Black children deserve better
By Jonella A. Mongo
Forerunners like Carter G. Woodson, Mary McLeod Bethune and George Washington Carver must be walking out of their grave sites because of the dismal state of Black children across the country. In their time, they faced enormous obstacles and had far less financial support. Today, even with billions of dollars being poured into education, African American children still find themselves in inadequate and poorly funded schools.
The mistreatment and miseducation of Black students particularly in Michigan is disgraceful. African American children across the state regardless of socioeconomic levels are not faring well. Reading and math scores on the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) test continue to indicate a huge gap between racial and ethnic groups.
This indicates not only an academic gap, but a gap of opportunity to attend schools that are safe and clean, with stimulating learning environments — environments that prepare them to be critical thinkers, team players and innovators for the next generation.
Colleagues and parents from Pontiac to Ann Arbor and back to Detroit have horror stories about what is happening to Black children academically and socially in schools. Low test scores, high rates of suspensions, increased numbers in special education and on and on. So, what can we all do to help improve the quality of life and education of Black children?
First of all, every parent must let their child know they value education and look for ways to lift up the power of knowledge. This requires no money whatsoever. Even as many of our families struggle with day-to-day challenges, they continue to make sure their children are in school. When in school, it is imperative teachers acknowledge students’ strengths and assets. If all we ever focus on is what they can’t do, we never see what they can do. Teachers who can’t name at least a few things your child does well probably shouldn’t be teaching them.
Moreover, it is critical more African Americans consider a career in education. At one time professional opportunities were limited for Blacks, but as this improved, fewer are becoming teachers. Unfortunately, many of our children will go through school without ever having a Black teacher, since statistics show 88 percent of teachers are white, middle-class females.
If we are to make gains and improvements in our communities, we must recruit high quality, caring and committed adults to work with Black children. Educators who recognize and honor the historical and cultural traditions that make us unique, who respect differences — understanding difference does not mean deficit.
Lastly, we must all advocate for better pay for teachers working in settings that require intense educational interventions and supports for Black students. There is no way we can expect to employ and retain skilled and dedicated teachers paying them wages well below other professionals with the same level of college training.
African American parents had better start to ask each other “Do you know who is teaching your child?” and do something about it if it is clearly not the right person. Even in the one-room school houses of yesteryear, Black students were educated. So no more excuses, let’s all get busy doing what we can do to improve the plight of our children.
Jonella A. Mongo is an educator, author and education consultant.