For Discussion: Urban Education Expert Says We Need To Stop Blaming Black Parents For Underachievement

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Categories: For Discussion, For the Children, News

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Education Expert Breaks Down Notion Of Black Parents Indifferent To Education

We’ve all heard (and sometimes regurgitated) the idea that a child’s academic achievement starts with the parents. One Urban Education professor stresses that there are many other factors to consider before just assuming that if a Black child underachieves, his or her parents are probably lazy and don’t put value on grades and higher learning.

From Andre M. Perry for WashingtonPost:

Mayors, teachers unions, and news commentators have boiled down the academic achievement gap between white and black students to one root cause: parents. Even black leaders and barbershop chatter target “lazy parents” for academic failure in their communities, dismissing the complex web of obstacles that assault urban students daily. In 2011, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg exemplified this thinking by saying, “Unfortunately, there are some parents who…never had a formal education and they don’t understand the value of an education.” Earlier this year, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman diagnosed that city’s public schools’ chief problem: the lack of “active, radical involvement of every parent.” And even President Obama rued last week that in some black communities, gaining education is viewed as “acting white.”

Clearly, there is widespread belief that black parents don’t value education. The default opinion has become “it’s the parents” — not the governance, the curriculum, the instruction, the policy, nor the lack of resources — that create problems in urban schools. That’s wrong. Everyday actions continuously contradict the idea that low-income black families don’t care about their children’s schooling, with parents battling against limited resources to access better educations than their circumstances would otherwise afford their children.

Research backs up the anecdotal evidence. Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research recently found that African Americans are most likely to value a post-secondary education in becoming successful, at 90 percent, followed by Asians and Latinos. Whites, at 64 percent, were least likely to believe higher education is necessary for success.

When judging black families’ commitment to education, many are confusing will with way. These parents have the will to provide quality schooling for their children, but often, they lack the way: the social capital, the money and the access to elite institutions. There is a difference between valuing an education and having the resources to tap that value.

A study released this month found 26 percent of ACT-tested students were college-ready in all four subject areas. Among low-income students, college-readiness dropped to just 11 percent. The study determined that it was poverty, not motivation or attitudes, that contributed to the lower performance. “Nearly all ACT-tested students from low-income families in the United States aspire to go to college — at an even higher rate than students overall — but many lack the academic preparation to reach this goal,” the ACT noted.

So the problem seems to be far more socioeconomic than racial…but we live in a nation that associates “poor” with “Black/brown.” What are your thoughts?

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