Start with questions.

Education

So there’s a picture making the rounds. And although this particular picture and its provocative caption spawned this entry, what follows is applicable to any picture, meme, article, video and so on. In short, any document.

Being literate is one thing, but engaging in critical literacy means reading against the grain. Critical literacy starts with questions rather than reactions. It demands research instead of assumptions.

To be critically literate means to ask who published a given document and what do they hope to accomplish by doing so? Who benefits and who doesn’t?

Critical literacy asks for context. Not simply the text, but what comes with it. It requires active engagement over passive acceptance.

The picture in question is connected to education. Math, to be specific. And despite the caption and the header, there is no mention of grade level, no standard listed, no explanation. It’s devoid of meaningful context.

Some people are pretty upset about “it,” but aren’t really sure what “it” is. They know it looks strange/ difficult/ hard to understand and they are outraged that anyone would ever need to learn whatever “it” is.

I’m all for people having reservations and voicing concerns, but I advocate starting with questions first. For example:

In a free society, citizens should critique curriculum materials, legislation and all other documents that govern the ways we live. But it’s important to start with your own clear understanding, rather than someone else’s interpretation, summation and conviction.

It’s perfectly okay to not have a clue what you’re looking at. That’s the best time to start with questions.

The deeper business of being beautiful inside.

Love, Politics, News & Notable

Blue and I saw 12 Years a Slave as soon as it was released in Atlanta.

The film was stunning.

We dined afterward and talked for hours about the the movie and the myriad topics it inspired: slavery, racism, privilege, wealth, the power of story, literacy, critical literacy and public schooling. We discussed the stories that get told or lost. We noted, with a healthy dose of cynicism, who “history” deems worthy of remembrance.

We retold scenes to each other. Relived predictions, twists. What made us look away, hold our breath, or more tightly to the other’s hand.

The writing, directing and performances were brilliant. And yet as moved as I was during and after, it was Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey who brought me to tears:

At some point I want to truly express what Patsey meant to me, but this post is about Lupita.

I’m overjoyed she has received accolades during this awards season, including the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She is being honored for being herself. Not a shrinking violet of herself, but a lantern. A ray of sunshine in what can sometimes be the the darkness of Hollywood. She overcame a childhood of self loathing to become someone who, quite literally, puts herself on stage, on screen, on view, for all the world to see.

Lupita relates her story in a loving response to a young woman drawn to her light. Watch it below:

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. ~Lupita Nyong’o

Teaching Kids About Personal Finance

Education

…in a world of economic uncertainty, rising college costs and social media that can target some of the youngest consumers, financial literacy may be more important than ever for your kids.

What is the purpose of public schooling? It’s an important question. One that requires quite a bit more wrestling and wrangling than it often receives. I lament frequently about the toll of high stakes testing, but the fundamental query – why do we have public schooling at all – is a key, yet often invisible part of the larger education discourse.

If you’re of the mind that public schooling should produce an informed citizenry, ultimately to the benefit of society at large (and theoretically to the benefit of individuals as well), then you’ll likely find yourself in agreement with the following statement: We fail to teach students about personal finance at our own peril.

Who’s teaching your kids about money? Read Donna Krache’s take here.