Arden Andersen is incredibly proud of the Kansas City education system. One of the reasons for this is because they have such a strong focus on history. Students actively take part in projects to not just commemorate certain pieces of history, but actually relive them to a degree.
Arden Andersen Helps to Honor the Heroes
The first time Andersen became aware of just how much Kansas City schools celebrate history, is when he took part in an Honor the Heroes program. What stood out to him was that schools in Kansas City are often name after local luminaries. This is very different from the national trend, where only national heroes are commemorated in this way. This fascinated Andersen so much, that he completed a piece of research together William S. Worley. Together, Anderson and this University of Missouri, Kansas City adjunct professor uncovered some very interesting insights.
The work done by Andersen first uncovered that, in 1870, Kansas City schools decided that those schools that had mainly black students should also be taught by black teachers. This is perhaps not such a surprising decision in itself, since segregation was still very normal in those days. However, the education system in Kansas City is so good that what it actually did, was create a whole new class made up of true thought leaders of African American origin. This is seen nowhere else in the country, where black populations continued to be very poorly educated.
The schools themselves continued to be named after white leaders, but mainly those who played an important role in the abolishment of slavery. Lincoln was a very popular name, therefore. However, William Lloyd Garrison, who was a famous abolitionist, was also honored in this way, as was the Senator of Massachusetts, Charles Summer, whose anti-slavery position led to him being physically attacked.
Two decades later, in the 1890s, Blanche K. Bruce was honored as a black senator from Mississippi. This was followed by Phyllis Wheately, and African America poet. R.T. Coles and W.W. Yates were honored for their roles as black educators, playing a hugely important role in the cultural and educational development of the city. The Benton Grammar School changed its name o D. A. Holmes in 1953, honoring the unofficial School Board member and pastor, who interviewed teaching applicants of black heritage. Schools have also often been named after corporate heads and philanthropists who have helped the educational system. One example of this is J.C. Nichols, the real estate developer.
Most recently, the Primitivo Garcia Elementary School was named. Garcia lost his life trying to protect a woman who was attacked and is a true hero. While these are trends seen all over the country and not just in Kansas City, what sets this apart is that the names here are all genuinely connected to the past of the city itself. Kansas City is made up of real people, and their education system is closely connected to this.