“On February 1st, 1960, four students from North Carolina A&T sat down at a lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., and demanded to be served. In 2014, four black students sit down at a lunch counter where they’re welcome and can’t read the menu.
“How did this happen in America?”
That’s what education reformer Howard Fuller is asking. But more than questioning how this came to be, he is trying to find a way to reverse the slide in educational outcomes.
“Education in America guarantees you nothing, but I will guarantee you, you will have nothing without an education. Education reform is a necessity,” Fuller told an audience attending the American Enterprise Institute’s Vision Talks in Washington, DC.
Fuller said education reform is not merely about providing choice. Private, public, and charter schools present a variety of options, but not all of them are good. Making sure that everyone has a quality choice is critical.
“If people have freedom, but the freedom is to choose from mediocrity, then it’s the illusion of freedom,” he said, adding that the reform movement must begin by empowering stakeholders, including minority and working-class families.
“When are we going to reach the point where we’re very clear that if this is going to work long term that somehow we’ve got to change the narrative and make sure that the people who we are trying to liberate are critical definers of what they need to be liberated?” he asked.
Fuller, a former school superintendent in Milwaukee and author of “No Struggle, No Power: A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform,” said ensuring that a child receives a quality education also means understanding the circumstances from which many students come.
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“People say no excuses. No excuses cannot be the same thing as no empathy. …Yes, we got to do everything that we can to make sure that those kids learn no matter what those experiences are, but we can’t act like those experiences have no impact on them when they come into our building.
“The question is not, how intelligent are you? The question is how are you intelligent?” he continued. “And there’s all of these different ways that our kids are intelligent that we must understand and we must tap into.”
Fuller said student liberation isn’t just about high test scores, but about connecting students back to their communities.
“I want them to understand and buy into the biblical notion that to those of whom much is given, much is expected. So that when we talk about quality … I want to make sure that these young people come out and they’ve got this commitment to personal excellence, but also a commitment to excellence for their community.”
Want to see more Vision Talks? Go to ThePursuitofHappiness.com.