Equity, Race, Revolution & Reform in US Education: What has (not) changed? an anniversary program

denishaDenisha Jones, Howard University Visiting Assistant professor, leader in BadAss Teachers and a host of other national organizations, joined this program — along with Kymone Freeman (right), activist and homeschooling dad and Education Town Hall organizers: host Thomas Byrd, feature reporter Virginia Spatz, and engineer Ron Pinchback for this special anniversary discussion.

To honor Black History Month and the Education Town Hall’s anniversary, join us on February 18, as host Thomas Byrd led a conversation on where we are in U.S. education, in terms of equity, race, revolution & reform:  What has, and has not, changed since the mid-20th Century in U.S. education? Which, if any, school reform furthered racial equity? What revolutions in education — in the classroom, through homeschooling, or otherwise — have succeeded, however locally or shot-term? Do mid-20th Century observations on education — from James Baldwin, Shirley Chisholm, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Black Panthers — still apply after 50 years or more?

Kymone_RonSee below for some mid-20th Century statements on education: from James Baldwin, Shirley Chisholm, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Black Panthers. What, if anything, has changed?

Full recording above.

The Education Town Hall broadcasts from Historic Anacostia
in Washington, DC, Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern
on We Act Radio.
Listen live via TuneIn.
Shows are archived for convenient listening shortly after broadcast.

The Education Town Hall BUS is a monthly program
organized by BadAss Teachers, United Opt Out, and SOS March.
The program regularly airs on the 4th Thursday of each month.


Education Town Hall has is celebrating four years on We Act Radio.

Mid-20th Century, on Education

James Baldwin
“A Talk to Teachers” —

…I began by saying that one of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society.  It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.  And on the basis of the evidence – the moral and political evidence – one is compelled to say that this is a backward society.  Now if I were a teacher in this school, or any Negro school, and I was dealing with Negro children, who were in my care only a few hours of every day and would then return to their homes and to the streets, children who have an apprehension of their future which with every hour grows grimmer and darker, I would try to teach them –  I would try to make them know – that those streets, those houses, those dangers, those agonies by which they are surrounded, are criminal.  I would try to make each child know that these things are the result of a criminal conspiracy to destroy him.  I would teach him that if he intends to get to be a man, he must at once decide that his is stronger than this conspiracy and they he must never make his peace with it….”
— 1963
full speech and contemporary teaching materials at Zinn Ed Project

Shirley Chisholm
Speech to congressional hearing 1969 —

…America as a nation is both racist and anti-feminist. Racism and anti-feminism are two of the prime traditions of this country. For any individual, breaking with social tradition is a giant step – a giant step because there are no social traditions which do not have corresponding social sanctions — the sole purpose of which are to protect the sanctity of those traditions.

[Also in the same speech: counselors who direct women to careers as “wife and mother” and blacks to careers in service.]


Martin Luther King
The purpose of education:

A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.
— 1947, Morehouse College paper

Speech: John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers:

…The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education.
March 14, 1964 address

On addressing social issues, including education, jointly or one-by-one:

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income…. We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.
Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper & Row, 1967).

More in Valerie Struass’ 2012 column, but note that most of the source links are broken.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense:
On survival programs, including education and breakfast:

These are not reform programs, they’re revolutionary community programs. A revolutionary program is one set forth by revolutionaries, by those who want to change the existing system to a better system. A reform program is set up by the existing exploitative system as an appeasing handout to fool the people and keep them quiet.
– Bobby Seale, from Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton

On the Oakland Community School —

The School is the realization of a dream…to repair disabled minds and the disenfranchised lives of this country’s poor communities, to lay the foundations as to create an arena for the world without such suffering. Our aim is to provide the young of these communities with as much knowledge possible and to provide them with the ability to interpret that knowledge with understanding. For we believe without knowledge there can be no real understanding and that understanding is the key to liberation of all.”
— Huey P. Newton, see Panther Cub page

From the school’s director —

The school was a critical formulation of the Black Panther Party vision that students would use their education as a stepping-stone to become world changers. Every child was appreciated for her/his innate wisdom and unique talents. A guiding and global principle of the school was The World is Our Classroom. This principle sprung from the school’s philosophy that children at OCS “will learn how, not what, to think”.
— from Ericka Huggins’ page

See also “Black Panthers, Education & the SuperBowl — 50 Years On”


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