“An educated, enlightened, and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.”- Nelson Mandela
I am the first person on my father’s side of the family to graduate from college. My mother is the first in her family to graduate from college. And as the story goes, she didn’t know she was going to college until her mother told her so. Why? Because education is important. My father valued life education more than a formal one. While having graduated Dorsey High School and attending some college, he never stopped learning. This was in the 1960s.
My mom was in the first graduating class of Crenshaw High School. It is easy to recall stories growing up of her experiences as a Black student being taught by mostly white teachers. When I was younger she shared memories of demeaning comments from teachers and the lack of focus on higher education in school.
School districts in Southern California were riddled with racial imbalance and narrowed curriculum. There was a lack of culture in integrated schools and representation was not a priority. Just 10 years earlier, Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education ruled that separate and unequal schools were unconstitutional. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the California Supreme court ruled that racial segregation must be eliminated (Sapphos Environmental, 2014).
Currently, California has 10,000 public schools and 1,300 charter schools. Out of the six million students served by California public schools, about 340,000 (5.5%) are classified as African-American. In the California African American Policy Priorities Survey (CAAPPS, 2018), over 70% of Black voters identify public education as an “extremely high” priority for their elected representatives to address. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 62% of parents thought it was “extremely important” for their children to earn a college degree.
Education matters to Black people. Why? Education is the gateway to opportunity.