The hosted Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, Dr. George Coleman, on Wednesday night for a discussion on the state's schooling. The evening saw speeches by New London notables and culminated in questions being asked and answered by both the youth and adult members of the audience.
Pastor Larry de Long and several young members of the church introduced the speakers and the question and answer session. Remarks were given by New London NAACP president Don Wilson, Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Fischer and Mayor Martin Olsen.
Wilson told the audience that it is important to join the NAACP and in participating in votes. Fischer spoke about the Tuskegee Institute and its place of importance in African-American history and culture. He said that for many years, Tuskegee, founded by Booker T. Washington, was one of the only places in America where blacks could get a higher education. Coleman is a graduate of Tuskegee. Mayor Olsen reminded listeners of the importance of education. He spoke of his visit to and the challenge he made for each student to graduate from high school.
Dr. George Coleman noted that his father and grandfather before him had gone to the Tuskegee Institute and peppered his speech with references to Tuskegee and its founder, Booker T. Washington. He used Washington as an example of a young black man who had started his life with very little and had swept the floors of the president’s office at Hampton Institute to demonstrate his strength of character, subsequently securing a place at the college.
Coleman also spoke about his many visits to China, where he found five-year-olds studying English and the requirement of every Chinese student to be fluent in both Mandarin and English, as well as a possible third language. In doing so, Dr. Coleman stated that the desire of the Chinese state was to send Chinese college students to foreign universities, where they would eventually expand China’s power in the world. He said that American schools must be set to a higher standard in order to compete with China’s next generation.
“Every child deserves a concerned parent and a competent teacher,” Coleman told the audience, receiving a round of applause in response. He also said that if you are a parent who wants their children to graduate from high school but you don’t have a diploma yourself, you should go to Adult Education Services and sign up for high school classes.
In essence, Coleman spoke about the importance of imposing high standards on oneself, because the onus lies on each person to do his or her best if they want to remain competitive not only in our society, but in the international society as well.
After Coleman’s speech, several young members of the church gave important lessons on issues relating to education. One young girl, Shayla Goode, likened education to a tripod of parents, teacher, and child; the failure of any one will cause the rest to collapse. This lesson reiterated Coleman’s speech and his belief that the parent, the teacher and the child are intertwined.
After each lesson, questions were asked of the students involving places and events that Coleman referenced in his speech. Each correct answer was met with a gift card from a leading retailer.
Coleman also answered question by both students and adults. Several of the questions asked by the children were quite amusing, including “Are you the one who picks snow days?” and “Do you pick out our substitute teachers?” The answer to each, for the record, is no.