EDUCATION, POVERTY AND RACE

November 07, 2019 at 4:30 am

We’ll take a look at Zachary Wood’s book “Uncensored” to explore insights on poverty, race and higher education from inside America’s colleges.CtD-Logo2


Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

Aired on November 6, 2019. 

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>> AS PUBLIC DISCOURSE IN OUR
COUNTRY, HAS IT BECOME A -- OF
ECHO CHAMBERS?
IT'S HARD TO NOT THINK THAT.
YOU VISIT A COLLEGE CAMPUS AND
THAT VIEW IS MORE ACUTE.
ZACHARY WOOD FOUND HIMSELF AT
THE CREPT ER-- AT THE CENTER OF
POLITICAL STORM WHEN HE INVITED
A GROUP OF CONTROVERSIAL
SPEAKERS TO THE PREDOMINANTLY
LIBERAL CAMPUS.
HE BECAME A CHAMPION, NOT SIMPY
OF FREE SPEECH, BUT IN THE
PROPOSITION THAT WE HAVE TO
ACTIVELY ENGAGE WITH IDEAS AND
BELIEFS THAT WE FIND IDEAL AND
OFFENSIVE.
NOW AT 22, HE HAS WRITTEN A
MEMOIR, UNSEMPNSORED, HE JOINS
NOW.
ZACH, THANK YOU FOR COMING ON
THE SHOW.
IT'S AN HONOR TO HAVE YOU HERE.
>> GLAD TO BE HERE.
>> A PUBLISHED MEMOIR PUBLISHED
BY A 22-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR, YOU
DON'T SEE IT OFTEN.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
>> SNAP YOUR FINGERS AND WISH --
>> YEAH, SURE.
>> I WAS FORTUNATE TO GROW UP IN
A FAMILY OF EDUCATORS, TO HAVE A
MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER WHO
PLACED HIGH VALUE ON LEARNING.
AND SO, MY LOVE OF READING LED
TO A LOVE OF WRITING.
SO, I HAD ALWAYS HAD AN INTEREST
IN WRITING, EXPRESSING MY VIEWS
AND MY THOUGHTS ON ISSUES THAT I
WAS INTERESTED IN.
AND WHEN I GOT TO WILLIAMS
COLLEGE, I DECIDED THAT I WANTED
TO CONTRIBUTE TO PUBLIC
DISCOURSE.
AND SO, THAT FOR ME MEANT
WRITING OP-EDS.
I WAS FORTUNATE TO WRITE AN
OP-ED FOR THE WASHINGTON POST
COMPLAINING THE CHALLENGES THAT
LOW INCOME AND FIRST GENERATION
STUDENTS FACE WHEN THEY GO HOME
FOR THE HOLIDAYS AND THAT LED
FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE MY
STORY.
>> YOU WERE ACTIVE IN ACADEMIC
CIRCLES.
BUT AT LEAST 3/4 OF THE BOOK IS
ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE THIS
EVENT.
WHY?
>> SO, FOR ME, YOU KNOW, IN
WRITING THIS, I WAS THINKING
ABOUT WHAT ARE THE EXPERIENCES
THAT HAVE SHAPED WHO I AM?
AND ONE OF THE BIGGEST
INFLUENCES IN MY LIFE WAS MY
MOTHER.
>> SURE.
>> AND SO THE FIRST THIRD OF THE
BOOK IS ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE WITH
HER.
AND ANOTHER SECOND MAJOR INFLU
MY FATHER, SO THAT WAS THE
SECOND THIRD OF THE BOOK AND THE
LAST THIRD IS ABOUT MY TIME AT
COLLEGE.
>> LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR MOTHER.
SHE IS TRULY A PROMINENT
CHARACTER IN THE BOOK.
AND I WOULD SAY THE MOST
IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR EARLY
LIFE.
TALK ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP AND
HOW IT AFFECTED YOU?
>> YOU KNOW, I KNEW MY MOTHER
LOVED ME DEARLY.
I KNEW THAT SHE WANTED TO GIVE
ME THE BEST AT THE SAME TIME, I
KNEW THAT OUR RELATIONSHIP WAS
CHALLENGING AND COMPLICATED AND
AT 6 OR 7 YEARS OLD, YOU DON'T
REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT MENTAL
ILLNESS IS.
BUT MY MOTHER HAD A DISORDER
THAT WAS A COMBINATIONS OF
SYMPTOMS OF BIPOLAR AND
PSCHITSOPHRENIA.
I HAD TO DECIDE IF IT WAS A GOOD
DAY OR BAD DAY.
AND HOW I WAS GOING TO RESPOND
TO THAT.
AND IT FORCED ME TO BE
COMPASSIONATE AT AN EARLY AGE.
>> WHY DO YOU THINK IT WAS
IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO BRING IN
WRITERS TO WILLIAMS WHO WERE
CONSIDERED HOMO-PHOBIC AND
XENOPHOBIC, HATEFUL, HATEFUL
WRITERS.
WHY DID YOU THINK IT WAS
IMPORTANT TO BRING THEM?
>> MY MOM RAISED ME TO BELIEVE
THAT SELF KNOWLEDGE IS
IMPORTANT.
AND EQUALLY IMPORTANT IS HAVING
A KIND OF STEAD FAST COMMITMENT
TO DEVELOPING A DEEPER
UNDERSTANDING OF HUMANITY.
FOR ME, THAT MEANT THAT I HAD TO
UNDERSTAND THE VIEWS AND THE
VALUES THAT I ADMIRE, AND ALSO,
THE VIEWS AND VALUES THAT I
DETEST.
THE VIEWS AND VALUES THAT I HOPE
TO RESIST.
THAT I HOPE TO CHANGE.
YOU HAVE TO ENGAGE WITH THEM.
AND YOU CAN'T JUST ENGAGE IN A
MODE OF THIS HAS TO BE AN
ADVERSARIAL INTERACTION.
YOU CAN LEAD WITH QUESTIONS.
IT OPENS UP POSSIBILITIES FOR
YOU TO FIND COMMON GROUND.
FOR ME, I THOUGHT THAT BRINGING
THE SPEAKERS WOULD HELP ME BE A
BETTER CHANGE AGENT ONE DAY.
>> WHAT WOULD BE ONE OF THE MOST
CONVINCING ARGUMENTS THAT YOU
PIERS TOLD YOU AS TO WHY THE
SPEAKER SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN
INVITED.
>> ONE OF THE MOST COMPELLING
COUNTER ARGUMENTS TO THE WORK
THAT I WAS DOING WAS THAT, IT
WAS ALREADY DIFFICULT ENOUGH TO
BE A MINORITY ON CAMPUS.
IT WAS ALREADY DIFFICULT ENOUGH
TO BE A POOR STUDENT AT AN ELITE
INSTITUTION WHERE THE MAJORITY
OF THE STUDENT BODY WAS FAIRLY
AFFLUENT, THERE'S ALREADY ENOUGH
CHALLENGES, OBSTACLES, MICRO
AGGRESSION, TO HAVE TO THEN
BRING IN A SPEAKER ON TOP OF
THOSE THINGS, THAT YOU HAVE TO
DEAL WITH IN INTERACTIONS WITH
THE DORMS AND DINING HALLS AND
IN CLASSES AND TO HAVE SOMEBODY
THAT IS ESPOUSING AND SAYING
THINGS THAT ARE DISTURBING AND
UNSETTLING AND QUESTION THE WAY
IN WHICH YOU IDENTIFY AND VIEW
YOURSELF -- IT'S AN ADDED
WEIGHT.
>> WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENT THAT
YOU WERE LEGITIMIZING THEM.
>> THAT WAS AN ARGUMENT THAT YOU
WERE ENDORSING WHAT THEY WERE
SAYING BY GIVING THEM A
PLATFORM.
MY VIEW IS, THERE'S COSTS AND
BENEFITS WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING
THAT MATTERS.
WHEN YOU ARE ENGAGED IN A TOPIC
WORTH DISCUSSING.
THERE'S CHALLENGES AND
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES TO
HAVING TOUGH CONVERSATIONS, TO
TAKING MEASURES TO ACHIEVE
CHANGE.
I THOUGHT THERE WAS A POTENTIAL
FOR THE BENEFITS TO OUT WEIGH
THE POSITIVE.
>> WAS THERE A SPEAKER OR
DISCOURSE THAT YOU SAY, WE
CANNOT GIVE IT A PLATFORM?
>> ABSOLUTELY.
>> WHERE IS THAT LINE?
>> FOR ME, IF THE SPEAKER IS NOT
INTELLECTUALLY SERVICE, SAYING
THAT THEY BELIEVE WHAT THEY SAY,
AND THAT THE WORLD IS BETTER FOR
IT, I WILL NOT BRING A FLAT
EARTH --
>> PRESIDENT TRUMP SAID THAT HE
WOULD CUT OFF FEDERAL FUNDING
FOR UNIVERSITIES THAT PROHIBIT
FREEDOM OF SPEECH THE WAY HE
SEES IT.
DO YOU THINK IT'S A GOOD IDEA?
>> I THINK IT'S A BAD IDEA.
IT'S A BLUNT INSTRUMENT.
WE WANT TO WIN THE ARGUMENT.
WE WANT THE IDEAS TO PREVAIL.
WE WANT TO PERSUADE PEOPLE THAT
THIS IS WHY FREE SPEECH MATTERS.
THIS IS NOT AN INSTRUMENT THAT
YOU WANT TO USE FORCE.
THAT OPENS UP --
>> IT'S COUNTER PRODUCTIVE.
>> AND IT SETS A DANGEROUS
PRECEDENT.
>> YOU TOLD YOUR PEERS WHEN YOU
WERE IN COLLEGE, THAT YOUR GOAL
WAS TO BE THE PRESIDENT OF THE
UNITED STATES.
IS THAT STILL THE CASE?
>> THAT IS STILL THE CASE.
I HOPE TO BE A PUBLIC SERVANT
ONE DAY.
I'M INTERESTED IN PEOPLE AND
PEOPLE'S STORIES AND HELPING
PEOPLE HAVE BETTER STORIES AND I
CARE ABOUT THE ISSUES.
>> ALL RIGHT, ZACH, I WISH WE
HAD MORE TIME.
IT WAS A FANTASTIC BOOK.
I REALLY RECOMMEND EVERYONE TO
READ IT, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR
JOINING US TODAY.
>> THANK YOU, ABSOLUTELY.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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