Rethinking the Cohort of Black Education: The Shift towards an Educationist Approach to Teaching

Photo: Michael Paulsen: Raymond Johnson Rice’s first black student returns to teach

Melanin has never been enslaved. It Is doing what it has always done since the beginning of creation itself. ~Dr. Naim Akbar

As a lifelong learner and staunch advocate for education for the last twenty years I am beginning to see a new paradigm emerge with regards to education as a profession. I will be the first to admit that all ambitious graduates seeking to teach as a profession right out of college should rethink that proposition just a little. Find the means for understanding the greater responsibility that teaching entails. Start with removing the negative stereotypes and jargon that has led to seeing the education system as something as a low-paying profession. Teaching can become the highest paid profession if you treat it like one.

The impact can be felt generations from now versus a job that would only serve the interest of those who first put you in the predicament that you find yourself in now. It is becoming evident to me that educating black minds is something that needs the attention of Professionals, Educators, Entrepreneurs, Counselors, Builders, Doctors, Scientists, Opticians, Presidents, Librarians, Lawyers, Accountants, and any individual who desires to inspire the next generation of thinkers and leaders.  

African American graduates need to take a page of out of Raymond Johnson Rice’s first African American student to receive his Doctorate (1969) in Mathematics. Johnson says that being the first African-American at Rice and, later, the first African-American faculty member at the University of Maryland were secondary to his pursuit of mathematics. Although, Mr. Johnson by many standards would be considered a prodigy and genius, in time this will be the norm for the African Americans. If you can grasp the significance of these accomplishments, you will be able to see a visual representation of black excellence at its finest, something that can be used as the driving factor for calling black educators back into the profession of teaching.   

Strategically, Mr. Johnson throughout his pathway towards excellence faced challenges as any professional would but didn’t let that stop him from recruiting and retaining African-American students from historically black colleges and universities. He served as a mentor to 23 doctoral students, most of them African-American and many of them female; and  remained at Maryland for 40 years (with a two-year interlude at Howard University from 1976 to 1978 until returning to Rice in 2007. By any means necessary we must break the status quo and embrace our calling towards Academia, whether K-12 or Higher Education.  

African Americans need to come back to the profession of education and find the means for elevating the status quo of the teaching profession concerning people of color. These intellectuals must come back and help to spearhead institutions of learning that focuses on holistic Afrocentric curriculum that includes the arts, sciences and dance. Our communities need programs, ideas, innovation, strategies, think tanks, land, money, businesses, development and nourishment of the soul. Our communities need us, and they need us in a major way.

We need to create a narrative that promotes teachers as Rockstar’s. It’s true that many people jump in this profession without the right frame of mind and the correct set of tools. They sort of teach on a trial basis and if the experiences don’t live up to their expectations then would be inclined not to see teaching as a viable option. It’s a shame that one or two years of teaching can drive a stake for which makes some of our brightest minds leave the profession all together. Although, the technical capacity of education isn’t on the level of coding or engineering mainframes, it still carries much innovation and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

As an Educationist, who is self-motivated and undeterred freedom fighter who is not deterred by low pay, system constraints, or political minefields; leads the way towards advocating for the best interests of students. That could include policy reform, community activist, curriculum development, and think tanks. It’s this feeble notion about education is a calling and one for which revolutionaries and social scientists could create massive amounts of change even on the grassroots level. Teaching should be a vocation for which one feels called to make a difference in the lives of others, and not a secure and well to do path where a pension & steady $30k+ annual salary becomes the motivating factor.

I feel that the stigma surrounding the profession of education needs to be recreated, given we can establish our own schools of thought like Montessori, Piaget, Freud, and skinner. As Black Educators we need to develop our own African Professional Mythos – A shared set of images and ideals that can guide and inform all our various specializations and concentrations. Our innovative and futuristic minds can create the necessary foundations for developing an ethical curriculum. Curriculum models need an infusion of morality, cross-cultural communications, spirituality and the means for bringing Ancient African civilization to life.   

The Nature of the profession of education is one that needs men of color to invigorate the importance of teaching when it comes to educating the community. David Purpel explains that “All Educators must come to define their autonomy in relationship to these broader struggles rather than as a minor component of an existing bureaucratic apparatus”. The fight to educate and train the minds of Black America is bigger than the constraints that holds us back. In Kantian moral philosophy; this represents the capacity of an agent to act in accordance with objective morality rather than under the influence of desires. No longer should the system influence the minds of those who are free from unethical bureaucratic norms. Take a stand and do what you can to help create a moral stance towards celebrating the “Educationist” and making sure that you rethink the stance towards educating your community.  

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