In an October 13 keynote address at the ASTC Annual Conference, Los Angeles, Geoffrey Canada, president/CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York City, challenged science centers to “lead the fight to save children’s future.” The United States has created an environment that destroys young children in poverty said Canada, the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America. Among the statistics he cited: More than 100,000 young Americans have been killed by firearms since 1979, and 15,000 African American men are incarcerated in New York City jails alone.
But science centers can play a role in saving young people and addressing social injustice, Canada said. “We need to begin early. Poor children start off behind and never catch up.” Science centers can provide experiences that stimulate young brains, and they can engage parents and keep them as partners. We should create a “continuum of support” that draws in young people at every age and offers encouragement and support to those who are discouraged with learning.
“We cannot expect young people to thrive in communities other people wouldn’t be caught dead in,” he said. “We have to think of our institutions as part of the engine that transforms communities.””The future of America rests in the hands of those of you in this room,” Canada said. The most important resources of a society are intellectual, and we have lost that perspective in the United States. “Unless we’re prepared to fight for real equity, we’re going toleave this generation of children behind.” Closing with one of his own poems, Canada urged science centers to “take a stand.”