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Virginia Estelle Randolph: pioneer of black education
JEI Learning Center is proud to celebrate Black History Month and the great Black trailblazers who pioneered new opportunities in education. Today, we are highlighting Virginia Estelle Randolph whose commitment to Black education led to breakthroughs in the way vocational training was globally conducted. Randolph was born in 1874, only nine years after enslaved people, including her parents, were emancipated in the United States. She graduated from school in 1889 and began her career as a school teacher at the age of 16. Randolph’s vision for education was revolutionary. The curriculum she designed was predicated on practicality and creativity. Education was cast as an endeavor involving parents and the entire community. In order to garner support for such endeavors, Randolph organized some unusual activities. On Arbor Day, she gathered parents and students to plant 12 sycamore trees which came to be cared for by parents of students and other community members. In 1908, she was honored with the first Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher award which employed black supervisors to upgrade vocational programs for black students. Given this honor, Randolph was given the task of improving the schools in Henrico County, Virginia. The curriculum she developed, known as the Henrico Plan, focused on using school beautification projects to teach vocational and academic skills. This plan was later replicated in Britain’s African colonies. At JEI Learning Center, we are proud to continue the tradition of hands-on learning and parental involvement that Virginia Randolph pioneered. At our centers, students are challenged not through rote memorization drills, but actually applying what they have learned to practical tasks. JEI prides itself on helping students connect the things they learn in school to problems they encounter in everyday life. To get started with a JEI education, find a center near you!
Vocational training or higher education: the Washington-DuBois debate
One of the more famous debates in Black history was the battle between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. In the United States at the turn of the 20th century, the Black community was still in the process of getting its footing following the abolition of slavery. Washington and DuBois represented two very different visions for Black advancement in a segregated and stratified America. This debate has echoes today as politicians and educators debate whether vocational training or liberal arts education is the key to advancement into the American middle class. Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in Virginia in 1856. Following emancipation, his family moved to West Virginia where he taught himself to read. He saved money from working in salt furnaces and coal mines to fund his education at the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). At the age of 25, Washington was recommended to lead the newly founded Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). After a year of holding classes at a local church, Washington purchased former plantation land and had the students literally build the campus of the school. Men and women at Tuskegee were provided an education in academics as well as trades. Students were not merely training to be tradesfolk but to teach trades to others. The education provided to students at Tuskegee during its early years reflected Washington’s general philosophy of education. Washington believed that social equality would come not from political agitation but from social integration. It was by making themselves socially necessary with business and trades that Black people would achieve equal civil rights. W.E.B. DuBois W.E.B. DuBois was born in Massachusetts in 1868. He grew up going to integrated schools where his intellectual ability was recognized and encouraged. With money donated from neighbors, DuBois attended Fisk University in Tennessee. His time in the south around the experience of Jim Crow, lynchings, and bigotry was formative in his political development. He returned to Massachusetts to complete a second bachelor’s degree from Harvard College as Harvard University did not accept credits from Fisk. In 1895, DuBois became the first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard University, writing his dissertation in sociology on the history of the transatlantic slave trade. DuBois’ experience in the south made him a fierce proponent of Black civil rights, initially inducing him to join the ranks of Booker T. Washington. When Washington gave a speech at the Atlanta Exposition that came to be known as the “Atlanta Compromise,” DuBois and a number of other noted Black leaders broke ranks as radical critics. The Atlanta Compromise & the Talented Tenth The Atlanta Compromise outlined Booker T. Washington’s vision for the path to Black equality. He called the draw towards political representation over industrial achievement during Reconstruction a misguided mistake. Emphasis on legislative equality, Booker reasoned, was “artificial forcing” bound for increased animosity rather than integration. Rather, the Black community ought to invest in its own economic prosperity, earning the respect of southern whites through industriousness. DuBois argued in a reply to Washington that not only was the plan destined for failure, but that the negative effects of such a conciliatory attitude on civil rights had already been felt by the Black community. In exchange for giving up political representation, redress of grievance, and higher education, the post-Reconstruction era rewarded the Black community with voting disenfranchisement, Jim Crow, and drained resources for Black institutions. Contrary to Washington, DuBois fiercely advocated for the right of Black folks to pursue a liberal arts education to develop what he called the “Talented Tenth.” DuBois argued that every nation drew its success from an enlightened tenth of the population responsible for its cultural and moral development. For true Black emancipation, DuBois argued that this Talented Tenth should occupy positions of political and social power in order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the rest of the Black nation. To DuBois, Washington’s vision of an industrious and prosperous Black community was impossible without political power in place to safeguard their place in commerce and civic life. Debate into the Present In the end, neither side of the Washington-DuBois debate can be said to have won. The Black civil-rights movement that DuBois helped found, led by scholars and clergy, would eventually see an end to segregation and disenfranchisement. Simultaneously, the vocational institutions Washington’s programme inspired gave millions of southern Black folks the trades skills necessary to make a decent life for themselves. Echoes of this debate can still be heard today as policymakers debate over whether liberal arts education or vocational training is the key to bringing low-income Americans into the American middle class. Over time, political priorities have vacillated between these two poles largely reflecting the arguments of Washington and DuBois. At JEI however, we do not believe that these two positions are so opposed as might meet the eye. Our approach at JEI embraces hands-on learning, encouraging our students to connect their academic pursuits to their practical application. Our newest program, Brain Safari, embodies this philosophy exercising our students’ creative thinking and problem-solving skills. JEI provides students A Better Life Through Better Education, no matter where their life path takes them. Like Washington, JEI emphasizes self-learning, instilling a discipline allowing students to create their own opportunities through their own creative thinking. However, like DuBois, JEI touts a program that is tailored to cultivating each student’s abilities in the pursuit of academic excellence. At JEI, we give students skills they can apply to anywhere their life takes them. To learn more about JEI programs, find a center near you!
Growth vs. fixed mindset: fostering your child’s growth mindset
Have you heard of the “growth mindset”? Coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D., the “growth mindset” is one of the most popular education trends at the moment--and the one you want your child to have. The “fixed mindset” fosters a child’s belief that her/his talents are limited to what s/he was born with, whereas the “growth mindset” fosters a belief that there are no limits to her/his growth and potential, as long as s/he puts in the effort! This is the outlook on life that will bring about success and happiness. A child with this mindset knows the importance of working hard rather than admitting defeat. The child will put more time and effort into everything s/he does in life, including studies, and bounce back from failure with a can-do attitude! Many studies show that it is possible to foster a “growth mindset” in children, even if they are already in the “fixed mindset,” so if you want your child to stop mumbling, “What’s the point?” and start dreaming big, check out these tips on pulling the switch! Praise the right thing Often, children are told, “Wow, you’re so bright!” or, “You’re a smart kid.” Adults think they are being encouraging and kind by praising children in this way, but they are unintentionally fostering the “fixed mindset.” Children who are often complimented on their intelligence or natural skills become complacent, relying on the gifts they were born with rather than working on strengthening and improving them. They think they are good enough already and will not get any better. The emphasis is on the wrong thing: their natural talent rather than work ethic. That is why you need to channel your compliments elsewhere--on your child’s effort. If you praise her/his hard work and diligence, s/he will be much more motivated to take on bigger challenges for bigger rewards. Increase high drive by taking note of and encouraging the time your child puts into self-improvement. Do not say: “You are so smart.” Do say: “You are such a hard worker!” Practice the art of constructive criticism Going off that, you are going to want to perfect the balance of praise and criticism. You do not want to give them too much praise, again promoting complacency, but you do want to note their achievements so they feel pride in how hard they worked and keep up the momentum. At the same time, you want them to improve, so you have to make sure to give some constructive feedback on their projects, noting what they can do better next time without pointing out flaws. It is all about learning to accept and grow from criticism, not being criticized for where they were lacking. Do not say, “Wow, this project is perfect!” or “This project needs a lot more work.” Do say, “I love how much time you put into cutting out the letters! I think this looks great, but maybe next time, you could use a brighter color scheme. What do you think?” Focus on the process rather than results Every parent wants to see good grades on their child’s report card. That is completely understandable, but should the focus really be on the A’s and plus signs you see? Results are important, and they are the long-term goals in every situation, but this narrow focus solely on results actually fosters a “fixed mindset.” The child becomes afraid of failure and cannot handle the pressure. Again, the emphasis has to be on the child’s effort, so you are going to want to be all about the process rather than the results. See how the child is doing and the amount of time and effort s/he puts into assignments, projects, sports practices, and more. Comment on that instead. If you focus and appreciate that process, the child will work even harder, brush off failure, and ultimately show the results every parent wants to see! Do not say, “You got a B? That’s not good enough. You have to get an A.” Do say, “I know you’ve been working really hard for that A, so I hope you get it next time!” Put your child first Many parents believe that comparing their child to others’ is a good way of gauging where their own stands; however, they fail to notice that each child is special and unique in her/his own way--there is no universal standard of comparison. All that negative comparisons do are point out to a child that s/he is lacking in a certain area and will never be as good as another child, so what is the point of trying? The child may even start to be intimidated by the successes of another, which is an aspect of the “fixed mindset,” instead of inspired, an aspect of the “growth mindset.” On the other hand, if you compare your child by saying s/he is better, this will again foster complacency. The child will feel no need to improve because s/he is already better than others. Do not say, “Well, Sally from your class got an A, so why can’t you?” or, “No one else can do as well as you in your class!” Do say, “I think you’re getting the hang of it!” or, “I can see you’re working hard in class!” Be the example A child looks up to her/his parents, so it is up to you to be the right role model! This means that you need to foster your own “growth mindset,” so your child will adopt it. Study up on the “growth mindset”. You see how it says you embrace challenges? When something comes up at work, do not groan and complain in front of your child. Instead, show excitement! Show an eagerness to tackle the challenge, and your child is sure to behave the same way at school. Do not give up easily, or your child will think it is okay for him/her to admit defeat without even trying (We’ve all heard, “But you did it!” before, right?). You may not want to hear your child say your cooking is bad, but you can listen with respect to their constructive criticism to show they should do the same. Do not say, “Ugh, I will never do all this laundry in time!” Do say, “Let’s tackle this pile of laundry and see how much we can get done in one hour!” The “growth mindset” does not bow to defeat--it inspires a karate chop to the face of failure. With the five tips listed here, you can help your child grow fond of working hard and pushing her/his limits. Can you feel your child’s excitement already with this new positive outlook on life and flexible mindset? JEI Learning is all about building that basic foundation for growth, self-improvement, and education. Do you want extra help with having your child embrace hard work and challenges? Check out our programs and find your local center to enroll your child so s/he can learn from a specialized curriculum at her/his own pace!