Hundred Years Later: Has Anything Changed?

November 11, 2010 in Intellectual history, Social history

Four Families in One School

Cora Wilson Stewart Moonlight School

A constant role that women have taken on throughout Kentucky’s history is the role of educator.  Despite efforts by countless teachers, Kentucky’s public education system has steadily been at the bottom of the nation wide average for graduating and for diversity among staff. Almost 100 years age in 1911, a woman named Cora Wilson Stewart started the moonlight classes across Kentucky, an attempt to teach adults how to read and write. This was picked up by other states and countries as a plausible way to decrease the illeteracy rate among adults. On the first night of class 1200 people went to the 50 different school houses across the state to get their first reading lesson.[1] Despite her efforts Kentucky is still at the bottom of the totum pole and the literacy rate is still low.

Today in our public schools the graduation rate for black students is 11% less than that of white students and 24% less than that of asian students. The minority teachers are also missing in the classroom because despite minorities being 13% of the student population, the minority teachers are only 4.5% of all teachers.[2] Despite the small improvement over the past hundred years we must stay vigilant. Facts such as these should be seen as motivators for my generation to improve and work on these issues. Why is black graduation rates lower than whites? Why are the minority teachers a lower percentage?

I think to answer these questions we have to look at the enviornment in which people are being raised. The institutional racism in our country needs to be addressed and changed. Without brave women like Coral Wilson Stewart, where would be today? Education is our future and we need to find  new ways to guarentee that all public education is the same all across the country. Race, gender and social class should never play a part in how education is crafted and shaped. We all deserve equal education.


Moonlight school image is from the Cora Wilson Stewart Photographic Collection, ca. 1900-1940: pa58m25 University of Kentucky, digitized 1-20-2002 for the Kentuckiana Digital Library,

3 responses to Hundred Years Later: Has Anything Changed?

  1. good post. i too often find it strange how the numbers don’t quite add up when considering the difference in population of a certain race with their employment numbers. great picture too!

  2. I agree that there is not much change that has happened in the diversity of teaching in Kentucky. In 1941 there was actually a lawsuit in Louisville funded by the NAACP that sued the Louisville school district because they were not compensating African American teachers the same as white teachers. African American teachers were earning 15% less than the white teachers for doing the same job. (Abbington vs. Louisville school district) The Louisville school district agreed to equal pay, if the NAACP would drop the case. This did happen, but pay and diversity are two different aspects to education.

  3. As I read this post, I couldn’t help but remember Ms. Valinda Livingston’s talk in the MLK center. Racism is continually perpetuated in the public school system. Black teachers and students alike, as well as the schools which are a majority black are treated like second class citizens. They can’t afford the tools to educate the students to the best of their ability as the more affluent white schools can. This continues the cycle of black students being behind white and Asian students.

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