Does your curriculum celebrate or suppress student perspectives? | Chancellor Richard Carranza


So I am so thrilled to be in
New York City, but you see, I wasn’t born
in New York City I’m from Tuscon, Arizona. And for those of you that don’t know where
Tuscon, Arizona is, or what it is, let me just say it’s hot.
It’s really hot. But it’s close to the Mexican-United
States border, and I’m very proud that my grandparents
emigrated to the United States, and became United States citizens. I’m equally proud that I have a brother, and I’m very proud of my brother. You see, he’s not only my brother, he’s my “wombmate.” We’re identical twins, and while I’m four minutes older than him,
and he still asks for corroboration, and evidence, he is my best friend. We were born together, we lived together, we were both the sons of a sheet metal
worker, and a hair dresser in Tuscon, Arizona. And I’m very proud of my family, and may Simon and Dolores rest in piece,
they taught Reuben and I we would always have each other,
and we had each other: we had our own language, we played
together, we couldn’t be apart from each other. All these years later, even now,
we speak or text every single day. There’s not a moment that I don’t feel
that I need to call him, and then I’ll call him, and he’ll say, “I’m glad you called,
I’m going through a situation.” Or that I will say, “Reuben, I need to
talk to you,” and he drops everything and calls me.
You see, we are intimately close. And going through high school, and going
through school, we were the best of friends, we were in
the same clubs, and when he would run for student
government, I’d run for the office above it, just to
show him that I’m gonna challenge him. We know everything about each other. And as we went through life,
and we grew up, and we eventually graduated from high
school and we went our separate ways, Reuben decided that he was gonna go to
California right after college, and he was gonna pursue a business
endeavor, and I decided I was gonna stay in Tuscon,
Arizona and I was happy as a teacher,
and I was teaching. And we would always come together,
although we spoke almost every day, we would always come together for the
holidays with our family, and you see we had a big extended family,
and we had aunts, and uncles, and cousins and cousins of cousins, and cousins of the
cousins, and a simple Sunday gathering always
turned into a barbecue with all the uncles, and the guitars
would come out and we would sing and we would
eat and we would laugh but it was a very traditional home,
very traditional home. And as Reuben went away, and we would always come back together
during those holidays, it was always a joyous occasion. It was always family, except for the one
year, where Reuben said to me, “Richard, I want to see you, and I don’t
want to see anyone else.” And he said, “Let’s go to dinner.” Absolutely, I don’t miss many dinners. So I said, “Let’s go to dinner,”
so we went to dinner. And we had our usual conversation,
and we were getting together, and we were talking about
what was happening, and then Reuben said to me as he paused
in the conversation, Reuben said to me, “Richard I have
something to tell you,” and he said, “I’m gay.” And at that instant I was simultaneously
both happy, because a whole lot of things now made
sense, and I was absolutely mortified. I was mortified that my best friend, my “wombmate,” the person that I knew the
best, the person that I spoke to
every single day, the person that I shared mischief and
academic achievement with through all of our school years, the person I thought I knew the best, I didn’t really know at all. And what pained me was that, I realized
the pain that he must have gone though. All of those years, not being able to be
his truest self, even with his best friend. All of those opportunities that we missed
to make meaning, and the sheer terror that
he must have felt not knowing if his best friend was gonna
accept him after that declarative moment. So I was both happy and I was sad. And from that day forward, I vowed that we must create the
environments in our schools so that other Reubens don’t have that
kind of insecurity. I will tell you, there are many Reubens
in the New York City public schools, as there are in schools across America. In fact Tatiana, who is a student, a
trans student, that left her abusive home in the Midwest,
with only the money for a bus ticket, and is now living in a teen
shelter in the Bronx and going to school,
you see, she has no family, except for the family that is school. For that student, school isn’t just
somewhere you go, it is who you feel, it is who you relate
to, it is your family. And I’m very, very proud, that in the
New York City public schools, we don’t discount those experiences
of our students. An Ohio State researcher named
Rudine Sims Bishop, has talked about how we need to look
at curriculum through windows, mirrors, and sliding
glass doors. You see what the professor says is that curriculum should be like the window
that our students can look out of, and that our students can look out into a
world, and see things that they haven’t
seen before. You see, the curriculum should be
reflective of that. But yet the curriculum should also be
a mirror, a mirror by which our students can look at
themselves and understand who they are, and as they
understand who they are, they gain meaning to look out that window,
and understand who others are. But that curriculum should also be the
sliding glass door, and that sliding glass door that our
students can slide and navigate through an empathetic approach, and understand who others are and what
their reality is. I wish my brother would have had a window
and a mirror and a sliding glass door. But it is our goal in New York City that we will have our students have not
only the window and the mirror and the sliding glass door, but that we will celebrate who they are. In fact, I’m very proud that in our 1800
schools, 1.1 million students, we have a growing
movement in New York City where we recognize the
value of all students, and the beauty of who they are, and what
they contribute to our society. In fact, some of our students are
going to visit Stonewall, the iconic location in the 1970s, and while, no, we’re not gonna let them
sit at the bar and drink, they’re going to be steeped in this
history, the history that is our history, not as New Yorkers not as Americans, but
as citizens of the world. So I ask us as we commit ourselves to
supporting all of our students, as we move away from the labels of who
students are, and what we think they are, and as we look through that window,
and reflect in the mirror, and move those sliding glass doors, I only ask that for a little
boy like Reuben, a trans student named Tatiana, and the millions of students
in our schools, that we all create the environment
that they all can be who they are, free of any kind of judgement, but full
of the love of loving educators. Thank you.

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