Black History Month: February may be over but striving for equity in education must continue all year long.
People all over the United States and Canada celebrated February as Black History Month; in Ireland and the United Kingdom, it was recognized in October. Like its 1926 precursor, “Negro History Week,” Black History Month is about teaching and celebrating the history and achievements of Black people in schools, organizations, and communities. As Black History Month comes to an end, our aim to elevate the Black community should not lapse. And more importantly, we should never stop promoting the importance of education for Black children in America because we know education is the sole key to a quality life in this country.
Although Black History Month allows us to celebrate our community’s accomplishments and progress proudly, it is essential to illuminate where we have not made much progress over the years – Education. It has been 68 years since Brown v. Board of Education when the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Although the ruling paved the way for significant opportunities for some black Americans, many, particularly those of impoverished backgrounds, have experienced slight improvement, if any improvement at all.
It is undeniable there is a significant disparity in the educational opportunities black children receive in this country. Here are some facts:
- Access to college-prep courses: Only 57 percent of black students have access to a full range of math and science courses necessary for college compared to 81 percent of Asian American students and 71 percent white students.
- Access to Honors, Advanced Placement, Gifted and Talented Programs: Few black students attend schools that offer an array of honors classes, advanced placement, and Gifted and Talented programs.
- Teacher Quality: Black students often attend schools with less credentialed and novice teachers.
- Teacher Expectations: Research has shown evidence of a systemic bias and lower expectations non-black teachers have for black students, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of academic failure in the classroom.
- ACT achievement: Approximately 61 percent of ACT-tested black students met none of the four ACT college readiness benchmarks.
- Discipline: Black students spend substantially less time in the classroom due to discipline referrals.
- Resources: Black students, in general, attend schools with fewer resources and access to technology.
- Access to School Counselor: The national student-to-counselor ratio is 491-to-1 for black students, compared to 250-to-1 for non-black students.
Education Leads to Change in Humanity
“Education, then, beyond all other divides of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” ~ Horace Mann, 1848
Horace Mann (1797-1859), often called the Father of Public-School Education, spearheaded the Common School Movement, the predecessor of today’s public-school education. He aimed to ensure that every child could receive a primary education funded by local taxes. Mann’s commitment to “education for all” resulted from his belief that political stability and social harmony depended on an educated society. In a nutshell, he understood that education was the root of solving problems in politics, education, and social reform. For example, suppose education is the great equalizer of the condition of men. In that case, it should function as the foundation for healing racial relations and other socio-cultural issues, including LGBTQ+ rights and children’s rights.
We know education is the key to a better quality of life. In a report for the United Nations corroborating the teachings of Horace Mann, the senior advisor on culture at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Azza Karam, explains how education has contributed to reducing gender inequality around the world. In a survey of 55 developing countries, research indicated that each year of a mother’s education reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5-10%. In addition, she traced the reduction in child deaths between 1990 and 2009 to improvement in girl child education. Furthermore, the report stated that educated mothers are better positioned to protect themselves from diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
“Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Education! Education! Education!
We have witnessed, generation after generation, the cycle of poverty first-hand. We understand the power of education to lessen the challenges one will face in life. Education provides the ability to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills to allow individuals to pursue dreams and aspirations in life. It is possible to build a generation of highly educated Black children. With the resources in this country, we can fix the school of Black children. As a society, the real question is, do we want to?
Dr. Martin Haberman (1932-2012), distinguished professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and known for his “pedagogy of poverty,” stated in this provocative essay Who Benefits From Failing Urban School Districts? An Essay on Equity and Justice for Diverse Children in Urban Poverty said, “the miseducation of diverse children in poverty for over half a century is a predictable, explainable phenomenon, not a series of accidental, unfortunate, chance events.” Again, the answer rests in “if” we want to.
These results are not far-fetched. Every aspect of education connects to every aspect of our human existence. While speaking at the Education World Forum, While speaking at the Education World Forum, Elizabeth King explained thus:
“…The human mind makes possible all development achievements… So, for countries to reap these benefits fully, they need to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing this than education.” Simply put, society can achieve whatever developmental goals they desire by educating everyone.
Education is everyone’s responsibility — we all have a role to play in changing the current narratives. The more we are educated, the more we change. A study by Walden University showed a statistically significant relationship between a person’s level of education and the importance attached to their involvement in social change. From the study, the more levels of education obtained, the more critical they view their participation in social change.
At Cultural Connections by Design, we center all of our work around educational processes because we believe “Knowledge is Power. Power, when used responsibly, creates transformative change. Anyone can be a change agent.
Are you ready?