Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Mis-Education of Black Children

The Mis-education of Black Children

Min. Paul Scott

In 1933, the great educator and founder of Negro History Week (now Black History Month), Dr. Carter G. Woodson wrote, "If you control a man's thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions. Although, "The Mis-education of the Negro" was written 75 years ago, the issues raised then are just as relevent today not only for African American youth but also for those who strive to teach them.

Every year, we are confronted with the age old question of why black youth are not achieving at the same rate as other racial groups. The reason that we continually raise the same questions is that very few have the courage to give the correct answer. While many would write the under achievement of African American children off as some sort of genetic deficiency, the truth is that the reasons are economic, social and political.

First, the depth of the destruction of African culture over a 400 year period via the TransAtlantic slave Trade is rarely discussed in the context of its impact on future generations. Although this is well researched in Walter Rodney's book "How Europe Under Developed Africa, how many people have heard of this outstanding work?

Also, it cannot be overstated that 140 years ago, teaching black people to read was a crime punishable by death. Why this fact is not highlighted as a probable cause for the current educational dilemma of black children has more to do with historical amnesia than historical accuracy.

While segregated schools may have had their good points ,as far as the attention given to the needs of black children, the schools were separate and unequal, lacking the resources to give black children an equal education.

Even as late as early as 20 years ago, members of my generation walked out of college graduation ceremonies to face the heartbreaking reality that we would earn considerably less than our white counterparts. This did not exactly serve as motivation for future generations to strive for academic excellence. Also, while grandma's sage advice that we had to be "twice as good as white folks" was well intentioned, this was an unfair burden to place on the shoulders of young African Americans.

This is why the Hip Hop generation has developed such slang terms such as "Street Knowledge" and "Thug Motivation" in order to compensate for the economic/educational disparity that they cannot understand nor properly articulate.

The media have never shown much interest in making the so called black "Hip Hop Generation" more culturally and politically conscious. Despite the large population of African Americans in the Triangle area, there are hardly any talk shows that supply African centered information to the community. However, there is no shortage of outlets that glamorize anti intellectualism. Even in the world of print media, since young black Americans are not the target audience, there is little effort to hire columnists to speak to their issues

As many Americans are using "change" as a buzz word this political season, we must understand that not only must there be change in politics but education and economics, as well.

We must come up with new and innovative ways to close the information/education gap.

The black community must produce a list of books that all black children should read and present that information to the Board of Education, as well as the community, at large. This list must include the works of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Dr. Amos Wilson and a host of others. Secondly, we must realize that "cleaning up Hip Hop" means more than just deleting dirty words but using the music to educate as much as entertain. Contrary to popular belief, there are Hip Hop artists that struggle to use their art to educate the masses.

Lastly, we must pressure the local media to develop outlets that will discuss the black experience in its totality, not just crime rates and other negative statistics.

Although the entire community will benefit from a truly enlightened populace, the burden of the responsibility to counter mis-education lies within the black community, itself.

As Bob Marley once sang, "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds."