Archive for Thursday, April 11, 1991

SPEAKERS AT KU GIVE VIEWS ON EDUCATION AND ACTIVISM

April 11, 1991

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Yolanda King, the daughter of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., told her Kansas University audience Wednesday night that she will continue to believe in her father's dream.

During a celebration of KU's 125th anniversary, King said the nation has some disturbing problems to confront, but she said she had not given up hope.

King joined education expert Ernest Boyer in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union to address the future of higher education and its role in solving the nation's problems as the country moves toward the 21st century.

Although the two touched on many crises from lack of parental involvement in education to racism and intolerance, both offered steps toward educational reform in the United States. About 150 people attended the symposium.

Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, said the nation must confront five crises.

Foremost, Boyer said public schools must be brought up to par.

"IF WE do not strengthen public education, it will be almost impossible for higher education to succeed," Boyer said, adding that there must be a partnership between public schools and higher education.

Boyer, who holds honorary degrees from 105 colleges and universities, said that partnership has failed. And he said those who enjoy criticizing the state of education should put their energy into fostering that partnership.

Public schools no longer merely teach students how to read and write, they also have taken on the role of the family, said Boyer, who believes public schools should enroll no more than 400 students so every child is known by name.

"The family is a much more imperiled institution than our schools," Boyer said. "Schools are asked to stop drug abuse, reduce teen-age pregnancy and teach civility. Education doesn't need more critics but more partnerships. As I look down the road to the next century, I am absolutely convinced that we must urgently strengthen pre-college education."

BOYER ALSO said the nation must advance the sense of community and affirm human justice. He said he was disgraced by the gap between the privileged and the disadvantaged in the United States.

"In the richest nation in the world, one out of every four children is officially declared poor," Boyer said. "One out of every three black and Hispanic students drop out before they have a diploma."

Boyer also stressed the need for what he called "the scholarship of integration." While he said departments and majors are important, Boyer said college students must "learn how to learn," not just master their narrow field of study.

The nation also must "bring a new dignity to the scholarship of teaching," Boyer said.

He said teaching is the "flame of life" and a "holy enterprise."

Finally, Boyer said the goal of the next century should be to teach the profiency of language. He said children are growing up learning political campaign slogans and advertising jingles but not social discourse.

KING, AN activist, writer, actress, producer and lecturer, said the United States "must come to grips with the diversity of its people." She said the country is not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic.

She said the civil rights movement that her father led "raised the consciousness of the world." But she said the fight has not been won.

King called for the United States to put as much emphasis on education as it does on defense. She said 55 cents of every tax dollar is spent on defense and 2 cents goes to education.

If the nation does not rethink its priorities, "within 40 years the United States will be a nation of unskilled laborers working for foreign corporations," King said.

She said America must empower the voices of all its peoples and everyone must respond to the challenge.

"OH, NO we have not reached the promised land. My father's dream is still only a dream," King said. "We must get up off our apathy and get to the work. There are tremendous lessons we can learn from each other; there are endless opportunities for mingling.

"The country, like the world, is changing. And you have the power to help change the world. In every nook and cranny of college life, you can make a difference. As a multicultural society, we will, given the opportunity, nourish one another.

"I, for one, choose to continue dreaming. I choose to dream and act on my dream, following the example my father taught. I believe we can live that dream."

The celebration of KU's 125th year continues today with a 7:30 p.m. symposium in Woodruff Auditorium featuring Bill Kurtis, co-anchor of CBS' "Morning" and environmentalist Paul Ehrlich, professor of population studies and biological studies at Stanford University.

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