Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:00:05]:
WelcomeĀ advocates, to another episode of the Leading Equity Podcast, a podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their Scopes a. I have a repeat guest, if you will, but, man, let me tell you. This brother brought the fire last time, so I'm really excited To hear what he has to say today, I have Matthew Kinkade, author of Freedom Teaching, Overcoming Racism in Education to Create Classrooms where all students succeed, which just which just published as of January 24, 2024. So, Folks, make sure you grab yourself a copy. Of course, there will be links in the show notes. So without further ado, Matthew, thank you so much for joining us today.

Matthew Kincaid [00:00:50]:
Thank you so much for having me again. Really enjoyed the last time we got to have a conversation and very much looking forward to today as well.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:00:56]:
Alright. Let's do it. So we're we're gonna have a conversation a little bit about Freedom teaching, and then also we're gonna really hone in on cognitive empowerment. But before we get into that topic, I'd love for you to share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do.

Matthew Kincaid [00:01:08]:
Absolutely. So As was mentioned, my name is Matthew Kincaid. I am a former classroom educator and school administrator, but I currently occupy the role of CEO of my organization, Overcoming racism, which I founded in 2016. Overcoming Racism provides comprehensive race and equity support to schools, Colleges, corporations, health care spaces, nonprofits, anyone who wants to see systems of a chain, that is the work that we do.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:01:34]:
Dope. Dope. Alright. Well and and where'd you say you're based out of?

Matthew Kincaid [00:01:38]:
Out of the organization in New Orleans. I'm currently in Michigan right now, but our Station is, staff across the country with kind of a decentralized model.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:01:45]:
I I I wanna be like you when I grew up then, so I just, wanna have team all over nations like that, so that's that's what's up. Goals

Matthew Kincaid [00:01:52]:
Be careful what you wish for. Okay. Okay.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:01:56]:
And Alright. Let's let's get into today's topic. So The title of your book is called Freedom Teaching. I wanna start there, and then I wanna get into some some of the pieces that I that it came across within your book. So why don't you start us off? What do we mean by freedom teaching?

Matthew Kincaid [00:02:12]:
Yeah. Absolutely. You know, titling a book is perhaps one of the most challenging things That you can do in the entire process. And so we, came to the name freedom teaching because it really encapsulated what the book is about. And so we believe that freedom teaching are deliberate acts that enhance the freedom of children both inside of classrooms, but then also the freedom that they have To lead choice filled lives. You know, one of the things that systemic racism, classism, or oppressive oppression more broadly Limits for children is their choices. In society, the privileges we have significantly dictate The choices we can make. For some families, they can choose what they eat every night for dinner and whether or not that's nutritious.

Matthew Kincaid [00:02:52]:
They can choose whether or not they send their kid to, high achieving school. They can choose whether or not they live in a safe community. They can choose what type of access to health care they have. For many other people as a consequence of these systems of oppression, Though choices are much more limited, or in some cases, a person may feel like they don't have choices at all. And what we found in our work in schools is that especially in urban and communities, oftentimes, freedom is, deemphasized, and children find themselves in school spaces that are more so about control. And so we thought, you know, how can we educate kids in ways that deliberately enhance their freedom in schools? And as a consequence of that deliberate deliberately enhances is the freedom that they have as they have to navigate the systems of the world. So that's what freedom teaching is, deliberate actions that answer freedom of children.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:03:40]:
So it's so is this book for students, or is this more for teacher educators?

Matthew Kincaid [00:03:45]:
More more so for educators. Also, we've got a lot of feedback that is great for parents as well. A lot of the kind of philosophies that are representing the book also can be really beneficial for parents. So pretty much anyone who is in the action of working to raise children. And I believe that one of the goals of education should be to also That we're helping to raise children well, and so anyone who is a steward of children, the book should have something for them.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:04:09]:
Alright. I like that. I wanted to clarify that because when I When I'm listening to you explain it as far as, like, what does, like, freedom teaching, I I start thinking about, like, okay. Are we teaching our students to be able to kinda do their you know, be themselves and and or are we encouraging our educators or our parents, I guess, to have them make sure that they are able to express themselves in the way that they want. Is that the freedom that we're talking about?

Matthew Kincaid [00:04:34]:
Little bit. Right? I think one of the things that the book talks about Is that oftentimes in the context of the United States, we think about freedom as this solely individualistic ideal. Right? United States, we talk a lot about things like Rugged individualism and pulling oneself up by their bootstraps. And schooling structures oftentimes follow this model. You know? The model is more or less about, Hey. You go to school. You get an education, so one day you can be successful, and you can take better care of your family. But when it comes to communities of color and traditionally oppressed communities, Freedom has always been an ideal that is shared.

Matthew Kincaid [00:05:07]:
And so the book talks a lot about how we can build community in school, how we can build Solidarity in school. How students understand that the students in the classroom in a lot of ways are the first part of their network that they're gonna continue to be building as they Grow and get older. And, instead of students thinking about education being solely an individualistic pursuit, you know, the success of the students on my end to my left Also impacts my success. And so how can we build schools that are more so communities? But freedom teaching kinda breaks that down as well. You know? And so students don't feel like they're on on an island on a school, but instead, students feel like they're part of a team or a family.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:05:46]:
Love this. So that they feel like they're part of a team, part of a family, and I think that's really important. So there's a piece that's really stood out to me within the book is and it's all about cognitive empowerment. So I wanted to really hone in on that today as far as what does that look like. Obviously, we want folks to, you're gonna give us the, I guess, the cliff notes version. We want folks to really dig into it, but, you can kinda just break that down a little bit for us.

Matthew Kincaid [00:06:12]:
Absolutely. Yeah. The book one of the, like, major inputs of what we believe freedom teaching is is promoting schools or creating schools in classrooms Where students are cognitively empowered. We talk a lot in schools about whether a kid is a high level learner or a low level learner or what their reading level is or what their MAP test Or is. You know, we we talk a lot about students from this perspective of quote, unquote how smart they are. And oftentimes, a young person's smarts Is defined by this kind of dominant culture or Eurocentric lens. We don't think about the cultural wealth that students bring into the classroom. We don't think about The knowledges the funds and knowledges from home that students bring to the classroom.

Matthew Kincaid [00:06:51]:
Oftentimes, that's a currency that our kids have That is just not valued or accepted in schools. And cognitive empowerment is more so about this idea that, like, every kid is smart. It's about whether or not we recognize The multiple different types of genius that young people bring into classrooms. Every kid's genius is not gonna be represented in filling bubbles in on a Scantron. And for kids that are really great at that, that's phenomenal. And I'm not, you know, anti Scantron, but I'm just saying that school has a responsibility to meet children where they are. And so Cognitive empowerment is about building schools in which we teach kids to be critical thinkers. Building schools, we teach students about not just what they know or what they're learning, But how that's relevant to their lived experience, how that's relevant to the choices that they'll have to make to lead a successful life.

Matthew Kincaid [00:07:37]:
Teaching cognitive power is about working to build students who take risks, Students who question. Students who are creative and innovative in terms of problem solving. Right? Because oftentimes school becomes this, Compliance task. It's like, I show up. I mean, even for the most successful students in classes, especially in urban schools, It's like our expectation for them is show up, sit down, be quiet, write down what the teacher takes on the board, retain as much of it as you possibly can, Regurgitate it on a test, and if you can do that, check you're successful. What does it have to do with you being financially literate? What does it have to do With you understanding the nuances of the structures that exist in society, what does that have to do with you being able to interpret which sources of information Are quality sources of information and trustworthy and which ones aren't? What does it have to do with you navigating a conflict you may have in a relationship with a parent or a peer? There are all these soft skills that make up the ecosystem of a school. And so students who are cognitively empowered apply their learning to their lived experience Versus just, you know, learning being this kind of competition about who can play the game best enough to then eventually get into college, And then maybe 4 years after you get into that college or graduate. And then once you graduate, then, you know, your whole entire life will change.

Matthew Kincaid [00:08:57]:
I think that's a Value proposition for kids that especially in today's day and age where, like, you know, they have literally the entire world at their fingertips as it means that their Cell phone, I just think it's an outdated value proposition of school. If we can't make school meaningful and relevant to kids' lived experiences right now, we're gonna lose them. Because whatever is happening on TikTok, I guarantee is more interesting than than what is happening in most of our classrooms.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:09:20]:
Oh, you're you're kinda touching on what my follow-up question was gonna be as far as the benefits, because I could see people pushing that, oh, you know, this is not this is not what school is supposed to be like, and this is not how I was brought up. This is not what it was like for me when I was in 3rd grade or 4th grade. So when you get that pushback, because I I I'm assuming that folks that are listening, there are any spaces where, oh, this is some radical Cool ideas and irritating. You know, this is critical race there. All this type of stuff is gonna get thrown at you. What are some of the benefits or what are Maybe some ways that we can say, you know what? Let's look at it from a different perspective.

Matthew Kincaid [00:09:56]:
Yeah. I mean, ultimately, I just believe that what the book is promoting is just good teaching practice. We can put whatever fancy names we want around it, culturally responsive pedagogy, culturally sustaining this. Like, at the end of the day, this is just good teaching practice. And I'm not asking that you take my word for that. I'm asking that we just follow the data. The data says that students who are in classrooms That affirm and a risk of culture classrooms that are based on their assets instead of their deficits, especially classrooms that teach them about The history and cultural traditions of their race and ethnicity that it helped to build racial pride in students who may not naturally have that because of The systems that exist in our society oftentimes not shining a bright light on cultures of many communities of color, that these students persist in school longer, That these students engage in you know, these students have less discipline in fractions. These students tend to do better in math and LA.

Matthew Kincaid [00:10:49]:
And as in in addition to that, that these students oftentimes Engage better with people who are different from them. A lot of the the pushback in this work is really this fear mongering. And the fear mongering is really centered around the idea that maybe, just maybe, one day we can build a school system In which children of color can go to a school system that is similar to the school system that white children exist in, in which they get to learn about the intellectual contributions The people that look like them to the tapestry that is education and the learning space. And, you know, when people are saying things like, well, this isn't The way the schools were Right. Many of the things that are being promoted in these books are already happening in schools that predominantly serve white children. And for anyone who suggest they're like, change is bad, well, I mean, we've literally never had an education system That's worked the same way for children of color that has worked for their white counterparts. And so if our education system as it exists now is fundamentally broken, And one of the best indicators of a student's eventual SAT or s a t ACT score is the ZIP code they're born into, then that's telling us that we have to make change. And And for people who are satisfied with the status quo, well, the system must be working for your kids.

Matthew Kincaid [00:12:02]:
But for kids that look like me, the system has not been working. And so we are gonna be using the data backed Methods to make it work. And in the meantime, we're gonna be building up kids who can feel like they have agency in their lives to, you know, shift and change these systems as well.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:12:17]:
Well, Everything that you're saying makes sense. You and I do similar work, so it makes sense to me. I can hear some of the folks that are probably listening to this. They may work in suburban areas, And they may say, oh, so I I can go ahead and listen to another podcast because that doesn't apply to me because I don't work in an urban school or inner city school. Like, you know, all the coded language. And so they'll say, oh, I only have 4 black kids in our school, or I don't even have many black Kids, we have a lot of Latinx, or we got something else. You know what I'm saying? So what kind of message can we give as far as the benefits to The the the the cognitive empowerment, all of that, if you don't work in a urban inner city school.

Matthew Kincaid [00:12:59]:
Yeah. Definitely recommend those folks pick up the book. The book Actually, very explicitly addresses the benefits of this for children of all races. 1, as far you know, when I use what term people call it, not, like, specifically talking about black children. And so, obviously, you know, there are examples that that speak to children of all races, but also specifically children who are white. You know, I think that if you look at our education rates Compared to the world globally, the United States, is not, you know, near the top, especially for similarly resourced countries. Right? And so this notion of Instead of education being solely predicated on this, like, deficit based, factory based learning structure where it's like, teacher has knowledge, Teacher inserts knowledge into child. Child now has knowledge.

Matthew Kincaid [00:13:40]:
We instead recognize that education is more effective when it is done with children instead of 2 Sheldon, And that children are not coming into our spaces as empty vessels needing to be filled, but instead, they're coming into our spaces with all kinds of, knowledges. And like I said, even more so now that they have such close access to technology. And so how can we create a relationship where students are cognitively empowered? In the in the book, we, We use this example of imagine if you hired a personal trainer. You know, like, me in the gym 3 days a week, and the very first time you meet them in the gym, they just lift weights in front of you. You're like, That's weird, but maybe that was just the introductory teach by the exercises. You keep going back, you keep going back, and every time you go, you never touch your weight, you never touch a machine, your personal trainer just keeps lifting weights for you and in front of you. And at the end of the month, they're like, this is what my fee is. Well, all of us will leave that personal trainer.

Matthew Kincaid [00:14:30]:
All of us would think that there'll be a rip off because we know We can't get stronger just by watching someone else lift weights. But in our school systems, not just school system serving children of color, School system serving white children as well. That is what education looks like in a lot of spaces. Teachers are doing all the heavy lifting. Teachers are doing all the intellectual prep. Teachers are all doing all the work around investment, and students are just sitting there watching teachers, you know, perform This performance rather than teacher students also being a part of making me the the knowledge that they're learning, teachers teaching other students in the classroom, Teachers being an active participant in education. But, additionally, teachers who serve school districts that are predominantly white are still sending their children off into a diverse world. In some ways, it might be even more important for those teachers to understand the nuances of how Exposing children to culture and identity is critically important to making them, equipped to navigate not just the diversity of the United States, But the fact that we're existing in a global economy.

Matthew Kincaid [00:15:32]:
In the next 20 years, majority of people of color the majority of people in this country will be people of color. Next 30 so the maj majority of the workforce will be people of color. The next 30 years, majority of people in this country are gonna be people of color, if not sooner than that. The ability to navigate diverse spaces will be as important of a skill as the ability to read, write, and compute well. And so we're doing white students a significant disservice, but not preparing them for this diverse world. And a lot of the fervor and fear around critical race theory, we don't talk about How that hurts white communities as well. They're not just banning books in our schools. They're banning books in your schools.

Matthew Kincaid [00:16:07]:
They're not just taking math books out of the curriculum In Florida schools that serve black and brown kids, they're taking those math books out of the curriculum in schools that serve white children as well. And if there's anything that we should protect, It is our ability for our students to learn and question and be exposed to different types of of knowledges and to make their own opinions about it. By no means should anyone feel like they can opt out of this conversation because, like I said, this is just best teaching practice, there's something for everyone to to glean as we talk about, you know, how to make schools work for all kids. That's why that is literally in the title. We can create schools where all students Succeed. You know? That's a big part of it.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:16:45]:
I I love that. And and I think what you said really hits home. It makes a lot of sense because you talked about The importance of just realizing, like, whatever you're banning from us, you know, if you you think you're doing something to us, you're also doing it to your other schools. And the reality of it is, At the end of the day, when we when our students become adults when they enter into the workforce, more than likely, they're gonna end up working in some sort of a group setting. So that's why I'm always been a supporter of project based learning and and and TBL, those kind of things, I think, is so important because If we're really trying to prepare our kids for the future outside of k L organizations and things like that, then we need to make sure that they're ready to work in Diverse spaces. Eve I live in Idaho. But even in Idaho, there's a there's a a high likelihood that they're gonna be around individuals of all different types Diverse doesn't necessarily have to be limited to race, but there's gonna be different factors, different identities present, and they need to be able to to be able to work and understand how to have those develop those relationships so that they can be successful and be able to make that money and keep those those bills paid. You what I'm

Matthew Kincaid [00:17:50]:
saying? Yeah. And, you know, I think that oftentimes because we look at schools in urban communities, we look at predominantly black schools where the case may be, And we see, you know, some of the test scores that are coming out of these districts, and we see lack of investment and funding that is taking place in these districts. You can look those spaces and say, like, that's on fire. And so we look at their counterparts in even many suburban communities. We're still not reaching this level of excellence that all children deserve and are quite frankly capable of. And so just because no one is talking about it doesn't mean that it's not an issue. And the educational practice that are outdated in urban communities are also outdated in, you know, these predominantly white communities as well. And the book Talks about radical change, and the word radical gets a a bad rap.

Matthew Kincaid [00:18:32]:
You know? You know? It's like, oh, that person's a radical. You know, you wanna be careful. Away from them. If you look at the synonyms to the word radical, radical just means complete. Radical means root in branch. And so when we talk about radical change in education, we just want the change to Thorough. We want the change to be complete. The reason why educators all over the country are burning out is because they are busting their tails, giving their all In a system that is not designed for all the children in that structure to succeed.

Matthew Kincaid [00:19:00]:
In a lot of ways, it's like a weed out structure whereas I will. You know, if the kid works hard enough, they'll make it. But the data even bears out that that's not necessarily true in all spaces. So, you know, the book is really about How can we make schools work? How can we not just accept mediocre? And, yeah, do we wanna close gaps in opportunity and gaps in achievement? Of course, we do. We wanna do that in a way that isn't about just making children of color think, act, behave, assimilate better into white spaces. We wanna do that in a way in which all children are educated in a education system that says you will have a say in the society that you both inherit, But more importantly in the society that you all helped to create. And so we don't have to keep doing things the same way generation after generation. But one of the reasons why we're working with the younger generation is because They have agency in terms of what type of society they wanna create, and we should give them the tools to create a society that's better than the one that we're existing in right now.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:19:54]:
Well, I tell you what, every time you call on this show, you're dropping bars.

Matthew Kincaid [00:19:58]:
Man, I think it's I think it's you, man. You just, inspired me to just, you know, Let it rip. You know? So I appreciate the platform and the space, and, you know, you've created this, you know, safe space for people to come and talk about these real issues. I'm grateful for that.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:20:10]:
Oh, I mean but it's I mean, you're I mean, everything you said is gold today, and and, folks, please share this episode. And like I said, grab yourself a copy of Freedom Teaching because I think it's really important that we really understand that what has been happening over the last I always say back to industrial revolution. That's what our Our foundation of our educational system is I'm currently teaching a course, at the university here, and it's about the history of education. It just reminds me of, like, This wasn't built for us at all. It it wasn't it's not even close. Not even it was built for white men, wealthy white men, And but we still use utilize its same structure. And so just hearing what you're saying, I mean, to me, it just makes so much sense If we're really trying to be, you know, caught up with what's happening in 2024 versus the 8 late 1800, then I I think it just makes much more said. So thank you so much for bringing that heat today, man.

Matthew Kincaid [00:21:04]:
You for having me. This is awesome. And as always, you know, if there's any, another opportunity to speak, I would love to come back. So Thank you all for listening. Thanks for the support of the book, and, feel free to reach out to us. You can find us on Instagram at at overcoming racism. Or if you go to overcomingracism.com, you can both find information on the book, but also the work that we do in institutions across the country. So thank you all for for listening.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:21:26]:
Yep. And, again, I'll leave links in the show notes, folks, so all that information will be there. Thank you, Matthew. It has truly been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time, man.

Matthew Kincaid [00:21:35]:
Pleasure's all mine. Thank you as well.

Hosted by Dr. Sheldon L. Eakins

A Weekly Livestream

Follow us every Thursday at 6:30 PM Eastern to learn ways that you can develop your advocacy skills in your school/community from experts in education.  

This show is built on three principles

  • The  Power of Preparation- Discover ways to develop a plan to address inequities in schools.
  • The Power of Persuasion- Gain an understanding of the art of influence and create a sense of urgency towards change.
  • The Power of Persistence- Recognize how to endure challenges as they may arise.
Follow the Channel

Free Course

Enroll in this free course to learn about your biases and how to address them.

This course includes:

  • 11 video lessons
  • 5 downloadable resources
  • 1.0 Hour Professional Development Certificate
Learn More

An Affinity Space for Student Voices

Are you ready to transform the culture inside your district or school for the better? Enroll in the Advocacy Room today!

Learn More

Subscribe & Review in iTunes

Are you subscribed to the podcast? If you’re not, I want to encourage you to do that today. I don’t want you to miss an episode. Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Now if you enjoy listening to the show, I would be really grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too. Those reviews help other advocates find the podcast and they’re also fun for me to go in and read. Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is. Thank you!

Let's Connect on Instagram!

Transform your school and your classroom with these best practices in equity

Leading Equity delivers an eye-opening and actionable discussion of how to transform a classroom or school into a more equitable place. Through explorations of ten concrete steps that you can take right now, Dr. Sheldon L. Eakins offers you the skills, resources, and concepts youā€™ll need to address common equity deficiencies in education.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.