Executive MBA participant Ade Ahmadu reflects on education in years gone by, sharing how racial injustices in education have impacted on his desire to make sure his own education results in positive change, for both himself and for those around him.
"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela
These words by one of the greatest leaders of our time hold true, and I believe this wholeheartedly. Over the course of my life, asides from my basic primal instincts, I have employed various resources in "levelling–up." This also includes enrolling on my Executive MBA at Warwick Business School to refine my curiosity and broaden my horizon. I have always enjoyed learning as a catalyst for self-elevation and actualisation. However, my education has to count for something. It has to elevate not only me as an individual but also those around me as a collective. These thoughts prompted cause for reflection on what education looked like in bygone epochs and its importance, particularly during Black History Month.
My mind is drawn to the case of McLaurin v. Oklahoma State. George McLaurin, a master's degree holder from the University of Kansas, taught at Langston. In 1948, McLaurin's natural human disposition for growth prompted his decision to pursue a doctorate in school administration at the University of Oklahoma (O.U.) but faced resistance. Although the Law required the O.U. to enrol McLaurin, they chose to segregate him from all other students as he was their first ever black student, a change they lacked the appetite for. Additionally, McLaurin was made to sit in an anteroom and was subject to specific seating areas at the cafeteria, sporting events, and separate toilets.
Feeling a sense of injustice, McLaurin filed a suit to district court calling out the inequality he'd experienced, but his motion was denied for reasons that racial segregation was a deeply rooted policy in Oklahoma. Refusing to be denied, McLaurin appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and won the case in 1950 after a two-year legal battle. The Court eventually ruled, mandating that O.U. treat African American students as equals to all other students. McLaurin recounts his experience during this challenging time as brutal. Likening the treatment he received to that of an animal, as no one, including teachers, would engage with him. Yet, he persevered through this, and his devotion and dedication to excellence meant that teachers sought him out to ask him academic questions. McLaurin used his pursuit of education to change his world.
The world has changed significantly since the 1950s. However, whilst racial tensions and inequalities are still rife, McLaurin's courage in the face of adversity paved the way for someone like me. Furthermore, it affords me the opportunity to study at a similarly renowned institution without the angst of discrimination. Black History Month is a great time to discover and celebrate individuals who have contributed to creating a better world. I have now challenged myself by asking, 'How can I use my education to change my world?' My existence on earth has to count for something.
The words of the late Chadwick Boseman serve as a guide as I seek the pathway to answering this burning question:
"Whatever you choose as a career path, remember that the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose. Use your education to improve the world." - Chadwick Boseman