There is a certain poignancy about the timing of Peter Figueroa’s death, aged 75, during the period of rioting across England this summer – the worst civil unrest seen for a generation, sparked in part by the killing of a black man by the police, and involving a significant number of young people, many of them unemployed. Peter’s work as an academic was notably in the areas of education, race and social justice.
A defining moment in policy formulation on race and education was the publication in 1969 of the first report of the all-party parliamentary select committee on race relations and immigration, entitled The Problems of Coloured School- Leavers. A key finding was that West Indian parents had “unrealistic aspirations” for their children and tended to equate the length of time spent in school with the quality of educational outcomes they could expect and therefore the careers to which their children should be able to aspire. Coming from a background where a poverty of means did not equate to a poverty of aspiration, and where children from the poorest families achieved highly and met their communities’ aspirations to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, and to join other prestigious professions, Peter determined that the state was encouraging a misleadingly negative view of the educational abilities of young black people. Read the rest of this entry →