SMC hosts famed author and educator on topic of race, culture and education

dr howard

By Justin Gold

Saint Mary’s College of California played host to Dr. Tyrone Howard, September 25, as he lead a conference on the topic of minority youth in the California Public School system.

Dr. Howard, Professor of Education at the University of California Los Angeles, and author of the book Why Race and Culture Matters in Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap in America’s Classrooms, has focused the bulk of his scholarship on issues of race, culture, and education. He has delivered over 75 keynote addresses and presented more than 150 research papers, workshops, and symposia at national higher education, education research, teacher education, and social studies conferences, according to UCLA’s Black Male Institute website.

Howard’s main point was that there exists unequal opportunity for minority youth in the education system and what happens as a result, stating specifically that young Black and Latino males are “targeted far more often than there other racial counterparts.”

“Males of color make up only 22 percent of United States school population, yet they account for 62 percent of all school aged children being arrested,” said Howard.

He also noted that an estimated 1.5 million students drop out of school each year.

“When that many students are leaving schools they are saying that what we are doing is [simply] not working for them.”

Turning the topic of discussion toward the state’s juvenile detention centers, Howard extrapolated on the conditions of the education systems within the facilities, describing them as possessing a strong police presence with educators who were generally unequipped to handle students.

While he presents the information in the form of urgent pressing matters, he also offered up a solution in the form of what he calls CDF freedom schools

The schools are a part of a pilot program that is in place in juvenile detention centers across the city of Los Angeles. According to Howard, these Freedom Schools will aim to generate a greater interest in learning in the minority youth in detention centers by implementing more culturally relevant material.

“Statistics show that students are more likely to learn and pay attention if you give them something they are interested in,” said Howard.

When probed about the scope of the project, he noted that the best case scenario would be for the CDF Freedom School program to be put into effect in schools nationwide as a preventative measure, but said that there exists an issue because “schools have state mandated [items] that they must teach.”

How does SMC factor into all of this?

The event, which was sponsored by the school’s Liberal Arts, Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies, Modern Languages, Anthropology departments, and the Intercultural Center, also featured a student and teacher component; a couple of students and faculty members shared their views on how each individual person can help effect change.

“we can take our privilege at of being at Saint Mary’s to advocate for equal education opportunities, [by] [not] doing this, we perpetuate the system we live in,” stated Kenna Williams, Junior and Sociology major, who performed an original poem as an opening act for Dr. Howard.

“[Students] and [faculty] can get engaged and involved in politics and with organizations which lobby and work for educational equality and fairness. Write and call political representatives to push them to implement educational reforms toward real equality” said Patrizia Longo, professor of Politics at SMC, who was unable to attend but recommended the event to all of her students.

Howard left with these closing remarks, saying “Each [person] can take it upon themselves to become aware and learn more about these issues. Commit yourself, [regardless] of profession, to a project. Once you create your own awareness, you act; whenever there have been mass uprisings, young people have been at the forefront.”

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