At Salt Lake Community College there are many different students with different ethnic backgrounds. This is great for class discussions, as many different ideas may be heard from people who come from other places in the world.
Last Monday, SLCC marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement that brought many positive changes to America by holding a panel discussion that was held in the Student Event Center at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. John McCormick, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, hosted the event. The panel discussion was “Freedom’s Struggle: Then and Now.” The five panelists interviewed had different personal experiences from their past and described their participation in the progress for civil rights in our country.
One of the first questions that was asked of the panel was whether or not education is a civil right. All five panelists responded saying that yes, education is a civil right for everyone and should be provided to everyone equally. Each panelist’s ache was felt as they addressed the urgency of why education is so important to them as they have struggled to correct this issue for a lifetime. Charles Cobb Jr., one of the panelists, is an author, poet and journalist. He had a light-hearted sense of humor and was quick to express his feelings and beliefs of the importance of equal education.
Another question that was asked of the panel was, “What kind of education are oppressed groups entitled to?”
Rev. France Davis grabbed the mic and calmly said, “We simply wanted the same education opportunities as everyone else. No more, no less.” Rev. Davis is a pastor at Salt Lake City’s Calvary Baptist Church and member of Utah State Board of Regents. Rev. Davis participated in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, including marching from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. He has been a longtime Utah activist and had a very strong presence during the panel questions. He explained that we must make a change and teach core materials in high school so when students get to college they can step right in and make a difference.
Another panelist was Millie Sparks, a professor of Developmental Education and director of the SLCC Faculty Teaching and Learning Center. Sparks’ participation in the fight for freedom was her large role in the bus boycott that took place in Montgomery, Alabama that lasted from 1955 to 1956. She was very sure of what changes need to be made and the importance of equal educational opportunities for all students.
“What lessons do we draw from the past to receive a better education?” was the final question asked by McCormick.
Margaret Red Elk stated that, “Education is a civil right and our country is a better one with civil rights.” Red Elk is a member of the Assiniboine and Yankton tribes of the Sioux Nation and has been teaching elementary school in Heber for 29 years. Her standpoint on educational development in the early stages of school was predominant in her comments. She emphasized the importance of equal early education in schools and had an interesting aspect, especially for students with young children.
Simon Canterero, the fifth panelist, also expressed that in the 14th Amendment and the Preamble it says education is a civil right, although it was not intended at the time these were written for all human beings and was treated as a privilege to receive education for ethnic groups in the past. Canterero is an attorney in California and brought a more current style of the fight for equal education. Canterero seemed slightly younger in age and is of Hispanic descent. He discussed his struggle growing up in California concerning equal schooling for him and his peers.
After McCormick wrapped up his final questions students were then able to ask the panelists questions of their own. One individual aggressively took the mic and asked why the panelists had not spoken of Muslims and their struggle in America. Rev. Davis explained that panelists were not just talking about African-American or Hispanic groups but were talking about all groups that have struggled for freedom.
The overall feeling was very strong in the room for there were many students who have a desire concerning this subject, just as the panelists do. The message was finally heard. Education and equal opportunity for it is the key to success for our generation and the generations to come.