Access to fair and equal education remains one of the most pressing issues of our time. While today, all children are required to attend school in the United States, this is not the case in all societies. In many countries, education is not a childhood right but a privilege, reserved only for the social elite. In many cases, some children are segregated out by class, race, caste, or sex as unworthy for education and excluded them from the educational system.
W. E. B. Du Bois was a highly educated man. The valedictorian of his high school class, Du Bois enrolled at Fisk University in Nashville at sixteen and later became the first black man to receive a doctorate at Harvard. Du Bois recognized the value of his education and saw it as a priceless gift and, like many social reformers, a way to abate the effects of the oppression of minorities in the United States and to allow people to rise up and claim their rightful place in American society.
Early in the twentieth century, Du Bois argued that American society could and would be changed if fair and equal education were available. But Du Bois, the social critic, was well aware that in many parts of the country, particularly the south, education was neither fair nor equal for African Americans, women, or the poor. More controversially, Du Bois criticized the vocational and technical curriculum favored by his Booker T. Washington, his rival and one of America’s best known black leaders. Only through an academic curriculum, Du Bois argued, could true racial empowerment be achieved. Without complete intellectual equality, true social equality would never become a reality.
W.E.B Du Bois’ ideas on the connections between education and social equality were revolutionary for his time. He knew there would be no easy solution to the social inequality of the early 1900s, but he was willing to try in order to ensure the success and equality of future generations.
- “The Training of Negroes for Social Power” (1903)
- In “The Training of Negroes for Social Power,” Du Bois proposes that the solution to the problem of black disenfranchisement includes tackling ignorance, poverty, and crime in black society. Education is the key to empowerment.
- “The Opening of the Library” (1902)
- All races must have access to the new Atlanta Public Library, as it is through education and inspiration that change will be made.
- “Public Schools” (1916)
- Education is the key to solving many social issues. Public schools are the mother of a democratic society, and it is the responsibility of the public education system to break down the social barriers that divide Americans.
- “Mixed Schools” (1921)
- The public school system is a microcosm of larger society. Du Bois sees children of all races and backgrounds learning together in common classrooms as the best practice for an inclusive, integrated society.
- “Education” (1915)
- Du Bois stresses the idea that the educational curriculum is just as important as the learning environment and argues that the technical education curriculum for black students is the basis of social inequality and the first barrier to a truly democratic society.
- “Dr. Du Bois Explains” (1912)
- Du Bois criticizes the low expectations of industrial education for African American children.