Prominent Memphis Figures Speak on Promise of Education
by Lucy Hargrove
Fifty years after the sanitation worker strike and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, there is still a hidden cost of being African American, President of Dillard University, Walter Kimbrough said in Memphis.
Tuesday April 3, Kimbrough spoke on “The Promise of Education” during a panel hosted by the University of Memphis covering the socioeconomic roots of the achievement gap between white and black students and that there has been little done to change these conditions and restrictions for black students.
The achievement gap, spoken about by President and CEO of The Educational Trust, John King, refers to the disparity in academic performance between groups of students.
King recognized that there has been a period of progress for African American student, he continued that the lack of work within the school system is a result of the Reagan administration abandoning school management policy beginning in 1981.
Among Kimbrough and King were Dorsey Hopson, Shelby County Superintendent and Karen Harrell, vice president of Early Childhood Services at Porter-Leath.
Kimbrough, widely known as Professor Hip-Hop, continued that this resulted in lack of career advancement opportunities, like paid internships, for adolescents of color through the resegregation of schools and cities.
The four panelists agreed that one harmful aspect causing this discrepancy between education and black students in lack of preparation.
“Violence is sending African American kids to school for 12 years for only 6 years of education” stated King.
Hopson added that this issue not only concerns race but is also related to the socio-economic standing of many struggling families in Memphis with 40,000 kids living in households making less than 10,000 a year.
The lack of support from the school system shows that children need to be worked with earlier on, starting while they are still in the womb.
Working with prenatal mothers on the importance of talking and touching their children instills the importance of early language development said Harrell.
Harrell supported these statements with results found from studies conducted by the Urban Child Institute that found by the time a child reaches age three their brain is nearly 80 percent developed.
Since the Brown v. Board of Education ruling was made law to desegregate schools in 1968, little has been done to improve the educational experience for black youth.
With little being done to prepare all students for their future careers, the panelists recognized the economy will likely suffer due to an ill-educated generation being unable to support it financially.
“Our country’s future depends on kids of color getting a high quality education” said King.
Without changes made for children in school now, future generations will continue to suffer.
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