The newly installed Secretary of Education Betsy Devos released a statement addressing HBCUs (historically Black Colleges and Universities) after briefly meeting with administrators of them. Part of her statement reads, “Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn't working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”
Her attempt to recognize the invaluable role HBCUs have played in the development of talent that has benefited the world many times over does not go without recognition. However, her interpretation of calling the formation of HBCUs a “school choice” is beyond abysmal. After taking a lawsuit while being forbidden from admission a man named Collis Temple, had his tuition to attend a different school paid by Louisiana State University because they once refused admittance to any and all Black African Americans. Also, since laws had been passed deeming it illegal for Blacks to read, many came to learn clandestinely and taught others in secret. HBCUs such as Bethune Cookman, and Howard University were founded solely because racist Whites either did not want Blacks to achieve an education and definitely did not want that education to be anywhere near those classified as White. They didn't have the luxury of choosing any school!
Betsy Devos would do well to research this and issue the necessary correction. Given this event, it underscores the importance of why African American Blacks must vigorously preserve the historical information and data that impacts our experience throughout the world. This must be the case no matter how small or large its recognition by others. If this history is not discussed, or taught in schools and other venues, it runs the risk of being misrepresented, or lost and forgotten whether intended or not.
It is for this reason why we offer seminars to not only empower and educate, but to ensure the transmission of information reflecting the experiences and the value that countless others received from such. Whenever our seminars are conducted, we are always enthused to meet individuals from different walks of life. They later come to realize some aspect of their life has been made easier from some of the information we present of which they were previously unaware.
Parents, guardians, and concerned individuals must take events such as this to teach those around them in effort to guard the correct understanding and appreciation of history. Betsy Devos’ ignorance of this matter provides that opportunity yet again. Take advantage!
NFL quarterback Jameis Winston was addressing a group of elementary students at their school. While encouraging the children to believe in themselves, the manner in which this was done actually marginalized the young girls at the expense of making the young boys feel empowered.
Upon watching the video, I was left with the impression that he probably was not trying to achieve this effect. That however does not minimize the hurt many of the young girls felt being told, they were expected “to remain silent.” Some have criticized Mr. Winston’s public speaking skills, while others have cited that he is not in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks not withstanding his budding talent.
However, what is most concerning to this writer, is the fact that the school seems to have thought that playing in the NFL alone, makes someone worthy of being granted access to a learning environment filled with impressionable, and moldable minds. Perhaps the school felt since Mr. Winston had finished at Florida State University, the message of the road to NFL success through college would be better appreciated by its students. Even if this were their intent, this does not absolve them of their culpability in this event.
All too often, this society places a greater emphasis on entertainment (i.e sports, music, etc) value as opposed to things that create monumental changes. Changes in the social, political and economic realities that impact everyone especially those who cannot always afford the pleasant distractions of attending professional athletic or entertainment events.
Given the need for science, technology, engineering and mathematics to which our children are underexposed, or the understanding of youth entrepreneurship, Mr. Winston should not have been expected to merely motivate the kids with only his presence.
Whenever I address children in a school setting, I always detail to someone in charge the larger goal of empowering the children in my presence. I then wrap those messages in real world examples, and actual applications in which the children take part. This enables them to not only hear about empowerment, but also understand how to actively pursue it from their practical level, not mine.
Educators must remember their job is to help the children unlock their own potential through the building blocks of knowledge. Sadly, it seems that some administrators felt the adoration professional athletes are given had more relevance to the children.
It is incumbent upon administrators of education to consider these points before anyone is brought into the classroom. An astronaut, an engineer, a community entrepreneur, or a social services person showing the children the principles they continue to learn and apply through the educational path which they still travel would have been more applicable to those children. This would be especially meaningful since the majority of kids have greater chances of achieving money, and wealth with some of the aforementioned careers. Prioritizing professional athletes for mainly celebrity appeal while not considering the larger significance explained lacks wisdom.
A new study finds that if a child is taught by someone of a different racial makeup, directly influences that teacher’s expectations for the child to achieve. The rate of this was especially lower for Black males. In no way am I suggesting that educators of different racial and life experiences offer no benefit. However, the importance is rather the development of a bond between the child and the educator which allows the child to understand their potential is unlimited when interacting with someone coming from the same background of experiences.
Whether we take notice of how Muhammad Ali connected to Joe Louis, or young Black boys who connected to Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), to the throngs of young girls who aspire to become the next Serena Williams, Oprah Winfrey or Mae Jemison. The narrative of tracing one’s struggle among common paradigms is always fascinating because it links the past to the future.
More plainly put, it allows many to see a clearer path. When very little if any representation of African American Black men in a plethora of roles occurs, the future of positive manhood becomes threatened.
For example, an Ohio school encouraged everyone to dress up as someone they respected for a “career type” day. Some kids dressed as athletes or entertainers. One boy came dressed in a dark blue freshly tailored suit and tie. The teacher asked the student why he had not completed the assignment. The boy confidently responded, “I am the president of the United States!” The teacher frowned and replied, “We don’t need another Black president.”
The issue in having educators who not only have commonalities with African American Black males but also have the inherent understanding of how the process of marginalizing and ostracizing Black males functions today so a strategic plan for success accounting for the struggles against countless obstacles may be executed. The little boy didn’t think he would encounter someone who is supposed to be dedicated to his educational enrichment rooting for his failure in life.
Unfortunately, this became the case. Since many children see their teachers as authority figures and sometimes role models, many Black males in similar situations are given a hypocritical message: “I’m here to teach you, but I don’t believe you will achieve.” This means that African American Blacks will have to offer an alternative independent methodology of learning to counter the negative.
We must begin to properly understand and advocate the struggle of those who have fought and sacrificed so the full power of Black humanity has a chance to grow and prosper. This means seeking out opportunities and individuals who have completed monumental tasks, understanding those challenges will soon be passed down to future generations ready for it or not. It means teaching the values and benefits obtained by everyone as a result of the actions of struggle of another. It means advocating for our best interests unapologetically. It means to stop seeking permission from those who marginalize us and place the needs of our children’s future first. Lastly, we must elevate those African American Black men who refused to allow their struggle against a dehumanizing system drive them insane.