TheGrio Daily

Baron Davis and the history of culturally responsive teaching

Episode 88

“Why not teach them from children’s books with characters that look like them?” Michael Harriot teaches us about a former school superintendent  whose legal battle with the state of South Carolina led to an anti-CRT campaign and an overhaul of school district personnel across the state.


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Michael Harriot [00:00:05] And welcome back to theGrio Daily. You know, if you’ve been watching us during Black History Month, you know, we’re centering our podcasts or our talks on the idea that that South Carolina is the capital of black America. Now, we’re not just talking about slavery. We’re talking about, you know, today, South Carolina, for most of American history, has been a leader not just in white people doing white supremacist thing, but in the fight against white supremacy and is still so to this day. Now, to understand that we’re going to talk about again, we’ve been talking about it for the past few years, but I want to bring you up to date. We’re going to talk about education in South Carolina and we’re going to start with today. Right. So. We’ve been giving you kind of the origin story of the fight against black people educating themselves in South Carolina. But to understand what’s going on today, you need to understand what we talk about in those past few episodes. Because if you don’t, you won’t understand what happened to Baron Davis. Okay, So who is Baron Davis? Baron Davis is the superintendent of a school district of one of the largest school districts in the state of South Carolina. He’s a black man. He first of all, he’s my friend. I have to, you know, confess that he’s my friend. And he is very adamant about embracing the disparities between black people. And white students and education system. Well, luckily, he’s the superintendent over a district. That is majority black, again, one of the largest in South Carolina. 

Baron Davis [00:02:12] I think the inspiration just comes from my desire to want the very best for the students in Richland, too. I have extreme confidence in our faculty and staff and in our parents and in our community members to provide our students with a premier education. And so when I was thinking about the vision for our school district and shared the vision with with and with our partners, the world premier was something that continuously came up. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:45] And during the pandemic, Baron Davis began. Fighting. The state of South Carolina after one of his teachers at one of his schools died from COVID and she died as soon as the schools reopened after COVID first hit. So what Barron Davis said is, look, man like, if you want to come to this school, like everybody got to wear a mask because, you know, the only reason he said that, to be fair, is because, like the doctors had said it, the South Carolina Department of Health, it said it the the Centers for Disease Control has said it. So he was just like doing stuff that was scientifically sound. It’s not like he was just arbitrarily using his own opinion to set policy. Who would do a thing like that. But. After this teacher died. Baron Davis said, like everybody who comes to the school got to wear a mask. Like is the mask mandate. Well, for some reason, the state of South Carolina said like, look, we’re going to ban all mask mandates. We know why they did it because this is still name Trump, but. South Carolina banned mask mandates. And Baron Davis said, Well, not in these schools, not in these schools with these black students that we we ain’t doing it. So he took. The state of South Carolina. To court, not just to like a local magistrate took to the South Carolina Supreme Court him not not on behalf of the Western two school district. No. Baron Davis is suing the state of South Carolina to protect black students about this mask mandate. And what happened was that put parent Davis. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:50] Under the target. And he became he became the target of white parents, conservatives across the state. They said they were going to get him out. Well, how are they going to get him out? Well. They accused him of teaching this thing called critical race theory. And he kinda was right. He was actually doing CRT. To be fair, Baron Davis believes in CRT. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But not the one you’re thinking. See, Berman Davis hadn’t heard about a black woman from South Carolina who had been putting CRT in schools for more than 30 years. And this black woman, she had created this course that would teach students by not making their lessons so white. And she called it culturally responsive teaching. But she had been doing this for 30 years. She’d been using the name culturally responsive teaching. And when Baron Davis heard about it, he was like, Wait, you mean we can teach our students and be culturally responsive about education, which will make them more interested in learning? For instance, if we’re going to teach an English class instead of saying, you know, see Jane run and giving them a book with a blond, blue eyed girl on the cover, why not teach them from children’s books with characters that look like them? That’s culturally responsive teaching. Instead of saying Jane had three apples and then took away three. Why not use hip hop? In education, which was pioneered by one of Baron Davis’s good friends, a hip hop educator called Amod Jackson. And that was culturally responsive teaching. And guess what happened in wrestling, too? Test scores skyrocket. Students became more responsive to the education. And. He began to erase the disparities that had been prevalent in Richland to school district. But remember, because of that mask thing, he was now a target. So they begin to show up. Conservatives began showing up. Act. The school board hearings. And accusing him of teaching CRT. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:44] Look, we see it in the guidelines for the state, for that for his district’s policy. And he was trying to explain it out as culturally responsive teaching. But no, they would not believe it. They accused him of teaching CRT because, you know, got the same initials. So it must be the same thing. And and didn’t just limit they didn’t just limit themselves to those school board meetings. They began attacking him in the community. GILMAN They attacked his wife. And to be fair, when the police looked at it, they said, oh, yeah, it was the white people’s fault. And then and then those parents, they said, look, we should get the superintendent, superintendent of education to investigate this whole school district. And they did. And the school superintendent or what they call the inspector general. Of the Department of Education investigated Baron Davis’s entire school district. This black majority black school district. And guess what? They found this education superintendent who was appointed by the governor, who is Antebellum Davis. You know what they found? They found it. He was doing nothing wrong. In fact, they said like. Like this dude, like, I don’t agree with him, but he’s doing a very good job. But those parents wouldn’t let it go. So. When the elections of 2022 arrive, those midterm elections. The parents all over, the white voters of South Carolina decided they were just going to take over these majority black school districts. And how would they do it? They created a law that wouldn’t just vote in new people on the school districts. They said. Every person on every school district in the state was up for reelection. And they ran the Republican Party in South Carolina ran. Candidates. White candidates who didn’t live in the areas and many times never had students in those schools. They ran them for those school board positions and they managed to overturn many of the school boards across the state. But. Not in Baron Davis’s district. Baron Davis beat those circles. And so they tried a new tactic. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:40] They created this idea that in South Carolina. The teachers were instilling critical race theory. Into the students curriculum. And that’s how that idea spread, because one doomed bid to protect black students in this majority black district in South Carolina. And that’s why South Carolina. It’s one of the states that first tried to pass anti CRT laws. They failed. Baron Davis won again. But they never stopped trying. And that idea spread across the country. And that’s why South Carolina is the capital of black America, because they fight and because they win and because you listen to this podcast, you now know it. That’s why you got to keep subscribing. That’s why you got to tell a friend. That’s why you got to download theGrio app. And as always, we leave you with another black saying. And today’s black saying is you win some and you lose some, but you got to fight them all. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio dot com. 

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