By Phillip Jackson | with thanks to The Black Star Project
Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Recently, some educational experts in Chicago, USA, argued that the real hurdle to education reform is poverty. Those experts are wrong and let too many people off the hook for their failure to successfully educate mostly low-income, Black children. That includes parents, community leaders, teachers, principals, school leaders, elected officials, newspaper editors and even students themselves.
Once, when my sister told my grandmother that her teacher called her and her classmates “poor kids,” my grandmother immediately went to the school, confronted the teacher and told that teacher, “We are not poor! We just broke! That can be fixed by us getting some money. But poor is a state of mind where you give up, where you don’t try, where there is no hope! Don’t ever tell these children they are poor! You had better teach them like they’re rich!
Even though she was from a small town in rural Georgia, my grandmother understood the permanent, crippling, psychological impact of labeling and treating children as “poor” versus teaching them as though they could learn as well or better than their financially better-off counterparts. Across the world, children “poorer” than low-income American children, in Asia, Africa and South America, whose parents and teachers have not bought into the concept that “poor children” cannot learn, are learning more, faster and better than many affluent students in American schools.”
Those who say “…a parent’s income and educational level are the biggest predictors of school success” are wrong. In fact, it is our society’s colossal failure of will to effectively educate all children, especially low-income children of color, and our abysmally low educational expectations for these children that are actually the biggest predictors of their school failure. Here are the real and best predictors of school and students’ success: 1) motivated, inspired, hardworking and minimally-skilled students, 2) engaged parents who have a burning desire for their children to receive a good education and 3) excellent teachers with high student-achievement expectations.
Now that we know that good parenting and motivated students combined with excellent teaching results in student and school success, why aren’t schools, teachers unions and media doing more to induce low-income parents, and all parents, to be more actively engaged with the education of their children and why aren’t they doing more to motivate and inspire low-income students to excel. And why aren’t we all working to improve the quality of our teaching force? This is how we can make an educational difference for “poor” children!
Education doesn’t exclusively belong to schools and educators and administrators, in fact, it belongs much more to families, to communities and to society. And society is ultimately responsible for the education of all children, low income or not. Society must have a will and an expectation that all children, including low income children, can and will learn. While adequate resources are essential for the education of children, good parenting, motivated students and excellent teaching overcome poverty every time as the best predictors for any students’ academic success. Educators who believe that “poor” children can’t learn should not be in the classroom or in the profession!
Phillip Jackson is the founder and Executive Director of The Black Star Project. He can be reached on 773.285.9600.