Monday, May 12, 2008

Higher Education

This morning, I read about Joshua Packwood in the Chicago Tribune. Read the article here.

Joshua is this years valedictorian of Morehouse College. Morehouse is the nation's premier institution of higher learning committed to the education and success of black men. Joshua is white.

The article tells more of the story, but Joshua had offers to Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and other prestigious schools. But he chose Morehouse specifically because he believed it would offer him a unique education and perspective. He is quoted as saying:

"I've been forced to see the world in a different perspective, that I don't think I could've gotten
anywhere else," he said. "None of the Ivies, no matter how large their enrollment is, no matter how many Nobel laureates they have on their faculty ... none of them could've provided me with
the perspective I have now."

It seems that Joshua Packford believes that the best education involves learning from and being around people who offer different backgrounds and perspectives. At Morehouse, he was looking to learn from others of a different race.

This stands out to me because this is an attitude that few white people realize. Many people of other races value learning from and with whites, but you seldom see whites looking to go and intentionally learning from people not like them.

I believe that young people need to learn from many types of people. In the PURSUE program that I lead, I believe that the young people that we support need access to education. But I also believe very strongly that colleges and universities desperately need their perspectives in the classroom. I believe that colleges should be actively and aggressively recruiting non white students specifically who come from economically challenged homes and environments.

But many colleges and universities don't truly see the value that these students can bring to their campus. If they did, they would help pave the way for them to come much like they do a star athlete or an outstanding student.

Are you glad that Joshua Packard chose Morehouse College or does it upset you? Do you think colleges truly value the perspective of the student from the inner city?


hammerdad said...

very interesting story KG. It is amazing to me how seldom whites see the need for this interaction. I liken it to one part of the body saying to another: "I have no need of you. . . " very anti-body.

JP Paulus said...

To answer your questions:
I think it’s fine about Joshua Packard. If there is a trend of the more “successful” Morehouse students (i.e. valedictorian) being more and more white, I might be concerned. But this by itself is a nice story. And if in the long term, Joshua is able to a leave a legacy for all students (and faculty) by his presence, as well as future financial support as well as leadership in the “real” world, then it’s a great thing.

As for colleges – I believe it is true that colleges actually due value diversity. Maybe not where it should be for all colleges, but in my new position, I have been learning about to many things (and people) out there for “our” youth..

Kevin, the story that we heard at the Illinois College Access Network is hopefully is more true than not – what colleges are looking for is “demonstrated interest”: if “our” students show that they care about a particular university (as opposed to mass applying, & just hoping to get into any that accept them), then I think the universities will step up and help.

They got to break through the pride that especially plagues suburbanites and ask for help, even on the “simple” things.

I was in a seminar with admissions people from Illinois State University where, in order to help struggling students (who had more issues either with their home life or socially adjusting than other “expected” factors), they actually pulled one of their admissions counselors, who had formed relationships with urban (and other) youth, and made him in charge of an on-campus program that included an extra “class” to help cover all of their needs and motivate them to succeed and connect them with all the resources ISU had to offer.

On “our” end (those who might work or support urban youth ministries), we need to make sure our youth are taking advantage of the resources out there, and meeting the deadlines needed for various things (i.e. college prep classes for colleges & government scholarships; FAFSA completion so they can get the first-come, first served grants, etc.)

If you want, I can do more “self-promotion” of the state agency I work for, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. I am in the middle of a 6 month training program which will help me know all the tools & resources that are available for Illinois students to make college affordable for them (that includes older adults as well).

KG said...

Anti-body - I like that term Joel. I think that I will have to use that in the future. We can all be anti-body at times.

JP- I appreciate the work that you are doing in this area. Thank you for the connections that you have made for me personally and many others. The Tribune had an article today about the rise in CPS students who are going to college after graduation. I am glad that there is good news out there as well. Keep up the good work.

mike Belgrove said...

Juan over at Highbrid Nation put me on to the white valedictorian of Morehouse story. Seems like a lot of people are upset. Lol, some people didn't even know white people were allowed to attend Morehouse. Honestly my opinion is that this is good for race relations. If us black people wanted to be fully embraced in American culture, we have to fully embrace the rest of America in ours.

KG said...

Thanks for stopping by Mike. I appreciate your imput. Your thoughts about mutual embracing of culture is important.