody with a camera phone, No one in this recording, he did nothing to alter his behavior. Nothing. He didn’t stop. He didn’t tell them to stop because he knew that he had impunity. He knew that he would not be held accountable. He lost his job. People lose their jobs so much less. He lost his job. I guarantee you, the teachers I mean, the the police union will fight for his pension. And they will sue this city. We have crossed over, ladies and gentlemen, into a very, very dark place. And what makes it dark is not that the behaviors of these victimizers have changed. Is that the people who’ve been victims for so long. Ain’t taking longer. It’s going to burn, baby, burn for a while. This one right here, they. It’s okay. Enough is enough.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:08:25] You’re right about that. Dr. Perry, also, I want to talk to you about we’re just past the 66th anniversary of the Brown Board of Education of Topeka. Looking at that decision, can you give a thumbnail history for those that aren’t familiar with that Supreme Court decision?
Steve Perry [00:08:46] Gladly. In short, our family, like so many of us, decided that enough was enough. They didn’t want their child to go to a substandard school, and so they sought a remedy. And Topeka, Kansas, just like so many communities today, wanted to keep. Black people enslaved. And so it refused to provide them with the opportunity to have the kind of education that their family felt like their job and job deserved. And so they sued and ultimately won. What did they win? Not really much. At the end of the day. Virtually nothing has changed as it relates to public education. You still go to the school closest to your house, unless, of course, you’re wealthy enough to buy your way out, which was the case back then. Fortunate enough to get out. Which was the case back then. Or break the law and lie your way out. Which was the case back then. So. Virtually nothing has changed. Sadly, and I say virtually nothing, because despite the fact that I’ve run charter schools and before the magnet school, they’ve always been alternate routes to education. They’ve always been that. This is not a new phenomena. It’s just that we, as is typically the case, have window dressing. Well, we believe that because there are a couple of charter schools and there really are only a couple, it’s come out. 4 million kids out of 40 million children somewhere thereabouts, don’t go to traditional schools. They go to charter schools. And then there are some magnet schools again. But most of those magnet schools are zoned. So meaning you go to the magnet school based on where you live. You can just go. So your zone is adjacent to another zone, which means potentially that your house is closer to that school than the school into which you are zone. But there’s this imaginary but very real line separating you from that school. Then you can go. So the lines that were in place are still in place. And in recent years, there are 33 states that still have secession laws, which means that there are neighborhoods because that’s what they really amount to. Mhm. That are seceding from the school district thereby creating a school district within a school district. Think of it this way. You’re on a basketball court. And at center court where you’d have jump ball. Is a neighborhood. That neighborhood calls itself another school district. The rest of the basketball court is one school district. The center court is another school district. They are succeeding now to make sure that they keep school districts white, wealthy and segregated.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:11:50] When did you develop this passion for education for yourself, but also for those that are being denied quality education?
Steve Perry [00:12:02] So it’s been a process, but it happened. See, for me, education is a tool for social justice. It’s not an end. Unto itself. It’s just a strategy. And every revolution has begun the same way. Somebody went into a room and said, Yo, you know, you got to put up with this, right? And they broke it down as to why you have to put up with it. And people in the room like, you know what? It does make sense. And thus a revolution was born. That’s education. Dr. Martin Luther King said in his last book, Where Do We Go From Here? Community Chaos. He said that America does not know what to teach or how to teach. That’s Dr. King is Dr. King. So this desire that I have is really rooted in a commitment to social justice that was born out of living in poverty for the first 25 years of my life. And what that amounted to was my mother and I and another woman, they were on the tennis association and our public housing project. And seeing my mother have to fight for things that I didn’t understand why she had to fight for. It made me think that I needed to, quote unquote, educate people. I thought I would educate them through becoming a politician, which ultimately I found out was just not for me. And in the interim, I thought, well, why don’t I start a program to help kids like me? Mhm. Because I had gone through one of those programs and it was an Upward Bound program. And then when I started to work in the schools, I started to see firsthand, you know, it’s like being in a room with the lights off and feel like somebody keeps hitting you. You just don’t know who it is. When I started to work in the schools, I turned the lights off. Or the lights were turned on. And as I would go to visit my kids in these schools, I would hear teachers talking about kids like dogs, and I would hear principals letting them get away with it. And I saw these people. Who I once trusted, putting kids into classes that were beneath them academically. And then when I, I, I can tell you specific, for instance, there’s a school district in Connecticut, the Windsor Public Schools, and that doesn’t mean anything to most people except for the fact that it’s said to be the second wealthiest Black suburb in America. And one would think with the with, you know, Black people doing all right, that their kids would be in the advanced placement classes or the seminar classes or the international baccalaureate classes. But you could walk through that school and you could tell the highest ranking classes by the number of white kids in the school. In a classroom. Sorry. So the greater the number of white kids, the higher the classes, the greater number of Black kids, the lower the classes. And I thought, well, damn, I could. I could do worse than this. You know, I mean, I can this bad while on my own school. And it was during that process of seeing those things happen that I started to realize that there’s nothing wrong with our kids. It’s just that they’re in a system that was designed to destroy them. So I felt I got some brothers together. And, you know, I say brothers. I mean brothers not just of color, but in the ball colors. Because I played myself initially, I put together a group of just Black people and we do nothing. And so I put together a group of people, small cultures, who are about their life, say, Yo, we got to do better than this. And and we agreed and we started our first school in Hartford. Wasn’t easy. Still anything. I was on the phone with one of the states today that we operate schools in sitting there arguing with them about. I mean, educating Black kids is hard as hell. I mean, it’s not because our kids are dumb because everybody makes so damn hard.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:15:55] I was going to go there. Would you, Dr. Perry, what do you think the problem is with our school systems and their attitude or lack thereof of educating people of color?
Steve Perry [00:16:11] They hate us. Oh, man. The things that other kids get away with it. To see that you are precocious are criminalizing our kids. Come on. I mean, you know, my son, last night we were walking. He said, Dad, I don’t want to believe. The things are the way that they are. He said, I want to believe. He said, I don’t support Donald Trump. He said, I just see that he’s the president. I just want to I want to believe that people are inherently good. That’s what my supporters. Your saying. Okay. I’m saying you guys are saying what they are. You can’t do it that way. I do not want you to walk around with Black eyes on. And I’m saying, us facing gentlemen. Every single city in the United States of America can list the failed schools. Every single one. What are your.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:17:05] I’m in Dallas, Texas, and the program is produced out of Austin, Texas. So Texas.
Steve Perry [00:17:11] Okay. So I guarantee you, if I asked you what did Raggedy Schools in Dallas or what a writing schools in Austin, if you knew what you wanted to make, you tell me, not only could you tell me. Everybody could tell me. So the question that you ask yourself is, then why on earth would you send any child to a school? You know that educating kids is because you don’t see the kids as human beings. You don’t care. And I don’t want lest anyone think that I’m talking about white people, I am not. They are Black people, Latinos, Latinas on boards of education that are selling Black people out. Fashion. You could say Jackie Robinson, don’t get it twisted. Don’t think because you got a Black mayor or a Latinas Congress person that they got your back. Alexandra Cortez Whatever. She just as much committed to the status quo as anybody else because she’s more committed to our party than to her people. Meanwhile, her parents pulled out by the school system. We know better, but we’re not doing better. And the reason we’re not doing better is because no group large enough to make an impact loves our people as people and as such. Our kids keep going to raggedy schools.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:18:32] If you’re just joining us, I’m John L. Hanson Jr. and you’re listening to In Black America from KUT Radio and speaking with Dr. Steve Perry, founder of Capital Prep Schools in Connecticut and Harlem, noted educator and motivational speaker. Dr. Perry, with the COVID 19 pandemic on us and most of our children, if not all, are being educated at home. How will this have a devastating effect, if any, or the African-American children?
Steve Perry [00:19:06] It could be the greatest thing to ever happen to American education, period. Sadly, because we’re allowing the teachers and the teachers unions and the teachers associations and states that they say are right to work states to not teach. Right now, in the biggest cities in the United States of America that are overwhelmingly minority, children are not being taught at all. It’s not they’re not being taught well. They’re literally not receiving any instruction. And anyone who tells you anything different is patently lying. They’re lying. So these same people are hitting with the bs man. They are literally. They’ll send home what they refer to as a packet, which is the equivalent to directions from IKEA. And basically telling you to read them yourself and figure it out and teach it. That’s not teaching at all. And if that’s teaching, then why are we have these buildings open anyway? What we need is 40, 50, $100 million bill. And as if that’s teaching it, let’s just keep setting up. So they’ll say, well, there’s a digital divide. Stop lying. Stop lying. If that’s your issue, then explain to me this. When you were complaining before about there, not about there being a resource gap in your school, but laptops and other forms of computation and put them in the school and had in some case some of the poorer schools have a 1 to 1 laptop program, believe it or not, where those laptops send them. All the kids say they don’t want that. What they want to do is they want to sit home and not teach. They don’t want to teach because they want to teach. They do just like you and I do. They can have on a phone call, they can put on a zoom. They do any number of things. I run schools in some of the poorest cities in America. I do an open majority. I should have access to technology. Now, they may not all have let’s say they have four kids and they may not have four laptops, so they may not have a laptop for every single child. I’ll give you that. But it doesn’t mean that there are no laptops and in many cases there may be a cell phone or two or three, because in most cases, most of the kids have a cell phone. So everything that we’re teaching can be done through a cell phone. Everything. Anything you want to learn on earth is online. So imagine, if you will. If your teachers decide that they’re just going to teach no matter where they are. I’m talking to you in Connecticut. I’m in a car. I’m not sure where you are, but we’re having a meaningful conversation. They’re not teaching. Technology is not the issue. It’s the brittle spirit, as Dave Chappelle refers to them, of adults who call themselves teachers. It is unconscionable to me that school districts like Chicago and New York and Los Angeles are going to allow children to atrophy for six months. It’s disgusting. It’s disgusting. They ought to be ashamed. Anyone who’s not teaching ought to be ashamed. And you know the difference between between teaching and not teaching. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be teaching. Teaching is you showing someone how to do something. You answering questions when they don’t understand, you providing them with support. If you’re not doing that, you are not teaching. And if you are being paid by your community to teach and you’re not teaching. Return the money. If you need time off to be with your family to take care of your kids. Ain’t nobody got a problem with that. That’s cool. If you need mental health support, I’m sure that there’s some program at your job that will allow you to do that. But if you are not taking personal or mental health days and you are being paid to teach, you have an obligation to do so. If you’re a doctor or nurse, you can’t say, well, you know. Here’s a scalpel with some sutures. Go ahead and figure it out. You can’t text your patients instructions on how to operate on themselves. You are going to do it. If teachers want to be treated like the professionals that they claim that they want to be, then you got to do it when it needs to be done. If you’re not teaching, you’re not teaching. You dont’ have to like it. But think about the rest of us who have children at home.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:23:38] How can parents help their children learn during this this hiatus from school.
Steve Perry [00:23:43] There’s a lot of ways. One, reach out to the school and say, You only teach my kid straight up. This is not cool. I’m paying you so you can teach. Hold them accountable to do what? You can. Identify all the parents who are out there. There’s. There’s a lot of information online. There are some online learning platforms that you can go to. I don’t know if all of them are free. Um, at our schools we are teaching and some of my teachers are doing a great job, most of which is doing a great job. Some of them are not. So they’re not giving 100%. So they won’t be here next year. But you know, they made a decision. I’m here for my kids. And so as I am, I am not just an educator. I am a father of sons who go to one of my schools. Mhm. And I’m not trying to hear your feeble spirit talking about how you. This is too stressful for you. Okay, cool. Got you. But my son still has to go on with the rest of their life. You already have your degrees, Chief. So if you can’t do the job, I can’t be mad at you for it. But you can’t expect me to pay you to do something that you’re refusing to do.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:24:48] So how are your teachers communicating with you alls students.
Steve Perry [00:24:52] So we do zoom. And every every classroom day starts at 8 a.m.. At 8 a.m. they begin teaching our classes are 45 minutes to an hour. Our school day goes to 3:30. At 3:30, we switch into office hours, which should be a time in which the kids go for additional support. We have daily attendance and upwards of 85%.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:25:18] So how are your messages different from those that are attending traditional schools?
Steve Perry [00:25:27] We look for excuses, we look for solutions. We looking for excuses. We look for solutions. These are my kids, man. Like, I don’t understand people. People. Oh, we miss our kids. Oh, we’re so sad. We get on a damn zoom in same way when you miss your auntie or uncle. Have having zoom party, zoom birthday parties having zoom retirement party reaching out to retirement centers. You miss all those people, right? You know how to you talk to your kids. It’s not cool, man. It’s not cool at all. It’s not cool. I’m not going to call somebody here all because they decided to become a teacher. We decided to do it. It’s one thing doing it is something entirely different. Think about it. In Connecticut alone, in six weeks, 430,000 people filed for unemployment. A lot of those were my kids parents. How are you going to complain about your job when you’ve got a job, man? Please.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:26:20] Dr. Perry, before we run out of time, what do you see the state of education, maybe 5 to 10 years from now? Are we just are in a cycle. Uh, recidivism, um, you know, doing the same thing and getting the same results?
Steve Perry [00:26:36] So. Oh, my brother, man Oh, heartbreaking. I’m working too hard for this. I lia lot of other ways to get paid in the course of the day. It got to be a lot easier than that. So my plan and my hope and my plan is to upend this education system that we have now. Prodigy wasn’t talked about the Miseducation Negro 70 years ago, 80 years ago. My hope is that this COVID will be to education in America. What Katrina was to education in New Orleans, a tragedy that was costly in terms of lives, but presented an opportunity in terms of rebirth. You don’t have to keep sending kids to failed schools. We never have to do it again. It never has to happen again. Never, Not ever. You can have Dr. Yewande. You can do both. And Stephen Hawking’s and Albert Einstein be lecturing in one classroom just by having their videos available to you.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:27:41] Dr. Steve Perry, noted educator, motivational speaker and founder and head of Capital Prep Schools. If you have questions, comments or suggestions as to the future In Black America programs, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, let us know what radio station you heard us over. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast and follow us on Facebook. You can hear previous programs online at kut.org. The views and opinions expressed on this program are not necessarily those of this station or of the University of Texas at Austin. Until we have the opportunity again for technical producer David Alvarez, I’m John L. Hanson Jr. Thank you for joining us today. Please join us again next week.