Systemic Change: The Rose that Grew from Concrete

Earlier this year I introduced big goals to my scholars by reading them Tupac Shakur’s poem, The Rose that Grew from Concrete.

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it’s dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

I showed them pictures of Tupac and told them about his life.  I explained to them the achievement gap.  They were inspired.  They understood the comparisons of concrete and their neighborhoods.  More importantly, they became invested in working to be roses growing from their concrete environments.

Thanks to Twitter, I always come across great articles and videos pertaining to education reform.  Recently, I watched a video of Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, an Associate Professor of Raza Studies and Education Administration and Interdisciplinary Studies at San Francisco State University.  It was a TED lecture entitled Growing Roses from Concrete.  Immediately after reading the title, I felt compelled to check it out.  Little did I know that upon clicking that link, I was in for the most powerful lecture I’ve heard in a long time.  Dr. Duncan-Andrade’s educational theory aligns exactly with what I envision needs to be done to systemically change our nation’s school.

Here is a small portion of the thirteen minute lecture:

[Tu]Pac says when you see a rose growing from concrete, you don’t question its damaged petals. Of course it has damaged petals. It’s growing in the concrete. Instead you celebrate its tenacity and its will to reach the sun. I think Pac is right to acknowledge that the concrete is real. And there are young people attempting to grow from concrete. And it is important to know that when we are attempting to grow roses from the concrete that we actually understand it better…The concrete is not natural. The conditions in which urban youth are growing are not natural, they are created, which means that they can be changed.”

I encourage you to check out the rest of the Dr. Duncan-Andrade’s lecture here.  It will give you much insight into the road less traveled in education reform:   acknowledging that children and families growing up in low-income neighborhoods do not have to live under these conditions.  These conditions are man-made and when we address the living environments of families in low-income and under-resourced communities, we also create a solid foundation to systemically reform our schools for the better.

13 minute TED Lecture:

Full 2-hour lecture given at Harvard University:  




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