It’s true that, in fulfilling the duties of the presidency with great dignity, Mr. Obama represents the highest expression of the goal of assimilation. But for African-Americans, he was also the ultimate lesson in how this antidote alone is insufficient to heal the gaping wounds of racial injustice in America. It’s clear that black leadership, in itself, isn’t enough to transform the country. So we must confront the end of an era and the dawn of a new one.
The Center for Advancing Opportunity is being established in Washington, D.C., to act as a coordinating body and grant administrator. Three HBCUs will be selected in the future to host research centers. The number of on-campus research centers could grow if they’re successful. But mechanisms have not been developed for deciding which institutions receive research centers, which professors receive funding or which students receive scholarship money.
“In the immediate aftermath of the protests at Mizzou and Yale, there were days when the phones were ringing almost nonstop,” Shaun Harper, the center’s executive director, said. “We were getting so many calls from leaders asking, ‘Can you come and do a climate study?’ Spending four days on a campus interviewing hundreds of people is intense. It was getting to the point that we were exceeding our capacity.”
As a student at New York University and the daughter of a civil servant at the United States Department of State, I am familiar with political unrest and its potentially disastrous outcomes in the arms of ignorance and hysteria. I did not hold any particularly strong opinions about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. If I had voted, however, I would have picked Mr. Trump. I was focused on school. I had no idea that a few days later I would be dismissed as a “Trump supporter” and a person of “privilege” who “reflected an us versus them mind-set” in an essay by my college roommate in this publication — an essay that would go viral and change my life.
“We’ve got to stand up on behalf of our students who are the most vulnerable,” King said. “We’ve got to stand up for our students of color and insist on safe environments for them. We’ve got to stand up for our female students and insist on environments free of sexism. We’ve got to stand up for our students who are in religious minority groups who may be wrongly persecuted based on their religion. We’ve got to stand up for our students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We’ve got to stand
This is a very real point. College students, and young people in general are the biggest losers in this election. Not in the theoretical sense of losing out on just moral leadership, but more specifically in that unlike Clinton, Trump was never pushed to seriously engage issues about college debt and education financing.
“That’s the risk of trying to appeal to the everyday man, by de-emphasizing the importance of education, you run into a situation where education is put on the back burner and then institutions of higher education experience significant cuts and then we have trouble preparing the next generation of voters,” Ms. Tolson said. “I do see it as probably the biggest and honestly the saddest fallout of how our political system has developed.”
Reading Hillbilly Elegy, I thought about how much time we spend imploring students to seek guidance for obstacles of our own devising. We produce bureaucratic hurdles, then ask students to assume good faith and a willingness to help on the part of professors and administrators who don’t always exhibit such openness.
College should be “sold” to all students as an opportunity to experience an intellectual awakening. All students should learn that privilege is connected to the pursuit of passions. People are privileged to follow their hearts in life, to spend their time crafting an identity instead of simply surviving. Access to higher education means that your values and interests can govern your choices. It makes sense that privileged 18-year-olds who have already learned that lesson gravitate to liberal-arts colleges. I would prefer not to live in a country in which rhetoric about the purpose of college urges kids from privileged backgrounds to be innovators and creators while the poor kids who do very well in school are taught to be educated, capable employees.
This weekend the Washington Post printed a mea culpa from Kenneth Bernstein, a retired high school history teacher, in which he warns college professors about an impending onslaught of students with poor writing skills. Bernstein identifies the high stakes testing environment imposed by 2001’s No Child Left Behind as the reason for the demise of writing and critical thinking skills. However, if one reads Bernstein’s piece closely, it’s not NCLB that’s the culprit, rather the AP industrial complex that has sprouted up over the last twenty years. Yet, Bernstein conflates the two throughout his editorial:
My primary course as a teacher was government, and for the last seven years that included three or four out of six sections of Advanced Placement AP U.S. Government and Politics. My students, mostly tenth graders, were quite bright, but already I was seeing the impact of federal education policy on their learning and skills.
Unlike NCLB, AP courses are not federally mandated and schools have wide latitude in deciding whether to adopt AP courses. Many schools are hesitant to eschew what has become a sacred cow of American secondary education because of the prestige that it bestows upon schools that can boast offer a significant number of AP courses, not to mention the teachers who get to cherry pick their enrollments.
Also, unlike NCLB, AP courses are not generally seen as a bane of quality education/teaching. For example, at private schools throughout this country many of the same parents who proudly boast about not sending their children to public schools because they don’t want them being taught to a test, are the same ones fighting to preserve AP courses–even though the AP curriculum essentially demands teaching to a test.
Had Bernstein focused his energies more directly on teasing out these connections then this piece might have opened up another dialogue on the demand to reintegrate innovative pedagogical approaches into the classroom. Instead, this letter reads like a dated apology for a future that is not only already here, but one which has been here for quite a while thanks to the toll that AP courses exacted on secondary curriculum long before NCLB was enacted.