KU News: Study shows how Black male teacher-coaches illustrate civic-focused education

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Study shows how Black male teacher-coaches illustrate civic-focused education
LAWRENCE — Fostering a sense of civic engagement is one of the primary purposes of social studies education. But in an educational system that focuses on Black students and teachers through a deficit lens, that can be a very real challenge to overcome. A new study from a professor at the University of Kansas found the experiences of five Black male teacher-coaches in predominantly white private schools can illustrate civic-focused and liberatory approaches to education.

New study finds a lower voice adds credibility to leadership, depending on gender
LAWRENCE — A new paper from the University of Kansas School of Business examines how low voice pitch is known to be an auditory cue for leader dominance and thus preferred by followers in various fields, mostly with male leader voices. But lead author Midam Kim’s research shows that gender moderates this relationship, with the pitch effect becoming weaker when leaders are female. The research was presented at this year’s annual meeting of Academy of Management, where it was nominated for the Phillips and Nadkarni Award for Best Paper on Diversity and Cognition.

Paths to accessing Shakespeare affect understanding, KU scholars say
LAWRENCE – Does it matter whether we access Shakespeare by watching one of his dramas onstage or over a smartphone? Wouldn’t a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Not exactly, say two University of Kansas Shakespeare scholars in a chapter of the new book “The Routledge Handbook of Shakespeare and Interface.”

Full stories below.

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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings
Study shows how Black male teacher-coaches illustrate civic-focused education
LAWRENCE — Fostering a sense of civic engagement is one of the primary purposes of social studies education. But in an educational system that focuses on Black students and teachers through a deficit lens, that can be a very real challenge to overcome. A new study from a professor at the University of Kansas found the experiences of five Black male teacher-coaches in predominantly white private schools can illustrate civic-focused and liberatory approaches to education.
Daniel Thomas III, assistant professor in curriculum & teaching at KU, was a secondary social studies teacher, nonprofit coordinator and athletic coach before entering higher education. He was in regular contact with other Black male teacher-coaches at schools throughout the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area. Their intellectual thought in the classroom and civic engagement within the community stayed with him when he began his research career, he said.
His current study, published in the journal Theory & Research in Social Education and covered in the journal’s “Visions of Education” podcast, found that Black male teacher-coaches often engage in unique, civic-oriented practices in their teaching and coaching that counter historical anti-Black narratives in education and society.
“A lot of my work pushes back on the broader historical context of anti-Blackness and on the contemporary narratives of Black male teachers,” Thomas said. “Black male teachers have essentially been enclosed within a problem narrative. This stereotypical oversimplification constructs Black male teachers as a population whose only value is in their potential to serve as disciplinarians for boys labeled as ‘problems.’ My research seeks to redress this narrative by illuminating the range of intellectual, pedagogical and ideological discourses amongst Black men.”
Thomas said the study is also significant for showing that the Black history of teacher-coaches is historically separate and distinct from the American history of teacher-coaches.
“The teacher-coach tradition established by Carter G. Woodson and Edwin B. Henderson at the M Street School in Washington, D.C., was to resist anti-Blackness through intellectual thought and athletics while creating a space of civic engagement as full citizens,” Thomas said. “Like the field of social studies, this is a Black origin story of resistance to sub-personhood that is often ignored for the herofication of a progressive American story that centers white ‘founders’ like James Naismith.”
Thomas conducted in-depth interviews with five Black male teacher-coaches working at predominantly white private high schools throughout the United States. In sharing their experiences, the educators illustrated how they take unique approaches to educating students, coaching them as athletes and fostering a sense of critical civic engagement, all while navigating a society and educational system that is antagonistic toward a liberated Black existence. While each educator recounted experiences of resisting anti-Black projection for both students and themselves, they also exhibited sport-based activities informed by critical civic ideologies, social activism, community engagement, collective fellowship and caring as part of their educational and coaching approaches.
Thomas presented a conceptual framework drawing on Africana philosophy to illuminate the presence of anti-Blackness within schools and interscholastic leagues as well as how Black male teacher-coaches resist anti-Black aggression. From 15th century pseudoscientific racial knowledge produced in Europe, which framed Blackness as a problem, to more recent theories such as the Black imago — in which Black bodies are reduced to anxiety-inducing objects, with examples such as Trayvon Martin or Ahmaud Arbery — to resisting such narratives through philosophies of existence such as freedom, anguish, agency, sociality and liberation, Thomas both contextualized the current social and educational landscapes and how Black male teacher-coaches deftly operate with agency and resistance within it.
All of the study’s participants recounted experiences of anti-Blackness in athletics, from hearing racial slurs to having police called to their team hotel because their athletes were allegedly too loud while playing video games in their room.
Participants recounted how their experiences in the Black church led them to approach coaching as a ministry, in which they put the needs of others before their own and encouraged their student-athletes to do the same. Via a theme of social activism, the participants shared how they try to teach their student-athletes that they can be more than someone who plays a sport, and though they may be viewed as athletes first, they can move beyond that expectation.
The teacher-coaches also shared how they encourage their students and players to be engaged within their communities, not just as athletes who represent a school, but by being civically engaged. From hosting camps to welcome new students, to speaking at outside camps and engaging teams in service projects, the participants illustrated how they tie sports to social education. Further, they often hosted collective fellowship events that move beyond sports, requiring student-athletes to confront the range of their divergent lived realities.
Finally, the coaches illustrated the importance of caring. While they pointed out that they try to stress to their players that they care about them, they also should care for each other and those around them. One participant shared how caring for students came back and helped him through a difficult experience.
“Before I dismiss the guys, I always end by saying, ‘Take care of yourself, take care of each other,’” the study participant said. “In 2006, I had two white players die. One was battling mental health issues and was shot to death by police in front of his home on Mother’s Day. The other young man drowned during a Fourth of July weekend celebration at a park with teammates and his family. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about those boys. I ask myself, ‘What could I have done or said differently to either one of them that would have changed those outcomes?’ When you hear me say, ‘Take care of yourself, take care of each other,’ it is because twice, I dismissed guys from workouts for the weekend and everyone did not come back.”
The experiences of the Black male teacher-coaches in the study illustrate how Black male educators deftly enact their occupation with critical, antiracist purposes while consumed within racially hostile circumstances. But beyond that, Thomas said, they show how educators can push back against anti-Blackness and move social studies education beyond the traditional classroom to foster stronger civic-minded connections and education for all students. In future work, Thomas said he hopes to continue exploring the range of intellectual thought and critical civic practices amongst Black male educators, and to push back against the myth of coaches as substandard educators.
“These teacher-coaches are doing something much larger than just coaching football,” Thomas said. “They are creating a multicultural, anti-racist society, and they are using critical, counterhegemonic practices within classrooms and athletic spaces to help students reimagine a better world.”
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Contact: Jon Niccum, KU News Service, 785-864-7633, [email protected]
New study finds a lower voice adds credibility to leadership, depending on gender
LAWRENCE — Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, was famously suspected to have lowered her voice in an attempt to add more credibility to her billionaire con game. But did this low voice actually hurt her or help her in the business world?
A new study reveals the effect of pitch quality of CEO voices may rest entirely on gender.
“The thing that I can say to Elizabeth Holmes or any female leader is you don’t have to do that … because it’s not going to work as much as you like. It doesn’t help your integrity. And not just because it’s inauthentic,” said Midam Kim, lecturer and research associate at the University of Kansas School of Business.
Her paper titled “Think Leader, Think Deep Voice? CEO Voice Pitch and Gender” examines how low voice pitch is known to be an auditory cue for leader dominance and thus preferred by followers in various fields, mostly with male leader voices. But Kim’s research shows that gender moderates this relationship, with the pitch effect becoming weaker when leaders are female. It was presented at this year’s annual meeting of Academy of Management, where it was nominated for the Phillips and Nadkarni Award for Best Paper on Diversity and Cognition.
The reason low pitch is not perceived the same when coming from both genders, according to Kim, has to do with leadership perceptions.
“People tend to expect dominant leadership from men and communal leadership from women,” said Kim, who co-wrote the paper with Vincent Barker, KU professor of business.
“Low pitch is an auditory cue that has been expected of men leaders. So, first of all, people have not had many experiences with women leadership – so it’s hard to apply the same auditory expectation for women leaders. And, second, people just want different things from women leaders. Low pitch is a dominance cue, not a communal cue. This dominance cue does not work as effectively as male leaders when coming from women leaders.”
To examine how male and female CEOs’ vocal pitch influenced followers’ perception of their trustworthiness, the researchers created a forced-choice lab study where nearly 200 respondents selected the most trustworthy-sounding CEO among multiple options. These speech samples were acoustically altered to offer three levels of voice pitch to compare: low, original and high. Converse to male CEOs, the results showed that for women CEOs who lowered their own voice pitch, their trustworthiness perception did not get boosted as much.
“We can assume why people would perceive a low voice to be dominant,” Kim said.
“Evolutionary psychologists argue that, a long time ago in the tribal era, you might have had to be physically strong to be a leader so that the survival rate of your tribe can be higher. You have to be able to fight physically. The bigger you are as a leader, the better, right? And there’s this universal physical principle that bigger objects would make lower sounds. But it’s actually not true for people. Because you might have seen countertenors who are really tall. In human physiology, your body size and the average rate your vocal cords can vibrate are not automatically correlated. The important point is that, still, people tend to expect a lower voice from a larger human body.”
But do all cultures view a deeper male voice as preferable?
“There can be a debate about whether this is universal,” she said. “Is it universal in all countries? All cultures? All environments? We don’t know. But I’m from South Korea, and I don’t think this applies only to Western culture.”
Kim said that the foundational theory she used for this study is “implicit leadership theory.”
“Leadership is determined by the perception of the followers, not necessarily the leaders themselves,” she said. “That attribution will be built by the followers’ own expectations, experiences and learning. So, of course, followers in Germany will be totally different from those in China or from the U.S. because their experiences are different.”
Having earned a doctorate in linguistics, Kim bridges linguistics and management in her research. She first began teaching at KU’s Department of Linguistics in 2012 and has been at the business school since 2015.
“Everyone thinks a lower voice will work for leadership perception. My results say that it’s not true,” Kim said.
“You might think that our world is getting more diverse, and we’re completely paying attention to diversity in the world and in our leaders. This is also not always true, even in the academic field,” she said. “Research on diversity is still limited because there are many things to theoretically consider and implement.”
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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman
Paths to accessing Shakespeare affect understanding, KU scholars say
LAWRENCE – Does it matter whether we access Shakespeare by watching one of his dramas onstage or over a smartphone? Wouldn’t a rose by any other name smell as sweet?
Not exactly, say two University of Kansas Shakespeare scholars in a chapter of the new book “The Routledge Handbook of Shakespeare and Interface.”
While they favor every possible means of exposing 21st century readers to the Bard, the authors wrote that, by abstracting the essential information, the delivery method matters to the recipient’s understanding.
In “Abstraction as Shakespearean Interface,” Jonathan Lamb, professor of English, and Suzanne Tanner, doctoral student in English, wrote that Shakespeare is “necessarily accessed through a variety of interfaces, including not only actors on stage but a whole range of ‘abstracts.’”
They don’t exactly argue in favor of Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum that the medium is the message, but they do compare the text of Shakespeare and the various ways in which we now access it to a computer’s underlying operating system and its on-screen icons.
“Accessing Shakespeare has long meant interacting with frames — icons, we might say — that make possible our comprehension of the plays and poems,” the KU researchers wrote.
Those iconic abstractions can range, they wrote, from the summary in a playbill to the illustrations in a book to episodes of the popular video series “Thug Notes,” which deliver SparkNotes-type summaries of literature for humorous effect.
Thus, Lamb said, the answer to the rose/smell question would be, “It depends on what you’re trying to access when you smell the rose.
“In the article, we talk about the different types of users — the student user, the casual consumer, the scholarly user — and each of those users attends to Shakespeare wanting to get or do certain things,” he said. “The interface shapes whether they’re able to access it in the way that suits the user’s needs. … Some of those ways are going to be more abstract, and they’re going to be better for the type of access that the user wants. But sometimes they’re going to hinder the type of access users want, or complicate it, or add unexpected layers.”
Tanner said she approached the questions posed in the essay through the lens of media studies or media theory, which she described as asking, “‘What is the goal of media? What’s the point of media?’ And we talk a lot about how media is mimetic, that it represents things, and that representation is a fairly common idea. And I think using the term abstraction moves us away from representation in a productive way, in that it helps us understand that not all art, not all theater, not all language, even, is always about representation. Sometimes it’s about very abstract things, but that still communicates in a way that helps us access ideas.”
Lamb mentioned some recent high-profile efforts to “translate” Shakespeare’s works from early modern English to contemporary usage, both onstage and on the page. At first, he said, “I was kind of upset by that, because I love Shakespeare’s language. But if we can pause our taking offense and think, ‘How can we best invite people in the 21st century, for whom early modern English is very difficult, to engage with Shakespeare’s plays?,’ the easy answer is the abstraction that comes with a translation process.”

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