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SIMMONS: Black parents, the problem’s us

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dear black parents, we have a problem. Excuses are getting in the way of our black boys becoming learned black men.

The Bible lays out our missive, but as parents, we've fallen into a trap, can't seem to get up and have forgotten that a mind is indeed a terrible thing to waste. This, after being blessed with children.

We spend incredible amounts of energy and resources on abortion rights, gay rights, voting rights and the like, but we are relinquishing our rights to the most precious privilege of all.

Schools are for teaching and learning, but yet another study, this one released this week, proves that schools aren't successfully executing either of those missions when it comes to black boys.

In short, a report by the Council of Great City Schools says the academic gap between white boys and black boys is wider than ever. You can read "A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools" (www.cgcs.org) and continue making excuses for why our children aren't learning.

Hunger. Homelessness. The family is poor.

Nobody in the family went to college. Mom and/or dad work at night. The family lives in a community overwhelmed by violence.

Domestic abuse. Substance abuse. Negligence.

The dog ate their homework.

Mama is sick, so the son had to stay home for two weeks. Give him a break; he's in foster care. No baby daddy.

In other words, please excuse us and our children 'cause we be black.

Get over it, black folks. We encourage blaming "the man," thus setting up our kids up to fail, and the report reinforces that.

It's no coincidence the word "Social" preceded "Educational" in title of the Council of Great City Schools report: Where a child comes from is as important as where a child is headed.

The new study, and others that have probed the achievement gap, do great work when it comes to defining the crisis. What's missing is our sense of urgency to address it.

We distract ourselves with issues that have absolutely nothing to do with instilling a thirst for knowledge in our children, such as the news that two of America's top school reformists, Michelle A. Rhee of Washington and Joel Klein of New York, are out of here.

Well, the report indicts both tenures.

"Between 2003 and 2009, the average mathematics scale score of large-city black males remained at least 30 points lower at grade 4 and 38 points lower at grade 8 than the score of white males in national public schools," the study said.

Shame on us.

There was a time when it was illegal for blacks to learn to read. There was a time when the Bible was blacks' primary textbook. There was a time when schools were separate and unequal.

But there also comes a time when chickens come home to roost. Sounds harsh, but the truth shall set you free.

Grill your children and their teachers about homework. Force them to read, read, read — and not just textbooks. Simple gestures like giving them biographies about notables they are interested in and writing a report can help.

Drag them to Sunday school, which is all about teaching and learning.

Many of you don't always agree with Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund. You brand her a left-winger and cast aspersions on her lifelong mission of advocating for disadvantaged families.

But she nailed the issue when she said, "Education is a precondition to survival in America today."

That's a secular way for blacks to view the achievement gap.

Parents must also consider their moral obligation to raise up their own children, because "children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children."

You know whose spoke those words.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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