No amount of administrative, legislative, changes that are going to be made to the schools in Washington soon, will mean anything at all to the performance of Blacks in any kind of American learning institutions…with the exception of the University of Hard Knocks—unless the students involved arrive at school ready, eager to, and prepared to learn. A yearning for learning, so to speak.
So the Mayor appoints a new Schools Chancellor. The President appoints a new War Czar. Big deal. Neither will have much affect in the schools, in the streets of Baghdad.
There is too much attention focused on the top-level leadership of the schools, and not enough attention paid to creating an environment, a culture, where learning is a virtue. Oh sure, some individual “stars” will be born, sooner or later, but we are hard pressed to have a really lasting affect on Black peoples’s schools without doing a cultural 180.
Pianist composer Sun Ra said it, and I’ll repeat it and repeat it. “We’re on the right road. We’re just headed in the wrong direction.”
Black people should want to become, once again, the prosperous, united, intelligent, peaceful people we once were, who gave civilization to the world. If that was the case, our schools would be academies, everywhere.
But we would rather be a 1st Round Draft Pick, than a 19th Round Spelling Bee Contender. As difficult as it is to acquire knowledge under any circumstances, we place our value on the silliest and least consequential matters, and have cultural obsessions with them, style over substance all the way.
We pass it on to our children. Cute. Bling. Free breakfast and lunch at school. We buy what we want. We beg for what we need.
We’re the only people who are so susceptible to the influence the Thug Life, that we don’t even know it. Our school children fall into three categories. No. 1. The smallest group: the intelligent, the educationally receptive. Those who want to succeed, and are working, determined to succeed. No. 2. A larger group: the committed thugs, disruptive, with habitually bad intentions for everyone and everything. No. 3. The vast, vast majority: those who have the ability and desire to do well, but who are susceptible to being influenced into bad behavior by those in Group 2.
Here’s how they make our good children act bad.
They define as socially untouchable, anyone who is a: sucker, punk, mark, buster, square, or snitch, or who otherwise is “acting white” (i.e. intelligent).
In our culture, the thugs are winning. They won on M-TV and BET. They won on “Hot-99” Radio and on American Idol, and on VH-1, and on The Step Shows and the Drum Lines and the Hoop Dreams. We’d much rather be on the Jerry Springer Show, “Pimp My Ride,” “Girls Gone Wild,” “Judge Judy,” than “It’s Academic,” “Meet The Press,” “Washington Week.”
So, school chancellors come, and superintendents go, but nothing is going to change for real, except maybe some facile test scores, unless we change our cultural underpinning. Unless our children acquire a yearning for learning.
It’s not just something that can be solved by neighborhood, really. Not even by city or region. Our Thug Culture pervades urban, suburban, even exurban and rural communities, and out people lag behind in schools everywhere we go, because most of us—perhaps even our most brilliant and most gifted—are never even dealt into the right game, they’re too busy playing—sometimes very well—the superficial game we always play when we go to school and don’t learn anything.
Sure, it’s left over in us from slavery. But we’re our own worst enemies now. It’s not our superintendent. It’s not our chancellor. It’s us and our lack of yearning for learning.