AEI’s Ian Rowe on School Leadership, Civic Education, & Upward Mobility

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Ian Rowe, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on education and upward mobility, family formation, and adoption. Ian shares his background in entrepreneurial school leadership and policy research, and how he became interested in K-12 education reform. They discuss his work to advance quality school options for poor and minority kids as CEO of Public Prep and now cofounder of Vertex Partnership Academies, a character-based network of schools based on International Baccalaureate’s (IB) world-class curriculum. He weighs in on why policymaking around school choice and academic content has become politicized, and the kinds of content K-12 students should be taught, through the 1776 Unites project for example, to prepare for college coursework, meaningful citizenship, and pathways to prosperity.

Stories of the Week: Should the state take over management of the Boston Public Schools? A Boston Globe opinion writer makes the case, noting the disproportionately low-income and minority student population enrolled in the district’s chronically underachieving schools. A US News story highlights the benefits of high school internship programs, to help students get a head start on career preparation before college.


Ian Rowe is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on education and upward mobility, family formation, and adoption. Mr. Rowe is also the co-founder of Vertex Partnership Academies, a new network of character-based International Baccalaureate high schools opening in the Bronx in 2022; the chairman of the board of Spence-Chapin, a nonprofit adoption services organization; and the co-founder of the National Summer School Initiative. Ian is the former CEO of Public Prep, tuition-free Pre-K and single-sex elementary and middle public charter schools, educating more than 2,000 students in New York City. He concurrently serves as a senior visiting fellow at the Woodson Center and a writer for the 1776 Unites Campaign. Mr. Rowe earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was the first Black editor-in-chief of The Harbus, the Harvard Business School newspaper, and a BS in computer science engineering from Cornell University.

The next episode will air on Weds., January 26th, with guest, Andrew Campanella, the president of National School Choice Week.

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News Links:

Boston Public Schools should go into receivership

The Rise of High School Internships

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[00:00:00] Cara: welcome listeners to another week of The Learning Curve. This is Cara Candal here as always with the amazing Gerard Robinson. How you doing this week?

[00:00:32] GR: Doing well. How about you?

[00:00:34] Cara: Yeah, I’m doing okay. I mean, in some sense it was a somber weekend. I was thinking about how, sort of pressuring it was, we just recently had Barry Weiss on the show talking about the rise of anti-Semitism in the U S and then we have this hostage taking at a synagogue Colleyville, Texas this weekend, disturbing that it seems like events like this are happening more and more often in recent years.

[00:00:57] So a little bit of a time of reflection that coupled [00:01:00] with the fact that, of course yesterday, we celebrated Dr. King’s birthday. and we had a guest on last week to talk about Dr. King and his legacy. So, on the whole, restful weekend, but a little bit of unrest in my soul, Gerard thinking about some of this stuff.

[00:01:17] So I, but I hope you’re well, and I hope that our listeners are well. And it also just made me think that I think the content we bring to folks every week is super relevant, as unfortunate as that might be time to time.

[00:01:31] GR: Well, Dr. Carson was on last week. And we know he’s a professor emeritus now at Stanford, and he’s in charge of the MLK papers.

[00:01:40] In fact, we just brought on a new scholar, to, take the project to the next level, but so much of what he discussed in terms of keying and his international influence is really important because yesterday was sharing with the girls, little known fact about MLK is the fact that he was born Michael King.

[00:01:58] his father ended up changing his name to [00:02:00] Martin Luther king. Of course, after he traveled to Germany in 1934 as part of a delegation from the United States Baptist convention to Berlin. And again, this is 1934. We know the year before that, Hitler comes to power. he said he was there. His dad was there the time starting to see.

[00:02:19] Rise of Nazi-ism the Baptist delegation actually put out a statement saying that they were against all forms of racism, antisemitism 1934. And so we’re talking about this and what happened, unfortunately in Texas in 2022. And so it just put into an international context that him going to, Germany, , the home of Martin Luther and coming back and saying, wow, I’m, so moved.

[00:02:43] I’m going to change , my son’s name to Martin Luther king and the rest is history on the anti-Semitism side. We’ve also had J group. On our show. And he’s recently published a really good piece from the heritage foundation, which looked at diversity equity and inclusion [00:03:00] programs at universities.

[00:03:02] But in that report, he also talked about anti-Semitism and, or the lack of focus when we’re talking about diversity or inclusion or equity, and we’re talking about racism. anti-Semitism, isn’t getting a great deal of attention, but here in the Commonwealth, this past weekend, we had the inauguration of governor Youngkin.

[00:03:23] also Lieutenant Governor Sears was the first African-American woman elected statewide and our attorney general, who’s the first Latino elected statewide, , one of the executive orders and one of the executive directives that he signed had to deal with antisemitism, and he also quoted king, I’m not real address.

[00:03:42] So the things you brought up were part of the weekend, and I lived here in.

[00:03:48] Cara: Yeah, lots to think about and you know,, I want to root us firmly back in Boston because as you know, Gerard Dr. King did his doctoral work here in Boston, and I used to love to live really close to Boston [00:04:00] university campus just blocks away and there’s this beautiful, statue dedicated to his memory there.

[00:04:05] And you’ve never seen it, I highly recommended it is right outside of. Main library of the Boston university’s main library, as well as the, student center. It’s a beautiful work of art. So he’s got, a history here and relevant to my story of the week, which, , I asked our producers if I could just get a little Boston today, because we had a story out in the Boston globe this weekend, , an opinion piece highlighting just the absolute failure in many ways.

[00:04:33] I’m just going to name it of the Boston Public Schools. And it got me thinking so much about how disappointed Dr. King would be to know that in a system, where Massachusetts, just so consistently. number one in the nation on so many measures, including NAEP among other things. but we also consistently have some of the widest achievement gaps in the nation.

[00:04:55] Something that is just way too often overlooked, and those gaps are just horrific [00:05:00] in the Boston public school system. So this opinion piece out of the Boston globe, written by Roger Lowenstein talks about the need to consider receivership a controversial word, a controversial term for the Boston public schools.

[00:05:15] And the timing on this is great because my friend with pioneer Institute, I have a paper coming out soon on this very topic. Now I’m going to take just a moment to set the context. And that is that Boston public schools have been consistently persistently failing, , mainly children of color, but the system.

[00:05:33] Also, you know, heavily weighted serves, disproportionate numbers of children of color, because , one of the things that happens in Boston is that if you are in, this is just talking in demographic terms here. If you live in the city of Boston and you are white and. , upper income, you are much more likely not to use it’s public schools.

[00:05:53] so what happens then is that folks are locked into a system where they have what we call intra district choice, [00:06:00] but most times families are choosing among, , just a bunch of low performing schools, unless you can, as we’ve talked about on this show before test into one of the only high performing schools in the Boston public schools, which would be an exam school and admissions based school, some of that’s changing there, they’re revamping, , admissions via exam, , this coming year, , and there’s some changes made post pandemic, but it’s still, these exam schools.

[00:06:23] Have historically been disproportionately populated with higher income children and certainly with white children and many times what families do is they use private education up until the point when kids are eligible to go to the exam schools in middle school. And so where does this leave? The other Boston public schools and the families that are choosing amongst just many, many low performing schools?

[00:06:45] Well, it doesn’t leave them with much choice at all. And this opinion piece in the Boston globe makes the case for the state to essentially take over BPS. Now I’m going to do a little detour here and take our listeners [00:07:00] back to the spring of 2020. And all we’ll remember is the pandemic. But in fact, about a week, a week before schools across the country, shuttered their doors, the commissioner of education, Jeff Riley here in Massachusetts had requested, , had ordered actually study.

[00:07:17] As we do here, we, , , and in many states reviews of districts, but an in-depth review of the Boston public schools, which is one thing that is necessary for receivership. And, , that report was released. Very damning report was released just the week before schools closed due to the pandemic. So.

[00:07:34] Buried. probably not intentionally. I don’t think people really realize the pandemic was coming, but to make a long story short, the report Gerard was damning, absolutely damning. And it unearthed not just pockets of under-performance, but just persistent failure on the part of the system to serve kids persistent failure in terms of getting the right curricula into kids’ classrooms, a disjointed approach to education where schools had a lot of [00:08:00] autonomy and there was just very little accountability.

[00:08:02] We like autonomy generally, but when it’s coupled with accountability and, persistently putting, less skilled teachers in the classrooms where kids most need the high skilled teachers, , not a lot of professional development for teachers, the list goes on and on and on. So one would have thought that once this report was issued, the case for receivership would have been made.

[00:08:21] Unfortunately, that is not what happened. And here we sit years later, with renewed calls, especially as governor banks, , who I think is an ed reform minded person is, , has announced that he’s not going to run anymore. So we’re hearing renewed calls to put Boston public schools into receivership.

[00:08:40] It would require yet another review to confirm what we already know. And that is that the schools are wildly underperforming. And the really important thing here to note is that although receivership is controversial, sometimes it’s called turnaround here in Massachusetts, here in the Commonwealth. We do have a record of some success, some of the only success [00:09:00] stories in the country, and probably the most well-known success story of turnaround from Massachusetts is that of Lawrence, Massachusetts, where our current commissioner was in fact, the receiver.

[00:09:10] So here we have a gentleman who. it has a template for how to do it. Nobody’s suggesting he copy and paste, but receivership is something that we’re hearing renewed calls for, should be on the table. I will preview the pioneer report for folks saying we come to the same conclusion. so the problem is going to be, , will it happen or will it not?

[00:09:30] Because there are a lot of forces against it. It is not a popular idea. Sometimes least popular ideas are, are the best ideas when it comes to serving kids. Because as this, opinion piece in the Boston globe noted, it would be hard to imagine a school system that more poorly serves, especially kids of color, then the Boston public schools.

[00:09:52] So this is one to watch her. I think we’re going to be talking about it in the coming weeks and months, but one that I hope, all of our listeners will look into [00:10:00] controversial but important.

[00:10:01] GR: Wow controversial. And weren’t we here before 1991, if I’m not mistaken. I mean, the,

[00:10:11] Cara: yeah, about that receivership that you’re talking about, the BU Chelsea public schools partnership.

[00:10:17] Yes, very good members. I’m like,

[00:10:18] GR: wait a minute. There was a takeover of Chelsea and there was also, , a takeover. I’ll go guess really a law that abolished the elected school board in Boston.

[00:10:27] Cara: That’s right. in Chelsea. Yes, no. Yes. Boston as well. So we have mayoral control as many cities do. Yes.

[00:10:33] GR: It’s amazing.

[00:10:34] I mean, as you’re talking to our listeners, just think about it 1991, governor Wells says, you know what, we’re going to take over the school system and put it under what we call mayoral control. Now let’s put this in context. Boston had had an elected board since 18 22, 1 of the first urban systems in the country of its type to be open, to be free, and to really try to [00:11:00] push the ideas of a new Republic, trying to make sense of a changing economy.

[00:11:06] And I remember reading that back in the nineties because my graduate work at the time was on state marrow takeovers of schools. But to think that that was 1991, mayor Flynn, , supported it. City council supported it. A number of black leaders and community groups were opposed to it. But what are the reasons they took it over was because of what was then called academic bankruptcy.

[00:11:29] Todd Ziebarth, who was then working for education commissioner of the states, , last year, talked to Todd. He was working with, Nina at the national Alliance for public charter schools. he really laid out why it happened and things will forward. And then there were more changes. But the fact that we can even mention the term receivership in 2022 for the millions and millions of dollars invested in the school system, which is in a city with the largest university reach in the country.

[00:11:59] And we [00:12:00] turned to the number of colleges in the greater Boston area, almost 250,000 students there, you have some of the best minds there. And yet this is a challenge, but that I was shocked to

[00:12:10] Cara: see thousand dollars per year. $23,000 people in Boston public schools. And I’m proud to say well-paid teachers on average, more than a hundred thousand dollars in teacher salary per, teacher.

[00:12:24] So, I mean, this is a system that, the adults are doing well, there’s money going into the system. The outcomes are absolutely not there. Most kids in BPS still cannot read on grade level. So anyway, like I said, Gerard, thank you for your long memory. , but it’s, unfortunately it’s the same old story here.

[00:12:40] And so hopefully these calls for reform will have.

[00:12:45] GR: Well, maybe my story will be helpful for if in fact the school system is in receivership and you bring in a trustee or whatever term you want to use, maybe he or she could think about this idea. And so my story is from us news and world report is from [00:13:00] Heidi Borst and it’s titled the rise of high school internships.

[00:13:04] so let’s put it in perspective. In 2021, we had 15.1 million public high school students, and 1.5 million private school students. And according to Heidi, We know that a lot of students in college participated in internships. I was an intern for three years, at a corporation when I was at Howard university, a ton of my friends were, but she said, that’s great for you, but let’s try to get drawings started in high school.

[00:13:31] And I think she’s right. And so one person who also thinks she’s right is Lori cop Weingarten. She is a certified educational planner and president of one stop college constantly in New Jersey. And she said working and interacting with various employers and employees. It’s really about bringing exposure of the basics of what a future career could look like in an industry.

[00:13:55] And she said, it’s one thing just to say, you should get a job, but it’s really about learning the [00:14:00] skills, both verbal nonverbal, social, emotional learning skills, all the dynamics that you need in order to mature, because when students find an internship opportunity, it often provides them an opportunity to mature.

[00:14:12] So that’s what Lori’s saying. Well, there’s a guy named Kevin Davis. He’s the founder and chair of first workings, which is a non-profit organization that pairs low-income students with paid internships. that students who work for nonprofits or for-profit corporations are getting really good exposure before they get to college into the importance of creating a work-based culture.

[00:14:35] Because as you and I have talked about on the show, everyone’s not going to go to college. It shouldn’t be because they don’t have the academic, skillset to do so it’s because they do and decide to go directly into the workforce. Or become an entrepreneur, but creating high school internships, according to both Kevin and Lori, makes a lot of sense.

[00:14:54] In fact, Kevin said, quote, through the internship experience, high schoolers gained the confidence to [00:15:00] succeed in their chosen path. We also know that students who are involved in this work are going to likely do better academically. So what about the higher education level? Since that’s what we know a lot about according to a 2019 survey of internship programs sponsored by the national association of colleges and employers, they found that 70% of the college students who were interns received a job offer.

[00:15:25] If we were back in 1991, when I graduated, I would be one of the people in the 70%, but that’s at the college level, not so great at. High school level. So according to a 2020 study by the American student assistance, it’s a nonprofit that helps students obtain college degrees. It identify through its survey.

[00:15:45] Only 2% of high school students had completed an internship. So if we’re looking for examples, let’s look at Washington DC, my former hometown, the Madeira school, which is outside of Washington, DC is a private high school for girls. [00:16:00] They emphasize experimental learning and they’d had an internship program that has been a part of the school’s curriculum for more than 50 years today.

[00:16:09] At school in turn at community-based organizations as sophomores, they also internal capitol hill as juniors, and then into career oriented positions as seniors, we can also look to the Midwest, although not your state, a nearby state of Ohio, , Trinity high school has an internship program that has placed students in internships at the Cleveland museum of art and the Cleveland botanical garden, along with healthcare and municipal services.

[00:16:38] So there’s one professor who said, you know what I can tell when a student who walks in my class has been involved in an internship, and this is from Joseph Danini director of clinical experience and assessment at the college of education and human development at the university of Nevada Reno.

[00:16:54] Here’s what he says. Quote, through most prepared a student is when they enter [00:17:00] college, the easiest. time, he or she will have when adjusting to the rigors of college level academics, as well as social pressures in higher education, we try to do everything we can to support students in their press appearance toward degree and completion.

[00:17:14] And so what he basically said, okay, I have an idea. When students walk into my classroom, who’s been involved within an internship. So on my side of the fence, I am proud to say that when I was president of the black Alliance for educational options, we actually use some of our high school students in internships.

[00:17:31] Some were supported locally, some nationally, some paid, some volunteer, but the main goal was twofold. One to give them an opportunity in high school, to be involved with planning a conference, a planning and agenda to go to Capitol hill or doing something in the community. Number two, for some, it was paid cash for others.

[00:17:52] It was actually credit they can earn. So I’m a big believer in the idea of internships. I like this article because it’s reminded me that I [00:18:00] need to do more for those students in high school. What are your. I

[00:18:03] Cara: think it’s huge. I mean, I would point simply to the Cristo Rey network of Catholic schools where, students pay for their education because they only serve kids who can’t afford the cost of private school education.

[00:18:14] So they pay for their education through internships. I’ve done research on these schools and it shows exactly what you’re talking about. That is through internal. The kids cultivate the life skills, soft skills, so to speak that they need for success. So I think you are right on. I couldn’t agree with you more.

[00:18:30] I am shocked that nationally only 2% of kids participate in internships. And I’d also like to say that, like, I would hope that in conjunction with thinking about internships, we can think about pathways to college and career as well as, making students and parents aware of internship opportunities, pathways opportunities, and also like to really give a quick shout out.

[00:18:51] And this is more about apprenticeships that the Tennessee department of education just became the first state to get approval from the department of labor to [00:19:00] have. High school students, engage in apprenticeships to become teachers. So you can start learning as early as high school, whether or not you want to pursue a teaching career, they will pay for a bachelor’s degree.

[00:19:09] They will pay for current teaching assistants to do the same. So I think this is great theme and I hope we keep hitting on it. Gerard, we’ve got to get to our guests because we’ve got a fabulous guest today. Dread friend of yours, your colleague at AEI. We are going to be speaking with Ian Rowe.

[00:19:26] He is a senior fellow at the American enterprise Institute, focusing on education and upward mobility, family formation and adoption. So we’re going to take a quick musical break. We’ll be ready.[00:20:00]

[00:20:38] GR: Hello listeners. Welcome back to The Learning Curve. As you know, every week, we bring you an exciting guest to talk about something in the field of education. Public policy entrepreneurship, where we’re lucky today to have Ian Rowe who actually has a footprint in those three areas and many others. Ian Rowe is a senior fellow at [00:21:00] the American Enterprise Institute where he focuses on education and upward mobility, family formation.

[00:21:06] Adoption. Mr. Rowe is also the co-founder of Vertex Partnership Academies, a new network of charter base international baccalaureate high schools opening in the Bronx in 2022. He’s also the chairman of the board of the spent Chapman. it is a nonprofit adoption service organization and he’s the co-founder of the national summer school initiative.

[00:21:28] Ian is a former CEO of public prep, a tuition free pre-K and single-sex elementary and middle public charter school network educating more than 2000 students in New York city. He currently serves as a senior visiting fellow at the wisdom center and a writer for the 1776 Unites campaign and earned an MBA from Harvard business school, where he was the first black editor in chief of the harvest, which is Harvard universities, , school of business newspaper, and he [00:22:00] has a BS in computer science engineering.

[00:22:02] From Cornell, Ian, welcome to The Learning Curve. Hello,

[00:22:06] Ian: Gerard. Gosh, exhausted.

[00:22:12] Just listening to all of that. Oh my gosh. I better live up to expectations that bio set, but it’s good to hear your voice.

[00:22:19] GR: Doing well, listeners may not know this, but, , Ian and I, both fellows at the American enterprise Institute. And even though we’re in the same shop with COVID and everything else , we haven’t had a chance to see each other in person walking the halls of AEI.

[00:22:32] But, , you continue the good work. I read what you write. I’ve seen you on television a couple of times and you do really good things. And in fact, as you were talking about your background, all the things you’ve done, this is just a great way to open up our conversation. We’ve given people a brief overview of some of your accomplishments and your academic background.

[00:22:53] Would you share with our listeners a little bit more about your biography that I didn’t cover? And what was your aha [00:23:00] moment that made you become interested in K-12 education reform?

[00:23:04] Ian: Well, first of all, jars, great to speak with you. Thank you for having me on. in terms of why I’m interested in K to 12 education, principally is because I, , myself am a great beneficiary of a great K-12, public education, in New York city.

[00:23:23] My parents came to this country from Jamaica, west Indies, via England. when we first came to the U S we lived in Brooklyn and, enrolled in the public schools. And, we ultimately moved to Queens. And then actually for high school, I went to Brooklyn tech high school. I had a great, great education, so I’m very aware of what it means to have access to a tuition free K to 12 education, you know, and then from there for my K to 12, I was able to then get into Cornell, which, another great platform and went to engineering school.

[00:23:58] I can’t underscore enough. Of [00:24:00] course, the role my parents played in valuing education and providing a stable home. so my early days were, I would go to school. I would come home, I’d do my homework, we’d have dinner and I’d go to bed. And I wake up, I go to school, come home, do my homework, go to bed, you so they created a routine, And instead of predictable, , experiences, growing up for me and my brother. So it is the combination certainly of a strong stable household with my parents who, you know, who stayed together for 48 years before my dad passed away. And, my dad always saw public education as great equalizer.

[00:24:40] no matter where you come from, as long as , the state provides a solid, , public education or, if you take education in your own hands, but one way or the other that young people get inculcated into a system where they, learn the knowledge, skills, habits to be successful, they understand the ways of [00:25:00] being within a given society.

[00:25:01] So even, even as immigrants, as we came over from Jamaica, we have our own, food and likes and ways of being there was also, an American college. To become part of and to be, , inculcated in and that’s important. as I’ve gone through my journey in life, I have now seen what it means to have access to a great education and also what it means to not have access to a great education.

[00:25:27] So when I graduated from Cornell, I went to work for what was then Arthur Anderson became Anderson consulting, which then became Accenture. I was doing all sorts of. Strategic planning for these big consumer products firms and, and did a few big projects. And, but I wasn’t really feeling that inspired, frankly.

[00:25:47] I started mentoring and public schools in New York city, and I just saw all these great kids, who by virtue of zip code or the family structure that they were born into had a really hard time. in school [00:26:00] and it just didn’t seem fair, that they either didn’t have access, to really great schools or because they were, , in challenging home environments, it just made it really tough for them to Excel.

[00:26:12] So that just put me on a whole different journey. I decided to leave Anderson, you know, get off the partner track there. I was fortunate enough to get into Harvard business school. and then I started this really weird journey. I met this young lady whose name is Wendy cup. Who’s the founder of teach for America.

[00:26:29] So I started talking to her in the , early days when they were recruiting outstanding people that teach in urban and rural public schools. did the crazy thing. after business school, I went to work for teach for America, with Wendy. , and then, through various activities, I worked at the white house.

[00:26:45] The bill and Melinda gates foundation, even MTV, but all throughout all of these, there was an education component that I was connected to and ultimately wanted the opportunity to run my own network of schools. So I ran public prep, as you [00:27:00] mentioned, which is a network of single-sex, , public charter schools, , in the heart of the south Bronx and lower east side of Manhattan.

[00:27:06] So ran that for 10 years and amazing. Again, we can talk more about it, but, pre-K through eighth grade, more than 2000, primarily low income kids, primarily black and Hispanic kids. And the whole idea was to build a sense of agency and self-sufficiency, and, ensure that they had. that they had a real shot to compete.

[00:27:26] And now I’m launching a new network of, as you said, character-based international baccalaureate high schools in the Bronx because, , there’s just, aren’t enough great high schools in the city. And I like to be a think tanker, and a doer, , and to demonstrate institutions that live up to the values of, you know, equality of opportunity, individual dignity, common humanity.

[00:27:52] Cause I think those are the kinds of things that young people should be exposed to. and there aren’t enough institutions , that stand,[00:28:00] , for these things, especially in the current environment, there’s a lot of woke ideology, telling young people that they’re either an oppressor or an oppressed, based on their skin color.

[00:28:10] And we want young people to understand that they have the ability to achieve at the highest levels, but we need our institutions to be focused on. Rigorous curriculum, high expectations, and this whole idea of viewpoint diversity as well. So that’s a long winded story that, I myself, , had a great K to 12 education, and I want to make that opportunity available for other kids.

[00:28:32] GR: I had no idea that you worked for MTV. We can talk offline about that. We’re talking about shaping character , , and just doing some of the math you were there, , at a point when it had a really big imprint upon like high school thought and what people were thinking about sociology, culture and life, let’s go back to your immigrant parents.

[00:28:53] You know, we think about black people in the United States. we overlooked the fact that according to research from pew, that [00:29:00] approximately 9% of the people we call black in fact are immigrants. And if you look at the immigrant families who are black, who come to the United States, a disproportionate number of them compared to African-Americans have gone on to major success.

[00:29:14] You’re one example we think of vice-president Kamala her father from Jamaica. We think of Colin Powell, his parents from the island, And a lot of them actually ended up in New York, other places as well, but a lot in New York. What about the immigrant story? Is a part of not only your narrative, but also the broader narrative about the whole idea of social agency.

[00:29:36] What is it about that? Immigrant dynamic that sometimes we overlook when we’re having the black conversation?

[00:29:43] Ian: Yeah. You know, this, is a tough conversation because sometimes people don’t want to admit, , that if you actually look within the black community and in particular recent immigrants from the Caribbean, , parts of, , African countries, , Nigeria [00:30:00] Ghanaians, incredibly high levels of success.

[00:30:03] and yet if you listen to the dominant narrative, as it relates to. , the black community. if you get a, you listen to a Nicole Hannah Jones of, New York times, 16, 19 project, she wrote an 8,000 word essay. basically saying if you’re black, it doesn’t matter what you do.

[00:30:24] Doesn’t matter if you buy a home. Does it matter if you save doesn’t matter, if you get educated, doesn’t matter. Uh, essentially none of that, none of those activities quote, make up for 400 years of racialized plundering unquote, period. And it just leaves you with has this idea that, gosh, if you’re black, I mean, you’re, going to get shot on the street or you have no shot in the end, her and her whole reason for saying these things was that was her rationale for a thing of $14 trillion reparations program.

[00:30:56] Because if you’re black, , you just don’t have the agency [00:31:00] to move forward. And yet, , if you look at certain communities and by the way, not only immigrant black communities, but. African-American families who’ve been here, who do the things that, by the way, Nicole, Hannah Jones has done in her own life.

[00:31:13] So Nicole, Hannah Jones has gotten married, gotten educated, bought a home, , done those things and, you know, cause her accountant would be very surprised to hear her say these things. And so what it indicates is that perhaps there are factors that transcend race that really are the driving factors behind the economic and other forms of prosperity.

[00:31:37] And it’s just the case, that, you know, and this is now back to some data, which I often sites often refer to as the success sequence. But if a kid has the opportunity to get a good, good, basic education, even just a high school degree than a full-time job of any kind, just so we learned the dignity and discipline of work.

[00:31:57] And then if they have children and they [00:32:00] had been married for. 97% of the time amongst millennials, you avoid poverty, and that just so happens to be the kind of behaviors that most immigrants, certainly recent immigrants practice. You know, there’s a huge value placed on education and educational choice, huge value placed on family, and huge value placed on staying together and reinvesting across generation.

[00:32:28] , and so that’s the story, in Jamaica, like my, and my parents came here, it was not only my parents, but you know, their brothers and sisters and, , we all got together every Sunday night and It was a cocoon of safety and education and love.

[00:32:43] And by the way, expectations like expectations , and not just expectations to get by, but expectations to be an engineer, to be a lawyer, to be a doctor like , to, succeed, but succeed superbly. [00:33:00] so sometimes we have this conversation. some people resent like, oh, you’re saying that, black Americans who are in this country are lazy.

[00:33:07] No, it’s just recognizing that, , if there’s a white supremacist on every corner, that’s oppressing every black person. Well, for some reason, there are certain black people that like, oh, I see you’re from Nigeria, then you’re good. You know what I mean? Like that there actually must be some other factors that are driving success and you start to see that these are the habits.

[00:33:29] These are the decisions, either behaviors that right now seem to be more entrenched in communities that, , come into the United States who have an immigrant ethos who come to this country with more of the, I’m going to make sure I take advantage of the opportunities. And so if we’re able to divorce those, behaviors and attitudes, From skin color and say that you’re not inherently oppressed because of skin color.

[00:33:58] that if you adopt [00:34:00] these certain behaviors, then you can be successful too. To me, it’s liberating. Final point is that when we think about empowering and liberating messages for young people, especially young black kids, it’s important that they know that simply because they’ve been born, , in the hood or, wherever that they’re not inherently oppressed or inherently powerless or inherently dependent upon the government in order to solve their problem.

[00:34:27] As Nicole, Hannah Jones likes to articulate that there are people that look just like them. People who may have come from another country recently, or people who have been in, in the country for generations, but for both sets of people. Agency is within their grasp self-sufficiency is within their grasp.

[00:34:46] And it’s not a mystery that their actual behaviors, their actual decisions around family formation, getting your education, full-time work. All those things in a particular order can lead you [00:35:00] on a pathway. And by the way, let’s not forget having a faith commitment to cause we don’t often talk about the power of religion, but that these things are within your grasp to be successful regardless of skin color.

[00:35:11] GR: As I hear you talk. And I know you’re from New York. I also think about another person with the immigrant background, Shirley Chisholm, , who ran for president, , in the early 1970s, wrote a book on boughten on boss. And she’s saying,, something. She said, then some of the things things are saying now.

[00:35:26] So also think there’s something in the water in New York and new Yorkers to do these kinds of things. and speaking of immigrants, who’ve done well. Also want to, give them granulations to Lieutenant governor, , winsome series here in Virginia. I had a chance to go to her Naugle events, earlier this week.

[00:35:42] And that’s, another example of someone with Jamaican roots, who is now changing tide here in Virginia.

[00:35:49] Ian: I was waiting to hear the announcement that you were going to be the secretary of education.

[00:35:53] GR: All know I was so excited to hear the announcement about, , Amy Gudera

[00:35:58] Ian: secretary. I know Amy [00:36:00] knows great stuff, but When Younkin Sears one, I thought, oh my God, going to be populating their candidate, who were some amazing people who are already in Virginia, who, uh, so I thought of you. but it’s all good.

[00:36:11] GR: It’s all good. No, I appreciate the kind of thought you talking about New York and you’ve got to end printing in a few of the burls and you made a really good point about IB.

[00:36:20] , talk to our listeners about why international baccalaureate, and also talk about why character, because we hear the word, we just celebrated, King’s holiday. And I think about an article that king wrote, get this at age 18, he wrote an article called the purpose of education, and it appeared in the January, February, 1947 edition of the maroon tiger.

[00:36:44] And in it, he said, quote, we must remember that intelligence is not enough intelligence plus character. That is the goal of a true education. So why a network of character schools and why IB?

[00:36:58] Ian: Yeah, it’s such an [00:37:00] essential question. I’ve just written a book called agency. and the whole thrust of the book is, to empower the rising generation, to overcome the victimhood narrative to determine how to, create their own pathway to power.

[00:37:16] I put a lot of thought into this word called agency, , which I define as the force of your free will guided by moral discernment. think of velocity, it’s a vector. Think of velocity, velocity. Isn’t just speed, but it’s speed and directly. Right. So we, as human beings, we have free, will we have the ability to make decisions?

[00:37:41] We’ve got the ability to move our life in one direction or the other, the question is what does that direction come from? where do you get a sense of what the likely rewards or consequences are of decisions that you make? And so, for me, that’s where the [00:38:00] power of mediating institutions come from, because, first and foremost, there’s your family, that’s the first place. And in fact, I’ve even created a framework called free family religion. Education entrepreneurship. Those are the pillars that if a young person really thinks about their life, those are the character forming institutions, the character shaping institutions that help young people understand how do I navigate this force of free will that I have.

[00:38:35] And so that’s why I’m launching a network of character based international baccalaureate schools. You know, this new network of vertex partnership academies, the anchored in the four Cardinal virtues of courage, justice. Wisdom temperance, those are virtues that are .

[00:38:54] Every other virtue is derivative of those four. then I think young people need a [00:39:00] grounding. And what does it mean to have courage? What does it mean to stand in the face of fear to understand the risks and yet to have the power. To do something to still move forward , in that moment where you’re, the most scared, you’re the most terrified, but like, for example, having a great family is, a place where, you know, you always have a safe place to come back to.

[00:39:21] I remember when my parents, , shared stories about, , coming, first they moved to England. My mom moved to, my dad wrote for her hand in marriage for her to travel from Jamaica to England. This is in the mid 1950s. so they could be together and get married. And she, had a ton of support for her family and that we will always be here for you.

[00:39:41] And, and so you start to realize got there that these institutions, they have my back. Right. So, and that’s where a faith commitment also is really important that there are a set of morals and, , structures that help you make decisions. So why a character based school is [00:40:00] it, first of all, what’s interesting is every school is a character based school, right?

[00:40:04] The question is, are you explicit about what you’re teaching or not? If you’re a school that doesn’t have expectations, for example, around timeliness or high expectations, or being diligent about doing your homework every night, or building study habits, then you’re actually a character-based school too, but you’re actually building the wrong.

[00:40:27] , character-based traits. So it’s really just owning the fact that kids are in our school building, for a significant portion of their life. And hopefully us working alongside with parents help to build those character-based strengths that young people will need throughout their lives to make good decisions.

[00:40:48] And so agencies, this building’s idea of the force of your free will guided by moral discernment. And that moral discernment has to come from somewhere that the ability to [00:41:00] discern decisions from a moral perspective has to come from somewhere. And I put forth that family, religion, education entrepreneurship, if you embrace those four pillars that you’ll have a much greater likelihood of leading a life of freedom, the life that you choose, the life that you want.

[00:41:20] And that’s what I want for our young people in our schools.

[00:41:23] GR: I’ve already, pre-ordered a copy of your book. , at least on Amazon, it says it’s scheduled to come on March.

[00:41:30] Ian: I think it’s more going to be April just because of, , supply chain issues. But, ah,

[00:41:35] GR: that is true. Well, listeners, you can go to Amazon or you can go , to his Templeton, press your publishing.

[00:41:41] Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah. And they are at the Templeton foundation and the current family foundation are two of the, major funders of character education across the country. They fund the organization where I work as well. So I want to give them a shout out, someone who. With this someone I know. Well, and, , Bob Woodson, he’s been on our [00:42:00] show.

[00:42:00] I first met Bob in September of 1987 when I was a freshman at Howard and he spoke about race and about getting young black men in Detroit, , to marry women that they had impregnated. And I walked up to him afterwards, shook his hand, and no idea that years later, our paths would cross different ways.

[00:42:23] Including his granddaughter, who went to the university of Richmond school of law and my wife at the time about wife at the time she worked at university of Richmond law school was her mentor. Bob and I have been in conversation and I know you were working with him with 1776 unites. Talk to us about your work there and how you guys are influencing conversations about America’s founding documents about Supreme court cases, slavery.

[00:42:47] Those, yeah. Yeah.

[00:42:48] Ian: It’s such, such a great question. , So you met Bob Woodson back in 1987. I honestly had never heard of him her’s work until, I think it was about [00:43:00] February of 2020. Just to give you a sense. I mean, here’s this incredible icon to think about the work that he has done in the United States of America as a man period, and as a black man in particular, and for someone like me, who’s worked in education at MTV at the gates foundation.

[00:43:20] I’ve never really known his work. Gives you a sense diminishes. The work of someone like a Bob Woodson and yet elevates the work of, , Al Sharpton or a ton of FC codes or Nicole Hannah Jones like this. These are the people who are viewed by the larger society of those who speak for the black community.

[00:43:40] so even that is, of a Testament. So I got to know Bob, , because he had, , again, after 40 years of running the Woodson center, uplifting people from, , in thousands of communities across the country to become agents of their own uplift. He saw that the New York times [00:44:00] had just published the 16, 19 project, which, , , as many of your viewers are probably familiar with was initially just the magazine issue was a series of essays that had a pretty robust, , and provocative view of American history.

[00:44:14] And in fact, , it clearly intended to quote unquote re-imagine history and say that maybe the country’s founding was not 1776. And in fact it was 16, 19, and maybe, , this country is not all that, you know, maybe the founding ideals were quote unquote false when they were written that the America was, was founded as a slave ocracy and not at the mock.

[00:44:36] and that country has anti-black racism running in its very DNA. I mean, you think about in your DNA, it means it’s a permanent malignancy. And Bob said, wait a minute, you don’t speak for all black people. And we have to stand up country doesn’t just, run on autopilot and [00:45:00] that it will be threatened.

[00:45:01] I mean, democracy requires an informed, electorate to continue to move it forward and uphold its principles. So he got together a group of people, , myself, Glen Lowery, John McWhorter, Coleman Hughes. I mean just an amazing group of, quote unquote elders as well as newbies who wrote just trying to.

[00:45:19] Create greater opportunity for not just black kids, but all kids across the country to understand that we do live in a country that has an incredibly, , in some ways flawed history and yet incredible stories of resiliency and progress and the whole idea of slavery, the fact that it existed in the United States.

[00:45:38] Yes, but it existed all over the world. And the United States was one of the pioneers for how slavery was not only overturned, but the people who had been once oppressed haves thrive and can continue to thrive if we unlock the secrets that at least some of our community has had access to. and so joined Bob and the 1776 [00:46:00] unites and team.

[00:46:01] And , when we also heard that the 16, 19 project partnered with the Pulitzer center to actually create a corrective. And we’re like, what? Wait a minute. Like they, they don’t just want a magazine issue. they want to indoctrinate kids into this view of America as this permanently oppressed society that if you’re black, I mean, you are screwed according to Nicole, Hannah Jones pen, her team and her ilk.

[00:46:26] And so, you know, maybe that’s another idea. Maybe there’s an alternative point of view and it wasn’t to demonize or to cancel, but to stand strong and say, we decided. We disagree. And here’s our proof. Here’s our evidence. Here’s people throughout American history who have fought against this idea of America being a country with a permanent malignancy.

[00:46:49] And so we said, you know what, if she’s going to create a curriculum, , let’s create one, not just in response, but to highlight the incredible stories of the African-American experience in United States, warts and [00:47:00] all, not just cherry picking. So if you’re going to tell the story, for example, about the Tulsa massacre, then tell the whole story, tell stories of black wealth and entrepreneurship that create that led up to the Tulsa massacre.

[00:47:16] And then tell the story of what happened afterwards, the recovery, the resilience, tell the whole story so that people can see that. Yes, I mean, America has parts of it is a wretched. Unfortunately like many other countries in the world. And yet there seems to be this through-line where the very values and principles that the country was founded upon were the values and principles and informed laws like the civil rights act and the voting rights act and everything else that has created the opportunity that yes, exists today for low-income Americans, black Americans, for people, billions of people around the world, that’s still yearn to come to this country.

[00:47:58] so Bob and [00:48:00] I, and the team, that curriculum that we created has now been downloaded more than 25,000 times. By teachers in all 50 states, it’s been downloaded in public schools, private schools, charter schools, homeschools after-schools prison ministries, anywhere where character formation is happening for kids.

[00:48:25] And we’re very proud of that because you know, again. We’re not looking to, call people bad names or, cancel, but to show that there is an empowering alternative. If we want to look at American history, bring it up. This country has a lot to be proud of there parts of the country, like many others, unfortunately that it’s a very negative past learn from it.

[00:48:45] Be honest, but tell the whole story. Don’t sanitize American history so that you cleanse it of all the bad things nor cherry picks. You only focus on the most increase jus atrocious events is I think most of the 1619 [00:49:00] project does. And so that’s what we’re trying to do to show that there was a compelling alternative.

[00:49:05] And, the nice thing is I think many people are responding to say, , we appreciate it that you’re not running away from the America’s past or, our experience with slavery or Jim Crow, or even present day racism. but the key is recognizing that what once may have been literally structural racism in trined into law is now.

[00:49:28] Surmountable racism, um, by people who, again, based on some of the things we talked about before are thriving in our country and 1776 unites stands to make that story known to millions of black and other kids across the country.

[00:49:47] GR: No, that’s a powerful story on so many fronts. As we get ready to close.

[00:49:52] What are two things you think, for example, we are going to have over 30 gubernatorial elections of this [00:50:00] year. What are two things that, , sitting governors or people who are seeking to unseat a governor or have a seat is going to be open because of term limits? What a couple of ideas that those candidates should be thinking about for their campaign, not just for education, but the whole part of just understanding human development.

[00:50:19] Ian: Yeah. Well, I think they should look to your state of Virginia and look,, at what, governor Yuncken made a point of, during his campaign. And it was pretty straightforward. parents have a voice families matter, education matters, choice, educational choice matters. And parents would have a say in development of their kids.

[00:50:42] sometimes we make things a lot more complex than they need to be. And I thought in his campaign, things were pretty simple. I think over the last few years, you know, since the tragic, murder of George Floyd, which was a heinous event, and yet reaction to it unleashed the awoke [00:51:00] ideology that again, paints the country as this permanently racist, all of our institutions are infiltrated with racist.

[00:51:08] and yet there are a number of people who were tiring of that ideology, which seems to, just place people in boxes. Regardless and says that the only factors that matter are your skin color or your gender. And based on that, you’re either going to be oppressed, or you’re an oppressor full stop and ignoring the more developmental aspects of what makes a human, being a human being, your family, the family that raises you religious or faith commitment that you’re part of the quality of education that you have in school choice.

[00:51:47] And then ultimately, so idea of entrepreneurship, your ability to generate wealth in all of its forms, social wealth, financial wealth, free family, religion, education, entrepreneurship. [00:52:00] If I were someone running for governor or running for political office, those would be the things I would, run on.

[00:52:05] you know, , I would trying to revitalize the institutions that make us all free family. Education entrepreneurship. That’s what we need to come together on as a country, across race, across class, across gender. That’s what I would run on because that’s the future of our country.

[00:52:27] GR: Well, Ian, thank you for the work that you do, both at a think tank.

[00:52:31] And in your role as an entrepreneur, who’s creating do tanks, known as schools. our listeners are here to support you, let us know what we can do in the future, , look forward to seeing you soon. Thank

[00:52:43] Ian: you so much. It was a very inspiring conversation.[00:53:00]

[00:53:24] Cara: Gerard, we are going to close it out as always with the tweet of the week. This one from John Bailey. So at John underscore Bailey the $1 billion budget for the tech modernization fund, known to those who know about it as the TMF is a huge investment, but funds are only part of the solution. Tech talent, project outlines tech fund, best practices.

[00:53:46] So the tech modernization fund, this is tons of money tech infrastructure, but we need an outline for how to get it done because as he points out, money is not enough. I encourage everybody to look up John Bailey on Twitter. [00:54:00] This will take you to a nice link that has a great policy brief with the best practices and steps that folks need to take in order to make the best use.

[00:54:09] As John says, to make government work for people. What do you think about that? That’s something hunter next week, Gerard, you know, it is national school choice week. So we’re going to be back with our friend, Andrew Campanella, and, I hope you bring your yellow.

[00:54:22] GR: I will.

[00:54:23] Cara: I bet you, I bet you got a lot of them at this point.

[00:54:26] I’ve got a few, they’re hanging out somewhere with purses that I only use once a year. So Gerard until next week you take care of yourself. You stay warm and I hope we can open the show next week with some cheerful news. [00:55:00]

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