Education and Race or Class?

To what purpose is education? Is it to teach us to be productive members of society, or to teach the finer aspects of the human soul? Is a trade school better than a fine arts school or is it the other way around? I think that the finest discussion of this is in two books ‘The Souls of Black Folks’ by W.E.B. DeBois, and ‘Up from Slavery’ by Booker T. Washington. They both made some fine points; learning Latin will not put food on the table, and work without culture makes a man an animal without refinement or an ability to enjoy life. Knowing how to read classic Greek without an ability to work would be ludicrous.W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black FolkThe function of the Negro college, then, is clear: it must maintain the standards of popular education, it must seek the social regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the solution of problems of race contact and cooperation. And finally, beyond all this, it must develop men.Yet after all they are but gates, and when turning our eyes from the temporary and the contingent in the Negro problem to the broader question of the permanent uplifting and civilization of black men in America, we have a right to inquire, as this enthusiasm for material advancement mounts to its height, if after all the industrial school is the final and sufficient answer in the training of the Negro race; and to ask gently, but in all sincerity, the ever-recurring query of the ages, Is not life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? And men ask this to-day all the more eagerly because of sinister signs in recent educational movements. The tendency is here, born of slavery and quickened to renewed life by the crazy imperialism of the day, to regard human beings as among the material resources of a land to be trained with an eye single to future dividends. Race-prejudices, which keep brown and black men in their “places,” we are coming to regard as useful allies with such a theory, no matter how much they may dull the ambition and sicken the hearts of struggling human beings. And above all, we daily hear that an education that encourages aspiration, that sets the loftiest of ideals and seeks as an end culture and character rather than bread-winning, is the privilege of white men and the danger and delusion of black.My commentTodays education system, and belief that men are animals that evolved higher than others supports the prejudices that Debois warns about, but today it is a class not race warfare. The privilege of the rich men and the danger and delusion of the poor.Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery: An Autobiography.X. A Harder Task Than Making Bricks Without StrawFROM the very beginning, at Tuskegee, I was determined to have the students do not only the agricultural and domestic work, but to have them erect their own buildings. My plan was to have them, while performing this service, taught the latest and best methods of labour, so that the school would not only get the benefit of their efforts, but the students themselves would be taught to see not only utility in labour, but beauty and dignity; would be taught, in fact, how to lift labour up from mere drudgery and toil, and would learn to love work for its own sake. My plan was not to teach them to work in the old way, but to show them how to make the forces of nature—air, water, steam, electricity, horse-power—assist them in their labour. 1At first many advised against the experiment of having the buildings erected by the labour of the students, but I was determined to stick to it. I told those who doubted the wisdom of the plan that I knew that our first buildings would not be so comfortable or so complete in their finish as buildings erected by the experienced hands of outside workmen, but that in the teaching of civilization, self-help, and self-reliance, the erection of the buildings by the students themselves would more than compensate for any lack of comfort or fine finish.Not a few times, when a new student has been led into the temptation of marring the looks of some building by leadpencil marks or by the cuts of a jack-knife, I have heard an old student remind him: “Don’t do that. That is our building. I helped put it up.”My commentLabor is honorable and a fair wage for a fair days work is nothing to be ashamed of. We need to work towards an ownership society, where all feel a part of the culture. Too many people do not care about the places they live at (city, county, state or nation) because they do not feel the own it. Nobody washes a rented car.“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a meance to society.”Theodore RooseveltJust my thoughts for today.
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David Silvas
Grandfather, Retired Army 1SG, former broadcast engineer, Student of History and Life. Graduate of the School of Commons- Manners and Sense.

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  • I grew up in S CA and went in to the military. I did not understand what hatred there was in race relations until I came to the south (GA). Then I saw first hand what was going on. I believe that growing up in a different environment and then being thrust into the issues involved caused them to stand out more. My post was not to get anyone upset but to think about the changes over the years. The two books I quoted were written around the early 1900’s by men who grew up in the years of the mid to late 1800’s. One was born a slave; one was born a freeman and their ideas on public education.
    Today we have the same problems, but not so much race related but a class, I know counties where the rich kids go to private schools and the poor go to public schools, this equates to race in some counties but not all.
    My question was; are we trading the race issues for a class warfare system. This shows up in the education system first because; as Nancy the Nurse pointed out, segregation in housing is often self inflicted. That causes segregation in schools. And that makes it appear as a race issue, but is it really race?
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