Obama secretary discusses how education saved his life

. In his first public appearance since leaving office, former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King sat down for a moderated conversation with Melissa Harris-Perry at Wake Forest University.

Obama secretary discusses how education saved his life
March 02
03:45 2017

Photo by Tevin Stinson

By Tevin Stinson

The Chronicle 

Last week, former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King sat down with students and faculty at Wake Forest University to discuss how the education system changed his life and the future of the system under the Trump administration.
In his first public appearance since leaving office, King, who became the first African-American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education, said after losing his parents at a young age, school was where he found solace. After losing his mother to heart attack when he was only 8 years old, four years later he lost his father to Alzheimer’s.
“Home was very unpredictable. I had to be an adult very early and school was very different from that. It was consistent and nurturing.” King said.
King, who attended school in Brooklyn, N.Y., said when he was navigating his way through the school system he had teachers who made school fun, and challenging. He said because of his teachers, he was exposed to a world outside of his own.
“I had great teachers. We would read the New York Times every day, we went to the museums and the ballet so there was this whole world outside of Brooklyn I was exposed to because of my teachers,” he said. “If I didn’t have those life supports my outcome could have been very different. I could be dead.
“Schools can be a powerful force in people’s lives that can help them get on the right path and as educators we have to have tremendous urgency about that.”
Before he was approved by Congress in March 2016, King worked as a high school social studies teacher, and co-director of a charter school. During his moderated discussion with Melissa Harris-Perry, executive director of Pro Humanitate Institute, King said, every day he served as education secretary he would think back on his days spent in the classroom and the issues teachers and administrators deal with and ways to relieve that stress.
When asked about Betsy DeVos, his successor, and her lack of experience working in the classroom, King said if DeVos had been a teacher she would understand what is really going on in our schools. Despite her inexperience, King remains optimistic that DeVos will make a change for the better by connecting with teachers, students, and parents to find out what’s best for them.
“There has to be some understanding about what is happening in our public schools. I don’t think the only way to get that is by being a teacher but I think if she had been a teacher she would have a better understanding of that,” he said. “But I hope she changes and I hope she spends time in public schools and see the tremendous difference she can make in kids’ lives.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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