Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

From Mississippi sharecroppers to the Algebra Project

BOND: It's interesting you mention that because the next question is what do you see as the difference between vision, philosophy and style? Can you describe the interaction between these three things for you—vision, philosophy, and style?

MOSES: The style— In The Algebra Project, I'm thinking there was a COFO [Council of Federated Organizations] style that we worked out that had to do with the style of holding a meeting and so what we'd stumbled on was how to hold a meeting so that the sharecroppers could actually become real formers of the strategy and of the actual work that was going to be done, so what we did is get away with the platform where the leaders sit and talk. They had to sign up when they came in which problem they wanted to work on and they were helping to generate problems to be working on and then sit with just that problem and that group figure out something about it and try to go do something with it and then come back and report out, so actually that style we've taken into the math classroom. How do you get the students to actually have ownership of the teaching and learning of the math, so it can't come from a talking head in the front of the classroom, you've got to figure out a way in which the kids in groups learn how to work in groups on problems and figure out what they can do about it. So, this kind of style of also the decentralized style that the Mississippi theater really embodied that has actually also— We've taken that into The Algebra Project and it's a style in which you're not trying to build a big bureaucracy with people who are the experts to go out and show what to do and how to do it. You're really trying to, again, the same thing where you were trying to build local capacity around the Mississippi [thing] so he's trying to do the same thing in communities or schools with the teachers and the students. You can have a vision that says, well, I mean, we're trying to get— We had a meeting at ETS [Educational Testing Service] this past December and we put on the table that we should have a vision about a standard for mathematics achievement for the lowest quartile as opposed to the current metaphor which was close the achievement gap which is a meaningless metaphor. What we should put out is that there should be a platform metaphor that every kid graduating from high school, all of these kids in the bottom quartile, they should stand on a platform from which they can step into college math for college credit so that's a different kind of vision for education. But the question of the style—how would you go about making that happen, so for us, the style has to do with what I just described, the issue of the teachers.