Office of Inclusive Excellence

Enough! Driving Out Miseducation with Transformational Learning Experiences

October 19, 2021

By Brian Corpening, PhD, Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and Chief Diversity Officer

The question being posed in this inaugural issue is the fundamental question of how we can change this country for the betterment of us all. I believe that my experience as a higher education professional and a Black man affords me the insights to address this primary question. Countless ideas have been promulgated and pursued that can make a difference in advancing racial and social justice. I focus on the nature of why collective and collaborative action from those who share common interests and experiences related to oppression and injustice have failed to create the outcomes that advance racial and social justice. 

In his classic, The Mis-education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson wrote: "If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one." Woodson spoke to the importance of education and how miseducation, the debilitating polar opposite of a transformative educational process, can control individuals and populations. The miseducative nature of supposedly educative processes in this country continues to perpetuate racial and social injustice. The question being posed in this first issue is centered on how we, as a society, can facilitate and support truly educative processes that transform and not miseducate.

Miseducative processes are those that cause individuals and populations to engage in zero-sum attitudes and actions. In antebellum America, the oldest move in the slave owners' bag of tricks was to pit those enslaved against each other.  It was the old divide and conquer strategy, and it worked. That same strategy and mentality has been used since the end of slavery and is alive and well. In fact, consistent with Woodson's admonition regarding controlling someone's thinking, the divide and conquer strategy manifested in the zero-sum mentality keeps populations, individuals, and organizations that would be natural allies in challenging and rejecting racial and social injustice from collaborating and allying on behalf of justice for all.

Without a change in the education of our children, advances in racial and social justice become extremely difficult, if not impossible. The current practices that effectively limit or restrict the accurate and complete telling of history for K-12 students also inhibit the ability to build an awareness of the history of oppression encountered by different racial/ethnic groups in this country; awareness of such oppression is a requirement to construct the commitments to racial and social justice that eradicates the effects of historic oppression while also defeating the divide and conquer strategy and zero-sum mentality.

The current struggles over the use of critical race theory and the veracity of the 1619 Project are attempts by those who prefer a status quo that prefers myths to truths to continue to control the thinking of future generations of Americans. It is not a coincidence that the opposition to CRT and 1619 is occurring when the country's demographic realities are becoming more apparent. Continuing to control an education process that obscures truths and designs to keep its population ignorant of these truths is a strategy that is based upon a zero-sum calculation. The solution is an unflinching, uncompromising commitment to quality, transformative educational experience for all (regardless of race and ethnicity).  The commitment to quality education for all is the most straightforward path to a society based on justice, humanity, respect, and truth. It rejects zero-sum traps while embracing the fundamental rights of all.  When that is done, other changes will follow that will cement the creed that we "are endowed….with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."