Eastern Michigan University hosted keynote speaker Geoffrey Canada in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day on Monday. He discussed his teaching techniques and the foundations to better America’s youth in a packed Student Center auditorium.
Junior Brandon Britt gave a formal introduction and warm welcome for Canada.“He’s an advocate for the children in need,” Britt said. “A passionate advocate for educational reform.”
Canada has been acknowledged for helping many families and children in Harlem.
In 1983, Canada joined the Rheedlan Foundation and served as the foundation’s Education Director.
The foundation then became what is now known as the Harlem Children’s Zone. Furthering the cause, the HCZ established a project called the Harlem Children’s Zone Project, which seeks to help children and families through many educational, mental and social outlets.
“All I wanted to do was to save my kids in Harlem,” Canada said.
Canada talked about the children in Harlem and how they have always been in dire straits.
“We could educate and save these kids, or let them fail,” Canada said.
Canada also said that by the 1960s, America had lost its soul, with nothing to show for its struggle except for rioting and leaders like MLK, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy – all three of whom were assassinated.
“I’m concerned that our country is in peril,” Canada said, referring to the current times.
University of Michigan student and elementary education major Renee Gantt agreed with Canada’s notion that America still has a way to go before everyone has an equal opportunity, especially where education is concerned.
“There are many examples of racism in this country,” Gantt said.
She also said that more presentations like the one that Canada offered would be a good place for people to start and wished a different demographic would start showing up.
“The people who need it most aren’t coming,” Gnatt said.
Canada also said that if his Harlem kids do terribly in school or simply drop out, they are destined to become hustlers on the streets to survive. The kids decide they need to simply survive and take the risks of going to jail.
“We’re spending our future locking up our children,” Canada said.
He also said that people are more willing to spend money to incarcerate children instead of spending the money to help them.
“We need to save them, we educate them and we stop them from going into the system,” Canada said.
He used an obesity analogy by saying that the country has a child obesity problem but people are more than willing to help out in that threatened health area.
“If you have a kid with a spoon eating cups of sugar, you’d call somebody,” Canada said.
Canada spoke about the schools in the South Bronx area of New York and nothing has changed in decades.
“People expect those kids to fail,” he said. “A million kids’ lives have been destroyed because they’re being taught the same way with no good change.”
Canada also promotes inner-city children going to school during the summer, and believes teachers should be OK with this concept.
He stated that any person who has had success in life had a great teacher somewhere along the line. The problem in Harlem is that it is where all of the “lousy” teachers end up after principals get rid of them, according to Canada.
“If there’s a better way for kids to have a chance, poor kids to have a chance, you need an education in this country,” Canada said. “Education involves the entire child, mental and physical.”
Canada said that kids are full of surprises, especially when they’re labeled at such a young age.
“We need optimism for our kids. We need to think outside of the box about education,” Canada said. “You’ve got to have faith before you need it. Kids need people to help them make it through.”