Saturday, May 19, 2007

Why Tyrone Can't Learn... The Achievement Gap

I'll keep this one short & sweet.

Since I'm now tasked, by God, with raising a young black boy, who will be of school age in a few years, every time I hear stories about the Achievement Gap between black and white students, I'm puzzled by the solutions that "educators" propose as a remedy.

Report after report is issued. Studies are conducted. White papers are presented. Pilot programs are implemented. All-male classes are considered. Dress codes are adopted. More black male teachers are needed. More funding is needed for special education. More funding is needed for better facilities. More tutors and role models are needed to mentor the kids.

All of these things are fine and dandy, but they miss the far bigger point that's the proverbial elephant in the room nobody wants to acknowledge: black culture.

Black kids aren't dumb. White kids aren't smart. Asian kids aren't just naturally good at math. People learn by repetition, pure and simple. The more time you spend doing something, the better you'll probably get. If you spend 20 hours a week on quadratic equations, you'll probably become good at math. If you spend that same 20 hours working on your crossover dribble, you'll be nice on the court. Of course, being good at math can lead you to a boatload of career choices (accountant, engineer, physicist), most of which will get you pizzaid. Being good at basketball, unless you've got a wicked "J" and are 6 foot 10, will probably just result in you being the best dude at the "Y". So obviously, it's pretty important to choose where you're spending your time and effort wisely.

Asians excel in school because academic achievement is such a strong (in some cases too strong) element of their culture. White kids are (generally) fed a strong dose of "work to achieve" ethos, and have external affirmation of the proper motivation for this in abundance. Seriously, when's the last time you heard a white person use the words "positive role model"?

Black people (in general) place far too much emphasis on style over substance. Athleticism over intellect. Dancing over critical thinking. Chillin' over reading. The whole "being smart is acting white" phenomenon is ages old, and isn't going anywhere until someone calls it for what it is.

Of course, no school superintendent in his right mind, not even a black one, would be bold enough to say this. For many parents, it's easier to blame the schools, and white female teachers unfamiliar with black boys, and "tracking", etc. But that doesn't make up for the problem: we need to study more, and bullshit far less.

This is all easier said than done of course. Heck, after I clock a solid nine at the Day Job and spend an hour in traffic slogging home, the last thing I'm thinking about is more work. But I know that unless I break these habits on my own, I can't help AverageBaby with his calculus when that day comes.

Like all wars, this one starts at home. I'm taking up my armor.

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