Educator says politics should be secondary to educating students
By Charles Hallman
Any form of meaningful school reform should include all stakeholders, including students, says Dr. Patricia Moore Harbour. Harbour is scheduled to speak this weekend at “Every Body’s In: A Call for Responsibility & Action for Educating & Developing Our Youth” sponsored by Youthprise.
The two sessions — Saturday morning, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm at Minnesota Department of Education headquarters, 1500 Highway 36 West, Roseville, and Sunday evening at 5:30 pm at St. Paul’s Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, 1505 Burns Avenue, are open to the public.
In a recent MSR phone interview, Harbour said she hopes the two events “will be well attended by citizens, professional educators, and businesses — all those people who have a stake in educating, and come together and find some solutions.” A former teacher and administrator, Harbour is an associate at the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio and also runs the Harbour Center for Quality Education.
Her 2012 book, Community Educators (Kettering Foundation Press), “challenges educators and other stakeholders to expand their view of education beyond institutional, classroom-based instruction…
“I am an educator. I have been a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, worked in suburban, urban and rural districts, and it’s clear that we have done a great job with a number of reforms,” she noted. “But they haven’t been enough, so I propose that transforming education is what we need along with the reforms that schools develop and implement.”
She sadly pointed out that too often “politics takes place over what’s best for the kids. That for me was most frustrating.
“Boards of education were more concerned about their next election than really guiding and directing and being a board of education for young people, the community and the schools,” continued Harbour, who pointed out that there are school districts around the country that are reaching out to community folk to work on various education issues.
“Transforming education calls for the community and citizens to engage with public educators to make a difference in the development and education of young people,” said Harbour. “I don’t have the answer, but I can share with [the audience] that communities across the country are challenged by this, and some communities across the country have already begun to bridge some of those gaps.”
The entire community, including families, businesses and local organizations, should play a role in educating children and “in making decisions that will determine the future of the next generation,” she stressed. “I do think we all have a stake in it, whether we have children in school or not.
“Businesses have a stake because they want a trained workforce,” Harbour continued. “Elders have a stake because it is going to be this generation that will be their home health caregivers. Children have a stake in their own future, and they also have a voice. Often they can help solve a problem or issue that impacts them in a way that we adults can’t. The schools cannot do it alone.
“We [also] see in a number of cities across the country where…the community is doing a great job after school with mentoring programs, teaching social skills development, and teaching character development. What we are finding [is] that the youth is showing leadership in finding their voice and being responsibly engaged with other students, and to create changes in ways of thinking about issues in their community.”
Harbour quickly warned that simply taking a model successful elsewhere “and plopping it down in St. Paul doesn’t work. St. Paul has its own uniqueness, its own core values and how they want children to relate to education, to each other, to adults… That has to be worked out in St. Paul. But certainly there are places to look for ideas [and] then shape your own.”
Retired St. Paul Public Schools administrator Mary K. Boyd was featured among five “A Story from the Field” accounts in Harbour’s book. “I’ve known Dr. Harbour for several years,” said Boyd, who wrote about two former students who later as adults are working with students having backgrounds similar to their own.
“I am very excited” to help “build a bridge in [the] relationship with the community, professional educators and the schools on behalf of educating and developing the youth in St. Paul,” concluded Harbour.
For more information about this weekend’s event, go to www.youthprise.org/communityeducators.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.