Academic Accountability For ‘Our Children’Thank you Black Issues. Your recent review of John Ogbu’s Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study in Academic Disengagement spurred me to purchase and critically read this text. As an educator, I am, of course, aware of the persistent academic achievement gap between African American and European American students. However, this book has heightened my sensitivity to the issue and has caused me to take action.
The facts, observations and figures presented in Ogbu’s text, combined with my personal observation and research of the gap as it exists in New York City public schools has awakened a tripartite concern. First, as an African American male, I am blown away by the deleterious consequences the gap has on so many of my young brethren. Second, as an African American parent of fifth- and seventh-graders, my concern for them and their fellow classmates is considerable. And finally, as a community college educator, I see the results of the apparent academic disengagement resulting in large numbers of students having significant academic difficulties.
I must say I am a little ashamed that it took your article to catapult me into action. Perhaps I am not alone. Complacency roots easily and steadfastly. As educators, our children are more than likely academically highly ranked. We may more readily identify academic weaknesses and initiate improvement strategies. Perhaps for us the achievement gap exists for others, but not our children. However, as African American educators in particular, “our children” must be considered in the collective rather than the selective.
As some of the most highly educated members of the African American community, we have the expertise to significantly impact “our children’s” academic success. We must put our M.A.’s, Ph.D.’s, Ed.D.’s and the like to collective use, not to simply study the problem but to initiate change strategies. We have the expertise in organizational behavior, curriculum development and other academic disciplines to impact greatly.
I urge my fellow educators to first read Ogbu’s book, research the achievement gap as it exists in your community, devise an action plan, partner with local churches, fraternities, sororities and civic organizations, collaborate and discuss the issue with colleagues, and implement and evaluate programs aimed at ridding us of the persistent but treatable achievement gap. I have dedicated my summer to devising an action plan that is practical and meets the needs of my local community. I have included my e-mail address with this letter for all those interested in discussing, and sharing views and constructive action plans. We must not allow “our children” to continue down this road.Sincerely,
Steven B. Skinner, PT, MS, Ed.D.
Kingsborough Community College
City University of New York
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