Successful Students Ready for the 21st Century. A Conversation with Panelist Clifford Thornton.

One of the ingredients to Education 2010‘s success in our three-part dialogue series is our ability to bring together a diverse panel of distinguished individuals who deal with education on a multitude of levels and areas.  This kind of diversity allows for a rich and lively conversation; one that is not static and is empowering.

Earlier this week, I spoke with one of Education 2010’s panelists, Clifford W. Thornton, Jr., founder of Efficacy and Co-Chair of the Green Party of the United States. One of the questions I asked about was his thoughts on the rate of high school dropouts being directly related to the increase in prison population.  Much to my amazement , Thornton stated that approximately 50 percent of high school students that graduate eventually find themselves a part of the criminal justice system in some way. I repeated that statistic in my mind several times during our conversation as it took a while to sink in.  Wrapping my mind around such a concept has both stunned me and pushed me to continuous action.  No doubt, students graduate without the necessary tools to succeed.  Clearly, social promotion is earnestly at work, among other issues that ends up shattering dreams once graduation comes and goes.

Thornton also talked about the epidemic proportion of increase in women and girls in prisons.  He also stated that it is impossible to have a meaningful conversation about prison and education without talking about the “war on drugs” (and guns and more) as they are joined at the hip.

An author, world-renown speaker and international expert on drug policy, Education 2010 is pleased to have Thornton on our panel for what will undoubtedly be a dialogue much needed in our quest to provide value creative education to our youth.

Thornton is a part of a group of distinguished panelists at Education 2010’s third dialogue, “Successful Students Ready for the 21st Century,” that will take place on Wednesday March 31, 2010, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, at Hartford City Hall’s Council Chambers. Other panelists are: Hon. Kenneth Green (State Rep. 1st Assembly District), Elizabeth Horton Sheff (The Sheff Movement Coalition), Norma Neumann-Johnson (Principal of Breakthrough Magnet School/Hartford), Paul Diego Holzer (Education Programs Director/Achieve Hartford!) and Jim Boucher (Director of future Workforce Division/Capital Workforce Partners.

Below is Thornton’s bio.

Clifford W. Thornton, Jr., 62, is a Co-Chair of the Green Party of the United States. Thornton, an international expert on drug policy, is a retired African-American businessman who ran for Governor of Connecticut on the Green Party line in 2006. In the last three years he has spoken to over 200,000 people on drug reform in some 450 venues all over the US, Columbia, Canada, Europe, and New Zealand, and has been interviewed on 400 radio shows. He is described as “America’s foremost anti-Drug War African American activist” by Amherst College’s online newspaper. Thornton also speaks on the drug war, education, and health care.

Thornton encourages citizens to re-examine drug policy, challenges the mentality of the drug war, and promotes open discussion of alternatives and public-health awareness. Marijuana policy reform is at the core of most of his presentations. Although he speaks about the need to change the laws regarding all drugs, a large portion of each presentation is devoted toward the reasons to end marijuana prohibition. He believes that marijuana law reform is the key to all drug policy reform. In 1995, Thornton founded Efficacy, a non-profit to educate the world about drug policy reform.

Prior to working full-time in drug policy, Mr. Thornton was a middle-level manager with Southern New England Telephone Corporation, in Connecticut. He was in charge of the delivery of all internal telecommunications to the corporation, serving some 10,000 employees with a $50,000,000 annual budget, supervising 23 people. He worked at SNET for 25 years. He was (and is) very active in community projects as well. He served as Vice President of the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz for three years. He also served as Parliamentarian of the Greater Hartford African American Alliance and was president of Jazz Radio New England..

A Hartford native, Thornton and his wife Margaret now live in Glastonbury. He has five daughters and two granddaughters. Thornton, an Army veteran, earned a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Waterbury’s Post University in 1986.

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