Sunday, September 20, 2020

Dumbing Down Of Black Students; Who Is To Blame, Many Who Can’t Name A Single Black Historical Figure?

September 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Education, News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( I cannot lie, the first day of class is filled with an uneven balance of wonderment and uncertainty. If prodded to be truthful, I have much company among educators in believing that none of us know what to expect on the first day of class.

Hence, it is somewhat understandable that my decades of teaching has taught me to make the initial introduction to and from my students as smooth as possible. Over time, this desire has birthed the following set of instructions. Students are asked to do the following.

“Please introduce yourself, where you are from, what you’re majoring in, and who are your historical heroes or heroines?”

I have noticed over the years that the names my students’ cite as historical figures they admire has declined dramatically. Students no longer call on persons such as Malcolm X, Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, David Walker, Huey P. Newton, or Assata Shakur as historical figures that they admire.

Who has stepped into the spot that the above figures monopolized for previous generations of Black collegians? Welp, that answer is a very interesting one. At the present moment, my students have seemingly turned their back on Malcolm, Martin, Marcus, and Medger in favor of “my momma”, “my grandmother”, or “my grandparents”.

Let me be clear on this matter.

Although there is nothing wrong with having respect and reverence for those who have directly aided you by “throwing up a highway that leads to success,” I sensed that the citing of immediate ancestors was less about honoring “momma” and “grandmamma” and moreso aimed at shielding a painful truth. The shameful truth that I am alluding to is that my the vast majority of my students are “historically illiterate.”

For our purposes, a suitable definition of historical illiteracy reads as the following.

A problem that afflicts persons who have very limited, if any, knowledge of historical events that have impacted not only their present situation, but also the lives and fortunes of their immediate and distant relatives and kinsmen. Those suffering under the yoke of historical illiteracy have little understanding of how and why they are in their present station. More troubling, their historical illiteracy precludes them from discovering, developing, and executing realistic solutions to what afflict them at the present moment.

My students’ unfamiliarity with Robeson, Du Bois, Wells-Barnett, Malcolm, or Assata, says volumes about their understanding of Black historical matters. This reality is another reminder that it is common for both students and educators to graduate from educational institutions, a sign that they are a “learned individual”, without any understanding of the Black experience. It is a frightening situation when one reflects that educators who do not possess a scant understanding of Black America are considered qualified to “pour into” Black students.

Yet, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to blame African-American youth for their historical illiteracy as there is truly enough blame to be spread among educators/administrators and the Black community. Unfortunately for African-American students, the placing of blame regardless of how appropriate, will not solve this problem of rampant historical illiteracy that has claimed wide-swaths of educators and students.

The solution to this tragic issue is actually a relatively simple one that calls for Black America to suspend its well-worn practice of allowing others to serve as the primary teacher of their history and conveyer of their traditions. Although it would be nice if a non-response and oftentimes hostile public school system reversed course and mandated that the standard curriculum and the educators entrusted in teaching it were versed in African-American history, unfortunately for Black students, that is not the world we live in. So, the onus is on Black America to educate itself and make a decided effort to teach its children about a glorious history. Until that occurs, I fear that historical illiteracy will reign supreme among my people forever and forever.

Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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One may also connect with this brother via TwitterDrJamestJones.


2 Responses to “Dumbing Down Of Black Students; Who Is To Blame, Many Who Can’t Name A Single Black Historical Figure?”
  1. Pelvo White, Jr. says:

    Human brains are similar physically, but humans minds are all different owing to the variances and limitations of the five senses in every human. As a former educator and as a christian I often wondered how one of the greatest teachers of all times, Jesus Christ, transcended these differences in human beings and was able to enlighten people of all races, creeds, and colors ? The King James Version of the Holy Bible has indicated to me that Jesus’ pedagogy involved the usage of a hands on approach meaning teaching by doing that involves the student’s participation, and the usage of parable teaching meaning using stories which beckon the student’s usage of his or her imagination to impart an important message to the student.Today’s teachers rely heavily upon teaching by abstract concepts which may or may not be entirely grasped mentally by all of the members of the class. Teaching by doing, and parable teachings should be used more often in both mathematics, and reading and comprehension.

  2. Pelvo White, Jr. says:

    Teachers should design their lesson plans to include the accomplishments of African American citizens.

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