Diverse Education for a student in the Education System | Elijah Jones | TEDxYouth@Wilmington

Diverse Education for a student in the Education System | Elijah Jones | [email protected]

September 5, 2019 8 By Ronny Jaskolski


Translator: Robert Deliman
Reviewer: Denise RQ I am a ninth-grade student
at a high school in Wilmington, Delaware, one of America’s poorest
and most dangerous cities. I’m here to tell you that my high school
and many high schools like mine may not be fully preparing students
for life after high school. But before you brace yourself
for another cliche talk about the declining quality
of American public education, you probably should know
something very important: I actually attend a private school. And while my school
like many other private schools gives me access to abundant resources,
top-of-the-line facilities, amazing teachers, and a curriculum
that would challenge and engage me, it masks something very important that me and all of my peers will need
to be successful members of society: racial and socioeconomic diversity. Please don’t get me wrong; I am super fortunate to have received
such a generous scholarship to one of the most prestigious,
private institutions Delaware has to offer. It provides me with opportunities many of the kids in public schools,
where I live, are never afforded. In their schools, classes
are crammed and crowded, teachers turnover rates
that creates instabilities for students. Students had to worry about their safety
as much as they worry about their studies. Expectations to students learning
and their abilities are low. Many students graduate high school without the right tools
to be successful in college. And yes, while I understand a private school education
is a game changer for me and my peers, we’re missing something very important. We’re missing the fact that the system of segregated education
that we’ve implemented is hurting all students,
public and private. Let me give you a rundown
of the typical diversity in my week. In my Biology class,
I’m the only African-American. In my Math class, I’m one
of the two African American males. And so far in high school,
I had no teachers of color. Ha, sometimes I sit in class and think,
“I am definitely not in Kansas anymore!” (Laughter) But you know, I am definitely
not in my previous public school either, where 98% of the student population
were African American, and 79% of low income. The multicultural road outside of school
will easily be a cultural shock for those students segregated
by race and socioeconomic status. If you didn’t notice, America is changing. Just a few years ago,
for the first time in American history, more than half of all school children
were considered low income, and by 2020, half of the nation’s children are expected to be a part
of a minority race or ethnic group. And by 2060, researchers project
that my tiny home state of Delaware will be one of the most
diverse states in the nation. And if we stay
in our current segregated path, we will occupy a future of racism, misunderstanding, division,
tension, and disparity. In order to see change, we will need to immerse ourselves
in diverse experiences like our school requires us
to immerse ourselves in books. We would need to learn
about race relations and how to overcome division like our school makes us learn
about poetry or geometry. We will be going to have
to diversify our curriculum so it does not ignore
the excellence and the impact of those not of European descent. All of us are going to have
to prioritize diversity when we make decisions
on where we want to live and go to school. Because ultimately,
our schools are segregated because that’s
what our neighborhoods look like. During his famous “I have a dream” speech,
Reverend Dr Martin Luther King said, “100 years later, the life
of the Negro is sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation
and the chains of discrimination. 100 years later, the Negro lives
on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean
of material prosperity.” Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream
that one day, on the Red Hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves
and sons of former slave-owners would be able to sit down together
at a table of brotherhood. More than 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s
“I have a dream” speech and the Brown versus Board
of Education decision that found segregated schools
to be unconstitutional, we are back at a place where our schools are
segregated and unequal. Because as powerful
as the courts are in this country, they cannot make our hearts
and our minds just. We are going to have to want to get a different future
and a more perfect union. So today, I have a dream: that one day, we will arrive at a future where segregated schools and neighborhoods
will be a thing of the past. Thank you. (Applause)