Extensive knowledge of education, solutions to ever-growing problems, and a healthy dose of humor made for a memorable lecture by Geoffrey Canada, education reformer and social activist, on Tuesday, February 15. As part of the Hunter Lecture Series, Canada spoke to a large crowd at UTC on the importance of education reform and accountability.
“Unless our nation does something dramatically different about education, we’re not going to remain a superpower,” Canada said.
Canada, himself, has tried to make drastic changes to education. He is the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a program that targets 100 blocks in Central Harlem with a comprehensive range of services for children and parents from birth through college.
“If you want to save your children, you have to do it yourself,” he said. “No one else is coming.”
Canada’s program started with a 24-block radius and has since grown into 100 blocks. The Harlem Children’s Zone is the model for the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program.
“Canada has the rare gift of making the seemingly intractable problem, of educating the poorest and most socially challenged among us, appear difficult but clearly solvable,” Dr. Phil Oldham, UTC Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, said.
Canada also spoke of the responsibility educators have to their students.
“If there our no penalties for our failure, then kids will continue to fail for decades,” he said. “If those kids don’t succeed than neither do I.”
Canada also has high expectations for the children enrolled in his program.
“I only have one goal for my kids: graduate college,” he continued. “I have equal expectations for all my kids.”
His talk was well-received by the UTC community.
“The Hunter Series continues to be a tremendous opportunity for our students and the broader community to see modern history makers up close and personal,” Oldman said. “Who knows which current UTC student may be inspired to make similar contributions to society in their lifetime due to the Hunter Series?”
“I really enjoyed what he had to say,” Lindsay Rieman, UTC alumna and first-grade teacher at Woodmore Elementary School in Chattanooga, said. “He presented the serious material in a humorous manner while exhibiting a great deal of knowledge and conviction.”
“His speech was one that reminds me why I go to teach everyday, and makes me want to be that much better to help my students succeed,” she continued.