Black Parents: We Must Regain Control Over Our Children’s Education

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Educating children is the primary responsibility of parents, not schools

AFRICANGLOBE – Last week’s controversy at Bronx, NY Junior High School 80 highlights the sad state of public education in America. According to news outlets, the school’s principal Mr. Emmanuel Polanco moonlights as pimp rapper “El Siki,” whose music video involves poppin’ champagne and carousing with blonde video vixens.

The El Siki case is no isolated event. Career Day at Crawford Long Middle School in Atlanta, Ga recently featured gangster rapper Gucci Mane. As I’ve argued elsewhere, rappers who pander songs about drug dealing and sex are not role models for youth.

These incidents highlight a serious problem in our communities: too many Black parents remain uninvolved in their children’s education. The students of Bronx JHS 80 knew the principal’s alter ego, but parents are just now finding out. Likewise, some parents at the Atlanta middle school claim that they were unaware that an ex-con rapper was scheduled to speak at their school. These events are allowed to occur because we are asleep at the wheel, no longer stewards of our children’s education.

Structural racism and poor school conditions contribute to the so-called “Black-White achievement gap”—a phrase we should be fighting to abolish. But the “hands off approach” taken by many Black parents also contributes to the problem.

President Barack Obama has chided Black parents for allowing academic achievement to take a backseat, as ballplayers and television personalities, rather than Black intellectuals serve as role models.

During the 2012 Chicago Teacher’s Strike, teachers pointed to uninvolved parents—not just overcrowding or dilapidated buildings—as a major reason why they should not be held responsible for the educational crisis there.

For decades, education research has confirmed that children succeed when parents spend time at school meetings, volunteer, read and help with homework. Unfortunately, Black parents are much less likely to exhibit these pro-schooling behaviors.

A national study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues last September shows that Black parents are less involved at their children’s schools.

Lower socioeconomic resources is also a factor; it’s hard to juggle multiple part-time jobs, daycare, and bake cookies for the school fundraiser. Still, the authors of that study say they were surprised to discover that Black parents with higher education and income levels are still less likely to get involved.

In the hands of politicians, these findings can be used to unfairly blame Black parents, and feed on racist assumptions about irresponsible Black mothers in particular.

Last month, Republicans in Tennessee proposed cutting the cash welfare payments to families with low achieving students. The image of lazy Blacks spending money on designer nails and Lexus SUV’s, instead of books, is an old favorite of conservative politicians and Bill Cosby.

The truth is that Black parents, like all parents, want their children to succeed. Part of the problem is that, as a study published last month in Journal of Educational Research found, Black parents are only likely to get involved when schools have formal outreach programs. Some Black parents are intimidated by parent-teacher conferences, and are afraid to confront school authorities because of previous bad experiences.

Likewise, there is a tendency for Black parents to only react when their child is misbehaving or having academic difficulties. The threat, “Child, don’t make me come down to that school” may be out of love and concern, but does not increase student achievement. An on-going presence at school, along with structured educational activities at home, is the key to ensuring school success.

We need more Black parents, regardless of social class, to become everyday-activists for their children’s education.

Ms. Gabrielle McGill-Carpenter, a Black mother, articulates this message for middle-class Black parents in a recent Washington Post commentary. According to Ms. McGill-Carpenter, the Black parents in her affluent, suburban school district spent too much “time, money, and energy on sports,” while their children were failing in school.  By simply organizing Black parents around academics, they were able to ensure that their children gained access to honor courses and mentoring in the school.

Part of reclaiming control over our children’s education should also ensure that Black culture and history are part of the formal or after-school curriculum. Research shows that when Black children feel good about themselves, they are more likely to achieve. Black book stores are wonderful places to gain knowledge of self, especially for families that choose to homeschool.

Schools don’t always act in the best interest of Black children. Engaged and vigilant parents have to be the first and last line of defense.


Travis L. Gosa is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University. He teaches courses on educational inequality, African American families, and hip hop culture. He can be reached at









"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins









Original Post


Educating children is the primary responsibility of parents, not schools

So why the hell are we sending out children to school? Why do people go to school to become teachers?  This statement makes no sense. Teachers are always complaining about lack of parental involvement, what about their lack of professionalism and concern? How about many teachers who work at many school districts don't even live in those school districts. I get so tired of hearing teachers bitch about our youth.

Now onto parents, yes we have a role. First off, we should take over school boards and PTAs. Let the cities, towns and states we live in know that we are not going to accept the pittance of money they give to black schools while they spend a majority of money at white schools and students. Let the federal gov't know that NCLB and RTTT does. not. work. Force the state to stop closing our black schools.

Again, there is enough blame to go around with this issue, as usual.

  We have teachers now who don't wanna teach or are afraid to teach.  And we have parents who don't get involved with what is going in schools and being a visual supporter.  Each is blaming each other for the deterioration of our schools.  But it should be a teamwork effort on both sides.  But I gotta tell ya there are some teachers I wouldn't let close to ANY student...and then there are some parents who shouldn't have ANY children.   So I think responsibility swings both ways in terms of what is needed for children today to be academically successful.  But!

Regain control?  When did they have it?  My mother sent me to a Catholic school though she taught me to read before I got there.  But the nitwit nuns never supplied anything decent to read.


So why haven't Black Americans created a National Recommended Reading List for Black kids regardless of what the palefaces are doing?


A Slave is a Slave, by H. Beam Piper


Thinking as a Science (1916) by Henry Hazlitt



  You're right Brothat Xum.  I was taught how to read before I went to kindergarten too.  That was the thang back then...we are probably in the same age group.  But it was the norm in my day to know your ABCs and how to write them..and to be able to recite the stories in those little 10 page books at show and tell during bbqs and birthdays in front of the grown folks.  That and watching the kids dance were grown folks form of family entertainment.  But! 

We need more Black parents, regardless of social class, to become everyday-activists for their children’s education.


This is the statement that many people agree with, as it sounds so wonderful.  Such a statement can be made to sound like common sense.


That is, until you look at the daily lives of the parents who are often the target of this type of commentary. 


So once again the world is made to believe that Black parentage is sub par not because of any substantive look at what parents are doing with what they have given the particular circumstances but because (in this case) what the author sees at being asleep at the wheel.


And how do we know parents are asleep?  Is it because of the support for  NCLB, RTTT or any number of charter school hustles?  Nope, because a rapper was invited to speak at a career day (interestingly no mention of what he actually said during talk---we are to take his very presence as cause for outrage)


*and i make that point as some who has NEVER liked Gucci Mane for any number of reasons*


We are to assume that the lack of parental involvement is due to the same things that lead to low Black employment (ie lazy, unskilled, unqualified, want someone else to do it for us etc etc.)  However, as with Black employment, that reasoning dissolves in the face of what's actually taking place in the U.S.

Instability in the home isn't limited (or equal to) an absent father.  There are two parent households that are just under financially making it monthly.  Working three jobs and still not making it, produces household tensions that affect children. 


That's real and a growing occurrence--but a far cry from 'yall Black parents are so damn lazy'


At the other end, Teaching as be steadily reduced to unskilled position (although it definitely is such).  There's social and economic reasons for this, both point to realities that Black people are still slow to accept.  The current state of the education system (especially as it relates to Black people) isn't designed to serve the needs of the people, but the needs of major corporations.  When corporations need massive influx of people, the system response to that.  However, it also responds when there no longer a need for massive amounts of people.  


you can't blame any of that on "lazy Black parents".

Brotha Xum wrote:  Let the palefaces tell us?


  I wouldn't cuz when it comes to technology I really DON'T think massa knows what he is doing.  Have you heard that in Cali the DMV has cancelled their billion dollar contract to computerize their entire department?  They found out after spending ALL that money that is not working and it is taking tooo long to iron out the kinks.  And and the court system here is also cutting their loses after spending millions and millions of dollars on a high-tech system that doesn't seem to work.  Maybe it's toooo big a job.  But that's our tax money going out the window.  And my point is massa is showing us big time that he REALLY doesn't know what the hell he is doing.  So I am gonna trust him to teach my kids?  Especially when I now have the information available to ME and I really don't need him to educate my children?  These are the questions new black parents should be asking themselves.  Cuz the proof of massa's incompetency when it comes to education our children is LARGE!!!!  And the most frightening thing ain't the 50s and 60s anymore.  We are not at his mercy any longer to provide educatobn for our children.  So now that we are in the 21st century....with all these high tech assessibilties at our finger what? Just askin.  But!

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