Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (2/16)


Education & Black History Month

By Mike Porcelli

Although celebrated for the past five decades, few people realize Black History Month had its origins in education a hundred years ago.

The renowned Black historian, Carter G. Woodson is regarded as the Father of Black History in America. After decades researching the education of early 20th century descendants of enslaved people, in 1933 he wrote his revolutionary book, “The Miseducation of the Negro,” where he proposed that the inferior position of those then referred to as “Negros,” resulted from inadequate education.

Woodson wrote how educational opportunities determined the life people create for themselves, and believed one’s ability to make a living, care for a family and contribute to community are determined by their education alternatives available, and how well one made use of those options. All themes are repeatedly stressed here each week.

Woodson argued that contemporary Black vocational schools erroneously assumed that their students just needed to, “absorb a certain set of information and develop a predetermined set of technical abilities,” and they didn’t care about, “understanding their students’ needs or developing their abilities.” This is a critical component of CTE programs and education in general today.

He lamented that, “a young Black man starting his work life as a janitor often dies in old age in the same position.” Surely, he would be pleased to see how his work made it possible for many Black janitors today, to go on to retire as CEOs of their companies.

Woodson continually repeats, “Critical and creative thinking can help Black people live more fulfilling lives. With education, the door of opportunity is wide open.” Certainly, he would be a supporter of current CTE programs.

Today, CTE offers the best option for career success for many Americans who have the aptitude and ability for the trades. It must be made available for future generations of skilled Black trade workers to continue their trade legacy. More can be learned about Black tradesmen at sites like this: https://blacktradesmen.us/      

As we close out Black History Month, note the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life – education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking.” That’s the core of CTE, and the reason Dr. King would be a leading supporter today.

In a 1948 critique of education, he said, “I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically.” He continued, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

There is no doubt that today Woodson and King would both be strong advocates of CTE programs for students of every race.

Let us all live up to their dreams!

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