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Historic Public Forum on Race and Education Launched Feb. 9 in Boston

Spelman President Beverly Tatum Begins Simmons College/Beacon Press "Race, Education and Democracy" Lecture Series

BOSTON (January 12, 2006) — Renowned experts on hotly debated issues around race and education will launch a historic public lecture series in Boston Feb. 9 at Simmons College, aimed at igniting a national discussion on the frayed link between public schooling and a robust, multiracial democracy.

The first of the Simmons College/Beacon Press Race, Education and Democracy Lecture and Book Series — this year titled "Why Are All the Black Kids Still Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" — will include four lectures, each followed by discussions among education and civic leaders, on issues such as how race in America's classrooms affects achievement, and what higher education can do to prepare students for a changing democracy.

Beacon Press, the highly respected, 150-year-old independent publisher based in Boston, ultimately will publish the lectures as a book. Beacon Press has published numerous groundbreaking books on a wide range of societal issues, notably Cornel West's "Race Matters," as well as dozens of highly acclaimed works in the field of education.

The 2006 inaugural lectures will be delivered by Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, internationally recognized scholar on racial identity development, and author of the New York Times-recommended book, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"

Follow-up discussion will be led by Dr. Roger Wilkins, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History and American Culture at George Mason University, past chairman of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and author of the award-winning book "Jefferson's Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism."

The 2006 lectures and discussions, all free and open to the public, are:

  • Feb. 9, 4:00-6:00 p.m., "Racial Identity Development in K-12 Students: What Educators, Community Activists, and Parents Should Know," in the Linda K. Paresky Conference Center, 300 Fenway, Simmons College.
  • Feb. 10, 4:00-6:00 p.m., "Connecting the Dots: How Race in America's Classrooms Affects Achievement," Linda K. Paresky Conference Center, 300 Fenway, Simmons College
  • March 23, 4:00-6:00 p.m., "Building Friendships Across the Racial Divide: The Problems and Possibilities," Linda K. Paresky Conference Center, 300 Fenway, Simmons College
  • March 24, 4:00-6:00 p.m., "In Search of Wisdom: Higher Education for a Changing Democracy," Harvard Medical Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Main Floor Amphitheater

Series director Theresa Perry, Simmons College professor of Africana Studies and Education, said the series was conceived around the idea that, historically, the role of public education "has been to prepare people for self-governance, to serve as the great equalizer."

"But the link between public schooling and democracy has been frayed, even as the number of youths with access has increased," she said. "Education has become viewed as a consumer good, not the common good, even while the new common culture is predicated on differences.

"This series aims to reestablish for the public, the historic connection between public education and the possibility of a robust democracy, against the backdrop of the issue of race in America. Public education should be at the center of American public life. It's critical in today's times that we bring the public together for thoughtful, informed, complicated discussions about the direction in which we're going."

The series will be attended by a broad audience: educators; civic, religious and business leaders; concerned citizens and community activists; and parents and students. The series is funded in part by the Lowell Institute.

For more information, visit the Web at www.raceandeducation.com. For questions, email raceandeducation@simmons.edu, or phone 617-521-2626.

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