"Up From Slavery" – Required Reading For All

Recently in one of my graduate courses I had to read the book “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington. Although, I had read about Booker T. Washington in the past, this book really opened my eyes as to some of the reasons American’s have a certain view on education and professional trades. After reading the book I find that the way in which people viewed education and behave hasn’t really changed in the past 130 years or so. What amazes me about this book is that I haven’t been required to read it before. I feel that not only is it a great read for those who will go on into the field of education, it should also be required reading for middle school students, for the book provides insight as to why education is important and what hardship many endured to be able to obtain the educational opportunities that many students today take for granted.

As part of the reading assignment I was to write a 400 word paper describing my thoughts on the book and how it relates to Career Technology Education, below is my paper:

“Even then I had a strong feeling that what our people most needed was to get a foundation in education” –Booker T. Washington

The quote above is perhaps more relevant today as it was over 100 hundred years ago. After reading Mr. Washington’s book I cannot help but feel a little disappointed. Mr. Washington’s optimistic outlook throughout the book continued to illustrate that although times were tough things were getting better everyday. That in fact more and more were going off to seek an education and that things could only improve, it would not be over night, however, but in time.

Here it is some 130 years later, and we still are up against the same struggles that Mr. Washington faced, regarding the ignorance of people. One comparison can be made between our students who sport their $300 iPhone or $80 Nikes but have not had a decent meal in days, to that of the family Mr. Washington visited who only had one dinner fork but a $60 organ in the Conner of their one room shack.

Another disconcerting fact is that while Mr. Washington state

“The temptation often is to run each individual through a certain educational mould, regardless of the condition of the subject or the end to be accomplished”

This temptation, I am afraid the school system has fallen into, today it is all about test and passing numbers, rather than the actually applicable knowledge that the students get.

Although I found myself somewhat disappointed by all this, I would stop and consider how Mr. Washington would feel had he been able to be here today. I am sure his optimism would show through. He would feel that we as a nation has been able to over come many obstacles that faced us during his time. He would also be amazed and overjoyed as to the many opportunities in which all people, regardless of race or gender, are given to obtain an education.

He would also agree with us teachers, that there is still much work to do in improving the educational system. But as Mr. Washington mentioned throughout his book, things do not happen “over night”. If anything his trail with the brick making only shows is perseverance.

Although Mr. Washington’s name or school may not be recognizable by many Career Tech teachers, it is obvious that his teaching model is being used today. It was Mr. Washington’s desire to teach his students to study “actual things” instead of mere books alone and to provide “skill and knowledge” which in return could add “ something to the wealth and the comfort of the community.”

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