Celebrating Black History Month

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In the month of February, the nation honors the achievements of African Americans; their stories and historical accomplishments are worthy of recognition year round. That’s why Pioneer Institute has sponsored events, produced videos, and published opinion pieces informing the public about important leaders and key milestones in the African-American experience, as well as the need for more educational choice options for all children. Pioneer supports school choice and improvements to academic instruction, especially in U.S. history, so all schoolchildren learn about African-Americans’ long struggle for freedom and equal opportunity. Below, we share some highlights from our coverage of seminal figures, topics, and periods such as slavery during the Founding era, the Civil War, and Civil Rights icons such as Fannie Lou Hamer, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Robert Moses, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

As a nation, we have a long way to go to address continued injustices. Persistent academic achievement gaps between African-American students and their white peers threaten to undermine prospects for upward social mobility. To address this disparity, Pioneer has actively promoted education reforms that have proven successful at helping minority students reach their full potential: private and parochial schools, charter public schools, the METCO inter-district school choice program, vocational-technical education, and a menu of school options.

Through events and op-eds placed in regional and national publications, Pioneer has advocated for expanded school choice to give inner-city students a lifeline out of failing public schools. Last month, we produced a feature-length documentary film, “Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws,” that seeks to raise public awareness about constitutional barriers in 38 states that block underprivileged children from attending private or parochial schools. Here in Massachusetts, the so-called Know-Nothing amendments prevent more than 100,000 urban families with children in chronically underperforming districts from receiving scholarship vouchers that would provide additional educational alternatives. Repealing these laws would immediately help low-income and minority students. As film narrator and Pioneer school reform advisor Gerard Robinson concludes, “Past bigotries are an unforgivable limitation on our children’s future.” Watch the film below, as well as clips from our events and op-eds.

Pioneer, through its podcast, is also providing a platform for more diverse voices, to discuss the importance of teaching our children about the history of African-Americans, and their contributions to our shared national heritage. Most recently, The Learning Curve education podcast featured U. Georgia Professor Valerie Boyd, discussing her biography of Zora Neale Hurston, the “Queen of the Harlem Renaissance,” and her 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, a book that all schoolchildren should read.

Video (Click image to watch):

“Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws”


Related event videos and commentary: 

Video Highlights from “America in the Age of MLK: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement in Schools” (held on January 15, 2014):

Video Highlights from “A Fire You Can’t Put Out: Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Civil Rights, and School Choices” (held on March 20, 2017): 

Video Highlights from “Civil Rights: Charter Schools & Teacher Unions,” (held on February 26, 2015):

Video Highlights from “The Founders and Slavery: Dr. Howard Dodson” (held on January 28, 2013):

Video: The Time To Act

Related op-eds:

Op-ed: Fannie Lou Hamer: ‘I Am Sick And Tired Of Being Sick And Tired’

By Jamie Gass

October 6 would be the 100th birthday of Fannie Lou Hamer, the black civil rights activist and vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). She made history during Freedom Summer 1964, storming the Magnolia State’s all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Atlantic City.

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Hamer would later famously say.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s grit in the face of relentless rural poverty and violence in the Jim Crow South make her a heroine whom American schoolchildren should know. But decades of national data show just how little they actually do know about U.S. history, civics, and geography.

History tells us that economic striving, great art, and moral leadership often spring from adversity.

Read this entire op-ed in The Hechinger Report,  WGBH News and The Berkshire Eagle.

 

The Boston Globe op-ed: State should expand METCO 

By Cheryl Brown Henderson and Jim Stergios

THE 50TH anniversary of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), which allows about 3,300 Boston and Springfield students to attend school in surrounding districts, provides a good opportunity to take stock of the program and, in doing so, compare it with the intent of the landmark 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

In its opinion, the court wrote that education is the “most important function of state and local governments. . . . It is doubtful that any child can be reasonably expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity . . . is a right that must be made available to all on equal terms.” METCO exemplifies the court’s pronouncement. Read more…

 

Op-ed: Teach students history of horrific slave trade

By Jamie Gass

“In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky and star-crowned mountains,” wrote African-American statesman and former slave Frederick Douglass. “But my rapture is soon checked When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal actions of slaveholding.”

February is Black History Month, but black history is American history and shouldn’t be relegated to one month annually.

Given K-12 education’s general disdain for background knowledge and memorizing dates, most American high school students know little European, African, and U.S. history or geography, including the terrifying truths about the transatlantic slave trade.

The slave trade uniquely embodies Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s view that we all share, “a single garment of destiny.” Spanning 1444 to 1870, the African slave trade defined our civilization, leaving a haunting global legacy.

Read this entire op-ed in The New Bedford Standard TimesThe Lowell SunThe Fitchburg Sentinel & EnterpriseThe Springfield RepublicanThe Berkshire EagleThe MetroWest Daily Newsand The Federalist.

 

Op-ed: We must teach hard historical truths of Emmett Till’s murder 

By Jamie Gas

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year old black boy from Chicago who was killed by two white Mississippians for whistling in the presence of a white woman. “The news of Emmett’s death caused many people to participate in the cry for justice and equal rights, including myself,” wrote Rosa Parks, the first lady of civil rights. Read more…

Get Updates On Our US History Initiative

Related research and commentary:

Poll Finds Strong Majority of Massachusetts Residents Support Restoring U.S. History MCAS Graduation Requirement

Sixty-two percent of Massachusetts residents support restoring passage of a U.S. history test as a public high school graduation requirement, according to a poll of Massachusetts residents’ attitudes toward education policy commissioned by Pioneer Institute and conducted by the Emerson College Polling Center.

Award Winner Peter Cozzens on Tecumseh, the Indian Wars & the American West

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Peter Cozzens, the award-winning author of The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West. As National Native American Heritage Month winds down, Mr. Cozzens reviews what our schoolchildren should know about Native Peoples’ innumerable contributions and heart-wrenching experiences.

Award-Winner Nathaniel Philbrick on the Mayflower and the First Thanksgiving

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Nathaniel Philbrick, historian, winner of the National Book Award, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and author of Mayflower: Voyage, Community, and War. Mr. Philbrick shares what we should know about the actual historical events of the First Thanksgiving in 1621.

Stanford’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. Jack Rakove on James Madison, The Federalist Papers, & U.S. Constitutionalism

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Dr. Jack Rakove, Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Stanford University, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. Professor Rakove reviews the biography of James Madison, often called the "Father of the Constitution," and the influence of classical and Enlightenment learning on his farsighted political thought and leadership.

NYT Best Seller Laurence Bergreen on 530th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus Discovering the New World

On this special Columbus Day edition of “The Learning Curve," guest host Pioneer Institute's Mary Z. Connaughton talks with Laurence Bergreen, a prize-winning biographer, historian, chronicler of exploration, and the author of Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504. Mr. Bergreen discusses what people should know about the life, career, and myths around Christopher Columbus, the courageous, ruthless, and complicated explorer and navigator, on the 530th anniversary of his history-changing and ever-controversial discovery of the New World.

Two Stars in a Glowing Voc-Tech Education System

“A Tale of Two City Schools: Worcester Tech and Putnam Academy Become Models for Recovery” is a new white paper by Pioneer Institute that analyzes how Worcester Tech and Putnam Academy — schools with high numbers of low-income and special needs students — leapt from the bottom of Massachusetts voc-tech rankings to become leaders among local schools.

Oxford’s Prof. Timothy Garton Ash on Poland’s Solidarity, Lech Walesa, & Cold War Lessons for Ukraine

https://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/chtbl.com/track/G45992/mp3.ricochet.com/2022/09/TheLearningCurve_TimothyGartonAsh.mp3

UVA’s Two-Time Pulitzer Winner Prof. Alan Taylor on Thomas Jefferson & Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Alan Taylor, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of the book, Thomas Jefferson's Education. Professor Taylor shares some highlights of Jefferson’s career, his views on the importance of primary and higher public education in serving the political aspirations of his state and region, and Jefferson's role as the architect of the University of Virginia,

William & Mary’s Dr. Charles Hobson on Chief Justice John Marshall, SCOTUS, & Judicial Review

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Charles Hobson, a retired resident scholar at the William & Mary Law School, 26-year editor of The Papers of John Marshall, and author of The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law. Dr. Hobson shares what students should know about the longest-serving, most important chief justice in the history of the Supreme Court, and his influence on our understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

NYU Law Prof. Richard Epstein on the Founders’ Constitution & Federalism

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Richard Epstein, the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, and author of The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government. He describes the influence of 17th and 18th-century English ideas on our Founding Fathers’ views of ordered liberty and self-government.

Jean Strouse on J.P. Morgan & the Rise of American Finance

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Jean Strouse, author of the award-winning biography of J.P. Morgan, Morgan: American Financier. They discuss why the general public and students alike should know more about the life and accomplishments of the controversial, late 19th- and early 20th-century American banker.

Mt. Holyoke’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. Joseph Ellis on John Adams & American Independence

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AEI’s Robert Pondiscio on E.D. Hirsch, Civic Education, & Charter Public Schools

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He shares his background working with curriculum expert E.D. Hirsch, Jr., who has emphasized the importance of academic content knowledge in K-12 education as well as civic education to develop active participants in our democracy. Pondiscio explains some of the findings of his book, How the Other Half Learns, on New York’s Success Academy charter schools network.

Book Finds Massachusetts Voc-Tech Schools Are National Model, Calls for Expansion

Massachusetts vocational-technical schools -- boasting minuscule dropout rates, strong academic performance, and graduates prepared for careers or higher education -- should be expanded to meet growing demand, according to a new book published by Pioneer Institute.

Smith College Prof. Paula Giddings on Ida B. Wells and Her Anti-Lynching Crusade

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This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and guest co-host Derrell Bradford talk with Prof. Paula Giddings, Elizabeth A. Woodson Professor Emerita of Africana Studies at Smith College, and author of A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching.

Columbia’s Prof. Nicholas Lemann on the Great Migration, the SAT, & Meritocracy

This week on “The Learning Curve," guest co-host Kerry McDonald talks with Nicholas Lemann, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus of the Columbia School of Journalism, and author of the books, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, and The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy.

UVA Law Prof. G. Edward White on Law, Race, & the U.S. Supreme Court in American History

This week on “The Learning Curve," as the nation prepares for the likely confirmation of its first Black female U.S. Supreme Court justice, Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. G. Edward White, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and author of the three-volume book, Law in American History.

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