Drayton's Gazette discusses social and political issues happening around the globe through the eyes of the African American, minority and disaffected communities.

Educating Our Young is a Must!!! by: V.Lyn

The education of our young black boys and girls is a must, but unfortunately we as a nation, educational system, culture and as importantly as parents, are failing our children miserably. Study after study has shown that our young black kids are failing miserably in school, falling farther and farther behind their peers in other racial and ethnic groups. All studies have shown that our children up to 4 years old are on par with all other children…so the question is what happens after they turn 4? These are bright kids, capable of achieving, given the right tools, encouragement and at home support and expectations, so if all things were equal why are they not achieving, why are they being left behind? Is it because in all arenas of their life, all things are unfortunately NOT EQUAL!

Our Children are not deficient, our kids are inquisitive and smart but they must be ENGAGED and encouraged, and they have to believe and be believed in. As parents and a community we have to compel them to reach for the stars, and make them KNOW, not just believe, that those stars are attainable. WORK, PERSERVERENCE, STUDY, HOME SUPPORT, COMMUNITY SUPPORT, PRACTICE, REPETITION, MORE WORK, SEARCH, QUESTION, STUDY are the necessary ground work for the goal of ACHIEVEMENT!!!  A child must be engaged, made to see the wonders of the world through a different lens, not the one of hopelessness and despair that so many see the world through.

 There have been theories, as far back as when the first slaves shackled foot touched American soil about the intelligence of Blacks or the “lack of” conducted primarily by whites. The original premise has been that we are/were something between animal and man. Some felt we were no more capable than children with the intelligence of such, and therefore needed their guidance their parenting, even if the result was the loss of our freedom and our bondage in a system of slavery. During WWI and II although blacks had served valiantly in every war fought in the history of America, the common view held  by whites were that we were incapable of fighting, following orders, being in combat with weapons much less fly a plane and operate a tank, all these assumptions  were proven fallacious.

In recent years there have been reports from the Schott report to a recent study conducted by CGCS showing that most black American male students perform worse than their peers by almost every measure and which seemed to indicate that some of the obstacles to their academic success start before school the school bell even rings.  In a recent November 9th report by NBC’s Ron Allen, and an article in the New Time by Trip Gabriel titled “Black boys score far behind white students.Poverty alone doesn’t seem to explain gap; expert cites ‘racial differences’ ‘

 “Bleak and bigger” is how this gap is called. The study that this news article is based on is from the CGCS findings. The study has determined while there are MANY factors regarding our children failure and while it includes poverty report finds however poverty does not account for all of it, as poor white kids still do better than poor black kids. The conclusions

“What this clearly shows is that black males who are not eligible for free and reduced-price lunch are doing no better than white males who are poor,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the council (CGCS). And as stated by Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard “There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten. They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Yes it is a BLEAK and BIGGER issue. But to discount poverty as an added cause is doing further injustice to our children. Black kids in the ghetto, hood or impoverished areas often do not have the family success to fall back on or emulate as perhaps a white poor kid might. School systems attended by predominately black children are woefully deficient, leaky or collapsing roofs, lack of computers, or text books, violence inside and outside of the doors, classrooms that sometimes have standing room only, and teachers who once were dedicated advocates are tired, frustrated, afraid, and sometimes ill equipped, and some were ill inspired to begin with.  Impoverished  black kids often have parents who are undereducated or illiterate , disproportionately one or more of black parents are or have been incarcerated by an oft imbalanced judicial system, and black kids are more likely to not receive the same National support “outrage” that white kids would. What I mean by this is nationally the society will say “We have to turn this around our white kids need to be able to compete. We are doing a disservice to these bright young children”  while nationally society will say when it comes to black kids “Well what did you expect. ” or  “Well after all they are not as smart genetically.” or “All they want to be is gang bangers and thugs anyway” or “If their parents would…” But you never hear concerning poor white kids who are under achieving “Well all they want to be are meth dealers any way” Societies reaction is drastically different.

 The finding does address the historic and societal casualties.

 Bleak and BIGGER, is an adequate description of these findings, but what must these vulnerable young children feel and sadly believe when they correlate those statistics with being destined to fail. We as BLACK PARENTS and family members, as a COMMUNITY, a NATION must TELL our children over and over that they are NOT DESTINED to failure. As black parents and family members need to compel them to break the cycle of failure and/or of under achievement. We have to combat the generational belief from within and historically without that we are doomed to be nothing, and that what difference does it make if you are not allowed to make it any way. We have to step up to the task,(and not just by giving lip service among one another, myself included), on a daily basis, that we expect and want more for them than what we have for ourselves, and then GIVE them the tools to achieve it. If we do not have the resources then we need to find the resources that will give them the skill set to advance. We need to remind our children that we are not defined by someone else’s expectation of us instead we are the creators and masters of our own destinies. We are no longer slaves, we are not chattel, and while the ramifications of a horrific period in America’s history still impacts us today, each day there are many African American successes to emulate.

We have to raise their expectations and our own kids often live up or down to the expectations of others…buying into the belief systems of the images they see. The father in jail…”I’ll be just like my dad””…that’s where I will be in a few years” and what they are told “I am not beautiful, my hair is too kinky, not long and flowing, my skin is too dark, my nose is too big. I am supposed to act a certain way…” If one can blame peer pressure for a child’s under achievement well guess what America, the BIGGEST AND LOUDEST peer pressure group is America herself… The man and or woman who looks with disgust , disdain or condemnation at a young black kid, the conversation by Americans that blacks are more prone to crime, destined for prison, less intelligent than other ethnic groups “Wasn’t there a study that showed that blacks have an IQ 15 points behind that of whites” one can be heard saying…A school system that discourages black kids from trying, “this is too difficult for you.” or “don’t worry you’ll pass the class and go to the next grade” ( Why on earth would you pass a kid to the next grade if they are not prepared. Isn’t that a greater disservice to them, if they can’t pass the fourth grade how on earth are they prepared for the fifth grade!?) A further disservice is sitting them in the back of the class almost in exile even when that child might be best served if they were placed in the front of the class. Poor school systems with leaky rooks, few computers that would teach them to compete, lack of text-book, are all components that reinforce to children that they are not valued, and are destined to fail. Further complicating this are parents who did not graduate themselves…with poor reading and math skills, and who may be indifferent to their children’s educational success. Perhaps because they are too tired…too worried about the rent, the rats, the crime, the food, the family medical needs, the crime on the street, the drugs in the house, or the spouse in prison who is  not getting out for a long time or getting out any day now, unemployment, or just keeping the job they have. Or preoccupied with making ends meet, keeping their kids out of jail or alive, struggling to survive, or maybe they just don’t give a damn…or maybe they are thinking “Hey I got by so will they.”   All this says to that young child is “You don’t matter!” not at school nor at home. Or maybe it’s the other kids on the block who say “Whatchu worried about school for; you know you ain’t gonna pass anyway.” or  “You know you ain’t gonna be nothing anyhow, the man ain’t gonna let you.” or “Man I can show you how you can make a couple a grand a week or more depending how hard and SMART  you work.” and hustling requires smarts…if they can master that why can’t they master the other…Because the expectation is not there for them to do well in school,  the encouragement on all levels are not there, the community expects failure for them as if it even finds solace in that failure, almost as though a quiet woeful sigh can be heard across the neighborhood, “There goes another one. Damn ain’t it a shame. Another quit school, another banging, another going to jail, another dead, another destined to poverty.”  And the school system expects little more, “See I told you not to bother with them, teach the ones that can be taught and let the system deal with the rest.” and “It’s not your fault they are failing, you can’t save them all, you don’t have the time or the funds to waste, do what you can for those who can.”  The judicial system is just waiting on them “Here’s another one to send away. Yeah we’re disenfranchising countless black boys for petty crimes that white kids aren’t penalized for but we’ll see them here sooner or later better to get them now before they do something worse than smoking dope.” And AMERICA demands that of them” If we don’t have someone in the lower rung who will we look down on. Besides history has shown that blacks well are… black!” social atavism is at its finest  …America in truth demands nothing else and it offers little else of or to our young black boys and girls!

Yes America doles out money to public schools, and yes there is a welfare system, that I must remind people the preponderance of those who benefit from it are white. Still all these much-needed programs are no more than a panacea to the ills that face our community.  Yes there are activist out there Black White and other…but not enough, where are the mentorship programs, the intern programs, where are the BLACK ENTERTAINERS and SPORTS FIGURES who made money and fled…Where is the passion in the everyday people in the black community? Are we so TIRED of the fight that we can no longer fight even for our children who we profess to love.  Have we bought into the hype that we are NOT DESTINED to be anything. Are we determined to wear the shackles of our ancestors…In the 60s and 70s we believed we were KINGS and QUEENS! Black Power was the rage…I recall having my fist raised! In the 90s we had Tupac Shakur who cried for black pride in harsh ghetto language but we understood the message .WE AS A COMMUNITY NEED TO STAND UNITED and TOGETHER! In 1897 WEB Dubois spoke eloquently of the Black experience which for many still holds true today.

 W. E. B. Du Bois introduced the term “double consciousness” into the lexicon of African American psychology in1897  in an Atlantic Monthly article titled “Strivings of the Negro People.”  and included in his book “The Souls of Black Folk.” The term double consciousness comes from African Americans viewing themselves, individually and as a group, and through the eyes of the society they live in. Du Bois says it is “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity”. This produced what Du Bois calls a “twoness, – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body”. These two views are often in conflict with one another, as the American view, in general, have despised and dehumanized African Americans. Their struggle says Du Bois, is that they want to be both “Negro and… American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face”.

 Du Bois explained: “The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.”  While what his views are profound and goes to explaining a lot about how we both view ourselves and why we often function in society in the manner we do. However the relevance to the issue of education can best be explained by the power of America’s stereotypes on blacks and how we view ourselves and function with in society.  While whites have gotten over it, the legacy of what we were made to believe about ourselves what we have internalized and passed on for generations cannot so easily be gotten over by us.  Double consciousness is an awareness of one’s self as well as an awareness of how others perceive that person. The danger of double consciousness resides in conforming and/or changing one’s identity to that of how others perceive the person. And for far too long we have been perceived as inferior even to this day and unfortunately many in the black community have bought into it although I think most would be hard pressed to admit it. Or that their behavior is supporting that erroneous conclusion.

Our youth need to understand being “Negro/ Black” does not mean being destined to fail. Being Black/human however does mean seeking one’s own autonomy.

 I am not a sociologist, psychiatrist, or any other kind of “ist”, nor am I an educational expert. I am however black and intelligent, passionate about history, sociology, archeology, anthropology and all other “ology’s”. I am a 53-year-old mother and a grandmother, I am a member of a large family where everyone has achieved, and 100 percent have graduated from high school even the previous generation on both sides of the family tree. Every member of my generation has attended college, 97% has Bachelors, 50% have a Masters, and 20% have PhD, my daughter’s generation all have Bachelors, with 50% either having a Masters or pursuing one. I would estimate that 70 % of my older sister’s friends that she grew up with attended college and graduated with Bachelors and some seeking and I will assume have acquired Masters (they were the work horse sect). My friends, approximately 30-40% attended college (we were the wild bunch) many of went into the military, and my younger sisters friends I would say 100% went to college and earned Bachelors and some Masters and probably even PhD’s they were the (brainer crew). We all grew up in the projects in New York City. My parents’ generation was born during Jim crow, came of age in a time of strict racial segregation, high unemployment, World War II, and as usual difficult times especially if you were black. So why did we all graduate! Simply because it was not only expected of us but DEMANDED of us! There was never any doubt that we would achieve, anything other was not acceptable. We were achieving and succeeding not just for us but for our entire family, for past generations and the sacrifices they made, and we were expected to achieve for future generations as well, so that we could hand the torch to the next…and if you weren’t going to college you damn well were going to be doing something and that something had better be positive!!!! And the COMMUNITY your uncles, aunts, grandparents, siblings, friends, friends of siblings, parents of friends were all involved BECAUSE your success was theirs as well. There were community centers and people who cared at every turn. There were books to be read and people to read to you and tutors even if that tutor was a neighborhood kid. There were organizations FREE, that came in and cast us in neighborhood plays and we felt like SOMEBODY! If you didn’t have school supplies there was always a notebook that could be loaned, a page torn from a classmate’s book when you didn’t have paper and believe me there were many times I asked for a sheet or two and could I borrow a pen etc…And can I come to your house for dinner tonight, and do you have an extra sandwich in your brown bag? And there were bad teachers but there were many more passionate good teachers, who told you that you could be somebody! They had you read Chaucer, and Shakespeare, Faulkner, and other great works. And they didn’t pass you just because it was expedient! They locked you in school when you skipped, I know I did it often, they had your parent come to school and check you in if you were truant; I know my mother did it often. And your family uncles and aunts and even fiends when you were throwing away your future, I know they did it for me!

Ultimately you did what was needed, and the community did what was needed, and your family did everything it could and more, no matter how tired or tough times were. And we tried never to buy into the hype that surrounded us every day that we were not meant to succeed. That we were not good enough, pretty enough, nor smart enough. Because we knew the lie to that, WE WERE BLACK AND WE WERE PROUD. We understood the consequences of our failure would have lifelong devastating consequences, not for us alone but for all future black kids who deserved success, the gate way of which is education!

During slavery the slave master did not want an educated negro, it was after all bad for business. During Jim Crow the white community did not want an educated black community,  that would have been a further threat to the status quo. During the civil rights era a small portion of the white community did not want black kids to have an equal education to their white kids, we would be able to effectively compete…And every generation of black adults from the slave to the mom and dad in the 60s & 70s fought valiantly and continuously for the right to have an educated child who could compete and contribute to American society.

Don’t throw away the opportunity and your child’s right to be educated!!! Don’t give up the fight now. The fight that so many black,white and others sacrificed for in each century of American history, from the slave to the abolitionist.  

Don’t live down to the expectations that abound…Instead EXCEL!! Or as a family member say’s ELEVATE!

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