CAMILLA, Ga. -- A pastor and retired educator is using his 25 years of experience in the classroom to try to make the case that a person has to sometimes take things into their own hands in order to realize their full potential.
The Rev. Rufus Phillips, of Union Baptist Church in Camilla, is working to promote a book he published earlier this year entitled "Teaching the World to Shell Peas: God's Covenant with Soul People."
Phillips' theory is that the basic problem African-Americans have is a split existence, prompting a need to change how people view themselves and the problems they face.
While penetrating the fundamental roots of the educational, social and spiritual problems of African-Americans -- along with his own experiences as a former math teacher at Monroe High School and as a minister-- he relies on the thoughts of figures such as W.E.B. DuBois, Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr. to help make his point.
"As long as we continue to blame poverty, teachers, parents or the political system as the root cause of the failure of our educational system, we will not resolve our educational problems," Phillips said. "I have personally discovered through my students that the root problem in educating African-Americans lies in their basic dual existence. They live in two worlds -- Euro-American and their own world. The school system does not take into account these conflicting worlds or try to resolve them. In order to fulfill their potentials, African-Americans have to resolve their contradictory existence (by weighing) abstraction versus concreteness, individualism versus community, self-responsibility versus fatalism, subjective existence versus objective existence and oppressor's morality versus victim's morality.
"It is indeed difficult to learn if one is reared in a culture that emphasizes a concrete learning process, community and fatalistic spirit with a victim's morality and an objective existence, and having to confront an educational system that stresses abstract learning, individualism, self-responsibility and imposes an objective or impersonal existence. Unless African-Americans resolve these cultural conflicts, they may not fulfill their potential in America."
The book was edited by his son, Baptist minister Rufus Phillips II. It is currently available at the bookstore at Howard University in Washington, D.C. -- of which the elder Phillips is a graduate of its School of Divinity -- and is expected be available at the Albany State University bookstore by the end of the month, the author said.
Phillips conducted a book signing Thursday at Morehouse College in Atlanta. The author said he was not intending to do book signings in the Southwest Georgia area in the immediate future.
The book is also available by contacting Phillips at (229) 869-2818 or visiting an online bookstore. Additional information can be found at www.shellingpeas.com.