"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

Search This Blog

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Should Public Schools Focus on One Culture, Philosophy or Interest?

The comment section is abuzz in the St. Louis Dispatch article "New City School Blends Learning with African Cultural Flavor" regarding the opening of a school with a cultural focus:

Pamoja Preparatory Academy @ Cole opened Monday as an African-centered school - a place where reading, math, and science are taught alongside African values, customs and culture. Among those values are self-control, respect toward elders and giving back to community.

The school is the first with an African focus in the St. Louis public school system, a district where about 80 percent of the students are black. It's also one of more than a dozen public schools in the city - traditional and charter - that are focused on a particular philosophy or emphasis.

There are two schools of thought referenced in the article and they run through the readers' comments section as well:

The comments in favor of cultural-centered schools can be summed up this way:

Advocates of specialized schools in urban areas argue that they are an effective way of keeping school-age children in the central city. Magnet schools and often charter schools offer a specialized focus - such as performing arts, foreign language or classical education - to engage children who otherwise may lose interest at more traditional schools.

The comments against this type of education follow this argument:

But others contend that the African-centered approach is too narrowly focused on one racial group.

"I have never had a high regard for any form of ethnic, racial or religious-themed schools," said Diane Ravitch, a prominent education historian and author at New York University. "The purpose of public education is to develop American citizens who are prepared to make their way in the world and to collaborate with others to improve our democracy."

One reader tied the issues together early in the comments section that others are continuing to debate hours later:

PhoenixRising said on: August 21, 2011, 8:01 am
This is a tough topic. On one hand, I think it's fine to have pride about your roots--for example, no one would begrudge an Irishman his chance to feel pride on St. Patty's Day. Black children should understand that the history of their people began much before slavery, just like white Americans trace their ancestry back to Europe. However, why does this school have to call its mission qualities specifically black qualities? Togetherness, ingenuity, kindness, motivation; these are qualities that any decent human being should have. I think Grant had it right saying the kids need to move beyond their skin color as a definition because it's hindering. Understand your roots, but don't let them define you. And I don't think the problem is teachers not knowing how to teach black students- you could say the opposite, that the culture these children grow up in is not conducive to education. This applies to both rural and urban kids.

What do you think? Should taxpayer dollars be used for schools focusing on just one particular philosophy or interest? How would a cultural focus be defined...as a philosophy or an interest? If schools do focus on a philosophy or interest, will that make students Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) ready in a global society if those philosophies or interests are not centered in those STEM areas?

(Here's a bit of information about Cole Elementary--now renamed Pamoja Preparatory Academy--from 2009).


  1. Wouldn't it be a good idea to stay in our own countries to affect change for freedom and prosperity, instead of going elsewhere to change it to be more like where one came from?

  2. "African Values"...such as respect to the elders, giving back to the community, are exactly what ALL schools should be teaching to our American children. People who freely come to our country are to ASSIMILATE when they reside here. To segregate oneself by group is not an American value.... and should not be funded by my tax dollars.

  3. This is to address the Anonymous writer on Aug. 22, 2011
    White people do it everyday and nothing said about it..


Keep it clean and constructive. We reserve the right to delete comments that are profane, off topic, or spam.

Site Meter