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African Americans: Educating Our Kids the Wrong Way

by on July 22, 2008

Going to a prestigious university, and having come from a well recognized series of primary and secondary education is a blessing that I never take for granted.  My high school’s graduating rate was about 90% my senior year, and moved up to 94% the year after. Out of about 500 seniors, less than 100 are not continuing on to higher education or vocational options.

A fifteen minute metro train ride from my high school in Maryland will take you to the D.C. public school system, where everything is the complete opposite.  Washington D.C.  public schools have received and/or tied for the lowest rankings in the country as far as basic learning skills, test scores, drop-out rates, poverty make-up, and safety issues are concerned. The Washington Post  featured an article about whether or not the District schools are fixable. Noting that

“After decades of reforms, three out of four students fall below math standards. More money is spent running the schools than on teaching. And urgent repair jobs take more than a year…”

Washington Post article

There is a deeper issue than this. I think the most important thing that contributes to the success of students in any school system, is the attention paid to the racial make-up of these students and their needs, their economic backgrounds, the lack of motivation, and the unfortunate plight of using property taxes to pay for the upkeep of schools in cities where property tax is low or properties are not owned.

Most of the students that attended my high school come from middle-class, single family homes and townhouses, decent paying jobs, and safer-than-most neighborhoods. At a glance I would say the school is about 56% white, 26% Black, 10% Asian, 6% Hispanic, and the rest a combination of smaller populations.

In the cities where most Black and Hispanic families are, the Black population can sometimes be as high as 98% and the poverty level beyond belief. Even the city of Syracuse, where I attend the university, sees similar results to those of the D.C. public schooling systems. The problems are repetitive. More attention is given to thriving schools that have enough money coming in from their property taxes to pay for newer and better facilities and equipment. More parents in these thriving schools are actually involved with the schooling of their children. More teachers and guidance counselors are helpful to students that don’t pose as threats to their safety.

My younger sister is the president of her high school’s NAACP Youth Leadership Chapter, so when I am home, I attend some of the meetings with her. In almost every meeting, the topic has been about how to get the Black students of Maryland and D.C. public schools motivated enough to come to school, stay in school, and graduate to higher learning.

Too many of our youth are “miseducated” about their chances of success. The guidance counselors and teachers in these schools of urban areas suggest these students consider working after high school instead of going to college. The parents either did not go to college and don’t tell their children they should, or are not home enough to really be involved with their child’s education (although, I do understand that some parents have no choice but to work- sometimes multiple jobs, sometimes for single parent families).

Too many children drop out and follow lives of  crime or become pregnant. Those that drop out are often times not given any reason or motivation to go back. Too many children believe that rappers and athletes are the only moneymakers, and therefore see no point in school for those talents ( what about doctors, lawyers, journalists, businessmen/ or women…?), and finally, too many children are not informed about the MANY scholarships, programs,  fee waivers and resources that can help them succeed regardless of their race, gender, family, and economic standing.

The problems are repetitive. The initiative has been taken, but the results are far from where they need to be. I do not think it is Obama’s job to come to the rescue of the Black community. What he can maybe do for the school systems, is see to it that the governors of each state make sure that  funding is equalized for all of their areas.

Kanye West said in his song “Champion”:

“‘Cause who the kids gonna listen to, huh?/ I guess me if it isn’t you”

I take that as a personal challenge. Whether or not you have children, it is our duty as members of the Black community to see our kids succeed. Better yet, it is our duty as members of the human race to see all kids succeed. They at least need to know that they have options, because success does not only mean going to college, it means living up to their fullest potentials- whatever that may be.

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