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Speaker champions public education

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Miguel Fernandez
Staff Writer

The LaFetra College of Education hosted a talk, “What’s Our Role: The Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Public Education,” Monday in La Fetra Lecture Hall.

Kevin Kumashiro, former dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco, spoke about the state of public education in the United States and how the community should ensure it is cherished and not seen as a commodity.

Kumashiro is known for helping create organizations that reform education, including Education Deans for Justice and Equity and the California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education.

In his lecture, Kumashiro began with a brief history of public education in the United States. He said that it was not until 1979 that Congress decided to create a Department of Education. Prior to that, the federal government was the significant influence on public education. In 1954, the famous court case Brown v. Board of Education declared that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. That is where the idea of school choice arose, Kumashiro said.

He added that today everyone is about individualism and quick fixes. His theories lie behind five themes, including the problem of common sense, purposes of education, paradox of teaching and learning, practice of solidarity and promises of moving and building. Kumashiro argued that people’s version of common sense hinders them from having different points of view, and educators struggle with the idea that learning involves unlearning.

Lisa Looney, associate professor of education, said she felt the lecture was accurate, especially to educators who fall into a rhythm of doing things the way they were taught.

“We sort of fall in this trap of what is considered common sense, or the norm, and to understand ways to create movements that enact change and advocate for unrepresented groups is important,” Looney said.

Kumashiro said that the way to thrive is to see oneself as part of the system.

“We need to have the courage to say we have the capacity to articulate a much more profoundly research-based, justice-oriented, democratically-centered vision,” he said.

Kimberly White-Smith, dean of the LaFetra College of Education, recognized in the lecture that awareness about the history of the U.S. is vital to impact change in the future for education.

“Universities are seen as isolated and insular and I think it’s important for us as colleges, as scholars, and as educators, to be able to engage in the wider community and to be a part of the conversations that are happening and impacting our country,” White-Smith said.

Junior biology major Melissa Juarez said she found the importance of the U.S. Public Education Department through the lecture.

“It was interesting the way he tied different aspects of learning and compared them to the way students and teachers think on a normal basis,” Juarez said. “It put it in perspective that the ideas of learning from today have been passed down for decades.”

Miguel Fernandez can be reached at miguel.fernandez@laverne.edu.

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