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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Lack of educators of color

Panel discusses the need for more teachers of color in classrooms

A panel titled “Suspending the Status Quo: The Need for Teachers of Color in America’s Classrooms” was held at Saint Joseph’s University on Oct. 17, 2017 which discussed the lack of teachers of color in classrooms nationwide.

This panel was made up of four panelists, all African American, who experienced the difficulties of being an educator of color: Khary Golden, Randy Miller, Keziah Ridgeway and Robert E. Wright.

“We want to be able to have those challenging conversations and I am sure that some of you have had those challenging conversations,” said Shoshanna Edwards-Alexander, Ed.D, M.S.W., L.S.W., affiliate/adjunct faculty member. “Some of us have come in and we have had some thoughts about why this topic is interesting or what you may be able to take away from this. More importantly one of the things that we want to make sure is that this conversation continues.”

Miller explained concerns about his own child and how he would be educated with a lack of African American teachers.

“One of the things that I don’t think everyone understands necessarily; when you’re a person of color there are thoughts that you have about how your child will be educated,” Miller said. “Is my child going to school where there are any teachers who look like him or children like him? Does that matter, should that matter? What should my child have in order to be successful that is not necessarily just about the academics.”

One of the panelists mentioned the only reason she was hired was because she knew someone that already taught at the school.

“We have maybe 28 teachers in our department,” Ridgeway said. “Of that 28 we have maybe five people of color and of those five people of color we have two African American teachers and of those two African American teachers I was the only woman.”

Something that Golden stressed during the panel was the idea that it is “all a numbers game.”

“The reason why the teaching force is overwhelmingly white and female is because it is a very valiant position,” Golden said. “For the longest time generations have built their wealth on the education industry. This is what you call trickledown economics and it trickles all the way down to this one school in this department to that one black woman in Philadelphia.”

Panelists speak about the lack of teachers of color in schools nationwide (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about the importance of education for everyone in his article in the Maroon Tiger titled “The Purpose of Education.” In this article he stressed the importance of becoming more efficient and achieving the goals of one’s life.

“Dr. King was an agent for change,” Edwards-Alexander said. “His messages still echo in our hearts and minds so many decades later, as we continue to fight for equality. As educators, we have to be advocates for all children. Promoting diversity within the classroom allows children to be exposed to an array of teaching techniques, lived experiences and shared racial and cultural identities. It is important for students, in particular students of color to see a reflection of themselves in front of the
classroom as a natural part of their academic journeys.”

All the panelists agreed it is important for children to see someone who looks like them when they are growing up. It is not just about having teachers but it is about having someone who can relate to the students.

“There have been studies that came out where it shows that if a black student had a black teacher, just one, their chances of going to college skyrocketed,” Miller said. “Having a teacher of color is beneficial, not just for students of color but for white students too. They learn, they see, they get
different perspectives that they wouldn’t necessarily get because now they have a teacher of color in front of them.”

King wrote that education’s function is to teach individuals about the importance of character and how to think critically.

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough,” King wrote. “Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”

The teachers at this panel also believe education is very important in order for children to grow up and it is not just about the education but the experience behind the education as well.

“You have to teach from love,” Ridgeway said. “If you don’t teach from love, if we don’t start acting from love, this country is gone. It’s never going to work.”

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