Sunday, August 3, 2014

Major People Activity #2: Education

Dr. James Anderson outlines the beginnings of "negro" education in The Education of Blacks in the South , 1860-1935 (1988).

Initially, ex-slaves attempted to create an educational system that would support and extend their emancipation, but their children were pushed into a system of industrial education that presupposed black political and economic subordination. This conception of education and social order--supported by northern industrial philanthropists, some black educators, and most southern school officials--conflicted with the aspirations of ex-slaves and their descendants, resulting at the turn of the century in a bitter national debate over the purposes of black education. Because blacks lacked economic and political power, white elites were able to control the structure and content of black elementary, secondary, normal, and college education during the first third of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, blacks persisted in their struggle to develop an educational system in accordance with their own needs and desires.

Like many other enduring myths, truth is the only antidote.

One has to be very suspicious where the discussion of black children, education, and taxes are concerned.

The myth goes something like this:

Educating black students is an undue tax burden imposed on the responsible, hardworking white citizenry "taxpayer."

Further, public school education should be done away with in favor of more "market-driven" ideas (e.g. charter schools).

The irony in the above, aside from the obvious fact that black people also pay taxes (but actually get less in return) is that:

1) public "free" education, particularly in the south, has its genesis in the desire of ex-slaves to educate themselves, in an autonomous and self-sustaining manner,

2) every since the very beginning of "free" public education, black tax dollars have been diverted to paying for everybody else's education, specifically that of white children. (pg. 149;154, Anderson)

"This alternative to state-financed public education was necessary because in the early twentieth century whites all over the South seized the school funds belonging to the disfranchised black citizens, gerrymandered school districts so as to exclude blacks from certain local tax benefits..."

Few realize it but in the time period following "formal" chattel slavery there were very few schools, for anyone white or black.

Even white children, unless part of the "aristocratic" slaveholding class, had very little access to education.

Lesser known are the efforts that the then recently freed slaves made towards learning and the founding of their own schools....AND....the desire to maintain constructive control over the education of their children.

Significant is that every since that time there has been a concerted effort to either prevent, control and/or subvert the educational efforts of black children.

My guess is that very few black parents, teachers, administrators, or school boards are at all familiar with the details found in this book - which is tragic - given the current state of the very schools in which many of them are employed and are the product of.

But its not at all surprising either - given the history.

In the system of racism black people, as a rule, are supposed to be ignorant about everything that is of constructive value.

And this too is nothing new.

Recall that slaves were severely punished for simply attempting to learn how to read.

The point here is that anytime there is a discussion about "achievement gaps" and the failure of black students and urban/inner-city schools, do know that truth becomes the very first casualty in the discussion.

Euphemisms such as:

"community schools" "charter schools" "education reform" "failing schools" "state takeover" "school consolidation" "city/county school merger/split" etc. are ALL rhetoric designed specifically to obfuscate the real issue.

That being that non-white children are to never, ever be allowed the same level or quality of education as that of white children.

This is the real story behind so-called school "segregation" and "white flight."

Non-white education is supposed to be inferior - by intent and design and as Dr. Anderson(1988) carefully outlines, this design has its genesis during the period immediately after the so-called emancipation of the slaves.

Fast forward to present-day ...white parents, on balance, do not want to share the classroom with non-white students because they recognize this fact very well.

Hence the perpetual cat and mouse game of good white school turned failed black school.

Once it is perceived that the school (and neighborhood) is becoming "too black", the white students leave as well as the bulk of the resources.

And then the hand-wringing and endless, fruitless debates about "reforming" the school begins.

This story repeats so often and in so many different locales that the only real surprise is that we haven't yet connected the dots.

But this failure to connect the dots is itself directly related to the inferior education given and received.

...Even in 2014, these dots are simply not supposed to relate.

Correct history shows us that sub-par schools do not coincidentally occur, as nothing does.

So how do we counter this concerted effort to keep non-white people in a state of extreme and total ignorance?

First, it is imperative to understand Racism and how it works in ALL areas of activity.

Second, as individuals, we produce and practice a counter-racist code.

That's The Assignment.

Eric Spann (copyright 2014)

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