• Emlen Miles-Mattingly

How History Impacts Education

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

(Before you dive in... did you know there's an audio version, too? Here it is!)

What is the importance of education?

I think it’s an equalizer, and this month, we’re exploring the topic of education.

As everybody knows, this is Black History Month. Prior to the desegregation of the schools, the leading profession for African Americans was teaching. However, when schools were desegregated, the African American teachers lost their jobs.

This makes it all the more incredible that I was able to sit down and interview Prince Marshall for today’s blog.

He’s come full-circle in his own life and is currently the principal at Southwest Fresno Middle School, in the community where he grew up.

First... The Back Story

His journey began in a single-parent home.

He said that his family, consisting of his mother and brother, received government assistance due to deeply embedded poverty. He points out that as a child you don’t realize in what type of environment you’re “embedded."

He indicates that children are going through the motions and learning to live, while moms are finding a way to provide for the family.

Moms make magic happen with getting food on the table. - Prince Marshall

Prince added to the desegregation piece that I mentioned by pointing out something he discovered on his journey: communities are displaced into certain concentrated areas by design.

He learned through a collaboration with an outside entity called Every Neighborhood Project that he grew up in a red line community.

What is a red line community?

Prince explained that it's a community that’s specifically concentrated where only minorities could purchase homes.

In other words, there were areas where African Americans or other minorities could or could not purchase a home. He said minorities were all corralled into one area, which gave the area a lower socio-economic displacement. There were other inequities involved as well.

For instance, within the writing, there could be a decree that the home couldn’t be sold to an African American, Hispanic, or other minority.

As Prince continues to study real history, he’s getting a better understanding of what the design is all about.

Unfortunately, systemic racism or systemic displacement still exists. It’s a real issue that affects minority children today.

When you translate that into the field of education, you can see the far-reaching impact on the system, educators, and our children.

The Journey (Part I)

Let’s learn how Prince becomes a principal.

He humorously tells me that he wanted to be the top draft pick for college basketball until he realized that at 5’ 6”, it wouldn’t happen. His next step was to apply for all the state colleges.

He said what really kept him out of trouble was competing with his cousin. Prince tried to keep up with him in academics (Prince had a 3.7 GPA in high school) and they challenged each other in sports.

When he was accepted to Fresno State, he wasn’t sure what to do next.

He couldn’t go to any of his family members for guidance since he was a first-generation university student, so he had to figure it out on his own. He said his Aunt Diane took him to meet with the university counselors.

Prince got into University... but that’s just the beginning of his story. He was there for eight years and had to persevere to find his true calling.

Let’s see what that looked like.

The Journey (Part II)

Unbeknownst to Prince, he was in the cycle of poverty.

Having a child earlier in his life with his girlfriend (now his wife) would have been another barrier to his educational pathway. During that time, he was working multiple jobs and trying to finish school.

He was initially enrolled to become a physician's assistant, which is what his family wanted. It had taken him some years until his financial aid was going to be cut off. That’s when his wife asked him two important questions:

  • What do you love to do?

  • What are you doing when you’re enjoying yourself?

Prince loved working with kids. He held a number of jobs during those years. Let’s look at them:

  • Part-time janitor (the middle school he attended as a youth)

  • Groundskeeper

  • Van driver (morning/afternoon)

  • Kitchen aide

He reports he worked hard because he had a family to support and feed. Those jobs evolved into his coaching some sports on campus. That allowed him to get some experience with being an athletic director.

Then, he had enough units to become a substitute teacher. His wife was hired as a teacher in Mendota. He decided to follow her because the pay was better.

As he said, “You're always following the money!"

In Mendota, he ran an after school program. That led him to get his credentials and teach first-grade for five years.

However, Prince wanted to have a larger impact on the student body, so he took administrative courses and landed a great new position with a $30,000 increase in pay!

He’d made it!

Prince felt like his education allowed him to relax and move up the pay scale. He said without the opportunities his education allowed, our conversation would have been very different.

What difference has education made in your life?

Please leave a comment below.

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