Black parents must teach their kids to succeed
Clarence Page

August 3, 2003

WASHINGTON -- As the black parent of a teenager, I share the recently publicized pain of some black high school parents in Shaker Heights, an affluent suburb of Cleveland.

Distressed that their teenaged children's grades were lagging behind those of their white counterparts, despite having similar socioeconomic advantages in the racially mixed school district, the black parents organized their own investigation.

They got together and invited anthropology professor John U. Ogbu, a well-known figure in the field of student achievement for the past 30 years, all the way from the University of California at Berkeley to examine the district's 5,000 students and figure out why the black-white performance gap persists.

Six years later, Ogbu has published his findings in a book, "Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement" (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates publishers).

Not all of the parents are pleased with his conclusions. That's because he found part of the problem to be the parents.

As Ogbu told a New York Times reporter, there were two parts to the problem; "society and schools on one hand and the black community on the other."

He said, "What amazed me is that these kids who come from homes of doctors and lawyers are not thinking like their parents. They don't know how their parents made it. They are looking at rappers in ghettos as their role models, they are looking at entertainers. The parents work two jobs, three jobs, to give their children everything, but they are not guiding their children."

Needless to say, Ogbu has received a wild mix of praise and criticism, including from his fellow scholars.

Some denounce his methods as too anecdotal, but in Ogbu's field that's not necessarily a defect. Anecdotes carefully collected and reported often can reveal truths that broader statistical studies conceal.

I've been following Ogbu's work since the 1980s, when he and fellow anthropologist Signithia Fordham, now at the University of Rochester, stirred up a national hornets nest by finding significant numbers of black students rejected rigorous academic pursuits as "acting white."

Other scholars have studied Shaker Heights and other similar school districts and found little difference in the tendency of the kids to make fun of friends who do well in school, except that lower-income kids tend to do it more.

Since black students tend more often to come from lower-income families, they probably feel more of such peer pressures than white children do.

And other experts find that we unintentionally hand self-defeating messages down to our children in many ways.

Claude Steele, a Stanford University psychologist, for example, has more than a dozen years of research showing that black students, among others, tend to perform 10 to 15 points lower than whites out of anxiety that they might confirm the low expectations others have of their race.

With those findings and many others in mind, we should never make too much of the impact that teen culture may have on achievement. But we certainly shouldn't make too little of it, either.

Your attitude, in large measure, determines your altitude, as I once heard Jesse Jackson say. Your first step in achieving is to believe that you can achieve.

There is no shame in the mere fact that some groups show different levels of interest and performance in education and other skills.

It is only a shame if the low performers don't do something to improve.

Asian Americans outperform whites academically, for example, yet no one blames racism for white "underachievement."

Similarly, the rest of us should not reject useful insights about our children, either, even when it is a little painful to hear.

By facing obvious realities openly and honestly, we can begin to encourage a self-image among black youths that will help them to value their brains as much as their basketballs or the "bling-bling" and "ching-ching" of rap stars on MTV and BET.

Unfortunately, we parents tend too often to believe our kids are going to pick up these important messages on autopilot. Or we take too much comfort in hearing our children tell us how much they value good grades, as most of the black teens told Ogbu they do.

My 14-year-old son tells me the same thing. But I do not believe him until I see the results show up in his grades or in the time he devotes to his homework.

As Ronald Reagan told the leaders of the old Soviet Union: Trust, but verify.

Parents of teens fight a never-ending battle against the negative influences of their teens' peers. But it is a battle that must be fought relentlessly, as well as affectionately.

"We're doing this because we love you," my folks used to say when they put me on lockdown until my homework was done. Ha, I scoffed, how could such cruelty possibly be linked to love?

Lately I am realizing what they meant. Thanks, folks, wherever you are. I'll try to share the wealth.

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E-mail: cptime@aol.com


Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
nam myoho renge kyo
Original Post
Thanks mirahjay for the good advice. And the insight of Clarence Page and Dr. John U. ogbu.

This is a hard hurdle to get over. So much of our society subscribes to the "do as you want" philoshophy. We parents are often short on "responsibility and accountability" ourselves. It is hard to teach when it is not in your personal belief system.

PEACE

Jim Chester

You are who you say you are. Your children are who you say you are.
If the conclusions of this study are correct, which I believe is very plausible, then there has been a cultural shift in regards to whom has the biggest influence on shaping children today. It has become increasingly obvious that parents, in most or near most cases, are not molding the behavior or expectations of children today. What the information and media age has done is created competition for parents in shaping the lives of their children and the parents are losing ground.

One of the biggest problems with black kids is that they are exposed to too much media. Television and music take up far too much of our young people day and every moment spent doing one thing is a moment taken away from doing another. Thus, instead of working toward self-improvement, via study and exercise, they are too caught up watching the success of others via sports and music entertainment and fantasying how they can be a part of that fame and fortune.

It must be noted, however, that this trend is partly the by-product of parents chasing careers and or affluence and not being their enough hours in the day to guide, influence and shape the minds and expectations of their kids. This is not simply just a black phenomenon. In reality, when compared internationally, white American youth academic achievement does not rank very high. This has been true over the last 20 or 30 years. Yet, given that the CAPITAL in this world is concentrated in the hands of whites, whites that achieve less academically on the world stage, still end up the winners despite being less academically astute. This is because white capital circulates to benefits whites, more than others. This is why so many people in the world are drawn to where whites reside, because that is where the money is.

Also, you cannot dismiss the history of racism from the current reality. People often make the mistake of assuming that when black people say things are related to racism, that blacks are referring to contemporary racism and thus they discredit the accusation, but just trace the chain of actions and reactions. Due to past racism and its effect, blacks were under represented in all lucrative professions. However, racism in regards to entertainment broke down more complete than in other areas. This also coincided with the rise of Television, then cable television. Thus, blacks lived in a world void of the role model and images of blacks in succefull lucrative occupations, which whites have in abundance. Therefore the images that black youth saw of black success started to come from the entertainment industry of sports, music and film, through the television, which increasing became inundated with black success stories. Consequently, these TV blacks become the role models and examples that black youth aspire to emulate and it must be noted that education is not a prerequisite of the success blacks in entertainment achieve.

What has transpired now is a black youth culture that is being shaped and molded via TV and Music. Thus, part of the solution is to restrict the amount of TV and Music that we allow our youths to engage in. I am sure those that are proponents of individual freedom will object, but this is for their own good. However, our youth will continue to be influenced by other youth peers in their community, many of whom parents may not restrict their TV viewing and the influence of TV and Music driven culture is passed to our kids via their friends and associates. Thus, parents need to also be vigilant about the friends that their children keep and try to introduce friendships with families who share the same core values as you.

Tell dem to look before dem leap
Tell dem to think before dem speak
Tell dem to be careful of the goals that dem seek
Tell dem fi be careful of the friends that dem keep

- Message to the youth Taken from the lyrics of Capelton Jamaican Rastafarian .

Truth is always fraught with impediments. Truth agreed with is a blessed duet. Truth confronting beloved vice will sever relationships, perpetrate flight, and uncover murderous rage. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn


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Noah The African in America
As an addendum, we should therefore realize the POWER intrinsic in the media to shape the lives of our youth. If this power can lead our youth astray, then that power can lead our youth to where it is that we want them to go. Thus, BLACK CONTROL OF MEDIA IS PARAMOUNT TO OUR FUTURE. May I add not just ANY black control, but RIGHTOUS, black control of media. Today, we are losing black control of media weekly, as white owned media conglomerates, simply consumed by profit motive, are taking over. Therefore, if we lose control of the Media that is influencing and shaping our kids, then we are relinquishing the control of our children to people motivated by pure PROFIT, which means that in the competition they must continually push the moral envelope in order to win market share, rating and money, all to the detriment of our kids.

Truth is always fraught with impediments. Truth agreed with is a blessed duet. Truth confronting beloved vice will sever relationships, perpetrate flight, and uncover murderous rage. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn


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Noah The African in America
I find it amazing that they needed a study to make them realize the parents have to be engaged in what is going on in the lives of their kids. I spent 5 1/2 years overseas but I gurantee you that every phone conservation included me talking to my kids about their school work. I even had their teachers email me overseas how they were doing. I can't count the number of times I had my kids email school projects so Dad could check them and give them my input about their work. Despite being gone, between my wife and I we stayed on our kids about school enforcing the idea that education is the first step to toward improving oneself.

Noah is right in the aspect that so many parents are chasing careers that they have left the raising of their kids to their kids.
Ahhhh yes. The catch 22 of life is evident in this dilemma. There is NO way around it. To gain something means you have to give up something. This is the natural order, unless one CHEATS, which means giving up your morals and ethics, assuming one had them. Thus, in order to gain the goal of becoming the dominant influence in our children's live, what do we therefore give up as parents? Of course TIME is the core element here, that all else is born from. So what will we subtract TIME from, in our lives, to reallocate to our children?

If Time is money, then to reallocate TIME towards children will take away time that could possible create money or more of it? Therefore, should affluent black households lower their standard of living and or the amount of hours dedicated to work, education and self-improvement, in order to be more involved with their children? Just what are we willing to give up is the question, for thier is no Win-Win situation in a zero-sum universe. I think that STATUS and MATERIALISM and the ultimate TIME allocated for those purposes could be given up to benefit our children. That is a hard pill to swallow for many because STATUS is what motivates so many of us to achieve and if one removes the incentive of status, one likely will also remove the motivation to succeed.

Every action creates a reaction and every thing gained means something else given up. These are the natural rules of the cosmos, unless we cheat or shift consequences and reactions or delay them. Thus, as black people, every thing that we want to gain, MUST be undertaken with full consideration of what must be given up in exchange. In other words, we must understand the total cost, before we make the purchase or choice.

Truth is always fraught with impediments. Truth agreed with is a blessed duet. Truth confronting beloved vice will sever relationships, perpetrate flight, and uncover murderous rage. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn


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Noah The African in America
Not sure that everyone grasped the significance of this study.

What this study demonstrates is that its not that 'urban' schools are worse off than suburban, that 'money' is not the primary factor in teaching simple reading and writing and learning, that its not the curriculums or metal detectors or teachers salaries, and all the other common excuses for lack of learning.

It demonstrates that the problem lies within our own community. That the overall lack of Black academic achievement lies in the atmosphere, attitudes, and homelives that WE create as black parents for our own children.

Thats a very important step in understanding how our own so-called 'black pop culture' is destroying the motivation and respect for education. Something I might add that I've been talking up for a decade now, both publicly and privately.

Once again, the facts tell the TRUE story. If a man can learn by candlelight on a sod earthen floor and rise to become a lawyer and even president, if Ethiopians can attend a school in Africa with a single book for the entire class, and no windows in a one room school house, and RACE PAST American blacks in academic achievement and SAT scores, then surely we can teach children how to read, write, speak and learn EFFECTIVELY, once black parents and culture stop brainwashing them that the schools are racist or that society is holding them down.

Those things are not helpful to an aspiring student who wants to succeed, but is told he cannot because the world is against him. I've seen that attitude expressed RIGHT HERE ON AFRICAN AMERICAN ORG!

Cause and effect.
Sergeant, despite the learning in a Hut in Ethiopia, they are still POOR and a Nation without CAPITAL. Thus, education, in and of itself, does not produce income and wealth. Education and Opportunity born from the holders and spreaders of CAPITAL is what creates income and wealth. Capital, in and of itself, is income and wealth and thus those groups that disproportionately hoard capital will be the primary benefactors of capital regardless their relative degree of education to others.

In another thread you lamented that "WE" (while your were pretending to be black) did NOT exist in a Vacuum and that our fate is tied in with the white community at large. But yet here, you seem to imply that we (not you) DO exist in a vacuum from the white community and culture and therefore the origins of our dilemma emanates from within us.

Just so you will know, the so called black pop culture, driven by Hip Hop music, is fueled by white consumers who purchase 70% of the music, giving these black artist all the "bling bling" that our (not yours) youth aspire to emulate. Furthermore, the PROFIT motive shapes what is supplied in the market and that profit margin is the product of white youth purchases. Moreover, I dare say that capitalism and profit is thus a constraint on black positively in Music as profits will be reduced as the message in the Music changes to one that inspires black uplift, which white youth do not want to hear, as a general rule. Thus, you cannot be an proponent of Capitalism and be an opponent of what has transpired in the Hip Hop culture, because it is a pure capitalistic born phenomenon and a very SUCCESSFUL one at THAT.

Truth is always fraught with impediments. Truth agreed with is a blessed duet. Truth confronting beloved vice will sever relationships, perpetrate flight, and uncover murderous rage. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn


("`-''-/").___..--''"`-._
`6_ 6 ) `-. ( ).`-.__.`)
(_Y_.)' ._ ) `._ `. ``-..-'
_..`--'_..-_/ /--'_.' ,'
(((' (((-((('' ((((
Noah The African in America

[This message was edited by Noah The African on August 08, 2003 at 08:48 AM.]
Noah...

I thought you knew that Old Sarge if full of contradictions:

  • He's Michael Jackson - He's Black, He's White!

  • He says "Africa has nothing to offer" yet cites instances like Ethiopian educational values.

  • He basically says, as you have pointed out, that everything that we are is [White] American yet when it comes to something bad it's Black American.
    quote:
    Thats a very important step in understanding how our own so-called 'black pop culture' is destroying the motivation and respect for education. Something I might add that I've been talking up for a decade now, both publicly and privately.
    How do you quantify that Sgt.??

    The answer is, you simple can't.

    Sorry, you can't scapegoat one thing an act like you really have a clue. That's ignorant and silly. Yes, some elements of Hip Hop may not be very helpful but it is by far not the only thing.

    To try to project it as the biggest problem out there is completely disingenious and, like I said, scapegoating.
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