School Subjects for African-Americans: Washington’s Views

Booker T. Washington established the Tuskegee Institute, where African-Americans could receive an education. The studies at this institution would prepare them for work in agriculture or industrial plants. He believed that a practical approach to education, according to which the African-Americans would be taught the skills they will immediately apply at farms or plants, was an answer to this population’s economic development.

In the “Up from Slavery,” Washington comments on his experience interacting with African-Americans and the education they receive. Mainly, he is unsatisfied with the fact that they have a good knowledge of geography but could not deal with daily chores.

According to Washington, “could locate the Desert of Sahara” however, “girls could not locate the proper places for the knives and forks.” Hence, he advocates for a more practical approach by teaching people the common occupations that will allow them to join the workforce. Hence, in Washington’s view, the appropriate subjects for teaching at school would be practical ones. For example, the subjects that would provide an understanding of how to serve dinner for girls, and those allowing the boys to “tile a field.”

“Payoff” of the Industrial Education

Industrial education focuses on ensuring that children learn practical skills, which allow them to get a job right after they complete their studies. Washington promoted this type of education because he believed that it would allow the African-Americans to gain wealth, to provide for themselves, and to work for the white citizens of the United States. However, the payoff of such an approach was the lack of focus on the impractical aspects, such as social justice or democracy. The subjects that would reveal the principles behind these concepts were not included in the industrial training. As a result, the African-Americans would have to deal with the treatment of them as inferior, study at schools that would be segregated from the white students, have no rights when electing government officials, and have limited access to higher education opportunities. In essence, the industrial education focused on short-term gain, the ability to earn money, and overlooked the long-term consequences or the social status of African-Americans. Du Bois pointed out the shortfalls of such an approach, and he was among the people who started the Niagara movement, which intended to eliminate the Jim Crow laws and force a social change.

True Education by Du Bois

Du Bois believed that for the African-Americans and other ethnicities alike, it is vital to teaching “make carpenters men,” which he expressed in “The Talented Tenth.” In the “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?” Dy Bois recounts the consequences of segregation for the people living in the state. He explains that the schools for people of any race should be based on cooperation and a sympathetic relationship between students and their teachers, which is social equality. He opposed segregation, arguing that the practice of separating African-American students from white students is what does not allow true democracy in the United States, which is the true aim of education.

Du Bois’ approach to education is different from that of Washington since the two focus on different aspects of the problem. Washington wanted the people to earn money, while Du Bois advocated for a social change. Washington believed that industrial education was the way of improving the lives of the African-Americans. Du Bois, however, advocated for the education that would teach children more impractical things and would allow them to understand the meaning of their lives. Notably, Du Bois did not advocate against teaching manual labor specifics, as he stated that he is “an earnest advocate of manual training.” However, in his view, the children should be offered more than just manual labor training, something that would fulfill their lives with meaning. Du Bois also acknowledged that there was a racial prejudice against African-Americans, which was the reason why segregation at schools and colleges prospered and why the community members could not receive a proper education.

Hence, Washington believed that the African-Americans could gain wealth and prove that they are equal members of the community by receiving vocational and industrial training. This implied that white citizens would hire African-Americans instead of hiring people from outside of the United States. Under Washington’s view, African-Americans should have had a right to own property, but no the right to vote. Du Bois, however, viewed education in a broader sense and considered the issue of democracy and how educating the African-Americans would mean the true democracy for the state.

College or K-12

The Du Bois’ approach would require one to attend college to gain an understanding of subjects beyond those taught under industrial education. Du Bois even voiced an opinion that to sustain the industrial education of African Americans, there has to be a sufficient number of African-American teachers who went to higher education institutions. Washington’s industrial education, however, could be completed as a K-12 program. In essence, Washington was concerned with ensuring that African-Americans has jobs. Du Bois worked on ensuring justice for this community and a change in prejudice against the blacks, and he criticized the focus on accumulating material wealth. This created the basis for the civil rights movement, which later succeeded in ensuring social justice for the African-Americans.

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