Friday, November 11, 2011


Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without demand; it never has and it never will.” Douglass also said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” While his statements were meant more for the sociopolitical arena as it pertains to the responsibility of the disenfranchised to help themselves instead of simply waiting to be saved or rescued, it is most certainly appropriate as it pertains to students in the educational arena. While the system, schools and even some teachers may not be serving students as fully as they should be, that does NOT excuse students from applying Douglass’ wisdom.

In the first quote, Douglass states that power won’t just do what is right or just- justice must be demanded. I like to tell my students that people don’t accumulate power to give it away or share it with others. One must demand that power utilize its power responsibly and fairly. This same attitude must be displayed by students in their educational walk. I tell my students they have a responsibility to and a role to play in their educations. Just like every player on a team has a job or role, so, too, does EVERY student have a role or a part to play in his/her own education? That means that instead of saying, “Yay”, or “Okay” when a teacher tells you there is no homework, the student has to request an assignment. It means that instead of accepting a teacher’s statement that you did a good job or that you did all right because you passed with a 65, the STUDENT must learn to ask for extra help to raise that 65 to an 80nor 90. It means that instead of asking for a second, third or fourth chance to pass, or some “package” that will allow the student to make up work he or she CHOSE not to do, the student MUST begin to DEMAND his/her best effort from him/herself the FIRST time.

The second quote is also applicable to students and their educations. Progress doesn’t just happen in anything. From Blacks escaping slavery, to gaining the right to vote or to enjoy equal access to education, to the first airplane flight, to the first man on the moon, to the first African American president of the United States, progress didn’t just happen. Death, failure, and disappointment had to be overcome for progress to occur. You can change the names of schools, fight over charter or non- charter schools being better or worse, add pages and pages to the evaluation process to make the acquisition of tenure more difficult, close schools or work like hell and disenfranchise teachers with seniority and experience, but I assure you that nothing you do will ensure progress until and unless STUDENTS are willing to struggle, to work to acquire their educations. Period. For like progress, education doesn’t just happen. You don’t just waltz into a classroom, sit down and “Presto Change-o” education happens! You have to do something, you have to fight for what you want to know, you have to struggle. No matter what you want to accomplish, if you want to move forward, it’s going to take work, it’s going to take struggle.

Douglass’ statements are most certainly appropriate and pertinent to the sociopolitical arena, but its pertinence is NOT exclusive to that area. In fact his statements can apply to everything from helping the disenfranchised to become enfranchised to winning a championship and everything in between, and one of those in between places is the role students MUST play in acquiring their educations.

Inspired by Gil Noble and Adelaide Sanford on the “Like It Is” program
re-aired August 7, 2011.

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