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The W.E.B. Dubois, Essay Example

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Essay

It is difficult to identify W.E.B. DuBois the educator from DuBois the social activist.  Virtually every academic component of the man’s life is linked to his being an African American in an era when racism was not only widespread, but protected by legislation.  It is not easy for a modern mind to reconcile, for example, that DuBois earned his doctorate at Harvard when black men were being unlawfully lynched, or that he would receive prestigious teaching offers when debate was raging as to the basic rights of African Americans.  It is then not surprising that how education impacted on and within social and cultural conditions would be the core of his educational philosophies.

On one level, and ironically, a great impact made by DuBois in education goes solely to his own attainments as a black man.  In every action and job he took, he represented an anomaly: a cultivated and educated black man, and this alone gave his presence and voice enormous weight.  Equally importantly, that DuBois focused so much of his efforts on racial and social injustice has an impact of almost inestimable proportions; simply, his work consistently reinforced the often ignored reality that education is a living and critical element within how any culture functions.  Consequently, his educational philosophies, born from experiences and conflicts faced by himself, invariably reflect Socialist principles.  DuBois was most definitely committed to the full equality of African Americans, yet it seems that this cause, as crucial as it was to him, encompasses a greater philosophy.  More exactly, only the opportunity for education, which should be an inherent reality for all within a civilized society, can create a valid culture and undo the evils existing when an elite few are permitted to learn.  He understood that education is inextricably linked to human progression, individual and otherwise, and that only an educated population could establish a truly just and worthwhile society.  This is a philosophy of dual integration, in that it addresses racial injustice and also comprehends how “integrated” education is within all the elements of living.

This latter integration is what resonates with me personally, as I consider my own educational philosophy.  There can be no undermining of DuBois’s commitment to racial justice, and my thinking fully appreciates this.  If DuBois was fighting against a particular form of oppression, it seems to me that we cannot lose sight of the greater meaning of that fight.  More exactly, it is ordinary today for people to assume that, in our globalized world, educational opportunities know no bias.  I feel, however, that cultural belief systems run deep and it is important to always be aware of potential types of restriction based on race or gender.  Just as it is likely that many segregationists of the past did not perceives themselves as harming anyone through restrictions, I believe the same sort of “innocent” discrimination could occur today, and no real educator can allow it.

At the same time, and as noted, it is the expanse of DuBois’s educational philosophy that supports my own thinking.  I do not believe a person need be a Socialist to comprehend how critical learning is as a process within a society.  Education, more than anything, enables: it allows men and women to make differences in the world around them, which is itself a means of furthering education for all.  This core of DuBois’s thinking is identical with my own.  If past generations have viewed education as a specific channel, one in which an individual attains abilities and then is distanced from the process, it is past time that the “ecosystem” of the culture be seen for what it is.  Even strictly academic education must be as evolving sand alive as the society in which it exists, because the changing dimensions of that society require new perspectives.  Then, and to reiterate what I see as the core of the DuBois philosophy, to deny education to anyone at all, and for any reason, is to impede the society itself.  The injustice to the individual is unconscionable, but equally so is the damage to the culture because only equality of educational opportunity can provide real equality, and possibilities for advancement, to a society.

This, I feel, is true because education lives within every man and woman who leaves the schools and goes out into the world, which keeps education alive and vitally important.

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