Anchored by the Classic Learning Test

Aaron Howard on The Supreme Court’s Strike Down of Affirmative Action

August 03, 2023 Classic Learning Test
Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
Aaron Howard on The Supreme Court’s Strike Down of Affirmative Action
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Anchored, Jeremy is joined by Aaron Howard, an ethics professor at Lipscomb University and the founder and CEO of As One Diversity. Together, they delve into Howard's personal journey of preserving his orthodox Christian beliefs while attending secular institutions and fighting against progressive ideology. The duo dissects the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, providing insights on both the concurring and dissenting opinions. Additionally, they discuss the redefinition of racism, the cultural obligations of various ethnic groups in striving for success, and the significance of open dialogues on race and diversity, free from the fear of being labeled "racist" or "woke."

Today’s episode of Anchored is brought to you with support from America’s Christian Credit Union. Find out how ACCU can be the banking partner to your school or family by visiting americaschristiancu.com/CLT.





Jeremy Tate:
Welcome back folks to the Anchor podcast. We have returning with us a special guest, the one and only Dr. Aaron Howard, professor at Lipscomb University, member of the CLT academic board. Dr. Howard, welcome.

Aaron Howard:
Thank you so much, Jeremy. Glad to be here. You can call me Aaron, by the way.

Jeremy Tate:
Aaron, we're going to dig into some tricky stuff today, some complicated, this ruling, the Supreme Court ruling against Harvard, against UNC Chapel Hill, and then what they had been doing in admissions. We're going to get into this conversation, affirmative action, and all that good stuff in the conversation today. Folks, if you're just tuning in, you may want to go back and listen to the original podcast that we did with Dr. Howard. Dr. Hart, if you could for our guests, give a bit of a refresher, your academic background and then your current work at Lipscomb University.

Aaron Howard:
I did the PhD at Vanderbilt in Ethics and Society in the Graduate Department of Religion. I have a master's from Fuller Theological Seminary in Theology and Biblical Studies. Did my BA from UCLA in Anthropology a long time ago. I'm right now I'm professor of ethics, worship and reconciliation at Liscomb University where I teach classes in graduate and undergraduate ethics. And I also consult with schools across the nation on issues. Ironically, of diversity and belonging, but I do so from predominantly a biblical and Christian perspective.

Jeremy Tate:
So you've got a really unique background and that you, I mean, that's a lot of schooling at some of the most elite, prestigious universities, a PhD from Vanderbilt. I have to imagine, and we talked a little bit about this in the first podcast, but Folks, finishing a PhD at Vanderbilt and remaining Bible, Jesus-loving Christians, it's probably not too common. Can you speak to that? I'm going to go ahead and turn it off.

Aaron Howard:
or definitely not that common in the Divinity School. They would say it's common because they have a liberalized understanding of what the faith really entails. But when you're talking about Orthodox evangelical Christianity, I would say there are not very, there's not a lot of graduates from the Divinity School, at least with PhDs, that still hold to Orthodox understanding of the scriptures. And it was tough for me to survive

Jeremy Tate:
Well.

Aaron Howard:
there because the institution was arrayed against me. I felt like the institution took a stance against my progress and my success. And when you're an individual that's trying to take on a whole institution, usually you lose, but you know, through a lot of prayer and we got put the right people in place throughout the university who were able to come alongside me and help me finish. But I think the problem was that I was contesting liberal ideology, the pro LGBTQ. ideology of the Divinity School and the marginalization of Scripture as the authoritative Word of God. I was pushing back against that in my dissertation, and I think that ruffled some feathers and ended up making me persona

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah.

Aaron Howard:
non grata, but we made it through.

Jeremy Tate:
Well, I love it. And something I've just been thinking about a ton lately is really for so long, century after century, it was Orthodox Christians that essentially created academia. We created the first universities. It wasn't until the late 1800s that really progressives kind of got a stronghold within and then kind of created a new orthodoxy, but I feel like that's beginning to break a little bit, is it?

Aaron Howard:
Yeah, I can't speak to that authoritatively or from a place of knowledge like I would like to. I hope it's beginning to break. But I would say that even in Christian universities, like recently we have Belmont University, who Promise Keepers was trying to do an event at Belmont University, which purports to be a Christian university. And Belmont canceled their event there because Promise Keepers put on a blog. They simply... declared that marriage should be between a man and a woman. And so you even have Christian universities who are capitulating to the progressive ideology. So that's what I'm saying. I don't know, maybe it's beginning to break, but I can't say that I've seen that per se, because even in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, there's still this infiltration of this progressive ideology, particularly around sexuality and gender, that I find problematic.

Jeremy Tate:
So I think for our audience, I mean, as a guy who I would describe as pretty conservative, especially you're theologically conservative, and as a black man who you are the only person I know who has actually read everything from this Supreme Court ruling. So

Aaron Howard:
Not

Jeremy Tate:
okay.

Aaron Howard:
everything, not everything, because it's like 240 pages long. If you

Jeremy Tate:
Okay.

Aaron Howard:
count Judge Jackson's dissent and Judge Claris Thomas's concurring opinion. So I didn't read all of it, but I did read the opinion and Soto Mayora's dissent.

Jeremy Tate:
Okay,

Aaron Howard:
So about

Jeremy Tate:
okay.

Aaron Howard:
110 pages.

Jeremy Tate:
110 pages. Okay, I think I read about five. So, but for

Aaron Howard:
Hahaha!

Jeremy Tate:
folks who maybe know, okay, we know that the Supreme Court in a historic decision ruled against what has already been the ongoing practice at Harvard, at UNC Chapel Hill. For folks who don't know much about us, give us some big picture context here. What were these universities doing that was found to be unconstitutional?

Aaron Howard:
Well, the universities are taking into account race as a part of the application process. So when students apply, it's not the only factor, but it is one factor. They're using race as one factor in the application materials that they use to admit students. Like I said, obviously it's not the only one, but in a student's profile, holistically speaking, they're allowed to factor in race as a criteria or a criterion for. whether or not that student is admitted. Meaning if you have a student that academically is strong, also athletically or other things, letter of recommendations and civic participation in leadership, if you have two students who are racially different, right, race can rank one student higher than another, even if some of those other areas are not as strong. Meaning even if that student is not as strong academically or not as strong with letters of recommendation or with some of the other. criteria that are being used. So in that way, the admissions representatives have been allowed to use race to balance the incoming applicants, meaning that those that are admitted, they're able to use race to ensure that incoming freshman class is diverse. Because what they're arguing is that diversity is a good or end that they want to pursue and that is worthy of pursuit. Meaning they're finding value in... forming a class that is comprised of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and racial identities. And so that's been the argument for many years is that when colleges are trying to create this, usually the courts have said, hey, yeah, we're going to allow you to do that because we agree that is a worthy pursuer.

Jeremy Tate:
So, Aaron, folks are gonna, you know, I've read some of the dissent to this and Twitter was on fire. I mean, on campus at Harvard, you know, students, you know, essentially in mourning, gathered together in groups, and they're viewing this. And essentially the way the conversation goes is something like this, they say, well, for generations and generations, you know, from Jim Crow, but even before that, you know, black families, black children were not, they didn't have access to an education. And their parents didn't teach them to read in the way that maybe affluent white families taught their own children to read. And that historically these things, and so that was kind of the idea within affirmative action. And I think a lot of middle of the road people hear that argument and they say, that makes sense, you know? Can you speak to that? What becomes maybe problematic with this in practice?

Aaron Howard:
Well, I think the first thing is that college education is accessible for everybody in America now. It doesn't mean you have to go to Harvard or Yale or University of Cal, you know, Berkeley. State schools exist, you know, California has a robust state university system. You have the UCs, but people forget there are a number of Cal state schools. And in many states, because of the landscape, the economic landscape that's affecting colleges, they accept 80 to 90% of all applications that apply. So it's not like if Harvard doesn't have affirmative action or we're not allowed affirmative action, that black kids cannot go to college or Hispanic kids cannot go to college. You certainly can go to college, even to the point that community college in many states is free, right? And they have a program here in Tennessee where I'm called Tennessee Promise, where basically your community college is paid for, right? by the state, which allows you now to then go on if you want to, to transfer to a four-year university. So, you know, we're acting like, first of all, that just because these elite universities or UNC or other universities are not allowed to use affirmative action, but all of a sudden, the amount of minorities going to college is gonna precipitously drop off. And I think that that's not a fair assessment of the situation. But I think too,

Jeremy Tate:
That's a great point. Colleges are hungry for students right now. I think that's a great point.

Aaron Howard:
Yeah, I mean, there are so many colleges, right, that are, I mean, even when I was going to college, I mean, they recruit you. I mean, I had a bag, a trash bag that was full of college letters from colleges that were trying to recruit me. I mean, they're trying to find students. So many of these colleges are not in the business of turning people away, especially, like I said, with the economic situation that so many of them are in. Many even might maybe having to close their doors at some point in their future because they just can't keep enrolling up. So yeah, so I think that's an important point that we need to make. But even aside from that, I think this idea that Jim Crow and that somehow we need to change the standards for Black people, I find it to be, I guess offensive may be too strong of a word. But as an intellectual myself who scored well on standardized tests, who did well, who was raised off of a 50-second student crinch-off, in a middle-class, working-class neighborhood who came from a two-parent home. And the only difference between my home and the home across the street was that my parents kept me in church and ensured that I knew I could be anything that I wanted to be. They did not celebrate me graduating from high school as if I had some monumental achievement there. Like, that's what we expect from you where you're going to college and where you're going to graduate school after that. They had high expectations and my dad had a master's in fine arts. My mom, I saw my mom get her master's in educational administration from Cal State Dominion Hills. And so we're losing the impact that culture has on how people achieve. Now I'm not saying that Americans have an impoverished culture. That's not what I'm saying. But if we don't take into account that Asian Americans achieve at a higher level or Nigerian Americans who are the same color as me and who you know, typically look like me, achieve

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah.

Aaron Howard:
at one of the highest levels of any ethnic group in the United States. because of the culture and expectations that their parents have for them, we're losing something. So now we can ask, why is it that black Americans oftentimes don't have these same kinds of standards? Well, that's a question that we need to pursue. And it's not about black people being inferior. John McWhorter would say there are sociological and historical reasons for this. And we can engage that, but I don't think that saying it's racist to even ask that question is a way to... to really interrogate and investigate the argument. I think we need to look more closely at why is it that we are not finding the same kind of standards of achievement amongst black children in education. And I think that goes back to a lot of the single parent households and other things that we can

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah

Aaron Howard:
talk about, but I think there are reasons for that. But to simply say, you know, we're not teaching our children how to read because of Jim Crow, when we would even see back when we go back in time before school integration and things like that, that there was. expectations for black achievement in segregated schools, I don't think that argument holds away.

Jeremy Tate:
And I got to tell you this story real quick so my dad he was a career ATF agent he was in Waco for that You remember David Koresh, he was a

Aaron Howard:
Yeah,

Jeremy Tate:
cult

Aaron Howard:
oh yeah.

Jeremy Tate:
leader. He was there for Burning Down and everything else. And I came home from LSU in 2002 for a Christmas break or something. And I said, Dad, why are you, why are you always been like against affirmative action? You know, and I've been hearing, learning about this as a college student. And I remember that conversation. He said, you know who the people I've met who are the most against affirmative action? He said, it's the highest performing black agents that I have. And he said, the reason they hate it is because people assume they have a job with ATF because they're black, when in reality, they were top of their class in college. And they got there on merit, but affirmative action had created a culture where people assumed that maybe they got the job because of... I had never heard that before. I never even thought about that.

Aaron Howard:
Yeah, let me be clear. There was a time in our nation when we did need affirmative action. And as the Supreme Court decision shows that these race-based policies were meant to rectify past injustice and discrimination. So I agree that, yeah, we needed affirmative action. Now the question is, do we need it now? Is America truly a meritocracy? Or is there the structural racism that prevents talented and educated Black Americans and other races from achieving in America? we need the argument needs to stay focused or that's where we need to shine the spotlight as it were. This idea that, you know, well, we need to have diversity in higher education. Yes, I agree that we should have diversity in higher education, but at whose expense,

Jeremy Tate:
I'm

Aaron Howard:
right?

Jeremy Tate:
not sure.

Aaron Howard:
Meaning if there's achievement across the board from all of these ethnicities by all means, then let them in or grant them admittance into these institutions of higher education. But if we're talking about my... the standards, right? That puts the onus on black Americans and other minorities to prove they belong. Oftentimes, and I'm not making a blanket statement here, but if you don't succeed as highly because you didn't score as high on the SAT or the GRE, then now, you know, there need to be these remediation programs in place that now set up, first of all, in the person themselves a lack of self-esteem and a lack of confidence. But then two, you set up this kind of, kind of hostility or skepticism toward that minority group, because people are assuming that they're only there because of their race, which means now the race relations are going to break down. Now that person has to prove that I belong here. Now that may exist where you have to prove that you belong there because of societal racism anyway, but we're not helping matters by changing the playing field. And for someone like myself, I have confidence in any room that I go into because I know I work my butt off. I know I can... Sorry, I can intellectually hold my own with anybody, right? Um, I studied three months, two hours a day for the GRE. I mean, I worked hard, right? I knew that I wanted to go to a PhD program. I knew that admissions were extremely rigorous and they only admitted a small percentage of all their applicants. And so I gave my best and if I gave my best and it wasn't good enough, I would be okay with that, you know, because education is not designed to be every. Elite education is not designed to be everybody gets in just because you want to be here. Right? There is merit. 

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah, so I'm wondering if you can just go, I'm thinking about, so in some ways the definition of racism has changed and completely almost, it's almost been reversed, right? Where for Martin Luther King and his generation, he is, you know, judge a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. We're in a moment right now where it's like, if you don't take race into account, now that is being racism. So we've redefined it. Was the court interacting or responding to this kind of redefinition of what racism is?

Aaron Howard:
I think indirectly there were, like in Sotomayor's dissent, she lifts up racial inequality as a reason that we still need race-based preferences. But what the court, I don't think, is buying is the fact that just because there's racial inequality, that does not mean that there's racism. If you have racism and racial disparities regarding income, home ownership, educational achievement, management positions or success in corporations. That could mean that there's racism at play, but it could mean that there are different factors at play that are causing that particular outcome. What's going on with oftentimes from the left or from those that are proponents of affirmative action is anywhere they see racial disparities, they assume that there's some kind of structural racism that is producing what we observe. And that's where I think the court is saying, hey, if there is a specific act of societal discrimination that we can observe that's against the Constitution, then yes, race-based preferences are appropriate to remedy that, but they're saying we don't find that here. And how long are we going to look back to slavery or to some prior state of affairs or even Jim Crow to say that we need to continue these programs? They're saying by this logic, these programs will continue in perpetuity, meaning they will never end. And what they're saying is, the intent of the law, the intent of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, and I believe it's Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the intent of that is to treat everybody fairly and equally and not to allow race to disadvantage certain people groups. And what they're saying is that if we're continuing to advantage a minority, right, then we're disadvantaging others, whether that be Asians or whether that even be white people who are achieving and who are meeting certain standards and are not gaining entry into... institutions of higher learning because we're allowing race as a criterion to select certain people

Jeremy Tate:
Let me

Aaron Howard:
groups.

Jeremy Tate:
ask you this, as a black man, as an academic, as a serious academic at a Sealdie partner institution as well at Lipscomb, do you find that the view that you're holding, that the court here, and I appreciate the nuance, you're saying, yeah, for a time, yes, affirmative action we needed, we're in a different time right now, do you find that your view is in the minority? Do people think that you're crazy for being sympathetic to the court's ruling?

Aaron Howard:
I'm with the court just ruled, so I haven't had a lot of time to really disseminate my views, but I would think that I probably would be in a minority amongst, um, African-Americans here on the campus or black people here on the campus. I can't say that for sure, but, um, I think that there are more and more. Black people have high achievement of, of firm morals and Christian beliefs, not just Christian beliefs, but beliefs in. in the truth of the gospel and beliefs in society and what America really is truly supposed to be that would say, hey, we agree with you, Aaron, right? That we don't need a separate standard, right? By which we're measured in judge because to me that is implicitly racist. I don't need a separate standard. I only need a separate standard if you can prove that because of the color of my skin, I'm not going to be granted an opportunity. And as I said before, Nigerian Americans prove whether they're... the argument goes, well, they're already economically wealthy. They already have access to resources that others don't have. But if the argument you're making is that the structures are set up to discriminate against people with West African phenotypes or West African features that come from West Africa, which from an ancestral perspective, I do, by and large. If you're saying that the structures are set up to prevent that kind of achievement and success, why are they successful? How are they doctors, engineers, lawyers, and pharmacists? How do they enter into these professions that are built on a meritocracy? Meaning you have to achieve in order to be a doctor. You've got to pass these board exams. You have to pass the bar in order to be a lawyer. You have to to get these certain scores in order to pass the engineering exams to be effective engineer. How are they able to do that in America if somehow this country is still predisposed to block the success of Black people? At one time that was true. It didn't matter how smart you were. It didn't matter how economically successful you were. The structures of America were set up that Black people could not get ahead. But I don't think that that's true now. And that's why I think, that's why I hold this position. And so, you know, I probably am in the minority, but like I said, there are more and more African-Americans and black people who are starting to hold this view.

Jeremy Tate:
It's such a true point. I was six kiddos. I like to get hurt sometimes. We... Go to the hospital, our fair share for sure. And a number of times we've had Nigerian doctors attending to our children. I'm wondering, what does it say about American education? If you have a black doctor, and I don't know the percentages, but it's in my own experience anecdotally, they've been immigrants from Africa rather than having grown up in the United States. What is going on in the American education system if... Nigerian immigrants are way more successful than black boys and girls who grew up here.

Aaron Howard:
That's a complex question that I want to get in trouble, but there's a lot going on there. I think when you go back to slavery and you understand post reconstruction, we had reconstruction and there was, Soto Mayori even mentioned that in her dissent, you had the Freedmen's Bureau and you had programs that were designed to elevate black achievement, right? Post reconstruction, those programs were rolled back. Then you had the great migration where you had black people that were moving to the North and then they ended up moving into these ghettos because they weren't allowed to live where other people could live and they were segregated. And so what you introduce is this cycle, this cycle of poverty, this cycle of lack of achievement in the educational realm that is now perpetuated from generation to generation because the schools were substandard at the time. And so we're experiencing now. the vestiges or the consequences of that, right? But whose responsibility is it once the legal protections for African-Americans are insured, which they have been through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, once you have these legal protections that say, now we're removing the structural impediments to black achievement, right? Whose responsibility is it? You can throw more money at the problem. You can throw more money at these two school districts and it's not gonna change anything, right? Because the cultural factors that started back in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, they're still holding, um, uh, remnants even now, right? And so how do you, how do you push these cultural, these cultural mindset back? And you don't have the government helping in the 1960s when you now have the welfare policies that subsidize single parent, uh, you know, single motherhood or, or having

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah.

Aaron Howard:
a single parent in the household. We've got 75 to 80% single parents in our communities, in the inner city communities, where in 1960, when the Moynihan Report came out, it was 25%. And

Jeremy Tate:
Incredible.

Aaron Howard:
he was already saying, hey, here's the problem. He was trying to help, right? But

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah.

Aaron Howard:
he was pillory in the academic world. He was, I mean, he was demeaned. He

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah.

Aaron Howard:
was vilified for that point of view. And so now we're seeing the effects of that on academic achievement.

Jeremy Tate:
You know, when I graduated from LSU in 2004, and I was pretty probably the most progressive as I'd ever been in my politics, you know, when I graduated from LSU, but I went to go teach in inner city New York for three years. And during that time, this is a school, 100% minority serving progress high school in Brooklyn, and I didn't meet a single family, not one. where the kid lived with two married biological parents. Everybody lived with usually an aunt or a grandma, for the most part, or maybe just a mom. The men were almost not in the picture hardly at all. But I had a handful of students tell me, oh, my mom and dad are together, but my mom gets more money if they're not married. And that was the first time I thought, what in the world kind of legislation encourages the dissolution of the family, right? So you would look at some of these programs, and I think the ideas were noble as far as I know. I think, you know, Lyndon LBJ's great society and addressing these historical wrongs. But do you view the government and policy as one of the main culprits behind the skyrocketing divorce rates, I mean, that have impacted every demographic, but particularly Black families?

Aaron Howard:
Yeah, I'll probably be more in line with Michael Meeks and others that say, you know, we can't rely upon the government. I mean, it even hurts me to have this conversation, Jeremy, because it makes it seem like the black family is defective or something like that, you know. And sometimes you want to have these conversations in group amongst your own race because you don't want to expose yourself and give people fodder for racism and say, see, Aaron even said it. You know, this is the problem. So it's even tough for me to have this conversation, but I'm interested in truth. I'm interested in what's true. I'm interested in what's really going to help all of our society move forward and be really what God has called us to be as a nation and what God has called us to be as people who love Him regardless of our ethnicity. So let me just preamble to the next thing I want to say. I don't believe that it's the God, I believe it's the church's job and the church we have abandoned our responsibility in going into the inner cities and in coming alongside our young people. and creating institutions, schools, creating educational institutions and nonprofit institutions and other pathways and possibilities where these young people can thrive. We've put it on the government and we expect the government to come in and save us, but the government cannot legislate morality. The government cannot tell people to stop having sex before they're married. Enroll says that if you want to be successful in America, you should do these things. You should graduate from high school, get married, No, graduate from high school, get a job, then get married, then have a baby in that order. And he has people that do that in that order by and large can rise above poverty. What we find is that black people that are in two-parent homes are better off oftentimes than white people that are in single-parent homes, right? We find that some of the economic disparities are lessened when you have the power of a family. strong families, that's not the government's role. The government's role is to remove the impediments to flourishing for all of the constituents of a society, which I think the American government has done. Now, the act of moral formation and virtuous formation, that's the role of the church, and that's the role of private institutions like Christian schools and others that are stepping into that role and doing that. And the problem is we in the African American community are not creating these institutions for our own people. to the degree that we want, that we should be, we're relying on the government and we're ridiculing the public school system and the like. What does it take to start a school? It takes a church with some classrooms, bring the kids in there and sit them down and say, hey, we're going to teach you what you need to learn in order to achieve the highest level. And that's where I think, Michael makes it, we should solve our own problems. I don't wanna set up this racial dichotomy, but that's where I see that some things are lacking.

Jeremy Tate:
Sure, yeah. Let's talk school choice for a few minutes because I think this is all connected at the end of the day.

Aaron Howard:
Cheers.

Jeremy Tate:
Some of the most encouraging moments I've ever had with just the whole CLT journey, touring schools like True North in Florida or Hope Academy in Minneapolis. schools that are serving majority minority populations, but especially given the experience I had in New York and seeing that we were failing these kids in a terrible way. And in some ways, Aaron, I would describe it as the population I was working with in New York, they were living in a world of suffering and brokenness. But the education they were receiving in no way even touched upon suffering or it had no way to make sense of life. It was disconnected from meaning almost completely. And it was just to this utilitarian end. It was, why should you do good? To get a good job, right? Well, the kids thinking, I know how to make my money. I can think of ways to make money, right? We were failing to address the problem. So I'm optimistic about school choice. And what's so odd to me about this is that 20 years ago, this was, folks on the left were very pro-school choice, right? My wife did Teach for America in New York City. It was a very progressive organization. They were all about magnets and charters. And now it's become this, it's just such a partisan divide of like, the right is now for school choice and the left, is that because of the unions? Are you optimistic, Aaron, about the future of school choice in America?

Aaron Howard:
That's a great question. I just, first I want to address something that you're saying. I think that for, by and large in American history, the federal government has been on the side of Black Americans when we've made achievement and when there have been substantial gains. The armed forces were the first federal department to desegregate, right? And so we've seen the federal government take the lead, even like you said, we talked about in Reconstruction with the Freedmen's Bureau, and then with desegregating the armed forces and the Supreme Court decisions. So the federal government has tended to be an ally of African-Americans and black folks in this country. And so we see oftentimes we see the government through lenses of we're amicable and we're more friendly toward the government. We see them as allies and partners, whereas in the right it's like, hey, leave me alone. I'm an individual. Let me do my thing. You know, I can achieve on my own. And I think there's that complex history that we're often working with.

Jeremy Tate:
Okay.

Aaron Howard:
regarding black people. I mean, it was a civil rights act that, um, allowed us to go into, um, public accommodations and be alongside our white brothers and sisters. Right. So the government has often had to step in. So now when we see public education, you know, these are the places that were hiring us when private white corporations would not, right? It was a

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah.

Aaron Howard:
post office. It was the public school system. You can get a job as a teacher. You couldn't

Jeremy Tate:
Yep.

Aaron Howard:
get a job as probably almost anything else. And so to now say. Hey, public education is failing and we need to now go to some other alternatives. You're going to get some cherished values and some norms that have, they're pretty entrenched within the black community. And so I think that's one of the things that you're up against. Like I said, the public school system and public institutions have been there when no one else has been there for us. But I think now we have to ask ourselves, have we come to a point in time when we have to look beyond the government and public institutions to get where we need to get, right? I mean, we can't do that forever. You know?

Jeremy Tate:
Thank you.

Aaron Howard:
Sometimes things exist to a certain point to allow you now to achieve and thrive. So public education will always be there, but now we have to be more creative. And I think that's where I am excited about the future of school choice, because families are realizing I've got to be more creative than just assuming that the only way for my child to get ahead is to go to the school down the street where they're not teaching them and where they're not learning the skills and habits necessary to thrive in this globalized world that's continuing to be more technologically advanced. and it's requiring skills that kids need.

Jeremy Tate:
Aaron, I want to ask you this question, and again, kind of born out of experience. It was such a formative time in New York City, but there was a teacher there, Dr. Wilkinson, Mr. Wilkinson. And he was one of the few folks in the school who grew up in Brooklyn. And he was a great teacher. All the kids loved Mr. Wilkinson. But I remember one time at lunch, faculty lunch, where he kind of got onto some of the younger progressive teachers and he was saying to them, you're giving these kids a victimhood mentality. You're stripping agency away from them. And it was kind of awkward because you don't see adults kind of, you know, have this... this moment, but I thought, wow, this is an interesting moment. Here you have somebody who grew up in this community and you've got these young 23-year-old coming right out of the university with these ideas, and they really were. They were introducing students of structural systematic racism, these kinds of concepts. Do you see those kinds of ideas as widespread in American education? Sometimes maybe folks on the right, maybe we'll... overblow or that's what I hear, how pervasive things like CRT is in schools. Well, do you see that as a problem that spreads, that strips agency from, from a sense of agency from, from young black students?

Aaron Howard:
I'm in Lipscomb University and so I've been out of the public world for a long time, but just based upon the cultural zeitgeist and just based on what I'm hearing, it's this idea that post George Floyd, which was, I believe that was an act of racism, of police brutality, but post George Floyd, there's this idea that because we see that, that just America as a whole... is this racist institution, you know, and that it's not a meritocracy. And so if it's not a meritocracy, then what is it? Then white people are in the positions that they're in because they are white, right? It's not because of their intelligence, because they work harder, or Asians or whoever it is, or black people like myself who are in positions where I earned a PhD. And so it's like, well, you slip the cracks or something like that. If you remove the idea of a meritocracy, then you get people that are waiting for a handout. You got people that are using excuses. why they can't achieve and be what they want to be. But that's not what I find in the book of Proverbs. That's not the understanding that I find that represents the best of who America is, right? In Proverbs, the Bible tells us that if you use wisdom, right, you can achieve, you can become wealthy, and you can have long life by following certain principles. I think at the heart of America, that's what Martin Luther King went back to, hey, at the heart of America is this idea that if you work hard, if you're diligent, you have a certain kind of moral habits and a certain kind of disposition, You can make it. It doesn't mean that we can be an NFL billionaire. Might there be systemic racism at the highest levels? Yes, I still believe that systemic racism exists, but it's not by and large the major factor that prevents people from being able to live a good life in America, right? I don't believe white privilege is this thing. I live in a neighborhood with white working class people, white electricians, white plumbers. I mean, most people are in the world are trying to raise their families.

Jeremy Tate:
Sure,

Aaron Howard:
trying

Jeremy Tate:
yeah.

Aaron Howard:
to have strong marriages. We're all Americans trying to make it. And so this idea that somebody owes us something goes against the fabric, I think, of who we are as a country. And I think that now that we're moving into like, hey, if we're gonna make it, there are no excuses. We've got to put our diligence forth and become what God wants us to be.

Jeremy Tate:
Aaron, I'm thinking as I hear you speaking about this magical providential flight that we share together to Nashville. I miss my flight actually watching the track race, watching Juliet Whitaker in the 800, I wasn't gonna leave the pub in Charleston until I watched her and I knew I was cutting it close and I missed it. But I got rerouted to Nashville and I got to ride that first leg with you. We had a really memorable conversation that night. I'm wondering this, and I love that you brought up the track analogy earlier. To say that, let's use track, that any attributes are inherent in one particular group. To say, for example, and I think I heard this, that there was one. one white person in the first 100 people to break 10 seconds in the 100 meter dash. One. So objectively, that suggests there's like some kind of difference in terms of capacity. I feel like to even say that this thing that in some ways is like blatantly obvious is like inherently very racist. And so you can't say that kind of thing out loud, even though it's kind of right there in front of us. What are your thoughts are on that? I mean, I feel like we're so afraid to say anything that could be construed as racist that we sometimes can't, I don't know, thoughts there.

Aaron Howard:
Yeah, well, the problem is if you say that, then what's the inverse of that, right? So the inverse is that if black people have an inherent athletic capacity to achieve in track and in basketball or football, then can white people now say we have an inherent intellectual capacity, right, to achieve that black people do not have. And that's why there are more white cultures. So that's where people get scared of the conversation because it's like, well, what's the inverse, right? So we can say white men can't jump, and we can say white people can't dance, they don't have a rhythm. But now if you say, well, what is it that black people can't do, right? If you say black people can't do anything, that's automatically inherently racist because of the past and because of the way these ideas have proliferated, right? The whole idea behind blacks being

Jeremy Tate:
Yeah.

Aaron Howard:
marginalized from education is this idea that black people are not as intelligent and so forth and so on. So I think there is a difference between bodily capacity and intellectual capacity. But scientists will have to bear that out. I think this conversation is probably too short for us to really delve deep into that. I do think that these are the conversations that we need to be having though. I do think these are the conversations that we should not just say they're off the table because they elicit feelings of disgust or trepidation or we're scared to go down that road. I think if we're going to pursue truth, like John Stuart Mill said, if we're going to pursue truth, we've got to be open to having these conversations. And

Jeremy Tate:
Mm.

Aaron Howard:
Is there something that's going on in the black culture that's predisposing black people to not be to do as well on standardized tests? John McWhorter would say there are social and historical examples. I think, um, studies have borne out, but it's not intellectual, right? Cause you can see with me and with others that if you sit kids down and teach them a study for the SAT, let me give you one other example, cause I'm talking a lot, but there's a study that shows across the world that any home that has 500 books, that child that that's raised in that home. has the equivalent of two parents with a master's degree, no matter what the education

Jeremy Tate:
Hmm.

Aaron Howard:
of the parents is. All over the world, it's a book privilege, I guess you would call it. So if you grow up in a home with a whole lot of books, your outcome intellectually and professionally is gonna be on par and high above those who did not have that particular privilege or that particular environment growing up. So that suggests that it's not an intellectual deficit, but it's more of a cultural or environmental deficit. So those are the conversations that we should have. But, you know, so we have to ask if white people, yeah, I think that, like I said, I'm not skilled enough and knowledgeable enough to answer that question about athletics and things like that. But then you look at other things like baseball, where there used to be a lot more black people in baseball, now there are a lot more white people in baseball, and throwing a baseball is an athletic, that's not easy, right? So I think there are ways to contest that, but I'm glad Jeremy, you're asking the question, and now we're having the conversation.

Jeremy Tate:
You know, it's hard to be aware. You're not aware of your bias or prejudice or racism until you are. That's kind of the thing about inherent biases, that they're unconscious, they're subconscious. And I had this... experience at LSU is actually a Nigerian exchange student. And he was over at our apartment and we're all hanging out. And he saw the Scrabble board there in the table and he's like, he likes Scrabble. I'm a Scrabble junkie. I love it. I think I'm pretty good at Scrabble. You know, I love playing. I grew up playing Scrabble with my mom and he's like, I love playing Scrabble too. So when you play Scrabble, it's a big deal to use all seven letters. It's called going all out. And I only do it once every five or ten games. This guy goes all out within the first seven or eight. place. The game is over. I've been annihilated, you know, and it was my first experience and he was there. He was a graduate student. He was there for some kind of graduate degree, med school or whatnot. So, but I feel like exposure is one of the best ways to kind of overcome any inherent racism. And last thing I wanted to chat about, Aaron, is just the way the culture has changed since the George Floyd summer. I think especially even within the classical renewal movement. I mean, I think that summer and even the year afterwards, folks are saying, hey, why don't we have more black families in our classical Christian school? And I feel like now we're almost at a time where it's to even ask that question, you get accused of being woke. I really do. It's really sad. I mean, everybody's terrified of being called woke right now. And so we're not asking some questions. I think we should. Is that an overstatement?

Aaron Howard:
No, I agree. But I think what's happened is that the DEI edifice and the DEI structure within America swung so far to the left that it precipitated a backlash that is overblown, but it's also completely understandable because, you know, we charge people with being racist across the board. We make these blanket assumptions. We annihilated white people for privilege and hey, if you push people into a corner, they're gonna come out swinging, right? And so I think that's kind of what we've seen. We've lumped it in and we've conflated LGBTQ issues with racial diversity and people

Jeremy Tate:
How

Aaron Howard:
are tired

Jeremy Tate:
did that

Aaron Howard:
of

Jeremy Tate:
happen?

Aaron Howard:
it.

Jeremy Tate:
Like, I mean, literally, yeah. It's wild. I mean, the fact that right now being not racist is supposed to somehow mean a man can have a baby. Like, it's that we're supposed to be four all of these things together is really wild.

Aaron Howard:
It's crazy.

Jeremy Tate:
Again.

Aaron Howard:
And now we're at a point, like you said, Jeremy, we're at a point now where in Texas and Florida, they banned DEI programs and initiatives in higher education. But a lot of these programs are operating out of, I understand what critical race theory is. It's a legal theory that came out of the law schools in the 70s and 80s. Now I understand what that was about. But... It has the same beliefs as a lot of the DEI programs. They share the same beliefs about America not being a meritocracy, about structural racism being pervasive. And I think people are not wanting that to be taught to kids and the students. And so I do think that there is a valid reason for the pushback and for the hesitancy. But I think the hesitancy is now overblown and it's giving now cover for races to not want to do the hard work. of integrating

Jeremy Tate:
Wow. And

Aaron Howard:
their institutions and asking the hard questions about why we don't have more diversity in our schools. And so I would challenge schools, ask the question and pursue diversity within your institutions so that all kids are prepared for higher education, so that affirmative action

Jeremy Tate:
yeah.

Aaron Howard:
is rendered unnecessary, so that the playing field is level. So I'm going to put the onus on the secondary institutions and the lower schools and the middle schools to do that work.

Jeremy Tate:
And Aaron, folks can reach out to you directly. I mean, part of your work is as one diversity. And I think for someone who's saying, you know what, two things are true. There's a lot of toxic nonsense in what people just broadly call woke ideology. And at the same time, you would be very hard pressed to find any head of school of any classical Christian school who doesn't wish they had, you know, the Black Christian family down the street come into their school. They want that school, that family to come, and they're not always coming. And so I think there's a both and here. Yeah, we're here with Dr. Aaron Howard, a professor at Lipscomb University. We're honored to have you, Dr. Howard, on the academic board at CLT. How can folks get a hold of you? You do consulting for a lot of classical Christian schools. How can folks reach out?

Aaron Howard:
Reach out to me, Aaron Howard, PhD on LinkedIn, Aaron Howard at asonediversity.com. That's my email, Aaron Howard at asonediversity.com. And my website is asonediversity.com. You can reach out to me. Love to work with you and have more conversations about these kinds of issues. And I love helping schools. See, what I do differently, and this is not really a plug, but I want to make this point, Jeremy, because this is important. And what's so funny about the flight that we were on is when I was... When we were on that flight, I was a much more liberal, sociologically speaking and ideologically speaking than I am now. But God has a way of really exposing you to different experiences. So when I'm sitting next to you, I'm like this conservative dude, I used to just look at conservatives and just roll my eyes like, you know, these guys have no idea what they're talking about, you know, and except refuge for racist ideology. I mean, I had all these judgments toward conservatives and really, you know. God allowed a conservative to be in my own home, which was my son, who was a Trump supporter. And he went to a white private school and we got into some heated arguments and discussions. I mean, we really were engaged in these vehement disagreements about the things that we're talking about even now. And one day my son said to me, he said, dad, I think the difference between you and I is that you haven't grown up like me. He said, dad, I haven't grown up with all the racism that you grew up with. He said, I haven't grown up in a world where I had to see it through this binary and through this lens of white and black, where the world has been against me. And I've been disadvantaged because of my race. And when he said that I had to think Jeremy about myself and I said, wait a minute, I haven't either. I said, wait a minute, wait, what he's saying about himself is also true of me. What he's saying about himself is God allowed me Jeremy to grow up in a country where people there were opportunities presented to me. I have four degrees. One of them I didn't mention at the top of the show, right? Cause I'm like, Hey, I figured mentioning three is enough. Where each of those degrees I achieved, right? Through hard work, through dedication. I was allowed in UCLA because of affirmative action, but that's cause I was lazy. It wasn't because I needed it, right? It's because I, because I wasn't doing what I was supposed to do. But when I locked in and took advantage of the intellectual ability God gave me, I didn't get a B from the time I was in graduate school at San Diego State, earning a master's in education. through Fuller, all the way through Vanderbilt, right? And when I thought about that, I said, man, my son is right. I've been taught by the culture to think that America's inherently racist and that people are out to get me. There may be those people that are out there to get me, but when in fact, God has been so good to me. And so when I sat there and had that conversation with him, that and then several other experiences, you know, I mean, I worked with heads of school, white heads of school across this nation. I had one head of school sit down with me, one pastor. I had a glass of water and every time my glass of water was below half, he refilled it because there was water at the table. He didn't have to do that, right? It was a white man serving me. They pick up my plates and take them from the table. I'm not trying to be a white person to apologize. All I'm saying is that the idea that I had about white conservatives and my people that voted for Trump, they're in hair and they're racist, they're out to get black people, it turned out not to be true in my own experience. Maybe there are some people out there like that, but that's what I'm saying. I think that we need to have a more robust... and charitable conversation like you and I are having where we sit down and really ascertain like the church in Berea in Acts chapter 11, are these things truly true? So for me, I go to the scriptures because that's my belief system. And when I look at the scriptures, I see that God has no respect for a person. He said, if you honor God, in Samaritan, if you honor Him, He'll honor you. And that's what I've seen to be true. I honor God with my life and He's honored me. And it's that applies to every race, black, white, Asian, Hispanic. If you honor God. and you use the principles of wisdom that God has given us in progress and throughout the scriptures, He'll honor you.

Jeremy Tate:
Dr. Aaron Howard, thanks for being with us. Come back again in the future. I could pick your brain all day, sir.

Aaron Howard:
Thanks for having me, Jeremy. It's a phenomenal conversation. And thank you for the work that you're doing with CLT. Thank you for the work that you're doing to advocate for school choice and to provide an alternative way for kids to achieve and to be formed into students and young people of virtue and moral standing. That's a noteworthy role that you

Jeremy Tate:
I'm

Aaron Howard:
have. And I pray God's blessings upon you, your family and the work that you're doing.