The Next Generation of Teachers

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

President Obama and I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. It is the one factor that can prevent a person’s zip code from determining his or her destiny. During Black History Month, it’s important to reflect on where we must go as a nation to ensure that all children, regardless of race or ethnicity, are given the world-class education they deserve.

Yesterday at Morehouse College in Atlanta, I shared a stage with some great leaders who reminded me that the struggle for education has always been a matter of civil rights and that now more than ever it is imperative that we work to ensure all children have access to an excellent education. I joined Congressman John Lewis, director Spike Lee, Morehouse President Dr. Robert Franklin, and MSNBC’s Jeff Johnson as we spoke to a crowd of nearly 800 young men – both high school and college students – who are deciding their career trajectory. All of us onstage encouraged these high-achieving men to answer the call to serve their country in the classroom.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Close Up

Education Secretary Arne Duncan speaks on a panel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

The statistics paint a clear picture of where we need to go. Nearly 35% of our students in this country are Black or Hispanic, but less than 2% of our nation’s teachers are Black or Hispanic men. We need to change this so the teachers in our schools reflect the diversity of the students that they teach. It is for this reason, and because we must ensure that we have a new generation of great teachers, that the U.S. Department of Education launched the TEACH campaign this past September. The mission of TEACH is to increase the number, quality, and diversity of teachers in the classroom as we see the baby boomers retiring over the next ten years.

Morehouse College was the most appropriate place for our discussion. A century-old institution dedicated to the education of Black men, the College has an amazing history of producing civil rights leaders who became change agents for our country. The passion in the air was palpable as students shared their dreams for their future careers. I was inspired by the stories of several young men who are choosing to become teachers so that they can fill what they feel is a void of male role models in schools. Dr. Franklin reminded us of the words of perhaps the most famous Morehouse alumnus, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “We can all be great, because we can all serve.”

Dr. Franklin urged the students of Morehouse College, and to young African-American men everywhere, to answer the call to serve by being a teacher. After yesterday, I’m hopeful that many of them will answer that call.

For more information on teaching, and how you can start your pathway to the classroom, visit www.teach.gov.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Wide View

Education Secretary Arne Duncan speaks on a panel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Arne Duncan

7 Comments

  1. To be honest,as an African-American I really don’t think that color has anything to do with teaching someone what they need to know when it comes to leading a successful life. What is needed is the passionate, caring and considerate attitude to teach a student. Maybe that’s what’s lackin? But it’s nice to have anyone who qualify’s to be able to step forward and teach no matter their color. For example, in college my freshman year I failed African-American History in a white male professor’s class, I didn’t like the way he presented the information. That next year I took the same course by a white female professor. She taught with such conviction and passion that I felt like I could talk to her about anything and I passed the course. Now I aim my teaching standards to be like hers. So what I am saying is if they have a desire to teach what ever color the students are and in what ever environment the school may be in, let them teach, but let them do it whole-heartedly.

  2. Perhaps we need to look at schools that you dentify with the preferred ratio of diverse teachers you propose to better understand the degree of gains students make in such a context. (Of course schools would need to be similar in student composition.) In other words, test the hypothosis.

  3. What professions do Black male graduates choose? Are there any trends? What are some of the reasons that higher-educated Black males choose certain careers? Or, are there no trends we can identify except that we do know they’re not choosing to become teachers? I’m trying to get a little deeper grasp on the subject. Thank you.

  4. I am currently a student at Cosumnes River College In Sacramento Calfornia and, i am a mother of Four Children. I believe that if our leaders and parents would learn to deeply value the importance of education and, the cost we will pay if we chose to drop the ball on our part in ensuring our children recieve equal education and opportunities regardless of thier ehtnicity or status. Teachers are Paid low salaries which can have a significant effect on thier motivation to teach. Also, there is many restictions for school teachers. one major barrier is the lack of time and additional teachers to aide. When i was in school our reading programs involved atleast two teachers and they were about an hour long. Students are expected to learn too much information in a short time. This can be discouraging for small children and even some high schoolers. Our leaders should consider the consequences if we disregard education as our prime source of competition. Education is dropping because the lack of financial funding for programs and services to help our children complete thier education requierments and hopefully advance their education to a scholar level.

  5. Education is on the down fall because of the situation of not enough black teachers (especially males) because they don’t really teach the basics anymore and children are not learning what they really need. Woodville Elementary is the lowest. The teachers are 95% white or other and the blacks are really not getting the education needed. The teachers are really so young and either looking for a husband and partying—–. The rest are too busy doing fundraising – which they say they need. The future looks very grim right now and unless something changes there will not be very many knowledgeable teachers in the future. There’s a plan to keep the black down being carried out descretly and cleverly, put them back where they belong mentalities.

  6. It is more than true that schools today are entirely an issue of civil rights. However, it does not have anything to do with race! They are forced to take classes that they have no interest in, and must pass them in order to graduate. While education abroad seems ideal, in reality it is everything but. Students will never learn anything if they are forced to; all learning must be voluntary. Even if they can *memorize* the information for a class for a time, they will quickly forget it (for many, forgetting it cannot come soon enough). If you want students to learn and be successful, you MUST allow them to explore their interests and develop their actual talents, rather than the nonsense of broad education.

  7. According to your report …The statistics paint a clear picture of where we need to go. Nearly 35% of our students in this country are Black or Hispanic, but less than 2% of our nation’s teachers are Black or Hispanic men. We need to change this so the teachers in our schools reflect the diversity of the students that they teach. …

    Why is that there are few Black Teachers? Perhaps the system does not encourage Blacks as teachers. Perhaps there are too many Black male students dropping out of school before even getting to college. Perhaps states and federal government agencies have trouble employing Blacks Teachers and other professionals with same salary as white teachers. Youth can not be expected to develop ambition unless they see a successful person stand before them to teach. Perhaps there are many factors contributing to the problem.

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