Teachers for Trump

Last week at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump Jr. had some thoughts about school and teachers. The response was virtually immediate (here, here, and here are just some examples.) That push back is powerful, important, and firmly in the wheelhouse of when and how the profession rises up with one voice: disparage us and we’ll tell you how and why you’re wrong.

At the same time, there is the painful reality that some teachers were watching that convention and making the decision to vote for Trump come November. Therein lies a tough, sticky conundrum: How does or should the field respond to teachers who support Trump? What does it take to change the mind of someone who will vote for a racist, sexist, egomaniac and then stand in front of a group of children the next day? 

There are two things that suggest not all teachers are Team #NeverTrump. First, there are about 3 million full-time teachers. Of those teachers, about 85% are white. Those large numbers combined with polls that show Trump’s support is almost exclusively from white voters suggest there would be overlap. On the other hand, it may be that the percentage of Trump supporters among teachers would be lower than among white voters in general due to teachers’ level of education. There’s also the gender factor – Trump’s fans are mostly male. Teachers are mostly female.

Then there’s the teachers who openly share their Trump love. From Facebook and Twitter to lawn signs, there are educators putting their thoughts and opinions out there as to why Donald J. Trump is best equipped to lead the country for the next four years. @TeachersforTrump has 805 followers, many of whom have teacher in their bio. A drop in the bucket in terms of registered voters – but in terms of counts of children they’ll interact with? That’s not a small number.

I’ve seen reasons for a willingness to support Trump that range from rationalizations, justifications, and explanations about his flaws to a focus on his unique approach to the world. Another common reason? Apparently, Hillary Clinton was spawned by the devil and is the worst politician to ever politic and voting for her is worse than voting for Trump. So casting a vote for Trump isn’t a vote *for* Trump, it’s a vote *against* Hillary. (I’m paraphrasing. Perhaps a bit flippantly. Mostly because I’m pretty firmly in line with this guy.)

Talking about politics can be messy and complicated. Talking about teachers and politics and Trump is asking for a complicated word soup. At the same time, if the profession can respond so forcefully, quickly, and vocally when insulted, what would it take for a similar response to a man who has insulted – many times – the children who sit in the nation’s classrooms?

Some are speaking up. Diane Ravitch was explicit about why she’s casting her vote and it seems like an argument any teacher should be able to get behind. AFT and NEA both gave raving endorsements to Clinton. I’m hopeful Clinton will be elected and, for the first time in my adult life, am engaging in political conversations in public. I hope we’ll see a wide-spread rebuking of the RNC platform and Trump’s message. I hope the American public declares with one voice come November that we will not repeat mistakes of the past and let hateful men dictate our country’s direction by reflecting back the worst of us.

Hope, though, isn’t enough this time around. Normally, I would work my hardest to seek to understand. I would do my best to fight against stereotyping Trump supporters and to approach conversations or thinking from a place of empathy and shared ground. On this topic, though, that resource manna is depleted. I got nothing. As always, I’m happy to engage and discuss but on this matter, I’ll be doing it with one hand tied behind my back. I will not change my vote and I cannot understand casting a vote for Trump.


Five Questions

By habit or design, a lot of my thinking is made manifest in the form of questions. Some of that comes from who my mentors are. Much of it comes from the sparks I pick up from educators and teachers in my life who let me to work, think, babble and collaborate with them.  I write questions on Post-Its, in notebooks, bury them in rambling blog posts, or save them as possible titles for half-drafted essays. Will Richardson’s recent post gave me an excuse to coral some up, dust them off, and set them lose.

The five questions that are rattling around at the top of my brain pan at this moment:

1. Do the cons of reducing learning to a number or symbol outweigh the pros?

2. What are the implications in education when those doing the telling are mostly white men and those being told are mostly white women?

3. What is the responsibility of those former good girls and good students in this system of our own making?

4. How do we navigate the implications of a profession that is 85% white without inadvertently overburdening or erasing teachers of color?

5. If we’ve made the collective decision that free, compulsory education is good for society, how do we ensure that as many days as possible are filled with experiences students give a shit about?

Some of them I’m working on answering. A few I know the answer to. I think. Maybe. As of right now. It may change in five minutes. Possibly.


Gender, Navel Gazing

Learning To Defer


Our cats – Steve! and Kevin

I am not a parent. It doesn’t take a lot of navel gazing for me to reach the conclusion that I have nothing to say or write about how to parent. I don’t go near discussions of parenting because a) despite my fondness for my cats, I recognize they’re not children  and b) connecting my love for public education to parenting is some pretty high level brain gymnastics.  I don’t defer or claim expertise, I avoid.

I’m not gay or transgender but members of my family (born and made) are. I connected hard with Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and haven’t looked back since then. Deciding to speak up around  gender and/or sexuality  issues was as easy a decision as shutting up around parenting. I don’t claim expertise, I only claim the moniker of feminist and ally.

Meanwhile, I’ve made some awkward, mortifying, terrifying mistakes when sharing my thinking on topics related to race and equity. I think I’ve done enough work to understand an issue and then I realize (sometimes a moment before speaking, sometimes a moment after) I still have to do some unlearning and relearning and crack the spines on some new books. On these issues, I slip and slide in and out of understanding and confusion, occasionally stubbing a toe and working hard to do better. I am a perpetual learner. Any emerging expertise comes in conversations with fellow learners or in my written reflections here on my blog.

And then there’s assessment design. Want to know about performance-based assessment? I can share lit reviews through interpretive dance. Want to write a good multiple question? You want the short answer or the long answer? Don’t like rubrics? Give me five minutes and I’ll change your mind. Wanna debate assessment?

Come at me

Basically, I’m getting better knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. And when in doubt, I defer.

Deferring is a short way of saying:

  • “I don’t know enough about this topic. Let me point you towards someone who does.” or
  • “I think I know about this topic but I know this person knows WAAY more than I do, so go with their response.” or
  • “This isn’t my space. The owner of this space may have a different take than mine.”

We defer when we RT without commenting. We defer when we tag someone in a complementary tweet* and point to their expertise. The flip side of deferring is asserting  expertise, laying bare the tension in on-line discourse – be it threaded Twitter chats, dueling blog posts, or comment sections – where, in theory, all voices are equal.

Thanks to Southpark, many (myself included) can’t help but hear Cartman’s whining about RESPECT MUH AUTHORITAH! when the concept comes up. The implication is that asserting expertise is akin to acting like a spoiled, bratty second-grader, stomping your foot and saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong because I say so.”

And yet… and yet. Expertise exists. Some people know more about some topics than other people. This isn’t controversial nor earth shattering. My favorite quote on that subject comes from John Scalzi, a science fiction author.

Being an expert/pro doesn’t mean you’re right about everything in your field. It does mean you likely know when others are wrong about it.

When to defer or when to assert expertise? I poked at this a bit when I wrote about The Backfire Effect but it’s again on my mind. Because I write and think about gender in education, I notice patterns, patterns which are not unique to education. Patterns, though, that go back to the dawn of our country and are deeply entrenched in the teaching profession. To be clear, it’s not my claim gender is always at play when there’s a disagreement or someone someone says I’m not qualified to comment on something I am, in fact, qualified to speak about. (I would consider donating one of my cats+ to a loving home could I get some women in education to defer to my expertise.)  I do think gender is at play more often than we’re willing to admit.

And why would we admit it? Teaching is a predominately female profession! How can it be impacted by sexism? The challenge is that sexism runs deep in the profession for many reasons, some of which can be attributed to the dominance of women. Teaching was once referred to as “woman’s true profession” and seen as female equivalent of preaching. It was an acceptable profession for women who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to earn a living. By 1880, the mental image held by Americans of a “teacher” was a white woman. Almost 140 years later, the profession is still trying to figure out what to do with that responsibility.

To be good at school is learning how to play along, to be polite, to follow the rules – both informal and formal. And in many cases, those informal rules are created by white women to continue the grammar and tradition of school, a place they themselves thrived. Meanwhile, white boys who break the rules at school, who experience a “crisis” once a generation have gone on to lead our country and companies for as long as girls have outperformed boys at school.

So… I’m at a loss. What does it take to get a male non-expert in a topic to defer to a female expert? To get white men to listen to women about issues related to education? Beyond that, to listen to the black girls who are being pushed out of schools at alarming rates? To the boys of color who return to schools as adults at a rate far below that of any other demographic group?  Native Americans can’t get a white man to acknowledge the racism inherent in the name of a football team. Pragmatic, frustrated me wonders why should I expect the dynamics in education to be any different.

How do we get white men to defer? What would happen if I were to say to a white male blogger/tweet-er, “You’re wrong. I know more about you on this topic.” What labels might be ascribed to me? Can one shrug into a mantel of expertise? Or does it have to be draped over your shoulders by others? What are the implications when the default “expert” has long been seen as having a particular race and gender? What are the implications when there is a sense that because something is written in a blog post or tweet, it’s true?

I’m left asking a question I asked at the end of another blog postWhat does it look like to change the system, one mindset at a time? I still have no idea. I know though that I’m tired about reading mis-information about a field I care deeply about and know a lot about. And not that it matters, but I may very well test the limits of my ability to shout down a white male author the next time one blames Angela Duckworth for the birth of the grit narrative.


*It is not “deferring” to tag someone on Twitter to demand they comment on a topic of your choosing. It is not “deferring” to tag someone in a discussion you’re having with someone else to ask that person to settle a debate or comment. FWIW and FYI.

+ Kevin (the tabby) is what one might generously call a DogCat. He’s a tank with a walnut brain who can open cupboards and knows exactly where Paul keeps the thermometer with the laser pointer. So, if needed, I might let another family experience the joy that is Kevin.

Navel Gazing

Talking to Conservatives


I don’t know how to talk to conservatives.

Whew. That was a hard confession but it takes a weight off my shoulders that I can now kick around and try to figure out.

Having been raised by the oldest of ten children and born with a thread of gregariousness hard-wired into my DNA, I’ll talk to anyone. I’ve talked to people while waiting for the light to change at a crosswalk because why not? I compliment strangers on their shoes and do that thing where, if you’re wearing a nametag, I’m going to use your name if we talk.

I spend entirely too much time talking to strangers via Twitter and laugh the laugh of the obscene when I get feedback in which one of those strangers think I’m cold or stand-offish. I blame the two-dimensional medium of talking in 140 bursts for that. So, despite my habit of sometimes doing Twitter badly, I generally feel there’s more gained by talking to people than not.

I’m not an extrovert per se more of a “life is so weird and if we only get one shot at this, I wanna make it as pleasant and interesting as possible” variety of human. Sometimes idle chatter with strangers can do that. (Sometimes not talking can do that. It’s a fine line.) When that person, though, presents an idea or mindset that is the polar opposite of my own, I struggle to do more than compliment their shoes. Even my metacognitive strategies fail me.

A few years back, I attended a conference on systems thinking and in the midst of work around feedback loops, inputs, outputs, and behaviors over time graphs, I stubbed my brain. I lost my ability to speak and could only gesture weakly towards the other people in my mapping group.

One of the facilitators saw my reaction and sat beside me. “You’re holding too tight,” she said. “Imagine you’re helping a friend rappel down the side of a cliff. Your job isn’t to grab the safety rope and stop her descent. That would hurt both of you.” I think I nodded, trying my best with my broken brain to stay with her. “Instead, you need to let the rope pass through your hands, holding tight enough to slow her fall but loose enough that the rope barely brushes your hands and she progresses safely. Treat each idea here today like that. Let it pass through your mind just like that rope through your hands. Don’t worry about grabbing tightly. When you’re ready to think deeply about an idea or concept, when it makes sense, you’ll feel your friend’s feet hit the ground safely.”

Learning scientists may disagree with that analogy but it sure as heck worked for me in that setting. I felt when an idea went thump as it landed and when it didn’t, I let the rope keep slipping, holding just tight enough to feel it pass by. I got better at saying to my group members, “I’m still working on that. Can you tell me more about it?” I left with a clear understanding of what I mastered and what I still needed to throw off a cliff a few more times before I got the safe landing that means deep, accurate understanding. I still remind myself of the analogy when I encounter something unfamiliar and feel the first tingles of rope burn because I’m trying to stop something that’s not yet in a safe landing place. Just because I don’t understand something now, it doesn’t mean I can’t eventually work through it.

So, this morning, I read this by Robert Pondiscio and wanted to throw it off a literal cliff. I noticed the image of a white woman to represent the “left”, Hess describing the generic conservative reformer using male pronouns, and the repeated use of the phrase “social justice warrior ” which has a history methinks the speakers aren’t aware of. Part of me wanted to accidently forget to clip in the safety rope and listen for the ker-splat.

In truth, I did feel a thunk and figured I owed it to this concept of public education that I hold so dear to take a beat and figure out what the thunk was. To my chagrin, the thunk was the hollow ring of stereotyping. Despite my willingness to make small talk with all sorts of folks, my understanding of conservatives comes from the media. When it comes to school reform and the faces I associate with conservationism – ie. white men of a certain age and income bracket –  I’m skewed by my hobby. Doing research at night and on weekends has me deep in the dusty pages of history in which white male reformers, with the best of intentions, offer a solution to a profession that is, depending on the date, anywhere from 60% to 89% female. I know that reform isn’t all good or all bad and that there’s a long history of female reformers with bad ideas and male teachers with good ones. I spent entirely too long talking to my entirely too patient non-educator husband about it for the latest episode of our podcast.

However, it’s hard to read a text with one part of your brain trying to actively avoid stereotyping while the other part of your brain is reading statements and thinking, “that sounds racist”, “this feel sexist.” My sense was becoming that conservatives think progressive reformers can’t walk and chew gum. That we can’t talk about racism and sexism and teaching and learning. I can’t know, though, if that’s what they think without talking to them.

So back to the beginning of the text. On the second pass, I read it closely, looking for a quote I could connect with, not push back against. Right there in the 9th paragraph, I found one from a reformer who identifies as politically independent: “I’d hate to lose the next [conservative reformer] because people believe you can’t be [progressive] and also be a pragmatist who can make alliances and get victories.”

I so get that! I’m pragmatic! I’m a vegetarian butcher when it comes to assessment design! Wahoo! Common ground!

A connection means I can free up brain space to ask questions and consider their implications. Take 1: What is the thing that conservatives think they bring to the work of school reform that we liberal progressives are missing? I see the concern around groupthink. I kinda wish there’d been a woman or a man of color at the table for the Committee of Ten to raise some concerns but eh… what’s done is done. If odds are good progressives and conservatives have more in common than not, is the concern we can’t get changes made without you? And that’s mighty hostile of you, Jennifer. Dial that back a notch.

Take 2: Is there a fear we’re not pragmatic enough? That we won’t get things done and need a strong, guiding, dare I say, paternalistic hand to guide us? My sword is in the shop at the moment but that might be the social justice warrior in me speaking. Maybe it’s that progressives have an air of holier than thou and we need a translator in the world of school reform between … which wow, holy mean, Batman. That’s a dead end for discourse if ever I’ve offered one. 

Take 3: If you see it as a “drift”, what’s the center point? And how far back are you looking? Teacher evaluation, merit pay – neither new nor unique. This group of conservative reformers who worked with Republican governors to make it happen are bringing up ideas their foreparents had and implemented with varying degrees of success. This thread feels comfortable, not unkind or stereotypical.

From that question came a possible entry point into a conversation. My hunch is that the “drift” is actually pushback from those in the ranks in a form that is fundamentally different any other previous period of reform. For generations, teachers weren’t even at the table. And if they were, they were likely on the fast track to becoming a schoolman.

My thinking is that I’m OK with the profession doing a bit of knee and elbow-spreading and taking up more space while they get familiar with the new view. It seems like a small price to pay to edge out conservative voices for a bit while social justice advocates find stable footing. More to the point, today’s classrooms are overwhelmingly staffed by women who experienced second and third wave feminism (flawed in its own way, especially as it relates to white, female teachers) which means speaking up in a way that’s different than previous generations of women.  Oh dear. I suspect this is me being all progressive and liberal and feministy which means I’ve set up any conversation as a sparring match and that’s no good.

Questions aren’t working. Back to the text and the concerns raised at the end. I think I get what’s being said. The “risks” you listed helped me realize where to start when we end up at crosswalk together.

And then I see it. The entry point lies that within this quote: “If [progressives] are convincing themselves that to be conservative means not caring about the disadvantaged, then they don’t understand conservatism.” That speaker is right. I don’t understand conservatism.

Hey, Robert, nice shoes. So, in your opinion,

when it comes to school reform, what makes a conservative reformer different than a progressive reformer?

Clean. Simple. Left unanswered by the text. Mostly un-discussed in the meeting halls of the social justice warriors. Huh. Maybe I can talk to conservatives.



Vegetarian Butchers Unite!

Believe you me, being the assessment equivalent of a vegetarian butcher means being in perpetual state of cognitive dissonance. On one hand, I’m Team Rubrics! Team Performance-Based Assessments! Team Portfolio! on the other, Let’s talk p-values! Let’s discuss passage selection criteria! Let’s talk large-scale test design!

So here I am yelling, “let’s work to make sure schools are chock full of authentic, meaningful and engaging tasks and assessments!” in one breath and then trying to politely ask, “May I pushback against your criticism of this multiple choice item?” in the next.

I try to straddle that line. I fail a lot but I’m going to keep trying for one main reason – if we can’t agree on the the easy stuff, what’s going to happen with the messy stuff?

With the PARCC test, consider that:

You don’t have to take my word for it. You can read the words of a teacher who was in the room for the work. Or this one.

PARCC had a process to follow because people have been studying multiple choice since their appearance on the scene.  Stepping away from PARCC itself, there’s the challenge that:

At some point, we’ll get around to better assessments like what’s happening in the NYS Performance Consortium, New Hampshire, or on the local-level across the country. At some point, we’ll move past multiple choice and get to what’s next.

The problem with what’s next is that the performance-based assessments pool is shallower. To be sure, there are structures, guidelines, protocols, and research around ensuring reliability, but the pool is not nearly as deep as it is for multiple choice.

In effect, what’s next is going to be messy as all get up. If the field doesn’t trust the subset of field that designed the easier stuff using research-based practices, what’s going to happen in the next evolution?

Although I’m a NY-er and most familiar with our in-state assessments, I’m always happy to discuss assessment design, be PARCC or PBA. Hit me up on Twitter or in the comments!


Considering grit. Considering Dr. Duckworth.

People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood. But it did happen. I was just 14 years of age when….

true_grit_28charles_portis_novel29True Grit, a novel by Charles Portis was written in 1968. The plot is a pretty basic revenge story: A man is killed. The killer’s identity is known to the man’s family. A member of the man’s family seeks out assistance and tracks down the killer. What makes the story unique is that the family member is a fourteen-year-old girl. A girl who initially seeks out the help of a man she feels has the strength of character to do what she needs to be done. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear to the reader that Mattie is the one with the traits to do what must be done. True Grit is her story.


The first time I saw this billboard, I seriously considered road raging. I did yell to my imaginary, sympathetic passengers as I drove by, “The movie isn’t about him! Who is he talking to? Whose son? What is the message you’re trying to send here?!?” Because come on! What is the point of this billboard?

So, it’s Mattie Ross that comes to mind when I hear the word. It was her name, face, and character that was firmly tucked in my background knowledge storage banks when I heard of Duckworth’s research around the concept of “grit.” My initial response was, “That’s awesome! I love Mattie Ross!” I was also excited to see Duckworth herself getting attention as it’s surprisingly uncommon for female researchers in education to reach the level of one word status*. Even rarer for that woman to be Asian American.

She did a lot of thinking and wondering and writing and testing her ideas. Her work was noticed. She received the McArthur Genius grant. She did a TedTalk. She did a Reddit AMA. She wrote a book. In all of these things, she references her definition of grit:

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals

This, to me, seems pretty simple. Mattie was grit made manifest not because someone was telling her she had to avenge her father’s death. She persevered because revenge mattered to her (as morally questionable as it might be.) My take away? If you’re asking kids to do things they have no interest in doing, that doesn’t connect to the long-term goals they hold, then it’s not about grit, it’s about something else.

Grit speaks to me on a fundamental level. I’ve spent time trying to figure out why that is and I’m still rolling it around. So I read the history of grit and I suspect some of why I connect comes from my German-Irish, white, middle-class upbringing which gets to aspects of privilege that are a part of my lived experiences. Which I’m always working to better understand. Yet, even as I sift and unpack the implications of privilege, grit doesn’t budge for me. I get it. I like it. It makes sense to me. Is it because I’ve achieved some things that were really hard and I want – or need  – a word to describe the thing in me that made it possible? At the same time, I know that KIPP’s “No Excuse” policy existed almost a decade before Duckworth came along so when I read comments that claim those who defend the concept of grit are doing harm to black and brown children, I feel my jaw clench.

Which is not to say the concept is above reproach. EduColor members critiqued issues with grit and the possible misuse several years ago. Ethan Ris suggests that grit has been packaged and sold in schools in a way that’s akin to what Ruby Payne did – offering a nice framework for white teachers and an inherently racist system to use as an excuse with regards to children of color. Those claims are absolutely worthy of discussion about what catches schools’ attention. About why some ideas feel like a balm to the teacher’s soul and just *feel* right.  That’s not about grit, though. That’s the “something else” I mentioned before and there is no magic number of essays on the problems of grit that’s going to solve whatever that else is.

That said, Duckworth doesn’t sell a product. She’s a researcher. She had a hunch, she followed it, and continues to follow it. Meanwhile, her research sits inside a world that is racist, sexist, and classist. As does the work of every single researcher. When you read Duckworth’s own words – not articles that talk about how others interpret her work – she’s incredibly nuanced and above all, very cautions about how her work can and should be used. She’s as bothered by the misuse as those writing so many words about the misuse.  Nothing I’ve seen in her writing suggests she’s offering a solution to poverty or that she thinks “grit” without “slack” is sufficient to right the wrongs in our schools. So why so much hate for Duckworth herself?

So here we are. A female, Asian American researcher saw a glimmer of something in the sparkly mess that is the human mind and moved in closer to inspect it. Since then, she’s been called racist. She’s been accused of  romanticizing poverty. She’s been called irresponsible and a sloppy researcher for citing psychologists who made eugenics a foundation for their work+. And not necessarily in academic journals but in her Twitter mentions and Facebook posts. I’ve tried to engage with those who attack her personally, not the idea but the researcher herself, and when the exchanges ends, I walk away with the sense they won’t be mollified unless she packs up her checklists, apologizes, and disappears from public view. That she owes them a “thank you, sir, for pointing out how wrong I was.”

She’s been called names. She’s been insulted and accused of being bad at her job. She kept writing. She kept researching and wondering. She keeps working on something she’s passionate about, despite being told she should stop and go away. If that’s not grit, what is it?

It’s a strange thing, Duckworth said, to have played a significant part in the creation of an idea, only to have that idea run away from you and create a life of its own. Source


*Make a list of the number of education researchers you know by their last name. Betcha more have male first names than female. (Results may vary based on your background.)

+The funniest/saddest part of making history a hobby is realizing that nearly everything in education is steeped in racism and sexism. Sexism runs so deep in the American education system that I can promise that almost any “schoolman” or education researcher from the 1800’s or early 1900’s had misogynistic beliefs that went to the bone. Heck – the man who is basically responsible for Kindergarten had disdain for women that is breathtaking in its candor. Except for Dewey. That dude got it.


What do you see?

Check out the picture below.
What do you notice? What patterns do you see?


Source: Buzzfeed

In the picture, a group of young adults stand in two rows on steps in front of a home. The students in the back appear to be young men and are wearing pants, shirts and vests. They are looking off into the distance, chins raised and hands on their hips. The students on the bottom step appear to be young women. They are wearing formal gowns that are color-coded to their partners in the top row. Each young woman is holding open their partner’s shirt to reveal a superhero logo (Batman, Iron Man, Superman, Green Lantern, Captain America – all male superheros) and looking over her shoulder back at the photographer.

Feel the need to look at more examples before making observations about patterns in the picture? Do a Google image search for “prom superheroes.”

What do you notice? What patterns do you see?

What we see, what catches our eye, is informed by who we are. Our lived experiences, our frustrations, our interests, background, family, and friends. The challenge with images like this, as it is with so many things, is there’s no right way to interpret it. There is, though, a responsibility to consider what message we’re sending when we boost pictures like this.

More to the point, and more to what inspired this post, is how we respond when someone says they see something different. What do I see? I see kids having fun at the prom. I also see an image that is just the latest in a long pattern that presents boys as heroes, girls as helpers.

A pattern that includes images like this:

Students deserve to wear a cape… like Wolverine’s, Spider-man’s, Batman’s, Superman’s, Captain America’s, or Iron Man’s, The Hulk’s (half of whom I don’t think actually wear capes…). There’s a pattern there. A pattern girls and boys notice and internalize, to say nothing of the messages transgender children may be picked up.

Boys are heroes. Girls can only be heroes if they stop being a girl. Just ask Mulan.

They’re just kids having fun at prom. They’re just examples of superheros. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a picture. It doesn’t have any social value beyond that.

Speaking of the non-importance of the images we see in the media, may I introduce you to Ms. Marvel?  G. Willow Wilson, her creator, speaks to the importance of representation in comics.

Oh, in case you missed her, Marley Dias is changing the world. She’s changing it because she’s tired of “reading about white boys and their dogs.”

And by the way, did you catch #WhiteWashedOut yesterday? Give it a scroll. Read the words and stories of Asian Americans who talk about what it means to not see yourself represented in the media. I was especially struck by the stories of Asian American women around messages related to gender and beauty they got as girls.

One more: check out Geena Davis on Bullseye and listen to her talk about gender representation in the media. The statistics are staggering.

Representation matters. Patterns add up. If the images we boost, over and over again because they’re just “kids having a good time”, what images, voices, and representation are we not boosting? If we speak up about patterns and signal boosting and the response is, “eh, it’s just a picture”, what message are we sending about who gets to have their stories told or faces that look like them in pictures and media?

And for what it’s worth, there are about four things in the world for which I will not “agree to disagree.” This is one of them. I’ll go into the conversation with an open mind but any response that ignores the lived experiences of those who speak up about representation, I’m going to have words. Happy to hear your thoughts, though.