FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Our Education Crisis

by

“Why are you [reading] so much?” “Why are you speaking so properly?”

On July 27th, at a town hall in Washington D.C., President Obama illuminated these questions—questions he often hears from youth in predominately black neighborhoods where some children are afraid to learn. Yes, afraid.  This fear is brought on by the taunting many well-educated black individuals receive because their peers believe that being well read and articulate constitutes “acting white.”

Covertly racist corporate media and hegemonic Caucasian opinion make dangerous implications that suggest minorities are both incapable and unwilling to learn and our education system reflects these untruths. These implications only create innumerable obstacles and widen the achievement gap between whites and people of color in America. Knowledge is power, and our own ignorance of socially constructed racial characteristics and the ludicrous expectations we make based on those characteristics must stop. Only then will we create a society where everyone has equal access to this nation’s highest right: The freedom to learn.

What does “acting white” look like?  In mainstream America, this is going to a quality school, actually paying attention and being able to provide a well thought-out answer when questioned by the teacher in class.

What does “acting black” look like? On the other end of the spectrum, there is blackness: Cutting classes whenever possible, looking like a fool when called on by the teacher, consequently serving—and cutting – detention, blowing off all homework assignments and failing and repeating your current grade.

These low expectations lead to a fear of succeeding, because it will go against the “status quo,” and to the misallocation of resources in black communities that neglects education. In his 2005 book, “Shame of the Nation,” author and journalist Jonathan Kozol calls our education system “apartheid schooling.” In his latest book, “Fire in the Ashes,” published in 2012, he recalled many children of color with whom he worked often had their education consistently interrupted. When they were able to go to school, their underserved public schools “resembled those of Mississippi fifty or one hundred years before.” Why is nothing done about this? Cruel reality check: Nothing is done because the expectation of achievement for these students is low. For mainstream white America, they’re not worth the effort.

Is it any wonder why little Billy feels that, as a young black boy, he’s neither capable of, nor supposed to demonstrate, intelligence? It’s not entirely his fault. He’s simply conforming to what American society expects. His parents experienced this as well. Maybe he has no one to tell him to dream bigger—to look beyond what this society is handing out and reach for what his true intelligence and abilities may allow him to achieve. This includes reaching his full potential with access to quality education, encouragement to learn, and a belief in the efficacy of doing so.

So, how do we interrupt this pervasive and damaging racial divide in our education system? We should discard the notion that “acting black” means being more interested in hip hop culture than literature. Let’s renounce the misconception that “acting white” means growing up in suburbia and speaking properly. We ought to refuse to pander to the discriminatory foundations on which this society was founded—the society that hated dark skin and ethnic features so much that a person with only “one drop” of African blood was forever labeled as a second-class citizen – or three-fifths of a person – in her own country.

Understanding the social construction of “race” would help as well. We are all human beings; the idea of “race” in this country is little more than a socio-political structure to delineate between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”  The United States’ capitalistic system thrives on that. Coming to grips with this truth will speed up our inevitable rejection of this outdated, harmful notion.

My dream is that we as Americans will one day move into an actual post-racial era where content of character is not socially predicted by “race.” That people of color won’t be afraid to learn, and highly educated “minorities” will be the norm. My dream is to see a world in which black youth do not purposely dumb themselves down in an effort to keep pace with what is expected of them, and educators won’t expect them to lack intelligence. We need a cultural shift of our understanding of race. All children have a natural capacity to learn. Our educational system – our teachers, administrators and policies – needs to reflect this. The future of America depends on it.

Jeanine Russaw (jmarierussaw@gmail.com) is a multimedia journalist, and a journalism student at Hofstra University. 

May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail