"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Rich, Black, Flunking

Rich, Black, Flunking

"The black parents wanted an explanation. Doctors, lawyers, judges, and insurance brokers, many had come to the upscale Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights specifically because of its stellar school district. They expected their children to succeed academically, but most were performing poorly. African-American students were lagging far behind their white classmates in every measure of academic success: grade-point average, standardized test scores, and enrollment in advanced-placement courses. On average, black students earned a 1.9 GPA while their white counterparts held down an average of 3.45. Other indicators were equally dismal. It made no sense...

Seeking guidance, one parent called a prominent authority on minority academic achievement.

UC Berkeley Anthropology Professor John Ogbu had spent decades studying how the members of different ethnic groups perform academically. He'd studied student coping strategies at inner-city schools in Washington, DC. He'd looked at African Americans and Latinos in Oakland and Stockton and examined how they compare to racial and ethnic minorities in India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and Britain. His research often focused on why some groups are more successful than others...

Their project yielded an unexpected conclusion: It wasn't socioeconomics, school funding, or racism, that accounted for the students' poor academic performance; it was their own attitudes, and those of their parents.

Ogbu concluded that the average black student in Shaker Heights put little effort into schoolwork and was part of a peer culture that looked down on academic success as "acting white." Although he noted that other factors also play a role, and doesn't deny that there may be antiblack sentiment in the district, he concluded that discrimination alone could not explain the gap.

"The black parents feel it is their role to move to Shaker Heights, pay the higher taxes so their kids could graduate from Shaker, and that's where their role stops," Ogbu says during an interview at his home in the Oakland hills. "They believe the school system should take care of the rest. They didn't supervise their children that much. They didn't make sure their children did their homework. That's not how other ethnic groups think."

It took the soft-spoken 63-year-old Nigerian immigrant several years to complete his book, Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement, which he wrote with assistance from his research aide Astrid Davis. Before publication, he gave parents and school officials one year to respond to his research, but no parents ever did...

A black parent from Shaker Heights went on TV and called him an "academic Clarence Thomas." The National Urban League condemned him and his work in a press release that scoffed, "The League holds that it is useless to waste time and energy with those who blame the victims of racism." The criticism eventually made it all the way to The New York Times, where an article published prior to the publication of Ogbu's book quoted or referred to four separate academics who quarreled with his premise. It quoted a Shaker Heights school official who took issue with the professor's conclusions, and cited work by the Minority Student Achievement Network that suggested black students care as much about school as white and Asian students. In fact, the reporter failed to locate a single person in Shaker Heights or anywhere else with anything good to say about the book...

To racial theorist Shelby Steele, the response to Ogbu's work was sad but predictable. Steele, a black research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the author of The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, has weathered similar criticism for his own provocative theories about the gap between blacks and whites. He believes continued societal deference to the victims of racial discrimination has permitted blacks "the license not to meet the same standards that others must meet," which has been detrimental to every aspect of African-American life. "To talk about black responsibility is "racist' and "blaming the victim,'" he says. "They just keep refusing to acknowledge the elephant in the living room -- black responsibility. When anybody in this culture today talks about black responsibility for their problems, they are condemned and ignored."

Ogbu knows that better than anybody. In the months since publication of his book, he's been called a sellout with no heart for his own people, and dismissed entirely by critics who say his theory is so outrageous it isn't even worth debating. It is not surprising that Ogbu himself is now a bit uncomfortable discussing his own conclusions, although he has not backed down at all. After all, many scholars are eager to blame everything but black culture for the scholastic woes of African Americans. "I look below the surface," he says, in response to his many critics. "They don't like it."...

Because he had spent much of his prior career looking at inner-city schools, he was particularly intrigued by the idea of studying a relatively affluent minority group in an academically successful suburban district. This was an opportunity to do a new kind of research. Why were there such stark differences when the socioeconomic playing field was comparably level? How could you explain the achievement discrepancies when they couldn't be dismissed with the traditional explanations of inadequate teachers or disparities in school funding?...

These were the kids of primarily well-educated middle- to upper-class parents, and yet they were not performing on a par with their white classmates in everything from grade-point average to college attendance. Although they did outperform other black students from across Ohio and around the country, neither school officials nor parents were celebrating.

Ogbu's approach was to use ethnographic methods to study the problems in Shaker Heights. In ethnography, the point is to try and "get inside the heads of the natives"...

Many of Ogbu's academic critics take issue with his methods, which they say are way too subjective. Most of them are sociologists...

The question of what students in Shaker Heights brought to school from their homes turned out to be profound. Black homes and the black community both nurtured failure, he concluded.

When Ogbu asked black students what it took to do well in the Shaker district, they had the right answers. They knew what to say about how to achieve academic success, but that knowledge wasn't enough. "In spite of the fact that the students knew and asserted that one had to work hard to succeed in Shaker schools, black students did not generally work hard," he wrote. "In fact, most appeared to be characterized by low-effort syndrome. The amount of time and effort they invested in academic pursuit was neither adequate nor impressive."

Ogbu found a near-consensus among black students of every grade level that they and their peers did not work hard in school. The effort these students put into their schoolwork also decreased markedly from elementary school to high school. Students gave many reasons for their disinterest. Some said they simply didn't want to do the work; others told Ogbu "it was not cool to be successful." Some kids blamed school for their failures and said teachers did not motivate them, while others said they wanted to do well but didn't know how to study. Some students evidently had internalized the belief that blacks are not as intelligent as whites, which gave rise to self-doubt and resignation. But almost all of the students admitted that they simply failed to put academic achievement before other pursuits such as TV, work, playing sports, or talking on the phone.

The anthropologist also looked at peer pressure among black students to determine just what effect that had on school performance. He concluded that there was a culture among black students to reject behaviors perceived to be "white," which included making good grades, speaking Standard English, being overly involved in class, and enrolling in honors or advanced-placement courses. The students told Ogbu that engaging in these behaviors suggested one was renouncing his or her black identity. Ogbu concluded that the African-American peer culture, by and large, put pressure on students not to do well in school, as if it were an affront to blackness.

The professor says he discovered this sentiment even in middle- and upper-class homes where the parents were college-educated. "Black parents mistrusted the school system as a white institution," he wrote. They did not supervise their children's homework, didn't show up at school events, and failed to motivate their children to engage in their work. This too was a cultural norm, Ogbu concluded. "They thought or believed, that it was the responsibility of teachers and the schools to make their children learn and perform successfully; that is, they held the teachers, rather than themselves, accountable for their children's academic success or failure," he wrote.

Why black parents who mistrusted the school district as a white institution would leave it up to that same system to educate their children confounded Ogbu...

"I find it useless to argue with people like Ogbu," says Urban League educational fellow Ronald Ross, himself a former school superintendent. "We know what the major problems in this school system are: racism, lack of funding, and unqualified teachers." Although Shaker Heights is in fact an integrated, well-funded, and well-staffed school district, Ross is nonetheless convinced that it suffers from other problems that contribute to the achievement disparities between the races...

"Blacks say Standard English is being imposed on them," he says. "That's not what the Chinese say, or the Ibo from Nigeria. You come from the outside and you know you have to learn Standard English, or you won't do well in school. And you don't say whites are imposing on you. The Indians and blacks say, 'Whites took away our language and forced us to learn their language. They caused the problem.'"...

Ogbu did, in fact, note that teachers treated black and white students differently in the 110 classes he observed. However, he doesn't believe it was racism that accounted for the differences. "Yes, there was a problem of low teacher expectations of black students," he explains. "But you have to ask why. Week after week the kids don't turn in their homework. What do you expect teachers to do?"...

John McWhorter, the author of Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, says Ogbu's book roiled the waters of academia, which he believes is too invested in blaming whites for the problems plaguing black America. "There's a shibboleth in the academic world and that is that the only culture that has any negative traits is the white, middle-class West"...

McWhorter's own book, based largely on the author's experiences as a black man and professor, blames a mentality of victimhood as the primary reason for most of the problems in black communities -- including educational underachievement. "There's an idea in black culture that says Plato and hypotenuses are for other people," he says. "There is an element of black identity today that sees doing well in school as being outside of the core of black identity. It's a tacit sentiment, but powerful. As a result of that, some of what we see in the reluctance of many parents, administrators, and black academics to quite confront the 'acting white' syndrome is that deep down many of them harbor a feeling that it would be unhealthy for black kids to embrace school culture too wholeheartedly."

Nor is Steele, who's also been dismissed as a sellout in his day, surprised by the way the scholarly world has reacted to Ogbu's latest work. "Academics are a sad case," Steele says. "They support the politics of white responsibility for black problems. If they were to do research that found blacks responsible they'd be 'Uncle Toms,' and that's how they've treated Ogbu."...

"Discrimination is not enough to explain the gap," he says. "There are studies showing that black African immigrants and Caribbean immigrants do better than black Americans even though some of them come with language barriers. It's just not race."...

Obgu's theory did find some support among black parents. Although they are in the minority, these parents believe he's pointed out a painful but powerful truth, and are happy to see it aired. "I already held his position before he did his research," says Nancy Jones, who has one child in the district and two who have graduated. "You can't get African-American parents to get involved and stay involved."

Jones says she is sick of the finger-pointing and blaming in her community, and was thrilled to see Ogbu highlight why this is detrimental. "We come from this point of view of slavery and victimhood and every problem is due to racist white people," she says. "That victim mentality is perpetrated by parents and they're doing their kids a disservice. ... My primary objective is not to hold someone accountable but to close the achievement gap."

Other parents also agree with Ogbu, Jones says, and will admit it privately, but publicly, it's too politically charged. "When you're in a public setting people are less apt to speak their mind if they think it's politically incorrect."

Sadly, Jones says, harsh criticism of Ogbu's Shaker Heights work has made any positive change nearly impossible"
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes