The Courageous Conversations Project: Interrogating Perspectives and Perceptions of Race, Poverty, and Schooling in South Africa and the United States

  • Arnold Dodge
  • Berte van Wyk
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE, volume 29)


Issues of race, poverty, and injustice are woven into the historical narratives of South Africa and the United States. Hundreds of years of tumultuous social upheavals in both countries – enslaving and marginalizing minorities, civil wars, power struggles between the powerful and the more powerful, periodic bursts of egalitarian initiatives – bring us to the modern era where we witness firsthand the continuation of racial and social strife and the attempts to address it. The Courageous Conversations Project attempts to elicit frank discourse on the subject of race, poverty, and schooling, understanding that present-day educational matters reside within the larger context of historical narratives. The project, coordinated by educational leaders in both countries, is committed to moving in a positive direction and is fueled by the courage of the participants to be actors in uncharted territory. The participants are creating an “aspirational space” to motivate others to join us in these conversations. This “space” bestrides the twin phenomena of poverty and race and attempts to unpack the economic forces at work as well as the family and social capital inheritances of youngsters in South African and US schools. For the school leaders who are involved in this project, we expect no less than steadfastness of purpose and a resolve to “make things happen.” They have all pledged to contribute to the project in the spirit of social change.


Gini Index School Leader Child Poverty Historical Narrative Social Injustice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Alba, R. (2009). Blurring the color line: The new chance for a more integrated America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, N. (2004). Implications of Brown v. Board of Education (PRAESA occasional papers no. 20). Cape Town, South Africa: University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  3. Attie, J. (2010, October). The shifting categories of race and ethnicity: A historical perspective. Ethnic Events Week. Symposium conducted at Long Island University/C.W. Post Campus, Brookville, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Berliner, D. (2009). Are teachers responsible for low achievement of students? Kappa Delta Pi Record, 46, 18–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bogotch, I., Beachum, F., Blount, J., Brooks, J., & English, F. (2008). Radicalizing educational leadership: Dimensions of social justice. Taipei, Taiwan: Sense.Google Scholar
  6. Bryson, D. (2010). Language still bitter issue in S. Africa schools. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from
  7. Buehler, J., Gere, A., Dallavis, C., & Haviland, V. (2009). Normalizing the fraughtness: How emotion, race, and school context complicate cultural competence. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(4), 408–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bush, G. (2000, July 10). Campaign speech. NAACP annual meeting. Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  9. Callan, E. (1991). Cry the beloved country. A novel of South Africa: (A study). New York: Twayne.Google Scholar
  10. Counts, G. (1978). Dare the school build a new social order. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Davidoff, S. (2010). ACE school leadership implementation guidelines. Cape Town, South Africa: University of Stellenbosch.Google Scholar
  12. Dodge, A. (2009). Heuristics and NCLB standardized tests: A convenient lie. International Journal of Progressive Education, 5(2), 6–22.Google Scholar
  13. Dugger, C. (2009, September 20). Eager students in South Africa fall prey to apartheid’s legacy. The New York Times, pp. 2, 10.Google Scholar
  14. Dugger, C. (2010, November 22). Campus that apartheid ruled faces a policy rift. The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2010, from
  15. Dyson, A., & Smitherman, G. (2009). The right (write) start: African American language and the discourse of sounding right. Teachers College Record, 111, 973–998.Google Scholar
  16. Endo, E. (2010, September 29). LI has 32 of richest ZIP codes. Newsday, p. A4.Google Scholar
  17. Frum, D. (2011, September 11). Down, not out. [Review of the book That used to be us]. New York Times Book Review, pp. 1, 14.Google Scholar
  18. Galman, S., Pica-Smith, C., & Rosenberger, C. (2010). Aggressive and tender navigations: Teacher educators confront whiteness in their practice. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(3).Google Scholar
  19. Gross, E. (2011, June 12). Separate, unequal. Newsday, p. A34.Google Scholar
  20. Guinier, L., & Torres, G. (2002). The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting race, resisting power, transforming democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Harris, D. (2007). High-flying schools, student disadvantage, and the logic of NCLB. American Journal of Education, 13(3), 367–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hart, B., & Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday lives of young American children. Baltimore: Brookes.Google Scholar
  23. Isaacson, W. (2010). Einstein: His life and universe. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  24. Kahlenberg, R. (2009). Turnaround schools that work: Moving beyond separate but equal. New York: The Century Foundation.Google Scholar
  25. Khan, N. (2010, June 14). South Africa’s cup is half empty. The Daily News, p. 44.Google Scholar
  26. Kirkland, D. (2010). “Black skin, white masks”: Normalizing whiteness and the trouble with the achievement gap. Teachers College Record. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from ID Number: 16116.
  27. Kristoff, N. (2011, January 2). Equality, a true soul food. The New York Times, p. 10.Google Scholar
  28. Mahler, J. (2011, April 10). Reformed school. The New York Times Magazine, pp. 34–41, 52–53.Google Scholar
  29. Martin-Kniep, G. (2008). Communities for learning: Leading lasting change. Garden City, NY: Dispositions of Practice in Schools.Google Scholar
  30. Mbunyuza de HeerMenlah, M. (2010, September). Relationship between education and poverty. Presented at University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria, South Africa.Google Scholar
  31. McCarthy, P. (2011). Child poverty rate climbs in 38 states. Huffington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2011, from
  32. McDonald, M. (2009, July 20). Blame storming – One of the signs of weak management. Retrieved from blog
  33. Mindell, A. (1995). Sitting in the fire: Large group transformation using conflict and diversity. Portland, OR: Lao Tse Press.Google Scholar
  34. Moll, L. (2010). Mobilizing culture, language, and educational practices: Fulfilling the promises of Mendez and Brown. Educational Researcher, 39, 451–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Naidu, E. (2003, December 21). Inequality makes rights for all a ‘fairytale façade.’ Sunday Independent, pp. 11–13.Google Scholar
  36. Okun, T. (2010). The emperor has no clothes: Teaching about race and racism to people who don’t want to know. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  37. Paton, A. (1948/2003). Cry, the beloved country. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
  38. Roodt, M. (2010). The school makes all the difference. Fast Facts for Local Government. SAIIRR internal reference: PD14/2010.Google Scholar
  39. Rothstein, R. (2008). Whose problem is poverty? Educational Leadership, 65(7), 8–13.Google Scholar
  40. Shields, C., Larocque, L., & Oberg, S. (2002). A dialogue about race and ethnicity in education: Struggling to understand issues in cross-cultural leadership. Journal of School Leadership, 12, 116–137.Google Scholar
  41. Skrla, L., McKenzie, K., & Scheurich, J. (2009). Using equity audits to create equitable and excellent schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.Google Scholar
  42. Taylor, G. (2007). Derrick Bell’s narratives as parables. NYU Review of Law and Social Change, 31, 225–271.Google Scholar
  43. The Shame of the Suburbs. (2004, June 12). Newsday, editorial page.Google Scholar
  44. Theoharris, G. (2010). Disrupting injustice: Principals narrate the strategies they use to improve their schools and advance social justice. Teachers College Record, 112(1), 331–373.Google Scholar
  45. Titus, A. (1974, June). Twenty years after Brown v. Board of Education: U.S. school segregation then and now. The Educational Journal, pp. 5–7.Google Scholar
  46. van Wyk, B. (2010a, May). Poverty, race and schooling. Paper presented at Long island University/C.W Post Campus, New York.Google Scholar
  47. van Wyk, B. (2010b, September). Race, poverty and schooling: Social justice perspectives from South Africa and the USA. Paper presented at University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa.Google Scholar
  48. Wells, A. S. (2010, May 14). A discussion of why boundaries matter. Symposium conducted at Adelphi University, Garden City, New York.Google Scholar
  49. Wheatley, M. (2009). Turning to one another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.Google Scholar
  50. Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2011). Greater equality: The hidden key to better health and higher scores. American Educator, 35(1), 5–9.Google Scholar
  51. Winslow, O. (2010, October 20). Survey: Gap in racial attitude persists. Newsday, p. A20.Google Scholar
  52. Wright, R. (1940/1966). Native son. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  53. Wrobel, B. (2011, June 21). NAACP report: Under educate, over incarcerate. Point of View, p. 14.Google Scholar
  54. Zehr, M. (2010). Obama administration targets ‘disparate impact’ of discipline. Education Week, 30(7). Retrieved October 7, 2010, from
  55. Zikode, S. (2010, November 16). Lessons from the militant poor in post-apartheid South Africa. Paper presented at the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, CUNY Graduate Center, New York City.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Leadership and AdministrationLong Island University/C.W. Post CampusBrookvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Education Policy StudiesStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations