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Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools

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Deepen your understanding of racial factors in academic performance and discover new strategies for closing the achievement gap!

Examining the achievement gap through the prism of race, the authors explain the need for candid, courageous conversations about race in order to understand why performance inequity persists. Through these "courageous conversations," educators will learn how to create a learning community that promotes true academic parity. Practical features of this book include:

Implementation exercises Prompts, language, and tools that support profound discussion Activities and checklists for administrators Action steps for creating an equity team

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Glenn E. Singleton

8 books20 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 78 reviews
Profile Image for Rose Peterson.
275 reviews10 followers
May 19, 2019
You can't get far in equity circles before the title Courageous Conversations about Race comes up. I finally got around to reading this book when I was given the opportunity to join a book club that had selected it as their focal text. I was underwhelmed, though, after all the hype.

Perhaps most crucially, I do not feel better equipped to lead courageous conversations about race after finishing this book. It provides a glut of "The 4 This" and "The Circle of That" and countless acronyms, but they bog down rather than enlighten. Additionally, I felt Singleton was overly self-promoting, and the book read more like an ad for the book itself rather than an actual explanation of the strategies and concepts within the book. I've heard good things about Singleton's Beyond Diversity training, so maybe his concepts lend themselves better to real-time, interactive learning rather than reading from a book.

At the end of the day, this book does not do any harm, and that is not always the case with books about equity, but I do believe there are other books that do more good. I would suggest From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga Yamhatta-Taylor, We Want to Do More Than Just Survive by Bettina Love, or White Fragility by Robin D'Angelo to book clubs seeking to have similar conversations before I would recommend this book. If this book is appropriate for anyone, it would best apply to educators new to equity work; seasoned educators may see it as reinforcing but not reinvigorating the work.
Profile Image for Jay Reinoso.
4 reviews
August 25, 2018
I read this book during the summer before beginning a new job as a high school Spanish teacher. As a young teacher of color, this book helped me reflect on my own understanding of my own racial identity as a Latino, first generation American. There were moments in the book where I thought to myself “Will my White colleagues be willing to engage in these Courageous Conversations?” “What steps are needed for them to get to a starting point to discuss race in schools?” and “What are some effective questions to begin the conversation with my own about their own understanding of race?”. Singleton incorporates many points for reflection that not only are directed to White readers but readers of all racial identities. As the racial demographics of the United States grows more and more with each passing year, this book is key for all educators if they truly wish to best serve ALL students that walk into their classroom.
Profile Image for angrykitty.
1,120 reviews12 followers
September 15, 2008
i'm gonna be honest and say i'm having a really hard time with this book as it seems to paint asians in a very poor light. i'll finish it because i have to for work, but i'm not going to enjoy it.

this book is pissing me off so much i can't stand it. i have to find a way to get out of the discussion we're supposed to have about it at work next week. i'm gonna end up being the crazy asian lady again if i don't....

totally crappy book....with insights like.....jews are white before they are jewish...hmmm....i think there may be a couple of jews out there that may disagree with this idea. or...in explaining why Latinos are receiving "attention" to their needs....."Others squarely see the new focus as the way White people can hold on to power and gain political insurance through forging alliances and granting a modicum of power to Latinos and other non-Black people of color." in other words....whitey is letting some minorities have a "modicum" of power just to keep kepping the black man down. the rest of the minorities are just the white man's puppets. as a non-black...i am insulted by this book and its biases, and i can't believe i was forced to read it. i would give it no stars if i could, but i can't even give it one because of that damn naked lunch book.
Profile Image for Shaeley Santiago.
869 reviews56 followers
December 31, 2019
Contains a protocol for talking about race plus many exercises that can be used with staff in a school setting and racial autobiographies that reflect people's journeys to understand how their own lives are impacted by race.

Too many quotes to list, this is definitely a book to read again and again on the journey to be more critically conscious.
Profile Image for Karlyn.
87 reviews6 followers
November 15, 2007
I fully agreed with the argument that educators (especially white educators) need to understand the pervasive reaches of white privilege and institutional racism in order to successfully close the racial achievement gap. However, do "courageous conversations" achieve the same enlightenment when held amongst a predominantly white staff? Anne Braden forcefully claimed that white people holding conversations about race with other white people is a dangerous activity, and I agree. Some of the culturally diverse school districts that need to discuss white privilege have an overwhelming white staff, and Courageous Conversations needs to address such scenarios in order to achieve a more applicable and wider influence.
Profile Image for Xan Rooyen.
Author 33 books107 followers
March 22, 2022
Hard to rate a work like this but I think it's a book every educator, regardless of position in the institute, needs to read.

Having worked through this both in a book club with colleagues and independently, there are many fantastic protocols, charts, diagrams, and templates that can be employed and adapted to fit the specific situation wherein a difficult conversation about race needs to happen.

While this is very US-centric, the author constantly encourages readers to extrapolate the content and adapt it to fit their specific context - sometimes easier said than done when nuance is lost or can be misunderstood.

I most enjoyed the anecdotal essays by various people across a range of identities expressing their own personal journeys with and thoughts on racial identity and intersectionality.

There is a lot to digest here and I'm glad I marked the most important passages for me with sticky notes as this is an anti-racist reference and resource I know I will return to again and again. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for practical ways to combat systemic racism, white supremacy, and unconscious bias in both professional and personal life.
Profile Image for Lisajean.
222 reviews41 followers
February 10, 2021
My rating is probably unfair, because I think the book accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: an administrator can easily use it as a guide to run a series of anti-racism trainings in a majority white school. The trainings won’t be super deep and they won’t make a direct connection to pedagogy, but they will help get teachers thinking about race in a productive way.

I just was hoping for more. There were some good insights, but most of the book was an introduction to anti-racism and left out a lot of nuance and practical classroom applications. Also, as another reviewer noted, the book feels oddly like an advertisement for itself. All of the acronyms and compass points and carefully defined steps in various processes felt more distracting than helpful. I’m hoping that Not Light But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom will be more aligned to my needs.
Profile Image for Jennifer Tonelli.
14 reviews3 followers
August 15, 2020
Every educator, parent, and administrator should read this book. Full of knowledge, trufh, and harsh but real realities of our current educational system in the United States. It beings wirh definitions and making sure all readers are all on the same page and then develops into how to begin to discuss race in a context that is helpful for all, albeit quite difficult and uncomfortable. I feel as though no matter what stage you are in your journey with understanding race and becoming anti racist, I encourage and plead with you to read this. It will even help those not in the education field.
Profile Image for Clare.
116 reviews7 followers
October 10, 2020
This book is an invaluable guide for personal reflection on how racism shapes one's worldview as well as a practical roadmap for any educator passionate about creating truly equitable schools where all children are empowered to actualize their inherent brilliance. Glen Singleton says he wrote this book to "provide [educators] with the insight and tools [they] need to eliminate racial achievement disparities." I believe he succeeded in his mission.
Profile Image for Rachel.
65 reviews1 follower
July 20, 2020
To say that I learned a lot reading this book is an understatement. I wish I had a book club or friends in education to discuss it with. This is a must-read for teachers!
June 7, 2018
I had hoped that this book would offer more examples of conversations and examples from classrooms; however, this serves as a program that schools can use to help teachers understand race and biases in the classroom.

I also really liked their definition of equity: “it is an operational principle that enables educators to provide whatever level of support is needed to whichever students require it” (p. 47).

The program is based on Four Agreements and Six Conditions:

“The initial action for educators entering into Courageous Conversations is to commit to practicing the Four Agreements: (1) stay engaged (2) speak your truth (3) experience discomfort (4) expect and accept non-disclosure” (p. 17).

“The Six Conditions of Courageous Conversation guide participants through what they are supposed to talk about and what they need to be mindful of during the interracial dialogue. ...
(1) Establish a racial context that is personal, local, and immediate.
(2) Isolate race while acknowledging the broader scope of diversity and the variety of factors and conditions that contribute to a racialized problem.
(3) Develop understanding of race as a social/political construction of knowledge and engage multiple perspectives to surface critical understanding.
(4) Monitor the parameters of the conversation by being explicit and intentional about he number of participants, prompts for discussion, and time allotted for listening, speaking and reflecting.
(5) Establish agreement around a contemporary working decision of race, one that is clearly differentiated from ethnicity and nationality.
(6) Examine the presence and role of Whiteness and it’s impact on the conversation and the problem being addressed.
Profile Image for Chris Moran.
44 reviews
February 15, 2022
This ended up being somewhat of an advert for a program the author has developed for getting deeper into race discussions. The truth is, if you are truly hoping to be frank and honest about these discussions, this program seems like a great start. My group has begun this discussion over the last few years, so we're not sure how a prescribed program will flow with us.
All that said, this is filled with great mindfulness questions and challenges. Getting past the beginning where it goes on about how this edition is different than the 1st because of the change in collaboration status with his previous co-author is rewarded with a good deal more meaning and depth. I was expected to participate in a group to discuss this book. I was falling short on time, so I planned to read the Facilitator Guide to fill in for the chapters I wasn't going to get to. While reading the guide, I had questions about the content, so I went back to the book for more details... and what I ended up deciding was that I was better off just reading those chapters. There was so much going on and it was worth my slow reading self to push through in some record time.

If you are afraid of self-reflection and risking feeling uncomfortable, then you might not be ready for this. But the author make the point I agree with... a lot of people are going to need to become more uncomfortable before meaningful discussion and change occurs.

He also does well do explain why being "colorblind" is NOT a solution and if anything just emboldens the problems of racism, systemic or not.

I did not do the "work" included in the book, as I think it's meant for a group to participate in together, so I cannot comment so much on that aspect.
Profile Image for Catherine Theriault.
174 reviews9 followers
May 26, 2012
When I started this book I didn't really expect to be deeply affected...after all I've been teaching with a social justice focus in a racially diverse school for 20 years. My response took me by surprise--Courageous Conversations opens up doors that I didn't even know existed, most notable among my own learning community. I'm now more sensitive to teaching with the race lens and am more open to discussing race with students and colleagues. It's utterly transformative and powerful work.
Profile Image for North Landesman.
491 reviews8 followers
June 28, 2018
Glad I read this book. Singlegton's big idea, that race is an issue and needs to be talked about, is a important issue facing educators. It made me reconsider some of what it means to be White. How much of "culture" is really "white culture." I liked how he used data. My two big questions:
1. How can a White educator feel safe having an honest conversation about race without fear of being labeled a racist?
2. Does this whole idea need to be system wide to work?
Profile Image for "Stars".
31 reviews2 followers
October 23, 2007
Wow. I've now read this book and met the author...and I am SO much more aware of race and it's role in systemic organizations. My biggest Ah-ha moment: If minority students fail in our educational systems, teachers are sent to a workshop; if white students fail, teachers lose their jobs.

If we're not working towards a solution, we are part of the problem.
Profile Image for Patricia.
2,257 reviews43 followers
March 2, 2010
Explains how to have conversations about race in a constructive and courageous way. I liked that the authors were very clear that conversations about race would be uncomfortable. They also discussed all the ways people use to avoid talking about race. I entered this book a skeptic, but came out a convert.
Profile Image for Melodie.
11 reviews
May 14, 2009
I'm actually conducting workshops w/ this text....I find that after my third time reading it...the information is finally beginning to settle in. This is a hard read and is likely to make you angry.
Profile Image for Josiah Aston.
51 reviews2 followers
April 12, 2018
Provocative yet enlightening

I found myself angered multiple times when reading this book. As a white male, I was asked to embrace the knowledge and privilege of my race, recognizing that others do not have such privileges. I cannot deny these privileges, but I felt that many of the author's claims of racism were founded on faulty assumptions and perceptions. According to him, unless engaged in racial equity work, you are perpetuating racism.

I felt this book opened my eyes to the racial beliefs of many, and as a learner, I appreciated the perspective. I now agree that we need to have more conversations about how race impacts achievement, but I feel this book offers excuses as solutions (or doesn't offer any solutions at all).

For those of you that pride yourselves on your "colorblindness," or lack of recognition of people's color, prepare to be demonized. If you think racial achievement gap issues are primarily related to cultural values and influences, prepare to have your beliefs summarily dismissed.

While challenging and often angering, I would recommend this book to all educators. You don't have to drink the Koolaid, but at least you'll know how it's made.
Profile Image for Jeni Enjaian.
2,090 reviews29 followers
January 1, 2022
This book is an amazing resources for all educators. I started highlighting and tabbing because I kept coming across statements that really cut me to the quick and/or were things that I needed to remember and take to heart. One thing that tempered my experience with the book, however, is something completely out of my control and that is the environment in which I work, an environment completely hostile, in passive aggressive ways, to the critical concepts laid out in this book. Every time Singleton emphasized the need for Courageous Conversations to be implemented on the large scale, I felt a little defeated because I do not see any hope of that happening in the school system in which I work.
That being said, I highly recommend this book to all educators and implore those who pick it up to really engage and put for the effort needed to comprehend and implement the techniques laid out in this book.
Profile Image for James Weakley.
Author 1 book6 followers
July 23, 2018
Self-Discovery and a Plan

Glenn E. Singleton and his co-authors of this and the previous edition of Corageous Conversations About Race ask the reader to do one thing. It is neither simple nor easy. It takes a commitment from the reader. They ask that we investigate the way race plays out in our lives, the ways in which we have acquieced to Institutional Racism and how we can confront those internal biases in the service of our students.

This book gives district school, and classroom leaders steps to undertake in order to engage in this self-discovery and to find strategies that will increase the success of our young black, brown, and indigenous learners. This is an excellent book that should be read across every school in every district in the USA.
Profile Image for Dex Horton.
41 reviews
September 12, 2021
The title says it: Courageous Conversations. Be ready to be courageous. Be ready to engage in conversations. Be ready to talk about race and how you interact with people of a different race.

This book does not tell you what to think. It tells you how to have conversations and how to listen to others in the conversation.

I read this to renew my teacher's certificate. I ended up learning about how I interact with people.

What I learned in this book has translated to me having better conversations with my partner, my kids, and my professional contacts.

Read it. Have your employees read it. Then have some conversations about race.

Profile Image for Jordan Munn.
182 reviews2 followers
October 17, 2017
This is a deceptively simple book. The Four Agreements feel like common sense at times, and the 6 Conditions feel do-able, at least at the start. Then, as the book folds in on itself with deeper and deeper observations and insights, you find yourself returning to earlier statements and seeing them in new lights. However, I wouldn't recommend reading this book cover to cover in isolation. It's best read and parsed in a group, with time given to explore one another's perspectives and reactions to the book.
177 reviews
January 10, 2021

My school district has been given this book to read to guide our discussions and policies about equity. I read it over the holiday break to begin to reflect on my racial understandings and start facing the challenge to go deeper. I found the Courageous Conversation Compass to be especially fascinating. It helps you to determine the direction your words and beliefs are coming from, as well as the words and beliefs of your colleagues. The intense work will begin when we read it together with colleagues, and I am glad I began a conversation with myself first.
Profile Image for Mauricio Madrid.
22 reviews
March 17, 2022
This book written by Glen Singleton is inspiring! It provides deep, authentic and very logical strategies for school leaders to understand how and why even a discussion on the impact of race leads to equitable achievement for all students. It takes courage, persistence and passion to engage in the discomfort of seeking to disrupt racism in our lives and in classrooms — but it is worth it. I’m inspired and feel validated in my commitment to confront anti-Blackness and all racial bias for the rest of my life. The book is lengthy and can get complex and it’s gold if you commit to it.
Profile Image for Jeff.
504 reviews
September 30, 2020
This is a powerful guide book and call to action for educators to get on the path of raising our racial consciousness and addressing the core challenge at the heart of our work in K-12 education in the United States.: the challenge of an academic and opportunity gap created by systemic racism aimed directly at Black, Brown, and indigenous students. This text is an invaluable resource for exploring our racial identities in school communities and creating more equitable schools.
Profile Image for Reba.
1,202 reviews
October 26, 2020
I took so long to read this, but I am glad I took my time. I do think this was geared more towards administrators than teachers, but the content was still useful and valuable. I can see keeping this on hand, and referring back to it, and also working through it with a group. I'd really like to see this in action with a whole district to see how transformative the work could be.
Profile Image for Krissy Ronan.
898 reviews10 followers
May 15, 2021
I read a professional book cover-to-cover! That rarely happens. While it helps that this was required for a course I'm taking I mostly read the whole thing because it's good! I appreciate the Courageous Conversation structure and the thinking this book made me do to understand each part of the protocol they've designed. I will definitely use this at work and in some personal conversations too.
Profile Image for Sam.
65 reviews
April 13, 2022
This book provides a practical framework for starting and maintaining open discussions about race that respect and elicit different perspectives. I found the methods practical and have successfully used them in my classroom. On the negative side, the book coined confusing nomenclature. On the positive, the illustrating examples and discussion questions were very good.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 78 reviews

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