BLACKADEMIA: Understanding The Roots of Public Education

BLACKADEMIA - (As heard on TOUCH 106.1 FM in Boston and How We Do It Radio on Following my Sept 26th installment, a parent asked me about "Intellectual Enhancements" and why they can't be provided by the school system? Isn't this why we pay taxes? There are actually two answers to this question. For one thing, what I'm describing as "Intellectual Enhancement" activities are the kinds of things that many students who attend private school regularly engage in with their parents outside of school. Among those with the resources to pay for their children's education often comes an understanding that school is only half of the educational picture for your children and the rest is their home environment. The second part of the answer lies in the history of public school, whereby we can understand that enhancing the intellect is not in the root history or precise mission of public schools and the compulsory education acts that sparked them across the country.

Compulsory Education is the act that made attending school mandatory, initially from grades kindergarten to six, eventually up to eighth and now up to grade 12 or the age of 16. In Massachusetts, this act was adopted in 1852 and the objective was to provide youth with the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, a.k.a. "The Three Rs". This was not so much an act of altruism or Rousseaun enlightenment as much as the fact that we were entering the Industrial Revolution. The writing was on the wall, and the workers of this new phase of American industry were going to need to know how to read it. Booker T. Washington understood the situation, which is why so much of his rhetoric (shrewdly and pragmatically designed to raise funding, support and political influence for himself and Tuskegee) was geared towards labor and trade as the foundation for Black advancement, as it appeared to be less threatening than Dubois more intellectually driven philosophies. The foundation mission of compulsory education, (regardless of the historic "education will save children's souls" rhetoric and sales pitches that accompanied it's lobby) is to make people serviceable to industry through the three Rs and conditioning (sitting in rows, responding to bells and buzzers, etc.), as one might notice that the set-up of a private school classroom is often different from that of a traditional public school.

With an understanding of this history, it's easy to see that there are certain inherent deficiencies at the philosophical foundation of public education that we as parents truly need to compensate for as we navigate through the K - 12 years with our children. Providing intellectual enhancements for your child is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, just something that not all parents are aware of or believe that they are capable of providing. Here again, there are resources available to  us through our communities, e often just have to take the time to find them. Libraries, museums, cultural events, "mind builder" activities, and the like are a good way to start.

Just remember: the future of our community is in your hands.

BLACKADEMIA WEDNESDAYS with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor
Every Wednesday
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@9PM on How We Do It Radio
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