Dr. Marvin A. McMickle submitted a Unite Rochester blog post which was recently published in the Democrat and Chronicle. The full text of his article appears here:
After reading Transformation of the African American Intelligentsia: 1880-2012 by Martin Kilson of Harvard, I feel challenged to say a few words about test scores and graduation rates especially among African American males students in the Rochester City School District.
The book reminded the reader that from the end of the slave era in 1865, education was universally viewed by African Americans as one of the primary pathways to success in American society. Learning how to read was the first thing our ancestors did when they were finally able to shake off the shackles of slavery. They flooded into schools run by the Freedman's Bureau, and they enrolled in the dozens of church-sponsored black colleges that sprung up across the South.
Within two generations of slavery, African Americans were becoming physicians, lawyers, college presidents, political officeholders, authors, artists, religious leaders, and scholars of every type. They gave birth to such persons as W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Horace Mann Bond, Howard Thurman, Madame C.J. Walker, and Mordecai Johnson. African Americans at the turn of the 20th century did not simply view education as a means toward getting a job, they viewed education as a virtue to be aspired toward and achieved as part of their human formation.
How has it happened that this legacy of academic success and aspiration has been turned on its head by so many of their descendants that today are devaluing education and dropping out of school altogether? Too many of today's African American students are scorning the opportunity their great grandparents could only dream about. We cannot allow this present pattern to go on unchallenged.
In an increasingly high-tech world, there will soon be no opportunities for persons who do not value and achieve the highest level of education available to them.
If the problem is with the curriculum or the classroom context then we need to fix that. If the problem is with teachers that do not value or wish the best for the students before them, then we need to stop that. If the problem is inequitable funding within and between school districts we need to correct that. If the problem is in the homes and hearts of the students themselves then we need to address that. What we cannot do is simply sit on the sidelines and bemoan the current statistics.
It is to the advantage of everyone in the Greater Rochester area to be sure that all of our children are receiving a quality education no matter in what postal Zip Code they may live. We need to start laying the foundations now for the black intelligentsia of the future. Those who came before us and who worked so hard to achieve an education under conditions and restrictions we can hardly imagine, expect nothing less from their descendants. Very little awaits a high school dropout except the underground economy of illegal activities and the increased risk of any early grave that comes as a consequence of that lifestyle.
This is not the first generation of African Americans to contend with single-parent households, poverty, racism, violent streets, or underfunded schools. That is exactly the environment in which I and most of my generation pursued our education. My mother was the academic valedictorian of her high school class in Chicago, but she was not allowed to give the valedictory speech at her graduation, as was the custom in 1932, because she was an African American. It is time to stop making excuses and start making progress!
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