Dr. Floyd W. Banks: From Social Activism to Reflections in Retirement

Article excerpt

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IMZ (Itibari M. Zulu): Thank you Dr. Banks for this interview. From my reading I've learned that you spent 27 years as a professor of Physiology and former chair of the Biological Sciences Department at Chicago State University (CSU) in Chicago, Illinois. Congratulations on this dedication and achievement.

FWB (Floyd W. Banks): Thanks, it was my pleasure to serve the mainly minority students on the south side of Chicago. I started as Associate Professor from 1984 until 1990 when I became full professor. I served as Professor of Physiology from 1990 until 2004 when I was appointed Acting Chair for one year and then Chairman of the department from 2005 until my retirement May 31, 20011.

IMZ: In my read via US News & World Report I learned that Chicago State University ranks first in Illinois in awarding bachelor's degrees to African Americans in the physical sciences, health professions, and related sciences; and that the school ranks fourth in the state in awarding baccalaureate degrees to Latino students in education. Since you were at CSU for almost three decades, I am sure you have contributed to this success. Can you give our readers some insight into the ingredients that created that success?

FWB: Chicago States' Pre-Med program had a successful entry of 87% of its graduates into medical school. The highest acceptance rate in the state; we had the MBRS (Minorities in Biomedical Research) program which funded basic science research which involve our students in cutting edge research which they published in refereed journals. This greatly enhanced the education of our students.

IMZ: I understand that your specialization is synaptic physiology and biophysics; membrane biophysics of compensatory enlarging mammalian muscle fibers and the motor nerve release properties, however you did have time throughout your career to engage in political activism (student advocacy). Hence, did your political//social activism contribute to your teaching philosophy, and if so, in what ways?

FWB: I was always involved with social activism from the time I was attending San Francisco State College where our strike resulted in alterations of the admissions criterion so that more Black and Latinos were enrolled in the school. During my time at UCLA I was actively involved in the anti-war movement and fought to get more minorities into UCLA graduate school. While at CSU I was always at the forefront fighting for student rights and changes that would serve students.

My politics did inform my teaching philosophy because I understood that any student with the right background and the desire to learn could master any material. If the student didn't have the background it was our role as educators to direct them to get the background and never discourage their ambition to learn.

IMZ: As you may guess, our journal deals with just about all things African, past and present, thus as trans-disciplinary project we don't shy away from the sciences, although we primarily focus on the social sciences and the humanities. In this regard I've discovered that the history of African science and science education is absent in almost every science text which means that students may never learn that there is an African root to fractal geometry, the Ishango bone was found with mathematical markings found at the fishing site on Lake Nyanza (aka Lake Edward) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 9000 BC and 6500 BC or that historian and physicist Chiekh Anta Diop translation of a major portion Albert Einstein's theory of relativity into Wolof to demonstrate the ability of an African language to adequately articulate the modern laws and principles of science.

How do you think this can be corrected, and in your years of teaching did this absence (African science and science education) ever become a topic of interest among students or faculty, and if not, why do you think it didn't? …

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