Our Kids Are Just Kids

Perry: The educational system is failing students

Steve Perry, author and educator, talked about the state of the educational system and the students its failing. Perry was the keynote speaker for the Social Justice Book Lecture at the University of Missouri-Kansas City,

“Our students just want to be validated. They just want to be loved,” said Perry.

Perry is the author of “Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve – Even If It Means Picking a Fight.” He is also founder and former principal of what U.S. News and World Report has cited as one of the top schools in the country, Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn.

“Dr. Perry’s speeches and writings present a no-excuses perspective pushing us to confront social inequity in our community,” said Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “We’re here tonight because we understand that children should be valued not because they are your children or my children – but because they are our children.

“Because America’s children are a precious and valuable resource, we should think long and hard about the impact of our decisions, and the policies we live by as a society, when it comes to education. Dr. Perry’s presentation should make us more keenly aware that we have a big stake in the lives of others,” concluded Morton.

Morton said many in the audience read the book and probably had discussions about it, including students in classrooms. “UMKC has done its best to prepare you for Dr. Perry’s presentation. What you do with it after tonight is up to you,” said Morton.

Perry was humorous, thanking Kansas City for coming to his lecture in spite of wanting to watch the Royals and the Mets in the 2015 World Series. He also asked about the Troost “dividing line,” incredulous that his white driver told him about it as if it were a tourist attraction.

But, Perry is so very serious about kids and education.

“Feels to me like Kansas City has had enough. Years of degradation is starting to wear on you,” Perry said. “What troubles me is you’re not troubled enough. How do you continue to send your kids to a school district without accreditation?” He referenced the fact the Kansas City district has had approximately 20 superintendents in last 25 years.

“You know who’s not teaching and then they blame the students for not learning, or the parents who didn’t go to college or the dad who’s in jail,” said Perry. “The students come to school for us to teach them to read, write and compute. To give them a reason to live,” he said.

In a quieter, softer tone, Perry challenged the audience to ask a kindergartner if they are going to college. “All their little hands go up, even if they don’t know what college is.” Perry chuckled.

He said that after being made to feel unteachable, the students stop hoping to go to college by the fourth grade. They pretend not to care about reading or writing or being smart.

“Children really love school, but feel that school hates them. Our system of education was designed for people with some level of education to be finished, not for those who need to be built,” Perry said. “It was never designed for African Americans, Hispanics or the very poor to become educated.”

Ruffle Some Feathers

“What are you fighting for? The birds manipulate their feathers to control the pressure and to manipulate the wind. They don’t put their wings by their side. College students, you should have empathy for others and not put your wings by your side,” said Perry. “You are not here to make friends, but you came to make a difference. Our children are as capable as children everywhere. Poverty is not the reason any child fails. They’re in a system that’s failing.

“Fight for the children. Do something more compelling than plan a party or walk around campus with signs that no one will ever hear about,” Perry said. “There’s so much talent in this room, and it’s time to ruffle some feathers.”

Perry encouraged the students to go to the school board with data in hand, fight for transformation of the schools and challenge the system about the lack of resources available to urban youth. “Ruffle their feathers by asking for school choice – whether it’s a charter, voucher, public or private school,” said Perry.

Capital Prep has sent 100 percent of its high school graduates to four-year colleges since its first class graduated in 2006.

“Our kids are intelligent and teachable. And, we want the same resources for them that everyone wants. How many more children are we prepared to lose? You don’t know – the cure for breast cancer could have been in the Kansas City School District,” concluded Perry.

|Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications





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