In This Case, It's The Parents' Fault – From My Vault
The following syndicated commentary was published February 10, 2004. It was the fault of parents then and it is even more so today.
A recent news article caught my attention. The writer asserted that “Fifty years after Brown v. Topeka, the nation’s schools are almost as segregated as they were before this historic decision [the desegregation of schools] and the distribution of resources by race is almost as skewed.”
I reject the first part of the author’s premise as an attempt to have a situation support a flawed theory. It is however the second part of his statement that I take umbrage with. This reasoning has too often been used to explain away underachieving and failing black inner-city students.
It’s not a lack of money, books, smaller class sizes, highly paid teachers, air-conditioned classrooms, science labs, computers or the latest academic bells and whistles – it is parental failure, the inclusion of negative cultural ideologies to the exclusion of sound biblical truths, the lack of discipline and the unwavering acceptance of failure as being the fault of someone else.
No matter the excuse, reason or paradigm used, “Black underperformance in school is caused – foremost – by poor parenting.” (“Home Alone” by James J. Heckman and Amy L. Wax, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 23, 2004)
I was raised in a single-parent home, by a mother with an eighth-grade education (which she obtained in six years of schooling), who scrubbed floors to support us.
Yet every evening after dinner, she would sit with me, teaching me arithmetic and reading. When I was in fourth grade, she took advantage of a school music program that enabled her to make payments on a clarinet purchase for me, at a time when she was earning less than $20 a week. A clarinet, I might add, that my son – who is an accomplished classical clarinetist – plays today. For her, faith in God and my education were more important than mascara, the latest fashions, CDs, booze, cigarettes or excuses.
Children are naturally inquisitive, they want to learn. And I would argue that city children have a more hands-on opportunity to take advantage of this. The inner city may be a lot of negative things, but it is bordered by book shops and museums that parents can avail their children of for free.
Heckman and Wax point out that “Poverty does not explain observed [education] gaps …” They objectify that “Young black children are exposed to much lower levels of cognitive and emotional stimulation than white children, even in families with comparable income, education and IQ. They watch more TV, read fewer books and converse and go on educational outings with their families less often.”
As children we were encouraged to learn – in turn, we challenged one another. We went to schools without black teachers. In my combined 26 years of schooling, I never had a black teacher or professor. My mother had only white teachers during her few years of schooling. Yet, all in my family and the community received educations – many learned skills they employ today.
We were taught the value of a good education. We were taught that raising our children was our responsibility not that of “Head Start.” We were taught the importance of self-sufficiency, the absolutes of God Almighty – and when we broached them, we were reminded they existed.
Doing well in school for us was expected – we didn’t view getting good grades as being like “whitey.” Frederick Douglas, George Washington Carver, Carter Woodson, Ward Connerly, Clarence Thomas, and Thomas Sowell – to name but a few – are excellent models of positive educational outcomes. Often these are vilified as not being black enough, while the children of the very parents making said accusations are failing in staggering numbers.
Instead of allowing their children to grab their crotches, spew verbatim immoral rap lyrics and foster the highly unlikely reality they will become sports superstars, black parents must take personal responsibility for encouraging their children to learn. They are the ones responsible for their learning environment.
Today’s educational system is much like today’s political system. It is about self preservation. The more failures they can point to, the more money they can ask for to fix said problems.
It is parents – not fistfuls of money – that will encourage children to learn. And it is teachers who teach – not facilitate – who will properly prepare them for the next level.
About the Author
Mychal S. Massie is an ordained minister who spent 13 years in full-time Christian Ministry. Today he serves as founder and Chairman of the Racial Policy Center (RPC), a think tank he officially founded in September 2015. RPC advocates for a colorblind society. He was founder and president of the non-profit “In His Name Ministries.” He is the former National Chairman of a conservative Capitol Hill think tank; and a former member of the think tank National Center for Public Policy Research. Read entire bio here