It’s that time of the year again when millions of children across the U.S. must say farewell to those fun-filled, lazy days of summer and return to the classroom. But make no mistake — this is more than a perfunctory act and it’s more than an annual ritual demanding the participation of every age-appropriate child (5 to 18, depending on the state). In fact, it’s much more than a rite of passage for youth as they move from childhood to adulthood. Providing quality education for all children is without question serious business.
In this Back to School supplement, The Washington Informer’s editorial board has chosen the theme “Education: An Engine Powered by Preparation, Patience and Persistence.” We trust that our readers, especially those with school-age children, whether K-12 or beyond, will find the articles and information included to be of benefit. We could list a litany of reasons why we believe in the ability of “quality education” as the best means to level the playing eld which all youth must one day face as they travel along the paths of their chosen careers. But suffice to say, few could argue that education provides unique choices.
Gone are the days of it being sufficient to master the three R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic. Today’s schoolchildren must contend with an incredibly longer list of “must learn” academic subjects — and the list faces constant revision at any given moment.
As the world has grown smaller, particularly due to the development of the computer, the Internet and most recently the proliferation of and instantaneous nature inherent with social media, today’s youth must do more than just compete against their peers — they must stand toe-to-toe with young scholars from around the world. Perhaps it would be wise for parents to assist their children to develop a strategy — a solid game plan that they can follow throughout their academic journey.
I share three life-changing experiences from my own sojourn to further punctuate this supplement’s theme.
At the age of 10, I met the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks when she came to read to children at the main library in downtown Detroit. Besides Brooks and her publicist, Dudley Randall, only four other Blacks were among the crowd: my aunt, my younger cousin, my mother and, of course, me. I remember telling Ms. Brooks how much I wanted to become a writer one day but was unsure where to begin.
Her response: “Let God lead you and always believe in your own abilities. Then work at it every day, work as hard as you can and try to learn something new each day.” In other words, she advised me to ready myself and to prepare. Six years later, while in an advanced high school geometry class, I faced a beast that for a while, had the best of me. No matter how much I studied, the subject matter just did not click. I was dumbfounded. I was sinking fast — something I had never experienced before. But I refused to give up. I got a tutor. I worked with my teacher after school and during free periods. I kept trying and trying and trying. Then, it happened. The light suddenly came on. Theorems, angles, segments and formulas began to make sense — I was going to survive. Patience had paid off.
Fast forward close to 20 years. I was a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton, one of only two Blacks admitted, and sitting in my very first class. The professor suggested that I choose another class, a different route after it became apparent that I, and I alone, had never had an academic course in philosophy. He said without hesitation and so loudly that the entire class could hear, that I would never pass his challenging course.
But, he added, I might have a chance if I would commit to reading every required and recommended book on his course listing — all 650. So, I did. Later, during our required oral exams, he told my committee that I had “surpassed his wildest expectations.” He applauded my determination and my mastering of the material. And he admitted, he found it impossible to believe. Hours of study had turned into days, weeks, months and years. Persistence had been the key.
Do you have your game plan in order? Are you willing to put immediate gratification on hold in order to achieve a future in which your dreams come true? Do you believe in yourself? I have come to realize that the only limits I face are those I impose on myself. So, as Arsenio Hall used to proclaim, it’s time to “get busy.”