When I asked Dr. Kevin Kumashiro, the new dean at The University of San Francisco’s (USF’s) School of Education, about his vision for the school, he did not talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and other more popular themes for educational institutions. Instead, he answered, “Rather than ‘brilliant’ lecturers, our educators need to find ways of deeply understanding the context of the students whom they serve. If they have an appreciation of their lives, their neighborhoods and their communities, they can provide them with the skills and tools their students will need into the future.”
I am intrigued by Dean Kumashiro’s vision and believe it will inspire change not only within the university itself but beyond. Specifically, by focusing on the living conditions of students, we can begin to address one of the biggest causes of the education gap in our country – income disparities. Impacting this key societal issue will give students better access to the type of education that is sufficient to compete outside of poverty – in mainstream America and on a global basis. It will be interesting to follow Dean Kumashiro’s tenure at the USF School of Education and to see how his graduates approach their role in affecting social change. Notably, Dean Kumashiro’s vision for The School of Education ties into this Catholic university’s firmly entrenched value of helping the economically disadvantaged.
For an overview of how the issue of “access to education” has become a leading topic in educational policy discussions, please read some of the seminal documents on this topic, below:
The White House issued a report in early 2014 entitled, Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students: A Call to Action
The Southern States published this piece, which became the initial wake-up call to this issue in 2013, entitled The New Majority: Low Income Students in the South and in the Nation.
Last weekend’s New York Times Magazine piece continued the dialogue with Paul Tough (expert on mental attitudes) and his review of research showing that attitude gaps in kids from low-income families prevent them from either applying to, or completing college or university. Read Who Gets to Graduate.