America, Make Black Lives Better!
Mom likes all her children, but when one is ailing, that one matters. Black lives are ailing. Black Lives Matter. It is that simple.
Americans saw what they saw in George Floyd’s killing and it is not the America they want. They know in their heart it is not just about a Black man killed by a racist cop without heart. They know there is something systematically wrong about what happened and most are unified this July 4th: America needs to change.
Floyd, a different man in the last seven years of his life, had put his troubled past behind him. He became religious, mentored struggling kids, and doted over his daughter Gianna. He told of his love for his mom with a tattoo on his belly, survived Corona virus, lost employment and attempted $20 theft, and succumbed to racism.
America needs to change: To give Black children like Gianna a better education; To give young Black adults at places like Cuney Homes — where Floyd was raised and made it to college — a financially viable, hopeful future; To understand what centuries of racism can inflict on a people and to overcome bias against Black people. The rest of this article is about part one.
I had the opportunity to be in two summer camp classes each with about twenty elementary school Black children from a historically poor neighborhood. I presented slides showing Black people with careers in science and technology today, and then gave them a computational puzzle to solve. I remember their eager faces and the many little hands that went up every time I asked them something. They were just children, excited and engaged about learning. So why exactly do so many Black children fall behind in learning?
Do Black children get a lesser education? I heard this from a perceptive fourth grader who was placed briefly in the ‘’wrong’’ section with mostly Black or Hispanic children. A typical ‘’learning’’ and assessment activity was this: You bounce a ball and when it bounces back to you, you catch it and say, “I am back.” It is supposed to teach kids about bouncing back. The weekly highlight of learning was a walk on the small nature trail behind the school. if there was any other learning, it was about a few factoids. What the children in these classes were getting is knowledge at the lowest level of the learning pyramid in Bloom’s taxonomy (educators’ terminology), without any motivating discussion of how to use or apply that knowledge to anything of interest. The net result of this lesser education, without the intent or excitement to engage, year after year, is that children quickly devalue education. Integrating Black children yet providing them a differential education is not a solution.
While some learning happens at school, much happens at home. A common refrain I hear from some friends and relations is that unlike their parents who emphasized education, Black parents don’t. My education research colleague counters this noting that research has shown that all parents, no matter who they are, want their children to learn and be educated well! Black parents may not have the supporting structures of their counterparts, but they care for their children’s education like all others! They face obstacles others don’t.
America needs to change. Make Black children’s education better! It matters.
A bit about one Black parent I know well.
She cares. Her three daughters study science and engineering in college.