A Belmont University professor who specializes in social justice causes lectured Brentwood High School students Monday about how privileged and closed-minded they are and said it’s time they corrected themselves.
Brentwood High Principal Kevin Keidel invited that professor, Mona Ivey-Soto, to speak.
A Brentwood High parent who said he disapproved of Soto’s lecture provided The Tennessee Star with an audio recording of her lecture.
Before Soto spoke, Keidel delivered a lecture of his own. According to the audio, he said Brentwood High alumni, who now attend Harvard and Princeton universities, complained to him that school administrators didn’t do enough to make them better people.
“We took that to heart this summer. It doesn’t do us any good if you’re smart but you’re a bad person,” Keidel said in the recording.
“That is not what we want from you. We want you to be better people. We want you to be able to treat your classmates well. We want you to be able to treat your friends well.”
Keidel provided no specific examples of how past and present Brentwood High students were bad people. He described Soto as a Williamson County parent.
Soto introduced herself to students as someone who is “very passionate about public education and what it means to transform the world.”
“I pray there is a level of discomfort you might feel [because of what I say]. Why am I feeling uncomfortable and why is this pushing my buttons a certain way and what do I need to do to lean into that?” Soto told students.
“The process of becoming a better level of ourselves comes from experiencing a level of discomfort that moves us to a place of greater awareness and greater social change, and I believe that is what our public education system in our country should be all about — that positive place of social change for everyone.”
“If we can quickly acknowledge that there are underprivileged people, communities, schools, neighborhoods then we have to have the opposite, which is over privileged, and an acknowledgement we are not initiating a sense of guilt or remorse but rather a sense of stewardship,” Soto said.
“What do I do with the benefits that have been given to me? To seek the perspectives of people coming from different places? How do I resist stereotypes and biases about people who go to school down the street? If I am not doing those things then I am not actively working to open my heart and mind to other things,” she continued.
Soto then talked about how she and her family moved to Middle Tennessee from New York and how they had to adjust to what she called “the Williamson County Bubble.” Soto said she found a church to attend and sent her children to a Vacation Bible School.
“I went to go pick up my kids [from VBS] and, as I did, there was a sheer moment of pain and suffering on my children’s faces. This is strange. This is a happy place. We’re in a happy time of fun and learning. Why this?” Soto asked.
“My son said ‘Mom, we need to leave right now.’ We got out to the car. We shut the door, and my kid started to cry. He said ‘Mom, you’ll never believe what happened tonight. We were doing some Bible trivia and all of a sudden the team across the room from us started chanting ‘Build the Wall. Build the wall.’ And my daughter asked ‘Are they doing that to us because we’re brown? This is a church. People are supposed to be loving. How come no one said anything?’”
Williamson County School System officials announced in an email Sunday that Soto would speak at four grade-level assemblies to discuss racism.
The Star contacted all 12 WCS board members Monday evening and asked for comment, but none of them replied by press time.
Soto, according to her LinkedIn page, received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oregon
Listen to Soto’s lecture, as recorded in the room (there are echos):
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