It Takes a Village to Empower a Child: A Call for Positive Social Change through Education

By Neville, Mary Grace | Black History Bulletin, Summer-Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

It Takes a Village to Empower a Child: A Call for Positive Social Change through Education


Neville, Mary Grace, Black History Bulletin


In my experience, all too often, my colleagues, my students, and I hear or read academic content presented and take it quite literally. Specifically, we take in only the actual words spoken or read, rather than listening or reading more intently for alternative meanings, potential implications for our lives, or insights or distinctions that would allow us to expand our epistemic views of the world. For example, by literally reading the articles and lesson plans in this issue of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History's (ASALH) Black History Bulletin (BHB), one may find some direct application for daily life rather than articles that only provide inert instructional strategies. However, the strength of this issue expands far beyond the literal application of the concepts, personal experiences, and lesson plans shared. This issue, instead, should be considered a call for positive social change through education.

This issue of the BHB officially called for papers about "Black Economic Empowerment." The resulting collection takes action at two levels. First, the articles and lesson plans offer practical tactics for empowering some youth through classroom exercises. Second, and more broadly influential, the issue provides powerful glimpses into how we collectively and insidiously collude to marginalize particular groups of people. Each article frames a rationale for creating positive social change through education--education that inherently seeks to develop young minds into confident, self-respecting, curious adults who can choose how they will apply their economic literacy to further improve our complex global world. It is this more conceptual message that I find enormously powerful.

Empowerment means different things in different disciplines. Consistently, though, the concept implies forms of power within oneself--personal capacity, ability to influence outcomes, jurisdiction over something as tangible as money or as conceptual as literacy and choice. This issue's focus on Black economic empowerment brings authors together who propose ways to instill self-esteem, compassion, and informed curiosity into young people. As a global community, all of us share the gain when minds open and human potential expands. But the job cannot be done by middle and high school teachers alone. As each author here explains, young people learn through socialization, the media, peer pressure, role models, and how they are formally educated. Therefore, individually and collectively, as a community of global citizens, we hold responsibility for cultivating forms of power within young people's lives. Social psychologist Kurt Lewin introduced the framework force field analysis (1) for understanding systems and change. Lewin argued that systems find a balance between forces supporting change and forces resisting change. …

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