Friday, December 07, 2007

Are African Americans Still Mis-Educated?

HISTORY shows, then, that as a result of these unusual forces in the education of the Negro he easily learns to follow the line of least resistance rather than battle against odds for what real history has shown to be the right course. A mind that remains in the present atmosphere never undergoes sufficient development to experience what is commonly known as thinking. No Negro thus submerged in the ghetto, then, will have a clear conception of the present status of the race or sufficient foresight to plan for the future; and he drifts so far toward compromise that he loses moral courage. The education of the Negro, then, becomes a perfect device for control from without. Those who purposely promote it have every reason to rejoice, and Negroes themselves exultingly champion the cause of the oppressor.
...[T]he lack of confidence of the Negro in himself and in his possibilities is what has kept him down. His mis-education has been a perfect success in this respect.
The Mis-Education of the Negro
Chapter 10: The Loss of Vision
Carter G. Woodson

Since my introductory post I have been anguishing over what topic I should delve into first. Although DP has given me the privilege to talk about anything, I am fixated on techno-social issues. So over the past few weeks I was trying to sort through a deluge of topics that seemed important but I was feeling like Michael Jackson trying to follow up “Thriller”… good material but not good enough to be a follow up.

So over the past month I have just been basically functioning in this daze – which if you ask some people is somewhat my normal state – because DP is telling me all the stuff I need to put in writing. During this time I happened upon three events that were not the least bit unusual. In fact, I would even consider them to be rather commonplace occurrences. Then late the other night I thought about these three events collectively for the first time and all I could hear was Denzel (Malcolm X) “we’ve been bamboozled… hoodwinked… led astray!”

The first event was the guy selling CDs and DVDs at the corner store. I live in the hood so there is always someone at the corner store selling their wares, especially on Friday and the first of the month. What made this event unique was not his entrepreneurial talents – which were rather good if I do say so myself – but the praise for his product. My neighbor came over looking for my wife to tell her that “The DVD Man” (this is the moniker he goes by) was at the store. “The DVD Man” is purported to have the best quality movies to ever grace “the hood”!

**NOTE**: Let me go on record here and say that we do not own any bootleg movies in my house.

The second event occurred at a technology forum that I attended last week. The topic was broadband access and the concern that the current network infrastructure is going to soon be overtaxed because of the emergence of new multimedia delivery options, the bundling of television, voice and data packages, High Definition television, and an ever growing user community. One of the keynote speakers, Larry Irving, talked about the “EXAFLOOD”. During his presentation he introduced the audience to several products that had the potential of revolutionizing our lives. Among these were the Slingbox – this device allows you to view and control your cable/satellite, TiVO, and DVD Player from your laptop and/or mobile phone via an internet connection; the Amazon Kindle and iTunes. Mr. Irving spoke briefly about an innovative feature of iTunes called iTunes-U, more about this later.

As I spanned the crowd of attendees I couldn’t help but count the number of African Americans in attendance. Although I already knew that the number would be small, I always like to pick a number and then see how close my prediction was… for the record the number was 9. My number was 15... boy was I wrong!!

The third and final event was when I viewed my credit card account. I have a pre-paid credit card that my children and I use for online purchases. I encourage them to put some of their allowance in the account, although they rarely do. I monitor the account on a regular basis but for the first time I decided to view the account with a little more detail. To my surprise my kids and I had purchased over $150 worth of music and videos from iTunes over the past month. When I asked them why were they downloading so much music they told me that some of the music was being used for ringtones on their cell phones and other music was being mixed and burned to CD for trading with (and selling to) their friends.

As I thought about these events the other night I thought about the above text from Carter G. Woodson’s book, The Mis-Education of the Negro.

Is it just me or are we taking the path of least resistance to become a part of the information technology community? It appears that the message is one of African Americans being relegated to a role of spectator, and to make matters worse it appears that African-Americans only want to be entertained!

Are we telling our children that we have taken them as far as we can while refusing to acknowledge that we have neglected to equip them with the intangible tools to sufficiently develop their ability to think beyond the here and now?

The cost for attending a college or university is rising to the point that getting a degree is luxury afforded to the wealthy or the gifted and talented. Added to the fact that many African American parents have failed to save or to establish a college fund for their children causes me to really wonder how our children will survive in this new global workforce.

While a degree may be expensive, an education is available for those seeking to learn. As I mentioned earlier iTunes has a program called ITunes-U. According to Apple’s website:

“[iTunes U] is designed to be completely intuitive, iTunes U is based on the iTunes Store, where millions of people already get their music, movies, and TV shows. Now there’s an area of the iTunes Store devoted entirely to education, where it’s easy to search thousands of audio and video files from schools across the country.”

The site goes on to say:

“Just like the iTunes Store, the popularity of iTunes U has exploded. Already, more than half of the nation’s top 500 schools use it to distribute their digital content to students — or to the world. Any school can open all or part of its site to the public, from alumni to parents to anyone with a love of learning. iTunes U is transforming the way people learn on campus, off campus, and where there’s no campus at all.”

With society in general and the internet in particular offering people so many things to dull their senses it’s imperative that we provide our children with tools that have meaningful, positive and lasting results in their lives.

Now it might sound like I'm shilling for iTunes but trust me I'm not. But if your middle or high school student is having trouble with algebra, isn't it good to know that in addition to the latest Pimp C tribute jam, he/she can also download a course from a leading mathematics professor, or learn physics/chemistry from a professor at MIT?

Can you get with me? `Cuz I'm There... Already!!

1 comment:

DP said...,

It's not just on the educational side but from a productivity standpoint as well. We (Blacks) are the world's ultimate consumers and for most of us, we treat the computer pretty much like TV or radio; we turn it on and go to the "channel" we want. But a lot goes into producing the content on the web, not to mention the hardware devices itself that Blacks by and large have nothing to do with and little if any understanding of. We need for our kids to understand how technology works, not just that it "is."