Nothing gives me more distress than passing a park with rows of black parents camped out to support their children in sports because when public schools open this fall, principals won’t be able to get the same parents to come to a PTA meeting.
Too many parents obsess with making their children professional athletes, yet education is still the primary means by which most Americans lift themselves up socially and most black children have no choice but to attend public schools.
The claim that charter schools are better than public schools has not been confirmed by research. Furthermore, any comparison of the two is useless since public schools must accept everyone and charter schools do not.
So, as the opening of school for the new academic year approaches, we must celebrate educators and education if our children are to compete in college and in the workplace. We must make education paramount in black communities.
We celebrate athletic achievement and undervalue academics. Do any of the children around us know that Reginald Lewis, a Harvard educator lawyer and investment banker, bought the Beatrice Corporation for $985 million and later became one of our first black billionaires?
How many know of neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson and his work in separating conjoined twins? How many have heard of Michelle Alexander, a renowned legal scholar, or Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize laureate? Allen Page, a former Minnesota Viking, went to law school and sat on the Supreme Court in Minnesota.
Scholars and thinkers rule the world.
Studies indicate that blacks have the lowest high school graduation rate in America, slightly above 50 percent, and when we do graduate, according to Jawanza Kunjufu, it is often with the equivalent of an eighth-grade education.
Kunjufu, who wrote Keeping Black Boys Out of Special Education in 2011, is a longtime advocate of education for minority students. He says by fourth grade many black students fall behind by one grade level; by eighth grade, two levels; and four levels by grade 12.
We are not unintelligent but Asians and whites pay greater attention to education than we do. Black children spend up to 20 hours weekly in athletics and less than five hours studying for school, by some estimates. We lead in watching television.
Black children can learn. Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist, published Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983 in which he indicated that there are many ways to be smart. He said that you can be musically, mathematically/logically, visually/spatially, linguistically, kinesthetically, intrapersonally and interpersonally intelligent. He later added spiritual and naturalistic intelligences to his list.
Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Li’l Wayne and Jay-Z have musical intelligence. Oprah, Henry Louis Gates Jr., teachers and lawyers have linguistic intelligence. Tiger Woods, Venus Williams and Serena Williams, dancers and actors have kinesthetic (physical movement) intelligence. Astronauts, scientists and architects have mathematical/logical intelligence. Artists and contractors have visual/spatial intelligence.
Additionally, Gardner says that these intelligences are also learning styles. If your child is a kinesthetic learner who must move or learn by doing but has a teacher who is a linguistic learner, they are not matched well. That teacher may fail your child, not realizing why the child doesn’t learn well in that class.
Learning requires compatibility between teacher and student. Our children are smart. If your child can remember lyrics, he can learn mathematics.
Make education a priority in your home. Demand that your children spend more time reading than watching television. Teach them to use technology as a learning tool. Make your home a literacy-rich environment from the time your child is born and keep it what way. Let your children see you study. Celebrate education daily.
*Jeffrey Dean Swain is vice-president of the International Black Doctorates Association Inc., an administrator/instructor of law at Florida Memorial University, author and minister. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and holds juris doctor and Ph.D degrees.