Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Sunday Report: Can $100,000,000 make a kid learn?


This is a long post so please bear with me.

Recently the CEO and founder of the online social network Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg , gave 100 million dollars to the Newark, New Jersey Public Schools. There has been a lot of media hoopla about it from online stories to a big production on this past Friday's Oprah Winfery Show.

So what will 100 million dollars do for Newark Public Schools? Well I suppose they could build a few new schools, fix some old ones, buy text books, hire teachers, buy computers and stuff like that. But will that fix the problems of this inner city/ urban/ mostly Black school system?

No.

Buying a bunch of stuff and building new schools won't fix this or any other troubled schools system. I know this because history tells me so. Money has been thrown at inner city schools for decades now and it has not helped one bit. In fact Newark Public Schools already spends more per student than any other school system in the nation, over 20,000 dollars per student each year.

So what will work?

Well lets go back in time. Back before the so-called integration of public schools in this nation. Back to a time when Black children went to all Black schools. When those schools were short of everything they needed. There were shortages of text books. The facilities were poor and the teachers underpaid.


But something amazing or maybe not so amazing happened at those segregated Black schools. Kids learned. They excelled. Those are the kids that today are of the so-called baby boomer generation that have gone out in the world and done very well for themselves.

So what was the difference that caused kids then do so well and kids today to do so poorly?

Once again we have to look back. We have to look at Black communities before the Civil Rights Movement. Those Black communities were often very prosperous. And even the ones that were not so prosperous were much better off than most inner city communities of today.


In many Black urban communities around the country there were good jobs. Beginning around the time of World War 2 Blacks moved in huge numbers to metropolitan areas around the country. They moved there for well paying jobs in factories that were making all sorts of things for the war effort.

And both African American men and women experienced a great prosperity beginning in this period that extended until the mid 1960's when commercial factories began to move to the suburbs along with Whites during what was called White flight.

As Whites moved to the suburbs and factories with them Blacks were left in the lurch. Unemployment during this period skyrocketed for Blacks. And where there are no jobs crime fills the void. And where there is crime there is violence.

And another little thing was going on as well that kept business out of urban areas. It was called redlining. A practice in which banks would refuse loans to businesses wanting to operate in these urban areas.

So in the 1960's Black kids were no longer living in communities where their parents and neighbors went to work everyday and brought home salaries that could provide for a family. Now they lived in communities where almost no one was working a legitimate job.


These kids now had to deal with homelessness, deal with worrying if the lights would be on or whether there would be heat in winter, deal with worrying about street violence that often entered their homes either through the incarceration of a parent or losing a parent to that violence.

Black kids no longer had the luxury of just focusing on their school work, now they had to focus on very serious issues. Poverty became apart of millions of Black kids lives beginning during this period. And unlike in previous times when Blacks mostly lived in the South being poor in an urban environment was harsh in ways that they had not seen since before World War 2.

In an effort to help inner city Blacks in the 1960's the government expanded what was then known as welfare. This program would offer help in paying rent and buying food. But there was a catch that came along with that help. That catch was that fathers would be pushed out of homes.

One of the stipulations for a family to receive welfare was that there could not be a man present in the home. From the late 1960's until well into the 1980's this would destroy what was left of cohesive Black communities all over the country.

So now the stage was set for inner city Black kids to become the poster children for academic underachievement.

Nothing much has changed in many urban areas of the country. In most of these communities the unemployment rate was high before the current recession and has become astoundingly high since.



So when a Black kid in Newark goes to school can they focus on school like their more affluent mostly White counterparts in the burbs?

We all know the answer to that. No, they can't. Kids in most of these communities are more concerned with making it to and from school in one piece. They are constantly tempted by the drug trade and other illegal enterprises. They have to deal with drug addicted parents. They have to deal with incarcerated parents. Or parents that are just absent.

Many inner city Black kids are already suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder by the time the reach first grade.

So how can we expect kids to learn in environments like this?

We can't and we shouldn't. In order to fix urban public schools we have to look outside of those schools to the communities in which they exist. We have to fix broken parents and families. We have to bring jobs into these communities so that parents can work. We have to get rid of the crime that infests these communities.

If and when we do that then Black kids in inner cities around this country will have a fighting chance to do well in school. But if all we do is talk about firing teachers and throwing more money at schools then we will see Black kids continue to fail in large numbers.

So in my opinion if Mark Zuckerberg really wants to make a difference with his 100 million dollars he could do so by using it to create jobs for the parents of the kids in Newark Public Schools. He could help by using that money for counseling for drug addicted parents and parents with criminal records. He could use that money to get drug dealers off of corners by hiring them too.

If Mr. Zuckerberg and other well meaning billionaires and the government did this then Newark Public Schools would be transformed and so would the lives of the kids who attend them.

But what do I know.


14 comments:

Desertflower said...

What a fantastic post Val! The first blog I opened and the best! You are exactly correct on this! God Bless you!

Reggie said...

This was an excellent post Val. So often we see fucked up situations and we only see the result and not the why.

Excellent post!!!

? said...

"In order to fix urban public schools we have to look outside of those schools to the communities in which they exist. "

An therein lies the rub. Probably only a massive governmental and societal initiative is capable of solving these problems. We'd be talking about something of the size and scope of the New Deal.

Your dealing with two very polarizing issues: Race and class. One of the least talked about reasons for social success in segregated areas was the presence of the black professional class. Learned and accomplishment people could not leave due to enforced segregation and they invested in the community. However, the eventual end of enforced segregation lead to black flight as well. Left behind was a group of working class folks who--after the erosion of manufacturing jobs--became the "underclass."

uglyblackjohn said...

Nice post Val
So the money should be spent on job creation?
Maybe start a solar panel factory and train and employ locals?
It might work but probably not.

The hood of the town in which I live is right next to oil refineries, the port and right down the road from a large prison/jail complex.
But none of the residents of the hood work these jobs.
People working these jobs make more than 100k and the minimum requirement is only an AA.

The same thing would happen in Newark.
People who worked the new jobs would not be from the area.
Those who worked the new jobs would move away from the bad areas leaving even worse people behind.

But no, spending money won't help.
One cannot make a kid want to learn.

Val said...

@Desertflower

Thanks!

Val said...

@Reggie

You're right, it's important to understand the journey as well as the destination.

Val said...

@UBJ

So you're saying that there's no hope for these kids and their communities?

Val said...

@?

I'm not sure that it was desegregation that was the impetus for Black professionals leaving inner cities. I think once the jobs left there was a lot of crime and they wanted to get away from the crime.

Don't you think?

uglyblackjohn said...

Yeah...
There is hope.
Think of small towns.
Many of the residents are merchants or at least have a productive job.
Few people rely on pulic aid.
If the money was spent to rebuild a sense of community for areas of Newark then maybe some of the newly middle class would stay.

Val said...

@UBJ

"If the money was spent to rebuild a sense of community for areas of Newark then maybe some of the newly middle class would stay."

I agree.

Citizen Ojo said...

Unless we bring the parental aspect in this conversation then it's pointless. Back when we had all black schools parents might not have had a degree but they made sure their children got theirs.. Good one Val...

Val said...

@CO

I agree. Parents are the key. That's why we have to fix the parents before the schools can be fixed.

? said...

"If the money was spent to rebuild a sense of community for areas of Newark then maybe some of the newly middle class would stay."


No one is going to invest in Newark like that. You won't see private industry invest in troubled urban areas unless they think gentrification is on the way.

Val,

I think that like every community the black community has class divisions. So the end of du jour segregation was bound to create areas where black professionals would cloister away from the working class. The creation of a black middle class brought class issues into the forefront along with race.

Val said...

@?

"No one is going to invest in Newark like that. You won't see private industry invest in troubled urban areas unless they think gentrification is on the way."

I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. That's why I think Zuckerberg's money would have been better spent creating jobs than on text-books.

With jobs the tax base will increase and that means more money for the schools anyway.

And with jobs the community can become healthy, again.

But as you say that's not going to happen.

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Soldier Of Love

I've lost the use of my heart
But I'm still alive
Still looking for the life
The endless pool on the other side
It's a wild wild west
I'm doing my best

I'm at the borderline of my faith,
I'm at the hinterland of my devotion
In the frontline of this battle of mine
But I'm still alive

I'm a soldier of love.
Every day and night
I'm soldier of love
All the days of my life

I've been torn up inside (oh!)
I've been left behind (oh!)
So I ride
I have the will to survive

In the wild wild west,
Trying my hardest
Doing my best
To stay alive

I am love's soldier!

I wait for the sound
(oooh oohhh)

I know that love will come (that love will come)
Turn it all around

I'm a soldier of love (soldier of love)
Every day and night
I'm a soldier of love
All the days of my life

I am lost
But I don't doubt (oh!)
So I ride
I have the will to survive

In the wild wild west,
Trying my hardest
Doing my best
To stay alive

I am love's soldier!

I wait for the sound

I know that love will come
I know that love will come
Turn it all around

I'm a soldier of love
I'm a soldier

Still waiting for love to come
Turn it all around
(4x)

I'm a soldier of love
I'm a soldier

Still waiting for love to come
Turn it all around
(3x)

Still waiting for love to come

Miss Keri Baby!

Tracee!

Solange!

Solange!
The only interesting Knowles

un·for·get·ta·ble: Earning a permanent place in the memory; memorable: an unforgettable experience.

Alicia says...

Rest in Peace Mitrice

Rest in Peace Mitrice
Mitrice Richardson