Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Really Was Raised By A Village

I really was raised by a village when I think about it. My grandfather created my love for hearing a good story... he was reading to me, before I could hold a book in my hands and he always had a great story to tell, especially about people and their nature. He would usually supplement people for animals who behaved like these people. He was a very imaginative man. This led to my love of reading. It started with the Sunday color "funnies" or comic strips and led to bigger things. For their part, my grandmother and my mother did the same thing with the reading... and later on, me reading to them while they were cooking or whatever. By the time I was 10 or 11 years old, I was cruising libraries and reading the newspapers.

As far as school was concerned, there was no notion of failure. My homework was checked every night and if there was a written report, my mother went over it with a "fine-tooth comb"... nothing me or my brother wrote went out of that house without her seal of approval. If either of us got anything below a "C", there was hell to pay (for us) and a talk with the teacher. Despite anything else I was doing out in the street, there were a few teachers I had who would tell you I misbehaved in class... wasn't gonna happen. I was well-behaved and well-mannered, at least in school. Outside was a whole 'nother story, but that's another blog post for another day.

It's a shame that this was not and is not the case in every household... especially in the households of young black males. You see, I always assumed that I was going to graduate from high school and my mother informed me the second day of my life in 1958 that I was going to college... that was a done deal before I was potty-trained. Unfortunately, today it is a hit and miss situation for a lot of black males. A recent report found that only 47% of black males graduated from high school in the 2007-2008 school year... and graduation rates are just a part of the troubling statistics.

The report's authors stated that the results of the eighth grade reading assessment test scores, which measure how many black males read at or above the proficiency level, "should set off alarm bells." The "best" score was a dramatically low: 15% (Kentucky, New Jersey), while other states only averaged 5% (Mississippi, Nevada). According to this report, "more than twice as many black students are classified as ''mentally retarded'' in spite of research demonstrating that the percentages of students from all groups are approximately the same at each intelligence level." The report adds, "the persistent over-classification of black male students as 'mentally retarded' reflects, at best, a lack of professional development in this area for teachers and other staff." I shudder to think what would have happened to an administrator who tried to classify me as that back then.

And, at a time when more and more jobs require advanced knowledge of math and technology, more than four times as many white male students take advanced placement math and science courses as compared to black males. Another troubling aspect of the report is the apparent disparity between states providing opportunities for young black men to succeed. For example, the relative success and wealth of a town is definitely not synonymous with good outcomes: Only 22% of black high school males graduated from the Palm Beach County Florida public schools and only 28% graduated from New York City public schools, as compared to 79% in Newark, New Jersey.

New Jersey is an example of what can happen when a state works to "level the playing field." About 20 years ago, New Jersey's highest court ruled in favor of a group that sued to "equalize" the funding between suburban and urban school districts. Since then, New Jersey's urban and/or less wealthy school districts have received substantially higher funding for kindergarten and pre-school programs, increased teacher training, and more health and social services to address the needs of poor and lower-income children. The schools also upgraded facilities and improved security. In the current Schott report, all these measures were listed as "conditions for success."

But, despite all of those measures, the real measures start at home. These young men (and young ladies) have to be nurtured in the home, the same way I was growing up. It has to be instilled in them early that education is important and the best way to succeed in life... even if that sucess means just being able to take care of yourself. This has to be done. Our children, our young people all need that village!


Sunflower said...

BRAVO Keith, Great Post and timely message!

James Perkins said...

I so agree with you and I co-sign on just about everything your extended family did for you. We have got to take responsibility for these kids.

Simon Bastion said...

Points well taken...It's not just legislation that's going to save these boys...It's direct interaction from the parents and sometimes grand-parents.

Sean said...

You're just burnin the candles at both ends brother....Another great post.

Halo said...

We can't wait for the local and state governments to educate our youth..Like you said..It's got to start at home first...That's where the foundation is built. Great post.

Anonymous said...

First one of your posts on this blog that I can stand to read in months...You are right..We need less government involved in our schools and in other areas of our life...But being the radical socialist Obamaite that you are..I know you didn't really mean it that way.

(By the way..I like your food blog)

Arlene said...


Arlene said...

So sorry for the previous nonsense. My fingers were working faster than my brain, somewhat like your anonymous commentor.
Your conclusion is correct: it takes more than immediate family to properly rear a child. You/we were lucky that those who helped raise us could read and knew enough about mathematics and writing to help us learn. And learning was valued. Our communities esteemed those who worked for a living, even if that work was cleaning homes, sewing dresses at a factory, or delivering mail. Today the focus seems to be on what we get no matter the source, and the easiest path is sought. It seems no one wants to work for what is earned. Sadly, the lesson passed from generation to generation is how to "get over."

@Anonymous- Jesus was a radical socialist. Are you putting Him down?!?

SincerelyGo said...

yes people are going crazy on twitter about the graduation rates of black men. It bothers me but it's like of all you people that are going crazy what are you doing about it? I wonder do they even spend the kind of time with their kids like your grandparents did you? It's sad. We blame the schools, I blame WE the people.




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