Geoffrey Canada — the founder of a charter school system in Harlem, N.Y., that the president has vowed to replicate across America — stressed one point to Oklahoma’s educators Wednesday: "Fire lousy teachers.”
"I’m considered a radical for saying ‘if you are lousy with kids, you should find another profession,’” Canada told approximately 600 people at the Oklahoma City Petroleum Club on Wednesday afternoon. "People hate me for saying that.” But Canada — who has appeared on "60 Minutes” and "Oprah” in the past year — has a reputation for a no-nonsense approach when it comes to the U.S. education system, which he describes as being in "crisis.” "I have become convinced that unless we as a nation do something different in how we prepare our students, we are no longer going to be a leader in the world,” Canada said. Canada, 58, came to Oklahoma City at the request of the Black Liberated Arts Center and the Midwest City-Del City and Oklahoma City school districts to spread his message of education reform for the good of children. "This is a man who puts his hand to the plow, and the results are profound,” said Anita Arnold, executive director of Black Liberated Arts Center. Canada’s organization — the Harlem Children’s Zone — is transforming 97 blocks of Manhattan’s poorest neighborhoods through a nonprofit with the ultimate goal of getting students into college. Numerous studies have found that the Harlem Children’s Zone is achieving that goal, while closing the education gap between rich and poor, minority and white. Canada advocates for longer school days, higher pay for teachers, higher standards for students, early childhood education that begins with instructing pregnant parents, and an education system that ends when a student has a college degree. His 4-year-olds are in pre-kindergarten classes from 8 a.m.