Leading Like an Infant: Leadership Lessons from our Youngest Children

Dear families,

I am sending this update from San Francisco where I am working with schools in the Jewish community. At the end of my trip I will provide a keynote talk entitled, “Leading Like an Infant: Leadership Lessons from our Youngest Children”. The talk focuses on four lessons we can learn from infants in leading schools and agencies. One lesson is the power of protest.

Infants are great at protesting. If they do not like something they let it be known. In protesting terms infants, “speak truth to power”. It does not matter that the adult feeds them, clothes them, and cares for them; if the infant is not happy with a situation, no matter night or day, they let the adult and all those around them know. They speak truth to power!

As we begin African American History Month my mind turns to issues of racism that should have us ready to protest. One that relates to preschool education is the problem of preschool suspension. Black children in our country make up 18% of preschool enrollment, but 48% of preschool children suspended. A recent study showed that black preschoolers are 3.6 times as likely to be suspended as white preschoolers. I believe the underlying cause is that our schooling systems and many teacher education programs are not preparing teachers to educate and care for African American students.

We should consider what actions we can take as parents of young children? I suggest white families make sure that they are reading books to children and sharing media that does two things:

  1. Shines a light on the brilliance of African American culture, history and language.
  2. Makes sure children understand that one skin tone is not better than another.

Black families might choose to read books that highlight “hidden figures”, brilliant African American and African people who have been underrepresented in school history books.

I have attached a book list that you might find interesting. This list is books that I own and is not meant to be a list of all books on this topic.

Exactly one hundred years ago the great scholar W.E.B. Du Bois published a children’s magazine called the Brownies’ Book. The purpose of the magazine was to acquaint children with the beauty, history, heritage, culture, literature, and accomplishments of African Americans which were often absent in public education. I suggest that this month (and every other month) families focus on making sure that they read books to children and have conversations about this important issue. My wish is that each of us raise children who are confident enough to protest racial and other inequities.

Best,

Rabbi Meir

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