The groundbreaking School of Education Community Forum, Helping Public Education Fulfill Its Promise for All Children in the 21st Century: A Pittsburgh Regional Perspective, provided the opportunity on Oct. 23 for leaders to engage in the important issue of quality education as a social justice right for all of our region’s children.
Recognizing the multiple stakeholders within the Pittsburgh region, each bringing significant contributions to the transformation of education, the participants from foundations, business, civic organizations, educational institutions and government discussed the importance of excellence in equity in education, highlighting their own work and practices around educational and employment opportunities.
These dialogues were the beginning of efforts to capitalize on work currently being done within the region and helped all participants to gain a better understanding of how we all might better collaborate and move from dialogues into actions that benefit our region’s children and youth.
With more than 70 participants in discussion at the first forum, plans initially called for an annual follow-up. But, said Education Dean Dr. Olga Welch, participants didn’t want to wait that long, so a second forum will be scheduled for March 2014 to continue the dialogue around the following themes that emerged from the initial discussion:
1) Social justice needs to become a region-wide initiative, though participants found little agreement about the definition of or how to enact social justice within organizations that serve children and youth.
2) The region’s biggest barrier is its segregated nature. Many called for a breakdown of geographic barriers, immobilization and segregated neighborhoods that currently define Pittsburgh.
3) Students should be engaged in a holistic way. Dr. Pedro Noguera, the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at the New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, said that “the children are not the problem,” a statement that really resonated with participants. Feedback suggested that the community has not had the vision and willpower to provide students with what they deserve and what they actually need to succeed.
Details on the second community forum will be forthcoming.