Something Every Teacher and Counselor Needs to Know about African-American Children

Article excerpt

African Americans inherited a "nigger" culture. The literature posits that African- American culture was founded, formed, and shaped in America where European Americans instilled within African Americans the belief, albeit erroneous, that those of African descent were inferior humans, especially, intellectually (see Conrad, 1966; Davis, 2005; Higginbotham, 1996). Is it no wonder that African American children are, academically, the poorest performing children in America?

Corruptive historical influences are deemed as root and primary causes for the persistent and chronic academic achievement gap between Black children and all of their peers. Due to dastardly destructive historical influences, African Americans are now straddled with the dishonorable distinction as the least intelligent "race" in America. This will be further discussed later in this article.

Recently, a most alarming warning was communicated in the literature: a whole generation of African-American males is being lost primarily due to the effects (i.e., drugs, crime, prison, and death) of academic underachievement (see Midgette & Glenn, 1993). Far too many African Americans have been deliberately deceived into believing that they are intellectually inferior to their peers as millions of Black children continue to demonstrate an inability to keep pace, academically, with their peers.

However, this is nothing really avantgarde for educators and educational researchers. Individuals who professionally interact with school children are well aware of the staggering and demoralizing statistics which depict the academic problems of minority children, and African- American children specifically. In response to this challenge, many educators are focusing on new strategies to teach students and progressive techniques in the preparation of students preparing to become K-12 educators.

Last semester, the dean of the College of Education at my University approached and asked if I was interested in teaching one of these kinds of courses. It was an undergraduate course entitled "Teaching Diverse Populations." Similar to other courses I have taught on diversity, this one was a required course for all students interested in becoming school teachers.

The course being required was predicated on a notion that suggested that students needed to gain an understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures before they became fully employed as educators. Teachers being well-informed about other ethnic and cultural groups is perceived as critical to student education and instrumental to teachers being successful in the classroom with all of their children.

Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive as this course was the first undergraduate course I had taught in almost ten years. Further, there were 50 students enrolled in the course (quite a large number for a relatively small university); I had gotten comfortable teaching 15 to 20 motivated graduate-level students. Nevertheless, I finally consented to teach the course.

On the first class day, I quickly noticed that the ethnic and gender make-up of my class was typical and reflective of the national trend of American school teachers: young, female, and White. Of the 50 students in the class; seven were male; one (a male) was African American (who also happened to be our only student with a disability). There were no Hispanic/Latino students. The others were all White and female.

Upon attaining a level of safety in the course, students became comfortable stating that they knew very little about diverse cultures, that they were innocently ignorant about the cultures of other people. They had no idea as to why the foreboding academic achievement gap existed and persisted or what could be done to abate it. Most of them talked openly about how they had come from middle-class families in overwhelmingly White middle class neighborhoods and public schools.

Encouragingly, although they had their prejudices, as we soon found out, they did not seem to exhibit the kind of unforgiving, untenable, and demoralizing racism of past generations. …