“Grossly Rotten Schools” and Our Internal Dysfunctions Undermine Our Children’s Education

Posted on January 17, 2012 by


By Bro. Mxolisi 

“Probably the most unfair thing that happens to Blacks is the grossly rotten schools they attend. Often, fraudulent high school diplomas are conferred that certify they can read, write and compute at the 12th- grade level when in fact they can’t perform at the seventh-or-eighth-grade level. . . .”

Dr. Walter E. Williams

The foregoing words are from a recent column entitled Race and ‘fairness’ by noted conservative writer, Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University. Williams was criticizing the Obama administration’s opposition to educational vouchers, saying, “The president is against school choice for low-income parents while his own children attend Sidwell Friends, one of the most prestigious private schools in D.C.”

Williams went on to point out that 44 percent of senators and 36 percent of representatives – including 35 percent of Congressional Black Caucus members, who tend to vote against school vouchers – keep their children out of D.C. public schools. He concluded that column with the following:

“By the way, teachers at public schools are twice as likely as other parents to send their own children to private schools. That ought to tell us something.”

In an earlier column Williams expressed his opinion that, “the public education establishment bears part of the responsibility for this disaster, but a greater portion is borne by Black students and their parents, many of whom who are alien and hostile to the education process.” In support of this opinion, he said that the 70 percent of Black children being born to unwed mothers are being born to women who often have “poor parenting skills and are indifferent, and sometimes hostile, to their children’s education.” These circumstances, Williams contends, results in “poorly behaving students (who) should not be permitted to sabotage the education of students whose parents are supportive of the education process.”

In Williams’ mind, the solution for rotten schools is — “at minimum” — a tuition tax credit or educational voucher to enable parents and children who care to do so to opt out of failing schools. Without a doubt, such an option could be attractive and fruitful for a significant number of students and their families.

 But the solution(s) for the rotten circumstances that many of our children and their families are facing lies beyond this “minimum” that Williams advocates. It is a situation which calls for an extraordinary, revolutionary, unwavering commitment throughout the African American community that No Child Shall Be Left Behind!!!  It’s a situation that calls for us to understand that the solutions that we must have will never come unless (and until) it becomes an undying endeavor with you … and you … and you … and me! Virtually everyone throughout our community! We must do the Maximum!!!

We must STOP continuing to do the same things and expecting different results!!!

Clearly, we must employ a 180 degree radical departure from relying solely on the programs, personnel and motives of the nation’s public school systems. It has been demonstrated long enough, often enough, and with critical consequences, that these “grossly rotten schools” are incapable, perhaps unwilling, to recognize, respect and nurture the intellectual and creative potential of our children.

 We cannot afford, for the sake of our children, to wait until (if ever) the government decides, and all those with vested interests in the status quo, to allow for there to be means by which all students are given first class educational services and opportunities, regardless of their families’ economic circumstances — with No Zip Code Being Left Behind!!! We must fight for this right, right now. We must demand that no unique need or circumstance of any student shall be addressed with less than the best, most competent educational expertise available in the nation. We must accelerate and intensify the demand for that to become the reality in U.S. education, and in every local school; and for our elected officials – Black Caucus and Otherwise – to be uncompromising in demanding the same. And as long as our children must attend these schools, we need to be effectively up in the faces (be it friendly or otherwise [but don’t get arrested!]) of those being paid to render educational services. We must do and demand the Maximum!!!

 Black Parents and Communities: We cannot afford to wait!!!

Marian Wright Edelman

While we continue that fight, we must address the concerns Williams raises regarding the inability of too many parents (for whatever reasons) to provide their children with the educational foundations needed in order to get the most out of their public schools experiences. Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund (among others) have documented for us how that “inability” negatively impacts the children:

  •    At nine months Black babies score lower on measures of cognitive development than White babies.
  •   At 24 months the gap in cognitive development has more than tripled between Black babies and White babies.
  •   At 4-years-old Black children scored significantly behind White children in their proficiency in letter, number and shape recognition.

Crucial factors in these realities include:

  •  Black children spend more time on average watching television daily*, are less likely to have regular mealtimes, have far fewer books than White children, and are far less engaged in reading or being read to than White children.
  • Black children are enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs at a higher rate than White children, but the programs often are of lower quality.
  • On average, Black children arrive at kindergarten and/or first grade with lower levels of school readiness than White children. 

*(V&V note: The American Pediatricians Association recommends that no child under two years of age should be allowed to watch television – period! — as it has a detrimental effects on their brain development!)

 Geoffery Canada, the well-know driving force of the highly acclaimed Harlem Children’s Zone offers the following:

Geoffery Canada

“Yes, we need better schools, but we also need to address the problems outside the classroom that derail the educational achievement of too many Black boys (and girls). The achievement gap starts almost from birth, so we need to educate parents to take the simple steps to engage and develop their children’s brains in the first years of life. We also need to strengthen communities so (the children) have a safe, enriching environment in which they can learn and develop, where college and success is just in the air as it is in middle-class communities. . . .  I believe that it is the responsibility of the adults around them to turn these trajectories around.”

In the struggle to improve educational outcomes for African-American boys (and girls) as a whole, the most important battles must be fought during the first nine years of their lives — a crucial period that lasts from about the time they are in the womb until about the fourth grade. (Conclusion drawn from June 2011 symposium, “A Strong Start: Positioning Young Black Boys for Educational Success.”)

Creating POWER Zones!

Clearly, we must do all we can, in every way we can, to transform our communities into zones in which everyone is obsessed with educational excellence (POWER! Zones: People Obsessed With Educational Excellence & Resurgence!):

  • Where constructive intervention occurs without fail whenever any child’s educational development is known to be in jeopardy;
  • Where Sunday school rooms are bustling with life as reading and math workshop rooms Monday thru Friday, and Saturday, too;
  • Where those who have information, know-how and resources (anyone! everyone!) are pro-active in extending themselves to those in need, and those in need receive without shame or resentment – for the sake of the children and their future!
  • Where children have relevant books! — and spend more time reading and learning to read than being indoctrinated for failure by TV, Play Station, and other electronic brain-killers!

We must do and demand the Maximum from ourselves! And we cannot afford to wait!!!

“The most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income, race, language barriers, cultural background, education level of

Phillip Jackson, Black Star Project President

parents or social status, but the extent to which a student’s family is able to create a home environment that encourages learning; express high and realistic academic achievement expectations for their children; and become involved in productive ways in their child’s education at school, at home and in the community.” – Black Star Project, Chicago

The Black Star Project was founded in 1996 by Phillip Jackson, with a commitment to improve the quality of life in Black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.  Their mission is to provide educational services that help pre-school through college students succeed academically and become knowledgeable and productive citizens with the support of their parents, families, schools and communities.

Their programs include:                      

Parent University, in which local parenting experts serve as “professors” to teach courses that range from educating parents about conflicts resolution to developing their family’s financial literacy, and a host of other areas of parental importance;

Fathers Club, because a good father is part of a good parent team and is critical to strong family structures. And even if a father and mother are living apart, fathers must remain active and involved in the lives of their children.

League of Black Parents – cultivating parents who know that if we are not organized, our children will not be recognized.  If we do not speak up, Black children will have no voice.  Black parents must advocate as well as educate. These are parents who understand that passive parental involvement is not enough.  Black parents must become active co-managers of our children’s destinies, the engineers of their success, actively participating in every aspect of their lives. These are parents who realize that our actions, or inactions, will determine the future of our race.  

 (Visit their web site for details of these and other Black Star Project programs, as well as assistance for starting such programs in your community: http://blackstarproject.org/action/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=2&Itemid=3)

All of us must be/become these parents!!!

Start in your home and throughout your entire family. Start in your church and throughout your community. Start in your fraternity, sorority or other community organization. We need all hands on deck, for no nonsense, no excuses, compassionate, high expectations, diligent, consistent programs, Right Now! No one else can do this like we can and must do this! But we must move forward, right now!

(For additional perspectives read this Visions & Victories posting: https://hcvoice.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/3rd-graders-with-weak-reading-skills-may-face-a-future-of-unemployment-poverty-prison/)

(Join us – HC Live & Direct — at www.blogtalkradio.com/harambeeconnection, as we discuss educational issues for the African American community throughout the month of January; Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m. eastern.) MaatHotep!