Civil-rights scholar applies old themes to relevant horizons
During an afternoon lecture Wednesday, Feb. 20 in the Student Services Center auditorium, a nationally renowned scholar and expert on urban issues presented his discussion, “How Teacher Expectations can Increase Student Involvement,” applying the themes he has lived and learned to practice at UALR.
Robert L. Green faced many perils working alongside Martin Luther King Jr. at the height of the civil-rights movement; so there was no way a few technical difficulties could dilute his message. Once microphone issues were resolved, Green spoke to a rapt audience of several administrators and students, who all braved icy weather to attend.
The speaking event was co-hosted by the UALR Office of Campus Life and the Psychology Department with a reception sponsored by the UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity, and was presented by Psychology Department Chair Robert Morgan. Morgan, Green’s colleague and longtime friend, presented him with a lifetime achievement award.
During the presentation, Green spoke of the importance of education and high expectations. A former dean and professor at Michigan State University with a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, he told the audience about when Morgan worked with him as a graduate student. He also revealed another Arkansas connection when he said that Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine, was once a student of his at MSU.
One of nine children born to parents Thomas and Alberta, Green said “my father was obsessed with education.” All of his brothers and sisters have at least a bachelor degree, and there are several master and doctorate degrees among them — including nieces and nephews, the family has 109 degrees. Green said that this all stemmed from the expectations of his mother and father. “Hold high expectations for yourself and for others,” Green said.
As he recalled some of the more memorable times in his life, Green spoke of meeting with some of the most notable activists of the time: Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and of course Dr. Martin Luther King. Green left his post at Michigan State in order to join King in the South as he worked to fight for rights, such as education for minorities.
“Dr. King understood the power of education and knew it could be harnessed to empower a population against racism,” he said.
Green told of substandard schools and books of a segregated South. He spoke of his frustration that no U.S. president took a strong stand against segregation and the acts of racism prevalent during the time period. According to Green, King said that “activism must be combined with education.”
“Although we’ve made great strides, King would be most upset about things like the crime in Chicago and the school dropout rate,” Green said about King’s vision. “He would want the president to strengthen the country’s education and keep our kids in school.”
Green focused on high expectations in education. He said that when expectations begin early in school careers, it has a positive effect and that “teachers that hold a high level of expectations for their students have success on every level.”