YVONNE FREEMAN ON EDUCATION IN AMERICA AT BLACK CHILD AND FAMILY CONFERENCE-Andrew Stelzer04/14/06
Over the past two days, hundreds of academics, teachers and social services providers have gathered at the University of South Florida for the annual â€œBlack Child and Familyâ€? conference. Todayâ€™s lunchtime keynote speaker was Dr Yvonne Freeman, who formerly worked for NASA, but is currently the Executive director of the Science, Engineering, Communication, Mathematics Enhancement Program, abbreviated SECME, at the Georgia institute of technology. SECME is a national strategic alliance which encourages elementary and high school students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through partnerships with local universities, government and industry agents. Freemanâ€™s speech centered on the poor educational achievements of African Americans and other underprovided Americans
ACT â€œYou know the issues, we know the drop out rate but we also know the youngster that drops out has a higher IQ than the one who stays in. why does that child drop out..â€?
Freeman spoke about what she calls the Weapons of Mass Distraction.
ACT â€œAnd they are indifference, illiteracy///42 million illiterate. the others are apathy and arrogance, and then there is a whole world of isms, and individually these weapons continue to undercut and overwhelm in the sphere of public education..â€?
Freeman lamented that well over 90 percent of math teachers in the United States are not certified to teach math, and she also said all too often, because there isnâ€™t enough money to pay teachers well, or even to properly staff public schools, coaches end up teaching physics, and other educators end up teaching in a field they donâ€™t know much about. She also spoke about the war or error, and its history..
ACT- â€?error is a unintentional diversion from accuracy..if we went back to 1856, the grand error was imprisonment, the penalty was to cut off ones hands. And in parts of the south blacks could not be educated, both in current and cumulative itâ€™s happening when you look at graduation rates..â€?
Freeman called education in the United States a 19th century program for a 21st century problem, Pointing out the graduation rates for African Americans in Florida is around 50%, which is dangerously low.
ACT â€œIts more important that military..a report that said we would have viewed it as an act of war..â€™
Freeman compared the disaster of 9-11 with the crisis in education, and said America has been warned of both and chose not to act.
ACT â€˜In January 2001 in failing to heed warnings from the Rubman commission, said the greatest risk is an attack, and we ignored and we cry. Notably the commission added the second greatest threat is the failure of math and science..â€™
Much of Freemanâ€™s work at SECME has the goal of funneling young people onto paths towards higher degrees in math or science, which happens all too little.
ACT â€œIn 2002 Dr Calvin Mackey compiled a list of scientific fields where there were no PhDs offered to African Americans, there were 17000 and none offered to blacks..algebra, functional analysis, astrophysics..geology, hydrology, and these are things that we are trainings forâ€¦24 million African Americans in eth US..we need to ask ourselves why, ask our leaders why..â€?
After her speech, WMNF asked Dr Freeman about the constant debate about whether the education gap between black and white students should be blamed on the Schools or the families' of those underachieving students.
The Black Child and family conference concludes tonight with a speech by University of Pennsylvania Professor Michael Eric Dyson, author of several books including "Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and Color of Disaster." That will be at 715pm at the embassy Suites on the University of South Florida campus in Tampa.