Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Guiding Philosophical Principles for a DuBoisian-Based African American Educational Model

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Guiding Philosophical Principles for a DuBoisian-Based African American Educational Model

Article excerpt

In the past few decades, scholars, activists, and educators have called for the development and utilization of African American-based theories and models of education. With the exception of Afrocentric education, little has been done to develop educational and theoretical models or strategies that address the historical and contemporary conditions of African Americans. By examining the educational thought of W. E. B. DuBois and extrapolating from his work a model of 6 educational principles, this article's purpose is to raise awareness of the need for African American-based education and encourage the further examination and development of African American-based educational models.

In discussing what is vaguely termed "Negro education," therefore, it must be admitted at the outset that the educational process for Negroes as for all other peoples cannot be divorced from the dominant political, social, and economic forces active in the society. (Bunche, 1936, p. 351)

At the beginning of the 21st century, African Americans continue to lack a comprehensive, cohesive, emancipatory, and culturally relevant educational theoretical model to help them successfully navigate American society (Dunn, 1991; Gordon, 1990; Ladson-Billings, 1995). Moreover, in developing curricula and policies, policymakers and educators rarely consult theories or models that are based on the life experiences and realities of African Americans (Anyon, 1995a, 1995b; Hilliard, 1998; Kincheloe, 1993). This lack of attention has led to culturally insensitive and decontextualized curricula, policies, and reforms that do little to improve the education of large numbers of African American students.

Decontextualized educational policies and curricula often limit the educational knowledge base from which African Americans can draw culturally relevant and emancipatory knowledge (Gordon, 1990, 1993; Kincheloe, 1993). Furthermore, they deprive African Americans of the heuristic tools needed to critique the society and world around them (Gill, 1991; Gordon, 1985, 1990, 1993; Kincheloe, 1993). As Dunn (1993) argued, African Americans need an education based on theoretical models and philosophies that are cognizant of and responsive to their needs. One way to proceed in that development, he posited, is to consult the pedagogical thought of renowned and significant African American theorists.

Whereas a few scholars already have brought to light the educational philosophies of African American thinkers such as Mary McLeod Bethune, Anna Julia Cooper, Alaine Locke, Carter G. Woodson, Booker T. Washington, Charles Hamilton Houston, W. E. B. DuBois, and others (Asante, 1994; Banks, 1996; Shujaa, 1994; Tedla, 1996), none have extrapolated comprehensive educational models from these ideas. Among African American notables, however, W. E. B. DuBois left the most comprehensive set of writings and views from which educators and policymakers can obtain contextualized, historical, and African American-based perspectives on education (Alridge, 1999; Dunn, 1991; Hilliard, 1998). Unfortunately, DuBois never articulated a cohesive and comprehensive educational philosophy or model for African American education. During his long and prolific career, he published more than 22 books, 100 articles and essays, and more than 15 edited volumes. Many of his works deal directly or indirectly with the education of African Americans. This emphasis is understandable, given that DuBois believed education to be one of the most effective emancipatory tools that Black people could use to alleviate the abysmal social, economic, and political conditions, that were commonly referred to during much of DuBois's lifetime as "the Negro problem."

Despite the recent popularity of DuBoisian ideals in philosophical and historical circles, no works focusing on his ideals have laid out a cohesive and comprehensive educational model based on his thinking. In an earlier essay (Alridge, 1999), I placed DuBois's thinking in the intellectual context of his time and began to identify themes and principles from his writings on education. …

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