Monday, February 15, 2010

40 Acres and a School

40 Acres and a School:
Reading, Writing and Reparations

Paul Scott

"As long as you can be convinced that you never did anything, then you can never do anything"

Malcolm X

There is something called a self -fulfilling prophecy. If you promote an idea long enough, it will become reality.

So it is with the notion that black males are doomed to academic failure.

It was announced a few days ago that the Durham Public School System will receive a grant from the National Association of Educators for 1.25 million dollars to, once again, engage in the never ending quest to save black males from falling into the dark abyss of educational obscurity.

Yet another bureaucratic attempt to solve societal problems by throwing a boat load of money at it.

While this is a novel idea, there is just one itty bitty little problem...

It never works.

Despite the best intentions of those who cried through "The Blind Side" and came of out the theatre vowing to save black kids, the money never quite makes it from point A to point B. By the time they pay some out- of- towner big bucks to administer the funds, pay the rent for his office and the note for his company car, the poor black kids will be lucky to get a #2 pencil out of the deal.

(Look at how much money has been spent to solve Durham's "gang problem.")

According to news reports, the scraps will be used to do things like allow teachers to visit the homes of troubled students.

(Note to the brainiacs in Raleigh. If you use some of that educational lotto money to pay teachers a decent salary so they don't have to moonlight taking orders at Big Bob's Burger Barn, maybe they will have time to chill out with Lil Tyrone Johnson's family in the evening.)

No diss meant to the Ph.D card carrying DPS administrators but to use text-terminology, ITSS. (It's The System, Stupid!)

To truly close the achievement gap we must first have the courage ask the fundamental question, "how did we get here in the first place?"

The reason why this question is rarely posed is because to get to the answer we have to wade through the murky waters of institutionalized academic racism.

The truth of the matter is that black children are in their present state because, for so long, African Americans were denied educational equality and thusly, economic opportunities.

For many years, African Americans have fought for reparations for slavery, an effort to gain compensation to repair the damage caused by centuries of free labor. If any restitution must be given, it must start with the educational system and it will cost a whole lot more than a million dollars and some change per school system.

What would be required would be a total revamping of the entire educational system. There must not only be a radical redistribution of resources but a change in the national curriculum that has too long downplayed the achievements of people of African descent and over exaggerated the achievements of Europeans.

This is the only way to turn gang members into college graduates. Trying to teach troubled black youth without taking a systematic approach is like putting a band aid on a bullet hole. Yeah, it will stop the bleeding for a while but...

Now, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for Thaddeus Stevens' promised 40 acres and a mule carrying a set of encyclopedias on its back. So, until then there are a few things that can be done, immediately.

First, we, as a community, must at long last have that long delayed open and honest conversation on race and how it has historically impacted the education of African Americans. If we don't put black underachievement in the context of the African American experience then all the positive press generated by the receipt of the grant money will only serve to propagate the idea that African Americans are innately, academically challenged.

Secondly , all African American children should be required to take a course in Afrocentricity. Every black child should know bits of information like despite the negative stereotypes of Africa as a place filled with ignorant savages , according to researcher Basil Davidson, during the 16th century, Leo Africanus said "more money is made from the book trade than any other line of business." Contrary to the belief of some members of this generation, the crowning achievement of black culture was not Jay Z performing at the World Series.

Lastly, it is a worn out cliche but administrators must learn to think outside the box. They must have the courage to support those who dare to take the road less traveled in order to reach our children. Therefore, DPS must not simply hoard resources but must share them with organizations outside of the traditional school system that work with black males, like the Rights of Passage and New Horizons Training for Success. Since Martina Dunford's Training for Success program helps guide many black males, who are victims of the mis-educational system, it will be a travesty if her program doesn't receive a big slice of that million dollar grant pie.

Until we take these steps we'll just be throwing money down a bottomless pit.

The Beatles once said that "money can't buy you love."

Unfortunately, It can't buy you knowledge, either.

Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or For more information about the Intelligence Over Ignorance Campaign visit