Commentary…Back to school—Black to basics

(NNPA)—This month, many students are returning to school for another academic year. They did so after two and a half months of summer vacation. Vacation? People who are employed take vacations from work (but that is another column for another week). Students study. Let’s stay right there. According to most educational indices, African-American students—especially Black males—under perform their classroom counterparts.
Thus, as Black students return to technology-filled schools, educational stakeholders, including parents and school administrators, should go Black to basics. Prior to directing the Black Leadership Forum, Inc., I served as a vice president of the RainbowPUSH Coalition in Chicago.


Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., under the PUSH for Excellence (PUSHExcel) Program, developed a 7-point educational plan that speaks to a central element of the educational equation—parental involvement. The idea was to ask parents to: 1. Take their children to school; 2. Meet their children’s teachers; 3. Exchange home numbers with their children’s teachers; 4. Pick up report cards at the end of grading period; 5. Turn of televisions two hours per night; 6. Read to their children at least one hour per night; and 7. Take their children to a place of worship once a week.

While not to sound sanctimonious and exclaim, “When I was a grade school student my parents did all seven without encouragement,” my parents did so. Notwithstanding other societal factors facing today’s parents (economy, technology and others), adult involvement outside of school is critical to a student’s learning curve.

Take your child to school. Children remember more of where a parent takes them than what a parent buys for them.

Meet your child’s teacher. Children’s academic performance tends to dramatically improve when parents meet their teachers.

Exchange personal contact information with your child’s teacher. As cell parents share phone and e-mail information, teachers information may be shared without the necessity of physical presence of parents outside of report card pick-up.

Pick up report cards each grading period. The presence of parents in retrieving their child’s report card reflects their concern for academic accountability.

Limit television viewing by your child. Television in most instances slows scholastic skill set development.

Read to your child one hour per night. Reading is still fundamental. A child who reads well tends to excel in most subjects.

Take your child to a place of worship. Many students have behavioral problems that suggest that the child is never in an environment that requires discipline. Places of worship demand discipline. Discipline and diligence determines a path to a degree.

Some parents react to such plans by rerouting responsibility to school administrators and external factors. No. The lenses through with a child views the world are focused by family. Yes, many poorer children have family members who lack educational skills. But that is no excuse for finding people or institutions that are equipped to assist.

Within the Black Leadership Forum, for example, the RainbowPUSH Coalition, National Council of Negro Women, 100 Black Men of America and National Pan Hellenic Association have excellent programs designed to assist all students, regardless of socio-educational makeup of a particular family.

As for public policy, this nation cannot codify concern by parents. However, we can pass a constitutional amendment for an individual right to an equal and high quality education for ALL students, raise teacher pay, reduce classroom sizes and equalize equipment in all public schools. Passage of such legislation would improve the educational climate, but parents alone must be equal partners.

(Gary L. Flowers is executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum.)

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