Ruby Payne and Jawanza Kunjufu had never shared the stage before Friday, but their careers have intertwined for years in a debate over how American teachers differ from their students.
Both believe teachers fail to make connections with students because of differences in cultural backgrounds. Payne, a white former principal, believes poverty is the root of that disconnect. Kunjufu, a black educator, says that theory ignores race.
The two have sparred in writing and in separate appearances but spoke together for the first time Friday at Indiana Black Expo to a room of hundreds of educators from around the state.
“They do not agree on many issues, but they have agreed on one important thing: They have agreed to come together and talk to us and help us better understand their views,” Brownsburg Schools Superintendent Kathleen Corbin said in an introduction.