Survivor's Remorse | Kandice Sumner | TEDxBeaconStreet (2023)


Tired of hearing about the achievement gap? We've been looking at it all wrong. This provocative and poignant talk challenges the masses to think differently about the education of the urban child.

Key Words: Education Debt, Achievement Gap, Urban, Suburban, Desegregation

Kandice A. Sumner, M.Ed, is a doctoral student in Urban Education Policy and successful Boston Public School teacher. Going from being one of a few Blacks in her school to learning at a historically Black college to teaching in the underserved and predominately Black neighborhood of Dorchester, Kandice has spent a lifetime traversing the race, class and gender lines of Boston, Mass.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at


About my kids now I know, everyone thinks that their kids is the most fantastic, the most beautiful kid that ever lived.

But mine really are I have 696 kids.

And they are the most intelligent inventive, innovative brilliant and powerful kids that you'll ever meet any student I'd have the honor of teaching in my classroom is my kid, however, because their real parents, aren't, rich and I argue, because they are mostly of color, they will seldom get to see in themselves, the awesomeness that I see in them because what I see in them is myself, or what would have been myself? I, am the daughter of two hard-working, college-educated, african-american parents who chose careers as public servants.

My father a minister, my mother an educator wealth was never the primary ambition in our house, because of this lack of wealth we lived in a neighborhood that lacked wealth and henceforth a school system that lacked wealth.

Luckily, however, we struck the educational jackpot in a voluntary desegregation program that buses inner-city kids black and brown out to suburban schools, rich and white at five years old I had to take an hour-long bus ride to a faraway place to get a better education at five years old, I thought, everyone had a life just like mine, I thought, everyone went to school and were the only ones using the brown crayons to color in their family portraits.

While everyone else were using the peach colored ones at five years old, I thought, everyone was just like me.

But as I got older I started noticing things like how come my neighborhood friends, don't have to wake up at five o'clock in the morning and go to a school that's an hour away, how come I'm learning to play the violin while my neighborhood friends, don't even have a music class? Why were my neighborhood friends learning and reading material that I had done two to three years? Prior see as I got older I started to have this unlawful feeling in my belly like I was doing something that I wasn't supposed to be doing taking something that wasn't mine receiving a gift, but with someone else's name on it.

All these amazing things that I was being exposed to and experiencing I felt I wasn't really supposed to have I wasn't supposed to have a library fully equipped athletic facilities or safe fields to play in I wasn't supposed to have theater departments with seasonal plays and concerts digital visual Performing, Arts, I, wasn't supposed to have fully resourced biology or chemistry labs, school buses that brought me door-to-door freshly prepared school lunches or even air-conditioning.

These are things.

My kids don't get you see as I got older while I was grateful for this amazing opportunity that I was being given there was this ever-present pang of.

But what about everyone else? There are thousands of other kids just like me who deserve this - why doesn't everyone get this? Why is a high quality education only exclusive to the rich? It was like I had some sort of survivor's remorse.

All of my neighborhood friends were experiencing an educational trainwreck that I was saved from through a bus ride.

I was like an education of Moses screaming.

Let my people go to high quality schools, I'd seen firsthand how the other half was being treated and educated I'd seen the educational promised land and I could not for the life me justify the disparity I now.

Teach in the very same school system from which I sought refuge, I know, firsthand the tools that were given to me as a student.

And now as a teacher, I don't have access to those same tools to give to my students.

There have been countless nights when I've cried in frustration, anger and sorrow because I can't teach my kids the way that I was taught because I don't have access to the same resources or tools that were use to teach me my kids deserve so much better.

We sit, and we keep banging our heads against this term.

Achievement gap, achievement gap, is it really that hard to understand what these kids perform well.

And these kids don't, I mean, really I think we've got it all wrong.

I think we as Gloria ladson-billings says, should flip our paradigm and our language and call it what it really is it's, not an achievement gap, it's, an education debt for all of the forgone schooling resources that were never invested in the education of the black and brown child over time.

A little-known secret in American history is that the only American institution created specifically for people of color, the American slave trade.

And someone argued the prison system, but that's another topic for another TED talk.

The public school system of this country was built bought and paid for using commerce generated from the slave trade and slave labor while African Americans were enslaved and prohibited from schooling, their labor established the very institution from which they were excluded ever since then every court case.

Educational policy reform has been an attempt to retrofit the design rather than just stopping and acknowledging.

We've had it all wrong from the beginning and simplification of American educational history.

Alright, just bear with me.

Blacks were kept out.

You know, the whole slavery thing with the help of philanthropic white people, they built their own schools.

Separate-But-Equal was okay.

But while we all know things were indeed separate.

They were in no ways, equal enter Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas in 1954, legal separation of the races is now illegal, but very few people pay attention to all of the court cases since then that have undone the educational promised land for every child that Brown versus Board intended.

Some argue that today, our schools are now more segregated than they ever were before.

We tried to desegregate them in the first place teaching my kids about desegregation in the Little Rock Nine.

The civil rights movement is a real awkward moment in my classroom when I have to hear the voice of a child ask if schools were desegregated in 1954, how come there are no white kids here.

These kids aren't dumb, I know, exactly what's happening and what's, not they know that when it comes to schooling black lives, don't matter, and they never have for years I tried desperately to cultivate in my kids.

A love of reading I had a master montes classroom.

Library of books, I'd accumulated from second-hand shops.

Thrift stores attics, you know, but whenever I said, those dreadful words take out a book and read, you'd think I just declared war.

It was torture.

One day after I heard about this website called DonorsChoose, where classroom teachers create wish lists of items.

They need for the classroom and anonymous donors, fulfill them I figured, I'd go out on a limb and just make a wish list of the teenagers dream library over 200 brand-new books were sent to my room piece by piece every day there were new deliveries.

And my kids would exclaim with glee just feels like Christmas.

Then they'd say, mr.

witness books, come from and then I reply strangers from all over the country wanted you to have these.

And then they'd say almost suspiciously, but they're brand-new to which I reply.

You deserve brand-new books, the whole experience hit home for me.

When one of my girls as she peeled open, a crisp, paperback said, miss thomna, you know, I figured you bought these books because your teachers are always buy enough stuff.

But to know that a stranger, someone I don't, even know cares this much about me, it's, pretty cool knowing that strangers will take care of.

You is a privilege.

My kids aren't afforded ever since the donation.

There has been a steady stream of kids signing out books to take home, and then returning them with the exclamation.

This one was good.

Now when I say take out a book and read kids rushed to my library, it wasn't that they didn't want to read.

But instead they gladly read if the resources were there, institutionally speaking, our public school system has never done right by the black and brown child.

We keep focusing on the end results or test results and getting frustrated we get to a catastrophe.

And we wonder how did it get so bad? How did we get here? Really? If you neglect a child long enough, you no longer have the right to be surprised when things don't turn out well, stop being perplexed or confused or befuddled by the achievement gap, the income gap, the incarceration rates or whatever socio-economic disparity is the new it term for the the problems we have as a country are the problems we created as a country.

The quality of your education is directly proportionate to your access to college, your access to jobs your access to the future until we live in a world, where every kid can get a high quality education, no matter where they live or the color of their skin.

There are things we can do on a macro level school funding should not be decided by property taxes, or some funky economic equation, where rich kids continue to benefit from state aid.

While poor kids are continuously having food and resources taken from their mouths.

Governor's senators, mayors City, Council members, if we're gonna call public education, public education.

And it should be just that otherwise.

We should call it what it really is poverty, insurance public education, keeping poor kids poor since nineteen fifty four, if we really as a country believe that education is the great equalizer, then it should be just that equal and equitable until then there's, no democracy and our democratic education on a meso level.

Historically, speaking the education of the black and brown child has always depended on the philanthropy of others.

And unfortunately, today it still does if your son or daughter or niece or nephew or neighbor or little Timmy down.

The street goes to an affluent school challenge your school committee to adopt an impoverished school or an impoverished classroom close the divide by engaging in communication and relationships.

That matter when resources are shared they're, not divided they're multiplied.

And on a micro level, if you're a human being donate time, money, resources opportunities, whatever is in your heart.

There are websites like DonorsChoose that recognize the disparity and actually want to do something about it.

What is a carpenter with no tools? What is an actress with no stage? What is the scientist with no laboratory? What is the doctor with no tools or equipment I'll, tell you they're, my kids shouldn't, they be your kids too.

Thank you.


What was Kandice Sumner experience with education growing up? ›

Born and raised in urban Boston, Kandice graduated from a suburban school system through a voluntary desegregation program (METCO). She then matriculated Spelman College (a historically Black liberal arts college) and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Who is Kandice Sumner? ›

National public speaker, author and consultant on issues of race, achievement, antiracism, culture, equity and activism.

Who was the educator from Massachusetts who in 1837 proposed the common school? ›

Horace Mann, often called the Father of the Common School, began his career as a lawyer and legislator. When he was elected to act as Secretary of the newly-created Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837, he used his position to enact major educational reform.

What did James Coleman's study of the achievement gap in American schools determine? ›

The Coleman Report concludes that its measures of most school resources were only weakly associated with student achievement.

Who invented school homework? ›

Roberto Nevelis of Venice, Italy, is often credited with having invented homework in 1095—or 1905, depending on your sources.

What was the first school in the world? ›

Guinness World Records and UNESCO list the world's oldest school as University of al-Qarawiyyin (also known as al Quaraouiyine) in Fez, Morocco. Al- Qarawiyyin, which was established by Fatima al-Fihri, gets the stamp of “first university” because it has been in continuous operation since 859.

Who was the first teacher? ›

Confucius is thought to have been the world's first teacher. He was a private tutor who taught history. Previously, only the royal or noble classes had access to education.

Who is the father of American education pushed for public education for everyone? ›

Known as the “father of American education,” Horace Mann (1796–1859), a major force behind establishing unified school systems, worked to establish a varied curriculum that excluded sectarian instruction.

What were Coleman's findings? ›

The Coleman Report found that school funding levels do not significantly affect student achievement, but student background and teacher effectiveness do. Sociologist James Coleman found that black students perform better in racially-integrated classrooms, which led to desegregated busing programs.

What is the most plausible explanation for the achievement gap? ›

Generally speaking, however, socioeconomic differences are the major cause of Achievement Gaps, which is to say that Achievement Gaps are largest in places with large economic disparities.

What was the Massachusetts Board of Education 1837? ›

The board was established in 1837 and is the second oldest state board of education in the United States. Governor Edward Everett had recommended the establishment of a board of education in his address to the 1837 legislature's opening session.

Who is considered the father of public education from Massachusetts? ›

Students' in the United States should thank Horace Mann. Mann was the countries "father of public education. Born on May 4, 1796 he became secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837.

Who worked to create the first public schools in Massachusetts? ›

On April 23, 1635, the first public school in what would become the United States was established in Boston, Massachusetts. Known as the Boston Latin School, this boys-only public secondary school was led by schoolmaster Philemon Pormont, a Puritan settler.

Who was the head of the Massachusetts Board of Education? ›

Patrick Tutwiler, Ph.

Secretary Tutwiler sits on each of the boards governing the Commonwealth's education agencies, as well as the University of Massachusetts system. He is Governor Maura Healey's top advisor on education and helps shape the Commonwealth's education agenda.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Nicola Considine CPA

Last Updated: 21/08/2023

Views: 5243

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Nicola Considine CPA

Birthday: 1993-02-26

Address: 3809 Clinton Inlet, East Aleisha, UT 46318-2392

Phone: +2681424145499

Job: Government Technician

Hobby: Calligraphy, Lego building, Worldbuilding, Shooting, Bird watching, Shopping, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Nicola Considine CPA, I am a determined, witty, powerful, brainy, open, smiling, proud person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.