Education matters

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-"Let me tell you something, Your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it's cursing and calling each other [the N-word] as they're walking up and down the street. They think they're hip. They can't read. They can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and they're going nowhere."- Bill Cosby

Rewind to 1958. America went through one of the most significant judicial turning points in the development of our nation,Brown vs. Board of Educationdeclared segregation unconstitutional. After earning these rights, one would think a good education would be priority for minorities, Blacks especially. But why, over fifty years later, do minorities continue to struggle with poverty, unemployment, and education? Each year, criticisms are made towards the education system. Proposals are made on solutions, and every year they fail. Blaming schools and government is no longer a valid excuse. The usual argument of, "well, minorities are poorer," cannot be applied, because there are more poor whites than blacks and Hispanics combined (Cook).There is a cultural problem with the black community hindering the performance achieve in schools.

To begin, Black students quit school far more often than other groups, about 35 percent, shows the data from California Department of Education.Latinos are next, at 26 percent. About 12 percent of white students drop out, and about 8 percent of Asian Americans do (Asimov).Over the past twenty-three years I was fortunate to have grown up in a family with three major cultures. My Mexican grandmother from my mother's side raised me mostly. My grandma married a Filipino man so my life was also heavily influenced by his culture. My dad's side is African-American and although I did not grow up with him, I did get to spend one whole year with him after I graduated from high school. In the observations I have made throughout my own life, I found my Black culture to be a bad influence when it comes to education.

The city Oakland was notorious in 1997 for their 1.8 grade point average for black students (Oubré).A proposal was made to teach students in Ebonics, in hopes of reaching out to black students, but was shot down largely by the public.Some linguists claimed that written English to be evasive and deceptive. Native speakers, white people, in the dominant culture readily grasp the subtle signals of Standard English, whether spoken or written. But children from minority groups often do not learn, at an early age, the subtle codes of Standard English. As a result, minorities were thought to be at a disadvantage when it came to quickly deciphering the, sometimes, implicit meanings associated with English words, phrases, and grammatical structures.

Oakland, being a poverty stricken city, may not be the best example of African-American culture failing their children.In an upscale Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, the black parents came to expect their children to transition into becoming lawyers, doctors, and insurance-brokers. They were not prepared for the rude awakening that their kids lagged behind their white classmates.The results were surprising, Blacks held a 1.9 GPA while their white counterparts held down an average of 3.45.A Black UC Berkeley Anthropology Professor, John Ogbu, researched into the dilemma and came to the conclusion that the average black student at that school put little effort into their school work as part of a resistance to "act white"(Goldsmith).This is an example of culture holding them back from educational success.

I would like to share a brief account of my family history in hopes that it will further the understanding of a Black-American. My African-American grandmother is a very tenacious woman. She had seven kids and she worked, as a single mother, full time. She had one daughter, the oldest child, and she ended up raising her siblings while my grandmother worked. In my grandma's time she was considered lucky to have a job, and was thankful that she could work 12-14 hours a day for the extra income it provided. My dad and his brothers became accustomed to eating dinner around 9 -10 at night, when their mother came home. She was unable to monitor her children's educational progress. In fact, she was of very little influence to her children. All they knew was that society took their mother away from them and worked her to exhaustion. There was no hope in a future working of "nine to five", they concluded, and for a while decided to take as much from society as they felt was "deserved". Where was the father you may be wondering? He over-dosed on drugs, rumored to be cocaine -- according to my stepmother, before his last son was born. My father and his brother's have told me numerous stories on the hard life of Inglewood, Compton, and Scottsdale where they grew up. His older brother, Chris, set the example for the six brothers to follow. When he used to walk home, alone, he would get beat up by Samoans for his shoes or jacket. He ended up joining a gang called Waterfront Piru Bloods to protect him from the Samoan nation, which were their rivals. The focus was hardly on school, it was only to survive another day and make another dollar. If they wanted to be cool they needed to wear expensive Jordans and Nike Jackets, and since my grandma was not going to pay for anything except the essentials, they stole cars and sold drugs for the money. Five of my grandmother's sons have a criminal record.

Life was different for her youngest son, my uncle Glen. My grandmother had finally moved out of Los Angeles and found a nice quiet town in Mesa, Arizona. He grew up in a school with white kids. He never joined a gang and today he is the most successful out of all his siblings. Glen graduated from Arizona State College with high honors and now owns a chain of group homes. His brothers, my father included, view him as arrogant and "white-washed". This account is perfect evidence of what happens in America every day to minorities. My father will never change, he often brazenly proclaims, "I am too proud to change my ways". There are very few qualities to look up to with a parent like this and this is how so many minorities grow up today.

In a survey done by Oakland School District, 19 teachers were asked to name one thing that would improve student performance. Most of the teachers suggested something different, such as attendance or high expectations. Only two things were mentioned more than once. Two said smaller class size and five said parent participation. Parent participation is unequivocally crucial in improving student performance. Extensive research has shown parental involvement significantly increases a student's success in school (Chen).

In a study done by a researcher from the Graduate School of Management, Ray Friedman, he asserts the nomination of President Obama could close the black-white test gap in what psychologists call the "stereotype threat". When being reminded that one belongs to a certain group, the African-American race for instance, one is inclined to feel pressure to establish their own classification of who they are. Incidentally, I once told a female that men are better in everything we put our minds to, and that is why we run the world. She retorted that women endure pain and monotonous work better than men. She had a point; the underlying fact that a woman can do a tedious job such as answering a phone all day, as a receptionist, is evidence to it. I later thought about how sexist I was being and withdrew my earlier statement to her. She opened up after my apology.She told me that she is reminded, almost everyday, of the fact that she is a woman. That is why she gives her full attention to school and plans to surpass the typical expectation of a minority female. There are studies going on right now on what, if any, impact Obama will have on the Black-American generation. Experts are cautious to admit their findings until further evidence is found. Regardless on what they find, it is still so conspicuous that minorities need good role-models to follow.

In a recent study, more than half -- 54 percent -- of the nation's dropouts ages 16 to 24 were jobless on average during 2008. Black dropouts experienced the highest jobless rates at 69 percent followed by Asians at 57 percent and Whites at 54 percent. Hispanic dropouts had the lowest jobless rates at 47 percent, reflecting the higher employment rate of young Hispanic immigrants (Treviño). The findings of the study reflect two realities that exist in the Latino community: Latino students drop out to go to work or stay home because they're pregnant.

After examining the above data, a female blogger for Latino Lista proclaims, "This information reflects what has long been known to happen among Latino youth, especially immigrant families. Most Latino boys don't drop out of school to hang out on street corners -- they do it to help provide for their families." This reason is very hard to combat when trying to convince students that there is value in staying in school. When it comes down to a difference between helping feed the family and keeping a roof overhead, immediate need always wins out.

I have an inclination to agree with Marisa Treviño's assumption. I know several people, consisting of friends and family, who dropped out of school to help the family pay bills. My own sister, who managed a 3.8 GPA at Steele Canyon High School, dropped out during her senior year when she got pregnant. She eventually got her GED and is attending Santa Monica College, mainly because of the large amount of help she receives from my family and financial aid.

Furthermore, year after year new education reforms are proposed by school experts to cure the educational problems minorities have. They repeatedly fail and one expert even openly admits, "...start by being honest and saying that we do not know what works for the educationally disadvantaged student, that we do not know how to get students thinking on a higher level, that we do not know how to increase their motivation to learn, and that we do not know how to systematically blend the best of progressive and traditional ideas" (Cody).

On the other hand, it is unfair to place all responsibility on the parents and students. Schools curriculums are responsible for a balanced education regardless of a student's disabilities. My freshman year in high school I was placed in a non-college prep English class. I received an "A" that first semester and they put me in a higher class the next semester. When I reached my senior year I was told by my counselor that I had to retake my first semester English class at college prep level if I wanted to be accepted into college. There was no reason that should have happened since my grades in eighth grade were above average. Schools need to pay more attention to the placement of students. Whether I was placed in that class because I was a minority, or because of a paperwork error, had that happened to an already struggling student, he could have failed getting into college, had he not had the extra time to do that class.

An additional reason teenagers drop out is because of budget cuts. Budget cuts are likely to make classrooms bigger. This is most noticeable in big cities where the drop outs are higher. Smaller classrooms are easier to control and every student is more likely to get the attention they need.Bush proposed to eliminate $95 million of funding to after school / summer school programs.An estimated five million children are left home alone after school.Research shows that the hour after school is when student crime peaks (Chow).

I understand that not all families in America will follow the same lifestyles as mine depending on race. I am stereotyping but the only reason stereotypes even exist is because they are true to a certain extent. What does this have to do with education? It has everything to do with education. Society blames schools, teachers, and the government for minority's school troubles. Schools develop new teaching techniques where the problem is really poor. Government awards scholarships and financial aid to certain demographics, yet minorities continue to struggle in high school and fail to continue on through college. I resisted the urge to act like some of the neighborhood black kids and was labeled an outcast by them.Now I am running into them years later and after finding out what they have been up to, I am disappointed to hear they have felonies, kids, and are unemployed.

When one hears shocking statistics like, male dropouts of all races are 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers of a similar age who had graduated from a four-year college or university, you begin to understand why high school dropouts is an epidemic.Something is wrong with the African-American culture.It needs to change first by recognition of the problem, then help from others.If you are not a minority, and believe yourself to be a positive role model, think about accepting one in your group of friends.The African-American culture needs to integrate with the rest of society, and it needs to happen soon.

Works Cited

Asimov, Nanette. "California's high school dropout rate at 20%."SF Gate. San Francisco Chronicle, 13 May 2009. Web. 2 Nov. 2009. <>.

"Bad rap on high school graduation rates - Education-"Breaking News, Weather, Business, Health, Entertainment, Sports, Politics, Travel, Science, Technology, Local, US & World News- 2009 The Associated Press, 31 Mar. 2008. Web. 01 Nov. 2009. <>.

Begley, Sharon. "An 'Obama Effect' on Blacks' Test Scores?"Newsweek. Newsweek, 23 Jan. 2009. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. <>.

Chen, Grace. "Parental Involvement is Key to Student Success."Public School Review. Public School Review LLC, 25 Mar. 2008. Web. 30 Oct. 2009. <>.

Chow, Barbara, and Lawrence Mishel. "Tax Cuts and Consequences: Bush Budget Plan Will Require Steep Reductions in Real Spending Over Next Decade."Economic Policy Institute. 2009 Economic Policy Institute, 31 Mar. 2001. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. <>.

Cody, Anthony. "Raising Our Standards: Assessment and Equity in the Oakland Public Schools."Cody's Science Education Zone. Aug. 1997. Web. 30 Oct. 2009. <>.

Cook, Brian J., and Diana L. Cordova.Minorities in Higher Education. Rep. American Council on Education, 2007. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. <>.

Goldsmith, Susan. "Rich, Black, Flunking."East Bay Express. 21 May 2003. Web. 01 Nov. 2009. <>.

Harris, Hamil R., and Paul Farhi. "Debate Continues as Cosby Again Criticizes Black Youths (" - nation, world, technology and Washington area news and headlines. 2004 The Washington Post Company, 3 July 2004. Web. 25 Oct. 2009. <>.

Oubré, Alondra. "Black English Vernacular (Ebonics) and Educability."African American Web Connection - Best web resources for the African American community. AAWC, 1997. Web. 27 Oct. 2009. <>.

Sum, Andrew, Ishwar Khatiwada, and Joseph McLaughlin.The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School. Publication. Comp. Sheila Palma. Labor Market Studies Northeastern University Boston, Massachusetts, Oct. 2009. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. <>.

Treviño, Marisa. "New study shows most Latino students drop out of high school for economic need."Latina Lista. Latina Lista, 14 Oct. 2009. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. <>.