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This is the 16th in a series of programs and titled seeds of discontent presenting the program tonight as Hartford Smith junior assistant professor in the School of Social Work Wayne State University. PROFESSOR SMITH. Tonight we continue our reporting and analyses of the discontent problems and plight of American Negroes. Again I will emphasize that we are attempting to capture many moods opinions and expressions of feeling from various negroes from many different walks of life. So far we've looked at the older negro citizen. We have listened to the entertainers to cab drivers to common laborers and to a certain extent we have to listen to what might be called The Negro middle class as symbolized by the expressions of a negro psychologist editor and car salesman. As a result of interviews with many and varied negro sitters and so far in our programs we have discovered that the whole problem of providing more and better education seems to be another constant thing. And concerning
this theme a quality education is one that runs far back into the negro struggle for freedom and the full rights of citizenship. Starting with Booker T Washington immediately after the Civil War and moving up to the present time with incidents such as the Northern High School protests there has been this theme of more and better education for Negro children. Much of the early strategy of civil rights action by body such as the NAACP and the Urban League was centered on breaking down the barriers of segregation and inferior education which came about as a result of the so-called separate but equal doctrine. It is no accident then that many Negro educators have at various times been more or less recognized as a voice of Negro mood and feeling. It is also of special significance to know that the opening wage which led to numerous successes in the area of equal rights started with the pressures applied at the
public education level which resulted in the Supreme Court's decision and Brown vs. the Board of Education. And spite of this historical push in the area many Negro children especially in urban centers such as Detroit New York New York and L.A. are still not receiving quality education. For many the public schools are a source of failure. Many drop out. Some researchers in recent years indicate that many are in fact pushouts as opposed to dropouts. For these reasons then we're going to take an in-depth look at the public schools and our system of public education as it applies to the American Negro. Our guest tonight will be Mr. Robert Cannon a negro administrator from the Detroit Board of Education. Mr. Cannon is a community liaison assistant in this capacity. He is a part of the eyes and ears of the Detroit Board of Education and looking at
problems of providing quality public instruction within the school district. He has helped to bridge the gap between the various groups in the community and supplying information and ideas regarding future plans to meet educational needs. Our discussion began on the question of the structure of the educational system. Mr. Cannon during the past several weeks we ventured you know a number of Negro citizens from various walks of life. We've got considerable concern about the present structure of American public education. Some of said that the entire system will have to be changed before their children are going to get the kind of education that they need in order to compete in today's world. In addition it was felt that the problems of racial prejudice and bigotry would not end until the restructuring of the current educational system. Took place. Now I wonder from your position your job the things that you have seen. What is your feeling about this particular line of reasoning.
If there is anything hard for it but I am sure that the Detroit public school recognizes. Is that. We have been most. Exceedingly unsuccessful at the education of a very significant group of children. I think that you go into any urban city and you will find. That. In our opinion most public schools. Have not really learned how. To. To make substantial adequate. To contribute significantly to the making of substantially adequate self-respecting children in too many cases. I think that we can say that and in too many instances we have failed. And I think that. If we look at the fact I accept the premise that.
Schools are really a mirror. Of the communities which they serve. And that people demand that the focus of attention and that what goes on in their schools reflect the kind of society that they live in. Then I think that we can easily understand why schools have done this because schools have unfortunately had the role of the perpetuation of the culture of equipping people to live in a certain in in the prevailing kind of culture that schools our products. I repeat other communities which they serve any reflection of them. And I think that the failure of schools. Is a failure. Is a reflection of the failure of our overall system to adequately concern themselves with this group of people who've recently learned be called the N.S.A. people. In large numbers of course there of course. Are white children. This is true too. I
think that. If you are very poor black. That the chances of the Educational Complex having the tools and the know how. To to really contribute significantly to your becoming and be a human being is very small. I wonder if we could go a bit inside and take a look at some of the major and specific. Defects. In the present system. The construction that you see now in recent years we've had certainly a considerable amount of material about high school dropout in more recent years. There is a new and developing theory of. The high school of push up. If you will. There is this whole concern with the SEC How would you feel you know what industrial to a human being and his development. So. What specifically do you see in the area of the
system as it operates now. What specific changes do you see that area that are needed. What are the major defect hereis. The major defect area is what you you raise here and believe me you ask me a question but I think it is really quite bugging everybody. I think if there were in a recent board member. A community group made the point that what they wanted. Was accountability. How the public schools for the education of the young. And that what they really saw was that school people do a professional job in the education of their children and that they make the indictment that schools are not accountable for the job that they do. There are many people who support that point of view. If the
public but the schools themselves people are not the only. Failures here. Because with you you cannot. Divorce what goes on in schools from society generally. And I think in this that too is a part of the indictment. Very interesting exchange came about when one spokesman for this community group suggested that when the schools talk about improving schools they're talking about increasing services and spending more money. And one board member suggested that what you're asking for is. Takes money. Well it was a point was made that that is one of the ingredients but another very significant ingredient. Is that it doesn't take money. For people to be more concerned or more involved with what they are supposed to be doing as professionals. And you see. One of the real real crucial issues about. What we're going to do about
schools. Is how can we get. People. And in their homes and families and parents and community people. To become concerned and involved and identify themselves with schools because when children leave home. Leave their stores and leave their. In the institutions of their neighborhood and come into the school. They are leaving people who have no faith who are alienated from. And they bring a kind of hostility and a kind of feeling that this really isn't relevant. They bring with them a feeling that. What goes on here is really not germane and essential for me to live on my block and survive on my street. Because all too often. Schools are dressing themselves. The child feels. Two things that are not
relevant to his ongoing life because it is not for him because he is black or he is poor. And I think that the point was very well made that the schools in all major cities are going to have to select people. And. MAKE PEOPLE WHO and minister and teach. Are accountable for the fact. That. Children must feel my acceptance. Accepted. That they must find a way to build more self-respect. They must treat children in a way that children feel that that what goes on is response is relevant. And that. Schools must become more accountable for the job that they do or don't do. I see you know that range to round two way. Another issue which surely has been with us. Pressure more visibly in recent
years and. Assuming that. No. More money is made available. There is a question of. The recruiting practices of various boards of education throughout. The. Country. In other words here there is a problem of somehow. Finding people. Who can understand the lifestyle. Many of these youngsters and who can bridge that gap between. The kids reality and this reality that the public schools is trying to do to move towards. I understand this has been a major defect What do you see from your position. What do you see in with changes being made in this area and he's. Made you resistant movement or thinking in terms of utilization of grassroots individuals. I have to go back to the initial statement which I made.
And that is that schools reflect the kind of community. Which they serve. And all too often. In the inner city particularly. The community expression has it has not been there. The schools have been abandoned by people who are disenchanted. The people have not remained to insist. That that their voices be heard while in a pluralistic society. Other interests have insisted that schools be a certain way. And. Schools. I know better. Than the people that minister. There know better than the man than the the concerns of the people. Which they serve because schools will move. In the direction. Of the concerns are the voices that are heard. Schools are
responsive. To people. Needs wants those needs are taken later. And I think that recently we have been hearing. What we didn't hear 15 years ago. There are new sounds being made. New demands being made new kinds of expectations being expressed. New requirements and that schools are not responsive. And as these continue and as the tri public schools. In our case. Recognize and it is not difficult because let's face it all people don't perceive the same way. I'm amazed wonderful people who are trying honestly and sincerely to do a job. But in a large place like the Detroit public schools work whatever the numbers 10 11000 people. That many of them are irrelevant. As we have thousands of dedicated
relevant people. We have too many people who are not relevant. To our times and to the places in which they are in. But this is. A product of a changing times. These people at one time were irrelevant. And you can't dig holes and put people in. There for the the principle of accountability. Must be and I can assure you it is. One of the basic principles of brown which the board in the administration opposed to the scene in the rally to make people do a job. And they are seeking everyday. To employ. And to seek out and find people who can do a job. Because I repeat this is the demand of 1968. This is the requirement of a school system in 1968. This was the the message of Northern. This was the message of the trouble
schools. That we must have relevant people and I can say to you out quickly. That this division I hope in which I work here we think we hear this message we think this is one of the relevant messages. I can assure you that the superintendent enunciates this. I can assure you that we have a board that is responsive to this as never before. We are concerned about citizen involvement. We invite citizen involvement and. And believe me it is very painful and at times in many cases. And citizens are having to get over their distrust and may I say much of it is merited because the Detroit Public Schools has not always been right and is not always right. Now. What do you see as being some of these special areas of some of the priorities that the school systems the border vary here in Detroit and others. The systems are going to have to devote their attention to. It. I mean there's no in terms of specifics with
the quality of instruction or teachers of what. Anybody knows. That the present tax structure and the tax base and procedures for taxing authorities. Well the taxing authority is outdated outmoded and inadequate. It is impossible. Now. To run a school system. With. The kind of buildings and equipment that we have. Which are outmoded and outdated. With the numbers of children that which we have in a room. With the lack of to move large numbers of teachers which we don't have. We are short of teachers. We are short of buildings. We are short of equipment which has not. The money to do the job. And before anything meaningful is going to be done you've got to create conditions in which teachers may get involved in the lives of
children. And a teacher has less of a chance with 40 children 35 in a class and she has of 25. The whole we have less of a chance if we don't have the facilities to put in where somebody can sit down and have a conference. We are all over crowded. And when I say this I mean painfully and pitifully overcrowded. That we cannot do a job. We lack. The. Staffing and the personnel to adequately do the job. We lack the kind of equipment and supplies to do the job. And yes there is a brain drain on us because unless we are able. To compensate. Our best people our best people will find compensations elsewhere. We cannot afford to lose. Some of our most creative teachers and our most creative administrator.
And this takes money. First. This takes money. Now the citizens are demanding accountability and they are right there are many things which we can do. Which does not take more money. We can become more realistic. And less traditional in our upgrading procedures were going to have to me have the courage to be more radical from within. We're going to have to have the courage. To be different to get them the best person in the best place. To do to do that job. We've got to find means of. People who are sitting. And that producing. Must mean ways there must be ways of making them to do this. And may I say that.
There are very specifically in the Detroit public schools an attempt for accountability there has been the board did institute a rule that and ministry of principles of foreign principals that for review I think it was every three years I am not sure and I had to be evaluated. This is a major step. It may seem very small but but nonetheless in terms of how a structure this big. Operate it is a very radical one. The citizens are right when we should clean house and many of our wings. And we are trying. But you know. Change. Is a funny thing. It's always too rapid. And that. And not. Rapid enough. Class size. Equipment. Buildings accountability. The Courage To Be Different. These are the things we need. We squeeze in Detroit we run a well administered school and we do squeeze pennies.
But. They're stealin a man from our own ability and I think rightfully sell. And the most encouraging thing is that. They are that the administration is trying. And they are making gains. Now whether it is fast enough for the fire the armrest. And the disenchantment. To inv to avoid the collision course on which we. Are headed in schools is another question. But the point is that the administration is trying. With the little that they have. I wonder what specifically is being done. About the youngster who. Comes to school with. Two strikes against him where the family is not interested or where the family has been so overwhelmed by by practical problems of living that they just can't devote the necessary kind of attention to their youngsters education and other words the whole area of motivation. And
surrounding the youngster with certain kinds of tools and make learning more meaningful sang to him in certain areas a lot of gadgets computers. Fantastic kinds of equipment are being used to enhance. Youngsters motivation. You know based on my reading I don't see a large amount of this being used in various intercity school districts throughout the country. I'd like your reactions to us also specifically in regard to the Detroit area as well. It isn't. That we don't know what the problem is. But you're talking about tripling in Quatro playing in spending 10 times the amount of money. On such a child as you are. On what we are able to spend. On an average child today. And the money is not there.
The concern it is not that the concern is not there. In special ed. Programs. To compare the cost. Of what. How to service the child and what we feel is adequate Just services of counseling and psychological services and all of the social services just far far some kind of meaning for rehabilitation. Not only is this a prohibitive cost for the school. But it also requires a redefinition of the role of the school and the tremendous. Increase. In the social service function of public schools. It is a real problem and I think that the American people. Must be made aware. That in the NSA the schools. Particularly. The social services that will be needed. If social rehabilitation and individual. Recovery of
children is to be made because they are lost. They are lost before they get started. You know this isn't true but there are some kindergarden teachers who say that after they've been there two days. They know the children that will be the problems are. The ones who will find the most difficulty in struggling to survive and to learn how to live. And that. Unfortunately. In turn kind of communities some children are just almost out of it. And then the struggle for recovery. Knowing that you don't have the tools. The expense. Even if you had the money. Where would you get the psychologist. Where would you get the coordinators of rereading coordinators the social service personnel trained social workers to bring into the school system to adequately service the child. This is one of the New
Dimensions which public education must move in. And it is. Very relevant that you raise it. Because there are many of us in the public schools who feel. That we are trying to fight. Goliath. Was less than the sling shot. Because of the unawareness of people. The American people of this great need. That it is. Better. Economically. Financially. And even humanely. To try to spend the money to recover. At four and five and six and seven and eight. Than it is. At. An almost impossible job. At 14 15 16 and 17. What do we do. It isn't that we don't have some real ideas. But we don't have that for five or six or seven times
more money to spend per child. It just isn't there in the scheme of things. It is not that we do not recognize. It is that the American people don't care enough is yet. To meet this problem. And someone must begin the care. Because you've raised one of the most critical. Areas. Of how in the world can we reconstruct and bring our society closer together. When we are deliberately permitting people to become lost. From becoming parity of people even before they they they reach 10 years old. We must begin to care and that which we don't. You know the problem of motivation. Is. Is has to be. Of more concern to a.
Much larger segment of our society than schools before schools can ever hope to be successful. I wouldn't care what. Kind of program you put in a school. If a boy knows that when he gets through. There is no job. Schools can do nothing. We could put the fanciest programs and them and develop the most skilful young people in America. But as long as he knows that there's nobody on his street who ever got a job. That he doesn't have anyone. That he can. Suggest and point to the same my man on the block is working here. Unless he understood stands that. What goes on in this school. Is has relevance for him as an adult. That it holds some promise for him and not for some somebody else. All today.
Are today. We have so many people. Who apparently don't recognize that much of what goes on in our schools. It is not for the child only teaching the children know this. Because it isn't relevant to his need. It is a national need. That we have deafening ourselves to. The nation cannot afford. To disregard this. Because. Unless. We develop the kind of community that holds promise. For children. Then there is nothing the schools can do as they attempt. To develop help children develop to learn how to live in a world. That will not accept them. Next week we will continue our discussion on this vital subject of public education as it applies to the American Negro.
You have just heard Harvard Smith Jr. assistant professor in the School of Social Work Wayne State University. Seeds of discontent is engineered by David Pierce and produced by Dave Lewis for Wayne State University Radio. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
Seeds of discontent
Episode Number
Episode 16 of 26
Producing Organization
Wayne State University
WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3313 and 3314. This prog.: The American Negro and public education, as a source of both hope and frustration. Addresses serious problems confronting present day school systems in large metropolitan areas.
Social Issues
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Producing Organization: Wayne State University
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-15-16 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:38
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Chicago: “Seeds of discontent; Episode 16 of 26,” 1968-04-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
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APA: Seeds of discontent; Episode 16 of 26. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from