Keeping a Global Perspective: Paul Green
History generally portrays Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision striking down school segregation, as a giant step forward for African Americans – the end of “separate” and the beginning of “equal.”
Yet Brown also resulted not only in the closure of African-American public schools but also “the loss of African-American public school teachers and concomitant influences on the communities in which they resided,” wrote Paul Green in a 2004 issue of The Journal of Negro Education. The segregation-era black teachers and administrators who had inspired their students to become physicians, lawyers and engineers were for the most part replaced by “white teachers and administrators who maintained control over the curriculum as well as the social and cultural milieu of the educational process in America's public schools.”
Green, Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Riverside, isn’t the first to advance this argument, but he’s very much in the vanguard of applying it to the current educational landscape, in which “fifty years after the Court's decision…students continue to matriculate through elementary, middle, and secondary schools throughout the United States rarely meeting or working with an African-American, Latino, Asian or American Indian teacher” – particularly in poor inner-city neighborhoods and schools.
In many ways, Green got his start tackling these issues at Teachers College, where, in 1996, he was one of two inaugural Minority Postdoctoral Fellows. (The other was Cally Waite, now TC Associate Professor of History & Education.)
“At TC, I had the opportunity to meet and work with scholars and colleagues like Craig Richards, Robert Crane, Warner Burke, Terri Orr, Edmund Gordon, George Bond, and Dale Mann – people who valued perspectives existing on the periphery of the educational and community experience of what was considered normative,” he says. “That kind of commitment is part of TC’s DNA, and it’s what the minority post-doctoral fellowship was all about.”
"At TC, I had the opportunity to meet and work with scholars and colleagues like Craig Richards, Robert Crane, Warner Burke, Terri Orr, Edmund Gordon, George Bond, and Dale Mann – people who valued perspectives existing on the periphery of the educational and community experience of what was considered normative."
— Paul Green
Green’s current institution, University of California, Riverside ranks among the top four institutions nationally in terms of the diversity of its student population. “California’s lower and post-secondary schools, have witnessed a rise in Asian Americans, Africans, African Americans, Afro Caribbeans, Caucasian Americans, Native Americans -- students from all corners of the world,” Green says. “There’s a significant need for discussion surrounding the histories of the assmiliation of these students and their communities in order to understand the educational, social, political and cultural forces that are shaping their connection to this country as citizens. If I’m a young man born in the U.S. but my parents are from Benin, and I speak that language and regard myself as African, what does it mean about my identity, my assimilation, my acculturation? Or if I’m Chinese American and I attended public elementary schools and then went on to an elite private college, what does that mean, both for my own community and for inner cities in general?”
Minority Postdoctoral Fellow Spotlights
- Creating New Narratives: Lalitha Vasudevan
- Responding to Students' Cultural Orientations: Eric Hurley
- Focusing on the Under-Represented: Rosalie Rolón Dow
- Lives in the Crosshairs: Arshad Ali Explores the identity of Muslim youth growing up under surveillance
- Telling a Uniquely American Story: Cally Waite
The answers, for Green, are often less important than the process of asking the questions. “It’s so essential, especially in cities like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, that we have an engaged community of learners who have the wealth of knowledge and experience that comes from diversity. The world is now a truly global place, so myopic thinking and a lack of global experience work to the disadvantage of communities and their institutions.”
To Green, that change makes the TC Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship even more relevant than it was 20 years ago – and the program’s upcoming 20-year anniversary celebration more than just an impressive milestone.
“What TC began foretold what needed to take place,” he says. “They were on the pulse. And for me, the value of it continues. It’s not locked in space in time. That’s why I’m so pleased there will be reunion.” – Joe Levine
Published Wednesday, Feb 17, 2016