Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Getting There Without a Map

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On Saturday a woman called in looking for a book for her daughter to help her with math over the summer.  She started telling me about how she was sending her daughter to a local parochial high school and she was unsure what the test was but she needed something for her daughter to take the test and blah, blah, blah.  I’m familiar with the test because my daughter took it about three years ago.  I know I’m supposed to keep my opinions to myself.  I’m supposed to be objective and just give the people what they ask for, but sometimes you just know stuff and the things you learn it took a long time to find out because no one else wants to tell you or they have bad PR or something.

So, I told the woman not to worry.  From what my daughter told me it was just a placement test and she wouldn’t have to worry about the school not allowing her daughter in if she didn’t do well.  She said she felt good about that but she wanted to make sure her daughter placed into Advanced classes, not comprehensive.  When she told me that I knew she was a woman after my own heart so we talked.  We talked about the math classes given by the local NSBE chapter for minority students.  I told her about the Queen City Foundation and how they try to place gifted underpriviledged tri-state students into the best schools here and across the country, if possible.   She talked about her disgust of charter schools and how she just wanted the best for her daughter and her little brother who was in the 8th grade.  She just wanted to know what was out there and what she could find out to get them further ahead than what she had done.   

Finding out the information on the little stuff that I do know has been hard.  In the beginning when I found out I freely gave up information to other parents.  They would ask me what my daughter was doing for the summer and I would tell them and then they’d ask, “How can my kid get involved?”  My daughter hated when I did.  Not because she wants to surpass others and leave other blacks in the dust.  Its because it comes back on her.   The parents were gung-ho to get their kids involved with the programs but Cricket’s friends weren’t.  And they let her know that my running my mouth had ruined their summer plans of watching tv, laying about or just hanging out with their friends.  They didn’t want to be solving math problems or reading (which I would insist my daughter do).  My advocacy for learning sometimes sent her in the opposite direction and she would do the minimum amount of what I asked of her.   But so far her grades have stayed high although not as high as I would like them.

The main problem in the African American community isn’t that we can’t learn but that we won’t learn.  Or, we don’t see the point.  A few years ago the late anthropologist John Ogbu started a discussion firestorm in the black community with his book Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb.  The book studied students in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights to discover why the African American students weren’t performing as well as their white counterparts.  A few of the parents believed racism was an issue but surprisingly, racism wasn’t the biggest culprit.

“In spite of the fact that the students knew and asserted that one had to work hard to succeed in Shaker schools, black students did not generally work hard. In fact, most appeared to be characterized by the low-effort syndrome. . . . [They] were not highly engaged in their schoolwork and homework,” Ogbu said (Washington Post October 6, 2003).

When Bush unveiled his “No Child Left Behind” approach to education many of us crossed our arms and wondered how long it would take before the government realized we were trailing behind.  But for the most part we aren’t falling behind the majority because we’re uncapable of doing the work but because we don’t want to do the work and the community enables those who choose to do the work underpar.

It has always surprised me the number of parents who put so much emphasis on how the schools should be educating their children but then turn around and paint the same system as being racist.  If you suspect the system is stacked against you then why would you expect them to educate your children properly?  When does parent accountability kick in?  Who is checking to make sure the children can read not just at their grade level but beyond?  Who can make sure that their kids can multiply in their head.  As a child I was taught that education was denied us because they didn’t want us to know how we were getting over on.  When we were picking cotton they didn’t want us to be able to do the math so we would know we were getting underpaid.  They didn’t want us to read because that could possibly lead to a dissatisified worker who would dream of more than just farm life.  We might not be sharecroppers or slaves but the mentality has lingered on into a new century where we can’t break out of our mindset and compete on a higher level.

So I decided to adopt a no child left behind agenda of my own.  I try to help pass on what little information I know to help a parent who wants to help their kids.  Sometimes the parents don’t want the help but for every two that doesn’t there’s one that does.  There’s no perfect way for us to get out of our condition, there’s many roads to take.  But how do we know we are on the right path if we can’t even read the damn map?

As for my daughter, she has learned to endure the mean looks of her friends.  One day it may be her trying to save the race while at the same time shoving a book in her own daughter’s hands.


Written by rentec

15 June, 2007 at 7:50 pm

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