UT-Austin’s inaugural W.E.B. Du Bois distinguished visiting scholar gives first lecture

Nathan Han

Renowned professor and psychologist Edmund W. Gordon has taught at Howard, Yeshiva, Columbia, City University of New York, Yale and Harvard. On Tuesday, he added UT-Austin to that list.

Gordon, who is 98 years old, was recently appointed as the inaugural 2019-2020 W.E.B. Du Bois Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Black Studies, according to a University press release. His first lecture, titled “Supplementary Education: The Hidden Curriculum in High Achievement,” was about the quality of education in America and supplementary education.

During the lecture, Gordon cited an article published by The New York Times that said the academic performance of U.S. teenagers has not advanced since 2000.

“The massive use of standardized tests is not so much to educate but to monitor school systems and hold people accountable,” Gordon said.

Gordon said supplementary education is the community and family side of educational success outside of the classroom.

“Schools are not sufficient to account for adequate education,” Gordon said. “Family and family background are the best predictors of academic achievement in the United States, so we need to improve supplementary education.”

In his career spanning more than 70 years, Gordon said he has published over 200 works and helped evaluate the Head Start program for former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. 

“He is a legend,” said Kevin Cokley, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis. “To have someone of his stature here to lecture on topics like supplementary education is truly a joy. Words can’t describe all of his accomplishments.”

Gordon said that his parents’ focus on education had helped him get to where he was, and his focus on education as a parent led his children to where they are now. Gordon also said one of his four children is Edmund T. Gordon, the vice provost for diversity and the former chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department.

Priscilla Vaz, a postdoctoral fellow in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, said she just finished reading Gordon’s daughter’s book on economic black history.

“Reading this book I was like, ‘Where does this person come from?’” Vaz said. “The connections she had and the access she had was all because of him, so it was amazing to hear from him. I was really moved.”

Shaleiah Fox, director of development and external relations for Black Studies, said Gordon’s next lecture is tentatively set for Feb. 12, 2020.