What I once assumed to be inferior education for the poor and underprivileged has become a nationwide malady that afflicts the middle and upper classes as well. . . our children are not the culprits, they are the victims. My twenty years of experience in education have convinced me that children want to learn and can learn. Provide them with the right environment, the right motivation, and the right material, and children will demonstrate their natural ability to excel.” Preface to 1990 edition, page 3 – 5
Marva Collins was a public school teacher in Chicago from the late 1950s through the 1970s. Despite teaching in underfunded, inner-city schools, she taught her young students Shakespeare, Greek Mythology, classical poetry, advanced math and history. Her students loved her and excelled! For her efforts, however, she received a huge amount of grief and push-back from school administrators and her fellow teachers. In frustration, she finally left public education and founded a private school — Westside Preparatory School. Working on a shoestring, tuition was based on a student’s ability to pay. This is the story of that school and the curriculum and methods she used to forever change the students’ lives who were fortunate enough to be in her class
Her story was made into a made for TV movie in 1981 starring Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman and is available on You Tube. There are numerous You Tube videos on her school, methods and even a 60 Minutes episode interviewing Marva and some of her former students.
According to some accounts, Marva Collins was asked by both Ronald Reagan and George W.H. Bush to be Secretary of Education, but declined these nominations in order to continue her work in her inner-city Chicago neighborhood.
As a parent, I have long been interested in educators who truly make a difference and teach children well. In 1995, after reading Marva Collins Way, I was in Chicago visiting family and made arrangements to visit Westside Prep. I took my three young daughters and we spent a memorable morning sitting in one of the middle grade classes, taught by one of Marva’s trained teachers. The class looked and ran just as Marva describes in her book: the students were attentive, well-prepared and completely engaged! Students were in uniform and her many slogans were mounted on the walls to remind us all to strive to be our best. One of Marva’s sons was the school principal and spent quite a bit of time answering my questions after class. I walked away determined to implement as many of her ideas into my own children’s education as I possibly could! I hope you’re also inspired by the insights and advice Mrs. Collins has to share.
Books for adults, 242 pages, Education, Published in 1982.