The Jose Vilson - Educator - Writer - Activist - Father

I Need You Here (Global Math Presentation)

by Jose Vilson on April 14, 2014

in Jose

I’m going to drop a blog sometime on Wednesday, but in the meantime, I have an online presentation tomorrow for the Global Math Department, and I’m using this one to namedrop and blow spots. I’ll be on fire. If you’re interested, please do RSVP to this presentation. I might even raffle off one of my books because, well, this is what we do now.


Thanks in advance. See y’all tomorrow.



Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Voting Act Signing

Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Act Signing

Today, a friend forwarded me a report from the Pew Research Center that focused on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. An excerpt:

But as historic as it was, a half century later many Americans — particularly blacks — still believe that the country has a ways to go in overcoming racial disparities.

A CBS News poll conducted in late March found that while 59% of Americans — including 60% of whites and 55% of blacks — considered race relations in the U.S. to be generally good, about half (52%) thought there was real hope of ending discrimination altogether while 46% said there would always be a lot of prejudice and discrimination. About six-in-ten blacks (61%) held the view that discrimination will always exist compared to 44% of whites.

In other words: people of color have a much different view of race relations in this country. Again.

The implications for this get even more complicated when we look at the accompanying statistics about public schools. When asked whether Blacks were treated less fairly than whites in local public schools, only 15% of whites, 35% of Latinos / Hispanics, and 51% of Blacks believe this. In other words, for every white person who believes this, 2 Latinos and 3 Black people are absolutely shaking their heads at the 85% of white folks who don’t.

Which makes the idea of speaking about institutional racism that much more important.

Unfortunately, many teachers in the classroom don’t “see” race when they see kids, and / or don’t see themselves as agents to an institution that makes many children of color feel like they don’t actually belong to them. They’re “colorblind” because they either don’t want to deal with it, don’t know how, or implicitly have a blind eye to their privilege. Or all of those.

That’s the thing about privilege: people like me often have to point them out in order to make others more reflective.

In the 21st century, we can no longer blame any one region of the country or political “side” for racism. One of the most left-leaning states in the nation, New York, also leads the nation in segregated schools, a function of the rise of charter schools and not-so-secret redlining. This may have shocked a lot of folks, but there’s a critical mass of us who’ve waited far too long to say I told you so.

We’re the ones in the other table you refuse to sit at. It’s cool. We got stories, too.


picture c/o


this is not a test cover 3bLet me say, for the record, that I haven’t been excited yet. Not with the endorsements, the hundreds of folk who’ve pre-ordered it, the publisher’s ridiculously good execution with the basics (and then some), meeting Arundhati Roy through my publisher, the exclusive book party and eminent book clubs, or getting my first set of review copies for the five people I already had in mind to receive them anyways. Much of it stems from a childhood humility, one that assumes that I honestly don’t deserve the blessings I receive, so when I do, I don’t know how to react. The second stems from an understanding that I’m far from done with whatever it is that’s going on with me right now. I can’t describe it, but it’s all working well for some reason.

That’s the lens I used with Audrey Watters of Hack Education’s review of my book This Is Not A Test, a humbling tribute to a friend and a great writer, at least in her eyes. I’m still working on owning some of the latter.

She said:

“What then do we make of coming-of-age stories, particularly those that crack open experiences – or expectations of experiences – with schooling? Perhaps our task as readers and critics can be to see how certain stories might reclaim or decolonize these older genres, how they highlight the power dynamics and the cultural values we don’t often recognize or confront, and how they prompt us to consider not just whose stories get told but how these stories get told.”

True. And yet:

There is no fixed or singular identity here either. There are border crossings and hyphenations. Dominican, but not. Haitian, but not. Black Latino. Father. Poet. One of the fiercest writers I know. One of the most tender. Back-and-forth between Spanish and English. Rakim name-dropped alongside Ravitch. Some references cited and explained – Paolo Freire, for example – but the hip hop lyrics aren’t; it’s up to the reader to decode, not to Vilson to translate.

During this book, I had a hard time finding the balance between explaining too much and letting others figure it out. The thing with books is, I want to leave enough for people to go decode. Someone will have to make a Pinterest or eduClipper board for all the little nuggets and hidden gems I leave in there. Then again, I found myself giving a tight version of the history of the Common Core, most of which I could have asked you to go read from Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error. I didn’t. Some things, it seems, I WOULD have to explain to you so you don’t have to stop and Wikipedia it on the fly.


The rest of the review reads like someone who’s rediscovering me as a person, which was the hope. Very few people had eyes on this, and the 20 or so people who read it before it got published won’t recognize this version either.Every time I re-read, I dug in my heels just a little deeper, into administrator roles, into our school system, into liberals and conservatives who think education is the civil rights issue of our time but won’t address actual racial issues, into my person. And with each critique, I set forth even more areas to critique myself, and Audrey seemed to catch that so deftly.

Then again, that’s how persons evolve, too. We are but bodies of water, shifting by the moon above us, the winds against us, and the ground below us. Thus, I’ve had a hard time being excited about anything I’ve written, am writing, or will write because things seem to shift so quickly for me. But it’s great to know that, at some point and time, and possibly forever, this review stood as testament that someone actually knew what I wanted them to feel.

That person just happens to be my friend Audrey. Thank you.


p.s. – She also Storify-ied our interview from today. I almost said I’m the Ta-Nehisi Coates of race in K-12 education. Almost.


Sunglasses and Advil, Last Edit Was Mad Real

March 30, 2014 Jose

I’m surprised a few of you haven’t put out on APB or Missing Persons Report for me since I haven’t blogged on any site for the last two weeks. Instead, I’ve focused exclusively on my new book, This Is Not A Test. The endorsements, pre-orders, and events have rolled in steadily, with very few hitches. […]

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You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You

March 17, 2014 Jose

After a difficult day “at the office,” I sat on my couch and did next to nothing. My e-mail count ran up. My food got cold. My son played with his cars, and, while I partook in a little chasing around the apartment, I soon fell into the couch again, contemplating whether any of the […]

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Public Education For The Public Good (On Inclusion)

March 9, 2014 Jose
Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

  This past week has been nothing short of nuts. I had the opportunity to attend (and present and moderate) at the first annual Network for Public Education Conference, a gathering of education activists from across the country, including Diane Ravitch (the organization’s president), Deborah Meier, Karen Lewis, John Kuhn, and a whole host of […]

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