We sit and we keep banging our heads again this term: "Achievement gap, achievement gap!" Is it really that hard to understand why 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 was it really is. It's not an achievement gap; it's an education debt, for all of the foregone 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 is the American slave trade -- and some would argue 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.

  An oversimplification of American educational history. All right, 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 OK. But while we all know things were indeed separate, they were in no ways equal. Enter Brown v. 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 v. 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, 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?"