Thursday, June 11, 2009

Acting White: What Black HS Grads, Near-Grads and DNG’s* Need

My daughter graduates from high school (HS) this week. Also, I have spent the past few months in a discussion group with some minority urban (mostly black) HS young adults. Some of these kids will continue their education, too many will not. My concern for them is no different than that for my girl. Are they learning, or have they learned, what they need to develop into happy, productive adults? Sadly, for most, the answer is no. They are not failures, but they have defintely been failed.

*DNG: Did not graduate.

So what is it that they did not learn? This is the same character my first-born would say I have been drumming into her for the last eighteen years - the importance of timeliness, preparation, reasoning, empathy, perseverance, and diligence. Historical bigotries notwithstanding, it is no accident that what black kids are missing is aligned with that which has also kept their historical ethnic geographies, in Africa, at bay, even as off-continent societies have accelerated to positions of dominance.

It is this reduced historical adherence to advancing behavior which holds black kids back, in and out of the face of bigotry. I think the schools need to start explicitly pursuing these soft-gaps prevalent in certain communities, the same way we teach foundations in math and reading. How about Timeliness 101, Preparation 102, Critical Thinking For Beginners 103, etc. for establishing the basis for learning, graduating and contributing to society in positive ways?

This may seem way too simple, or like a cultural intrusion, but I can guarantee that the kids I have met are starving to unlock the ‘secrets’ to success, but very few are getting credible instruction about behaviors that make a difference, like good grammar. In the meantime, I will keep drumming these behaviors into my own kids, and any others that care to wonder where they will land.

Happy graduation to those who made it! Now get back to the books.

James C. Collier


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sungod said...

i just think with many black kids the parenting is not there from the beginning. And it is not just from the biological parents also from other adults too that ill-prepare the kids. We need more examples and mentors closer to their age group to be a paragon for greatness. Many of the youth are stagnated by hopelessness that they cant really achieve and that to me is scary. "believe in what u can achieve and u will succeed"-sungod

Anonymous said...

Good post - and even better work with youth - i do the same.

Tyrone said...

Sungod, As a "white" kid - now 41 - I can tell you that myself and most of the kids I graduated with did not get the skills and instruction needed to be anything other than servants. The parenting simply is not there for most kids. This is not simply a race issue.

James - congrats on your daughter's graduation. My first is growing like a weed, but I still have 17 years or so before she graduates. I struggle daily the idea of trying to teach her things I never formally learned myself.
Is public school the best option for getting real world experience or should I bite the bullet and find some way to pay for a private school? Do I want to homeschool? Am I really qualified to be a parent? Will I cave under the pressure and leave her unprepared for the future?

Scary stuff, raising kids - but I guess that is only if you take the job seriously.

Anonymous said...

Parents are the first teachers for their kids. If more people get that simple logic, the kids will be better at school. 5 years old kids starting school should know their ABC and 123. Parents should buy books and read to their kids every day. Its not rocket science. Invest in the kids and their education when they are young and one will see the payoff when they reach high school.I really would love to know why some black people in this Country are so anti- education, this coming from a black woman who grew up in the Caribbean.

Anonymous said...

Most black people in the US don't have to worry much about anything: the government will take care of them.

Anonymous said...

One contributing factor to the complacency that plagues a large swath of our demographic is that it's fairly easy to eek out a sustainable existence in our country without a high school diploma or nothing beyond that. It might be a no frills existence, but it still puts the working poor or unemployed who receive assistance at a standard of living that exceeds that of most of the world (educated or otherwise). That said, kids need to be encouraged from an early age to reach for the stars and aim beyond the mere hand to mouth existence that might await them if they don't aspire to something greater. Takes time and effort on the part of the adults in the young person's life. Not easy but has to be seen as a worthy investment. Restoration of stable, two-parent households within our demographic as the most prevalent norm would do wonders as well, of course.

lincolnperry said...

@Sungod and Anon 11:43
Absolutely correct, parents are the first teachers in the household,and need to value education. My interest in reading stem from my parents family trips to the library to acquire knowledge on various subjects, this open up my interest in reading and learning that the library was a center of knowledge and information!

This transfer over to my academic performance at school!