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Prof: Force Students To Live, Work Outside U.S. To Earn College Degree

May 6, 2013 by

Jennifer Kabbany –

Just because there’s a black president in the White House doesn’t mean issues affecting minority communities get top billing in the national discourse, and in fact, President Barack Obama’s election has stunted those conversations, two professors argued in a recent radio appearance.

The academics went on to call for radical changes inside the classroom – such as mandatory work-study abroad time for college students to earn a diploma, and more of an emphasis on racial issues in K-12 social studies and history classes – to resolve that area of disappointment over Obama’s tenure.

Alexs Pate, assistant professor in African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, said Obama’s election pushed the “pause button” on the topic of race.

Likewise, Jose Santos, assistant professor of social science at Metropolitan State University, said Obama’s presidency has been a “disappointment” in terms of sparking conversations about racial issues.

“There was a much more aggressive dialogue around equity and disparity … between whites and people of color that I think has almost disappeared,” Pate said. “There’s been no real conversation about housing, no real conversation about economic development, no real conversation about unemployment, no real and deep policy changes as it relates to inner-city education and the plight of young people of color.”

Pate’s fellow radio guest, Santos, agreed.

“This marks the end of race being significant in America,” Santos said of Obama’s presidency. “What I understand from the whole notion of the pause button is … because he had been elected, people expected those conversations about race in the inner city, about race and education, and so on – and they didn’t happen – and I think there’s a huge disappointment there that we thought there was going to be the champion of these issues, and that hasn’t happened.”

The two professors made the comments Friday on a Minnesota Public Radio show. The focus of the talk was “the evolution of racial issues since Obama’s historic rise.”

Pate said while the “pause button” is pushed – and even as Obama avoids talking a lot about race – he still represents hope.

“What he represents to the common person, to me, to my children, and to many people of color, is a symbol of hope and accomplishment,” Pate said, but added that “the system” has failed to “measure up to the image and iconography of that achievement.”

Pate and Santos went on to call for more proactive measures to reinvigorate discussions of race in America – and much of what they suggested were classroom-centric solutions.

Santos said he believes college students should have a mandatory stay abroad to earn a diploma – something akin to a stint in the Peace Corps – which he believes is not out of the question given academia’s emerging requirements for social justice and diversity studies.

“What has been encouraging is to see how academia has been shifted … (to require) courses people have to take in order to graduate that teach people something about their own society,” Santos said.

The next step in those types of requirements is to force college students to leave the United States, something that’s “maybe 40 years away,” he said.

“The student needs to leave the United States, go and live in another country … I don’t mean in a nice, fancy apartment, something not unlike the Peace Corps,” Santos said. “Force them to have experiential learning.”

Santos added high school history and social studies curriculums also need a revamp, because they suggest Civil Rights have been achieved.

“Until we can expect a kid who has graduated from high school to understand the complexities of race, we are going to be in the same place,” he said. “One of the worst things I remember growing up in Texas that history class did is talk about the Civil Rights movement, but treat it as though it’s a moral success story – ‘Oh, we won that fight, it’s over, it happened a long time ago, what are these people complaining about now?’ ”

Pate, according to MPR, is set to leave his post at the University of Minnesota “to lead Innocent Technologies, creators of the Innocent Classroom, a teacher training program that focuses on the achievement gap.” Pate, during the radio show, said racial solutions can be achieved by changing the way students and future teachers are taught.

“By the time they graduate high school, they should have a better understanding of racial history and their place in it, and the interactions and the way in which people of different races could interact,” Pate said. “For me, this is about rescuing Jamal, about Regina, this is about each individual child in every urban school district.”

Another guest on the show, Leola Johnson, associate professor and chairwoman of the media and cultural studies department at Macalester College, did not agree entirely with her peers in regard to Obama’s tenure as it relates to racial discussions in America.

She said just by him being in the White House, regardless of whether he talks about his race – changes and improves things. She called it a “Cosby Strategy.”

“That means that you perform race, but you don’t say that’s what you are doing,” Johnson said. “So you have people in the White House as entertainers, for example, who would never have been there before at all in the period before Barack Obama was elected. He doesn’t make a big deal about ‘this is about my blackness’ – but it is about his blackness. … Marking race, talking about it explicitly, is a different thing than being in a racial system.”

via Prof: Force Students To Live, Work Outside U.S. To Earn College Degree.

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