Educator and author Gregory Michie is trying to change common perceptions of urban schooling. In his lecture on Thursday, Michie aimed to debunk the myths surrounding students and the role of teachers in inner-city schools.
"We have a very particular sort of image about urban education, what public schools in the cities are about...Michie gives voice to students and young people who are often portrayed pretty one-dimensionally in the media," said Assistant Professor of Education Doris Santoro Gomez.
Michie, an assistant professor at the College of Education at Illinois State University and former middle school teacher, has spent much of his career focusing on aspects of urban education, specifically in the Chicago area. His lecture, "We Don't Need Another Hero: Urban Schools and the Promise of Public Education in America" was this year's Brodie Family Lecture.
The lectureship series was created in 1997 by Theodore H. Brodie, a member of the Class of 1952 and an Overseer of the College from 1983 to 1995. The income of the fund is used to bring a speaker to the College each year in the field of education to, as Gomez said, "promote discussion of the problems and prospects of teaching and learning."
His presentation focused on the myths of urban schools, troubled students, and so-called "heroic teachers" that are portrayed by the media. While he said that "the struggles are all too real," people often derive misconceptions that all urban students are affected by violence and academic apathy and are a threat to society.
"This popular misconception of teacher as hero or savior...brings with it several misguided assumptions of kids, schools, and inner-city areas," Michie said. "It sets an impossible standard. When you're a real urban teacher, it can easily cause doubt?What was I doing wrong? Why weren't my kids succeeding?"
Michie talked about his experiences with students and other teachers in dealing with education, stressing the importance of strong relationships, commitment, and creativity. However, in order to induce changes, he placed an emphasis on the need for more wide-sweeping revisions of policy surrounding mandated testing, poverty, immigration, and equality issues.
"Schools do not exist in a vacuum," he said. "Good teaching alone can't confront all the issues...The roots of our challenges go beyond the school walls, we can't just look within the classroom and ask how to improve the education," Michie added.
The goal of providing a quality education is an important one, he said, but can be difficult to achieve.
"To realize the promise of education, it's going to take more than a few larger-than-life teachers who we admire from afar, it's going to take heroic action from each of us doing our own part," he said.
In an introduction for Michie, President Barry Mills said, "We all understand how critical education of students, across America, at all ages, is to our country, society, and to us here at Bowdoin."
Similarly, Chair of the Education Department Charles Dorn said that Michie came to Bowdoin because, in the shouting match that is the debate of school reform, "his voice is one that compels us to sit down, be quiet, and pay attention."
His message, however, extends beyond teachers and on to others in the Bowdoin community.
"I think that he challenges the notion that we can immediately sweep in and do good, whether it's as teachers or in some sort of social service function. He shows that the best way to be a part of a solution is to learn from others," Santoro Gomez said.