How do we help balance the desire for our kids to know the truth and yet also wanting to shield them from the pain and horrors embedded in history? Dimitry Anselme from Facing History opens this episode’s conversation with an interesting provocation that youth enter the conversation about history through moral and ethical terms. It is how we engage them in learning and help them locate themselves within the stories.  When we start with, “Your ideas matter, your culture matters, whatever you are bringing into the classroom matters, and instead of trying to erase or assimilate it, we will build upon it,” then we have them engaged.

Dimitry’s own history of growing up in Kinshasa, where the teaching style was to see the teacher as a beacon of all knowledge and it was disrespectful to ask a question, to building a community of students around him now asking the tough questions is a beautiful journey we explore in today’s episode. Our democracy is fragile and if we wish to protect it, we need to continue to nurture the critical thinking of our students.    

Show Highlights:

  • What is Facing History and Ourselves and their mission
  • Dimitry’s personal story for how he came to this work from teaching and could not find resources as a young Black teacher on how to help his students think critically and their place in history
  • Expanding from Holocaust to emergence of racist thinking, the eugenics movement and race membership, Civil Rights movement and the Reconstruction Era
  • Social Emotional Learning – more kids are now able to identify racism, homophobia, and are attuned to it happening
  • Pedogogy of the Oppressed – valuing what you think. Your questions are valid is incredibly affirming.
  • Practices we can adopt to become better teachers and the mindset shift to create lifelong learners which can be tough when emphasis is on numbers and grades and passing a test
  • How do we bring equity in more fragile communities? Do the students feel like they are rightful contributors of society?
  • Resources varying from one school to another – Brown vs. Brown was not about segregation and integration, it was about equal access to resources, textbooks, etc.
  • The idea is it is always a march towards progress – teaching history is really teaching how we’ve taken five steps forward, 2 steps back
  • Re-dedicating yourself to the mission of building the society you hope to have
  • Navigating organizational change over time. What is the rationale for changing something that is going well?  Why do we want to work at a particular scale?
  • Diffusion of Innovation Curve. Slowing down and letting early adopters teach you and get it right so that it is easier to get to the late adopters because concerns and tests have been addressed prior.
  • The scaling plan of Facing History developed during two Skid Row Schools to now 100,000 educators
  • Building tolerance for “I don’t know if this is going to work”
  • Building up a system of knowing fast if something is not working
  • In leadership, imagining who you will be and where we will be in 20-30 years requires steady discipline



Diffusion of Innovation Curve – Rogers