Thursday, September 23, 2010
A recent report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that the overall 2007-2008 graduation rate for black males in the U.S. was only 47 percent, and half of the states have graduation rates for black male students below the national average. Hear a conversation with the authors of the report. see the full report here.
The usual suspects (Black Civil Rights Inc., etc) have made their predictable arguments in response to the data. But frankly, I have been tired of hearing it for a long time. Their argument is always something along the lines of "the system" is leading these kids down a path to failure. "The system" is not spending enough money. "The system" is not coddling these kids enough. "the system, the system, the system".... "the system this... the system that". It's always "the system". Notice how this always seems to be the foundation and basis for all of their arguments. Why is it always.. "The Schools or the System is Failing Black Students". Why isn't the narrative - "Black Parents are Failing Public Schools and Their Own Children".... or "Is Black Culture Complicating Life for Black Children"? These narratives would better reflect the problems in my opinion, but they are not politically correct.
I have pointed out that this argument is a myth several times. One instance in particular would be my post a few years ago about the impact modern Black culture has on educational outcomes. The 2007 Policy Bridge report, entitled "The Rap On Culture: How Anti-Education Messages in Media, at Home, & On The Street Hold Back African American Youth", was confirmation of earlier research by others, including Dr. John Ogbu of UC Berkley, a leading figure in this particular area of research. But you never hear about these studies, because the Black establishment doesn't want to deal with the elephant in the room - Black culture itself. It's too big of a monster to take on. They are afraid of dealing with it because they would create too many enemies from within the so-called "Black Community" (hate that term). It's so much easier for them to blame "the system" and kick the can down the road.
This problem was highlighted rather clearly in last year's CNN report "Black In America" when Steve Perry, Principle of Capital Preparatory Magnet School pointed out that the parents of his mostly minority students, (paraphrasing) 'aren't around'... 'many don't seem to care'....that they 'just aren't involved' in the education of their children. That, ladies & gentleman, is the key to this whole human disaster that is taking place in this Country. And it's bigger than just the so-called "Black Community". This will have a harmful impact on the nation as a whole.... because many of those who aren't graduating, are (let's be honest) going to be involved in criminal activity, making victims out of you, your neighbors, will disrupt the quality of life in America, and they will be a drag on budgets and the economy, because they won't be contributing to society...to the tax base and it will cost money to warehouse them in jail and prison.
Parenting, the life choices of parents (especially Black women, yes I went there- stop laying down with no good thugs, criminals, & deadbeats), the household environment, and the culture that drives much of life outside of school have much more influence over how well a student does in the classroom. You can have the best teachers in the world... but rappers & other Black Hip Hop culture figures hold more sway with most Black youth. They will listen to the rap stars and take cues from them over their teachers....and in some cases, over their parents or other relatives (those who have responsible parents in their lives to begin with). But again, no one wants to talk about this in the national media... or if they do, they glance over it. This has been the elephant in the room for the so-called "Black Community" for at least the past 15-20 years. Civil Rights Inc. wants to avoid this because it actually deals with getting at the heart of the problem. And since the existence of this problem is their bread and butter, why fix it? Facing it head on would also anger half, if not most, of the "Black Community". This is something that the Sharpton's, the Dyson's, the Smiley's, and the Jackson's can't afford to do. Especially when they have books coming out almost every year. Dr. Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint weren't afraid.... but they haven't been able to inspire the fundamental shift needed in Black Culture (few men throughout history have been able to). But at least a few of us get it. Geoffrey Canada is one of those individuals who seems to get it... which is why he brilliantly incorporated parenting skills training, and a strong parent-teacher bond into his Harlem Children's Zone program early on.
I have understood the importance of parenting, doing well in school, moral compasses, structure and discipline for most of my life. Although I didn't have a perfect home situation early on, and was not always the best student. I didn't get in gear until I entered my Sophomore year of High School. But I still understood the importance of all those values. I knew that I had to take education seriously and that if I didn't do well, life was going to be harsh... that there would probably be a prison cell waiting for me.
I noticed something pretty simple back in my formative years. For one, Black youth with anti-education attitudes tended to do worse when they were clumped together...both in school and outside of school. Even in schools that are diverse tend to have this problem, because socially, Blacks tend to stick with Blacks... that's how it was in many of the grade schools and middle schools I was in, including DODDS. We have all (or you should have) read about this from the reports and studies on how students tend to segregate themselves in school (at lunch for example). Why were the outcomes worse? Well, my belief is... when you have like minded people together, certain beliefs and behaviors are reinforced. ("Group-think" for example). But I noticed that there were always pockets of Black students... either anomalies from within the group, or from outside of the group of other Black youth who seemed to excel. And the difference usually had something to do with the way they were being raised... with life in their households. Their lives were as different as night & day from lives of kids in the larger group. The kids with the more watchful and concerned parents, usually got better grades and had fewer (if any) behavioral issues. They may have faked it in school to a point, by buying cool clothes, playing sports, and having cute girls all over them... but that's where the similarities ended. At home, they had structure. The tougher the parents... the better the grades. The more structure... the better the outcomes. The more rules they had..and the more respect (or fear) they had for mom & dad...or the more desire they had to please their parents... the less trouble they found themselves in. The more activities that their parents had them involved in, the better. The more involved the parents were, the better. And I found this to be true no matter where I went to school... Kansas, Germany, Texas, etc. It always translated, without fail. So this is how I know that Civil Rights Inc. is full of s-tuff.
The Obama's are a perfect example of this. The President recently talked about the weekly routine for the first daughters Sasha and Malia. Part of their schedule involves plenty of positive activities. Homework is stressed...and the first couple keeps up with everything that needs to be done. He also mentioned one other thing.... that no T.V. watching is allowed during the week. NO TELEVISION! Even back in my day (mostly the 80's), that would be seen as a punishment. And I would argue that this is pretty much unheard of in the so-called "Black Community". I was allowed to watch TV, go ride my bike all over town (in Kansas), or go play basketball after my homework and chores were done. I lived like a King in Texas...had a King sized bed, had a huge floor model TV with my own cable box, my own phone and could pretty much do what I wanted. I almost wish I had the kind of structure that the Obama girls have now. But I am thankful that I had what I did. But what the Obama's are doing should be the blueprint for other Black families.
Now it is true that the Obama's enjoy certain advantages. For one, they are able to put their daughters in private school. Public schools are indeed a part of the problem (but not the major part in my opinion). In public school, "the system" and your child, who may actually want to learn, has to deal with disruptive students who have not had the proper parenting. Teachers and administrators must take up the slack and deal with the mess left behind by other people. They often have to deal with violence, and even with out of control parents. All of this, plus the misguided intervention from Federal and State governments...putting pressure on teachers to get better test scores out of students who do not want to learn and in some cases have been taught not to take education seriously. This often leads to a situation that chases good teachers away. Where do they go? To the white schools in the suburbs...where school administrations give them more support...and back them up.... administrations who don't take crap from disruptive students or their parents. The working environments tend to be safer (or at least they are perceived as such) and they are paid better to boot - Hell who wouldn't leave in that situation? That's exactly what the current system does...and has been doing for years.
Unfortunately, it comes down to this... the problem of the low Black male graduation rate...and low rates of graduation for Black students as a whole, is a problem that the school systems alone will never be able to fix. The problem is in the Black Culture itself. Teachers cannot solve that problem. Nor can "the system". They don't set cultural values....values at home, etc. It is time for Blacks to stop blaming both.
Black students are capable... that question has been answered. Urban Prep Charter Academy in Chicago, the Harlem Children's Zone, Steve Perry's Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Connecticut and others (along with the many individual success stories) are proof that Black students are capable. So that's not the problem. It is time to start dealing with the real issues rather than reading from the same script. The same old arguments don't work anymore.