The Mis-education of White PeopleMarch 3, 2017
One of the unintended consequences of denying access to information to minorities by the majority is denying the same access to themselves. If the curriculum in our schools eliminates information about various races of people, it is an academic threat to all school children, white students included. Our progress as a nation depends on each individual having access to the education and training necessary to make contributions to his fellow man. There have been many mishaps in our past that could have been avoided if we simply had “all hands on deck” working out the problem. For too long, those with the answers and the abilities to solve the problems have not been allowed to participate in the process, and for that we all suffer.
In 1933, historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, published the book “The Mis-Education of the Negro.” In it he refers to the process of shaping the minds of Negroes with a Eurocentric academic curriculum. He argues that even though Negroes receive college degrees, the value of the degree is questionable if the recipient holds an inaccurate understanding of the world in which he lives. Woodson believed that Negroes who don’t know the full history of America can’t necessarily pass on the correct information to future generations. He wrote that there was a need for Negro teachers in the classroom. However, if the curriculum they taught replicated the racially biased curriculum taught by whites, the Negro was actually better off with white teachers. He coined the label of the practice of mis-educating the Negro. Similarly, white teachers and professors who perpetuate a flawed curriculum do harm to white pupils. Neither gets the full story.
When African-American students receive a Eurocentric curriculum, the white ones do too. When all that its taught about African-American history is Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks, that’s all the African-American kids know, and that’s all the white ones do too. There have obviously been great contributions to America by whites and all of us need to know of them. There have also been great contributions by all other racial groups to America, and ALL of us need to know them. When the full story is not told, it devalues our educational systems as a whole. Along with the contributions each group has made, it’s also important that each group be aware of their options and not be pushed into a segregated track. There is a need in ensuring that our African-American students know of Dillard and Xavier. The white students need to take a tour of these campuses as well. When it is assumed that all African-Americans are going to Grambling and Southern and whites are going to LSU and Stanford, this is mis-education. It is highly possible that many white students would get a better educational experience at an HBCU. However, this has to be seen as a viable option.
It is also popularly expressed, as it has been for over a century, that African-Americans should have vocational training in their schools. Well, why wouldn’t that also be beneficial for white students? Are welding, auto-mechanics, and cosmetology not occupations in which whites are engaged? There should be as much an interest to get white students in a medical magnet program as it is to get African-Americans in it. Not all white students are going to Yale and Harvard. The real hard truth is that many can’t even get into LSU and Tulane. They’re taking survey level and remedial courses at Delta, ULM, and Tech with LSU bumper stickers on their cars. The audacity of hope, I gather. Take a trip over to McCann School of Business and Technology. There aren’t just African-American students sitting in those classes. The proof is in the pudding. There are white students who can’t make a 20 on the ACT. However, there are African-Americans students scoring above 25 and every so often one will hit a 36. Some African-Americans would do wonders with an accelerated learning program, and some whites would do better with a vocational curriculum. But to say that Vo-Tech learning is a good thing for African-Americans and not whites is a bit prejudiced and it is the type of mis-education that prevents progress.
I wonder what cures for diseases could have been found in previous years if we all had equal access to education and training. I wonder if we all had access to education, training, and participation, would the Russians have beaten us in the space race? Would it have taken so long for Sonya Sotomayor to become a Supreme Court Justice or Barack Obama to become President. How do we expand on George Washington Carver’s agricultural contributions? How do we improve on the mathematical and engineering contributions of Steve Jobs and Mark Zukerburg? Could a white mass communications major learn a lesson from the works of John H. Johnson? Could a black football coach take a few pointers from Mickey McCarty? We all have something we can learn from each other. The solution is to recognize the contributions we all make to society and cease indoctrinating a segregated, prejudiced mentality within our citizenry. We must do more than just put white teachers in front of black students and call that integration and should avoid pulling out our students from public schools into private all-black or all-white enclaves. This further mis-educates Negroes and it definitely mis-educates white people.
*Robert is a graduate student at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org*