Race, education discussed at School of Education forum

Muktaru Jalloh, Staff Writer

VCU’s School of Education hosted a forum Tuesday night titled “Race and Education, K-12 and Beyond: Past, Present and Future Possibilities.” The event, held in the Commons Theater, was packed to near capacity and featured a panel of three guest speakers.

Among these speakers were Reverend Benjamin Campbell; Angelique Scott, student activist and organizer of Black VCU Speaks; and Michael Perkins, graduate research fellow in the School of Government and Public Affairs.

Ravi Perry, associate professor of political science, moderated the event. Throughout the night, Perry answered questions from the both present audience members and those sending in questions in via Twitter.

“What we need to know are the origins of color consciousness,” an audience member said. “If we’re going to solve this race problem, we’re going to have to be honest with its people and understand its origins.”  

One topic that was discussed regarded the assigned readings for English classes throughout the public school system. The panel recommended students read books such as Ta-Nehisi Coates Between The World and Me, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Keeanga-Tamahtta Taylor’s From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.  Many of the panelists agreed that the lack of African-American literature in the public school system is due to censorship.

As a result of this, a crowd member said “we must get past censorship so we can start getting students to read books that are based on reality.”

Scott challenged that teachers and administrators must reevaluate their teaching methods and look to empower and recognize talents in their students.

“The Superman complex is the issue. If you overestimate, then students will actually show you what you can do,” Scott said. “Reciprocity is a big thing in teaching. You must give your students credit”

Speaking to this notion, Perkins said students must be taught from an equal vantage point.

“In the world of criminal justice, people act the way you treat them. The same thing applies here. By teaching this way, you deter the growth of the individual,” Perkins said.

Another issue discussed was on the achievement and opportunity gap in minority school districts throughout Richmond. Campbell reasoned that this was due to a lack of structure in training educators. 

“We have 22,000 students in Richmond Public Schools. They are way underfunded and a significant number of students will be better suited if there are more adults involved in their situation,” Campbell said.

The event sparked an insightful and engaging discussion. Among the inspired attendees was Junior English major Vena Reed.

“A lot of the topics that were brought up during the panel discussion were answered adequately because of the way in which each person read various books that addressed issues in the realm of education and each of its intersections,” Reed said.

Reed, who hopes to become an English teacher, left the event feeling encouraged.
“I hope to make a difference not just in their classroom but also in the lives of my students. The only way I can do that is by reading, making an effort to constantly learn, hearing from other educators and attending productive discussions on education equity, the intersection of race and education.” Reed said.

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