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GSE Panel Discusses School Demographics

By Robert J. Coolbrith

A group of distinguished educators gathered at the Graduate School of Education's (GSE) Gutman Conference Center on Saturday to discuss the changing demographics of America's public schools.

About 100 people were in attendance for the event which began with a presentation by Harold L. Hodgkinson, Director of the Center for Demographic Policy at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington D.C.

Hodgkinson, who received a Ph.D. from the GSE in 1959, provided the attendees with an introduction to American socioeconomic and racial demographics.

"In this country, we say there's no such thing as class. We are still desegregating by race, which is not a universally handicapping condition," Hodgkinson said.

While entertaining the audience with his anecdotal speaking style and humorous comparisons between his own field and economics, Hodgkinson provided a context for the panel discussion.

He challenged audience members to consider how the American public education system can be desegregated along socioeconomic, instead of racial lines, and how the dialogue on America's public educational system can be expanded to encompass the view-points of diverse groups.

The panel discussion, which was moderated by GSE Professor of Education and Urban Studies Charles V. Willie, followed Hodgkinson's presentation.

The panel members, composed of a diverse group of educators from across the nation, seconded Hodgkinson's opinions on the importance of socioeconomic issues.

Yet, some panel members emphasized the importance of considering personal factors affecting public education along with demographics.

"We make the mistake of viewing the categorization of people as an exact science. However, not all of human endeavor can be dealt with by exact science," said panel member Patricio Cordova, who is the manager of the Hispanic Education Advisory Council in Denver, Col.

During the panel discussion, Hodgkinson noted the importance of involving those without school-aged children, especially the elderly, in the public education system. "The ultimate power in deciding the fate of public schooling rests with the voter," he said.

"Often, power is held by those without interest, those who don't want to play the game," Hodgkinson said. "So, the connection between age and voting power is getting more and more important.

"Often, power is held by those without interest, those who don't want to play the game," Hodgkinson said. "So, the connection between age and voting power is getting more and more important.

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