The year was 1968 - a watershed moment in the history of our country. An unpopular war was raging in S.E. Asia; two iconic leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were slain; our cities were wracked daily with rioting, and protests shook our nation's campuses.
On the grounds of the Yale Divinity School, a unique program in compensatory education was unfolding. Part of the nation's war on poverty, it brought together 150 diverse young people from all over the nation Blacks, Whites, Native-Americans, and Latinos. All came from poverty backgrounds. Many were alienated from traditional schooling and underachieving academically.
Guided by the pedagogy of confrontation, and the great books of the western literary tradition, students and staff together tackled issues of race, politics, and personal identity, searching for that which had eluded the nation, the values which ground people and bind them together.
Would you believe- a genuine conversation on race and the goals of education- not just by studying the subject matter, but living it as well - almost half a century ago?
This was the stuff of a real education, not only intellectually challenging, but spiritually and politically transformative as well.
The events of that summer had long lingered with the Director. Curious as to how his memories aligned with those of the other participants, and what, if any, impact the program had on their lives, he traveled the country, to ask them directly. From this emerged a feature film. "Walk Right In." It recreates that summer through firsthand accounts, following students from their moment of selection to the culmination of the program to where they are today-a compelling reminder of the importance of inclusive and effective education and its impact across the generations.
Today white racism and white privilege are as strong as ever. Our educational institutions, which are complicit in its perpetuation, profess to be dumfounded as how best to react. They have failed to understand that it is not enough to bring people of color together with whites while the underlying dynamic remains unaddressed... And the beat goes on.
We made one such effort to do so at the YSHS in the summer of 1968. For the full story of the program: its history, its people, its "living curriculum," its relationship with the University, and its relevance today, get your own copy of "Dancing on the Contradictions."