When I was in the second grade, my teacher asked each student to read a passage aloud. It was my turn, and I was nervous because I was shy, but I read the passage as asked. After I was done, a little black girl that sat beside me made a slightly disgusted face, and whispered to me, “You sound white”.
This was something that confused me at the time, but little did I know, I was going to hear this from many more people in the future. Even now, people still tell me I sound white.
When I first heard this, I didn’t know what it meant. Then I saw other black students being accused of the same thing. I noticed that all those students were very smart. They made good grades, they read well-they were pretty bright students. It was then when I realized “You sound white” really meant “You sound educated.”
By the time I was in third grade, I began trying to sound “black”. I listened to the way my black friends spoke, and tried to talk like them. I have to admit, I didn’t hear very many “You sound white” comments that year. I had finally fit in with my race.
My “sounding black” didn’t last long. I eventually went back to “sounding white”, but I started to wonder why sounding white was such a disgusting thing. To me, white was a color, not a way of speaking, but either way, why was everyone making such a disgusting face at me when they said it?
Back in the slave days, blacks would sneak and hide to read and write, since it wasn’t permitted. They wanted education. Some of our greatest black heroes were educated. Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, you name it. Now, we view education as a “white thing.” What happened?
This mentality that black students have comes from no other than our culture itself. Although most of us know how to read and write, that doesn’t mean we like to. It doesn’t mean we value it. A lot of us were raised by people who don’t have confidence and hope in their own children, or other black people for that matter. They believe that we are less smart than white people, and that’s just the way it is. They see no reason for things to change.
When I was in high school, we had an award ceremony where the most accomplished students got certificates. Almost everyone that walked across the stage was white. The school was 85% black, but at least half of the 15% white population was on stage, and the vast majority of the black students were watching in the audience-including me. I felt so embarrassed, my eyes started to water. How could that many black students get outperformed by a minority of white students that only made up 15% of the school’s population?
A 2009 report from the National Center of Education Statistics found that black students scored an average of 27 points lower than white students on fourth grade reading, and 26 points lower on eighth grade reading.
Just recently, my 9 year old cousin asked her father to sign a form that confirmed to her teacher that she read a chapter in a book that she issued out to them. Her father asked her if she read the book, she said no. Then he said, “I’ll sign it after you read it.” My cousin broke out in a loud cry-all because her father told her to read.
Soon after that, another 9 year old cousin of mine revealed to me that he doesn’t like to read, either. The school has an incentive program where they give the students treats for reading a certain amount of books a month. My cousin said, “I only read so I can get a candy bar.”
I must tell you, both of these kids loved to read just last year! What has gotten a hold of them over that short period of time to destroy their desire to read?
The NCES also reports that black students are 2-3 years (on average) behind white students in education. I know this is true because I was in a seventh grade class with black students who read like third graders. As a matter of fact, when I was in high school, some of my class mates read like third graders!
Researchers are relating this issue to money. They found that poor black students are more likely to be behind in education, and wealthy white students do the best in school. They also found that poor white students score as high as wealthy black students.
Over the years people have invested more and more money into the public education system to address this problem, but I’m afraid that this may not be an issue of money, but more of an issue of the child’s everyday environment. Education doesn’t start at school-it starts at home.
I don’t know how to explain why poor kids score lower than wealthy kids, but I think it’s an issue of what kind of standards the parents set for the kids. Since wealthy parents have obviously accomplished something great, they expect their kids to do the same. A wealthy parent knows firsthand that a person is capable of doing better, because they have. They worked hard to get what they have, so they believe their children can do the same. They are less likely to accept bad report cards from their kids. They know their kids can do better.
On the other hand, poor parents have a rough time making it comfortably though life. Since it’s always a constant struggle for them, they have lower standards on what’s possible for their kids. When their kids aren’t doing well in school, the parents have no living proof that their kids can do better (at least no living proof that would have an effect on their child). They are their kid’s first role model, and they’re poor. How can a teacher encourage a poor black student to accomplish things when he comes from an under-accomplished family?
It takes a lot of work to turn things around, but I think this one is simple. Black parents need to start investing time and energy in their kids despite their income. Read entertaining books to your babies. Talk to your kids with good grammar so they can learn to do it too. Help them with their homework. Check their homework. Keep books in the house, including dictionaries and encyclopedias. Encourage them to go the library. Enroll them in some afterschool tutoring programs. It’s also necessary you as the parent to take on further education, too.
These are simple steps to take to improve your child’s education. It only takes two things: will power and time. Isn’t your child worth it? After all, Barack Obama’s mother did it for him, and look who he became!*For more elaboration on steps to take to fix the problem, read “8 Simple Tips To Improving Your Child’s Education”. Feel free to click on my profile, then click “Follow” to receive an email of my article links when I publish new articles. Also follow VanityGoddess on twitter!