Recess Blog

Solving a Crisis in Black Education

By Rob Schroeder
February 11, 2017

"If one accepts the premise that there is a crisis in Black education, it is equally important to accept that a more powerful response is needed to move beyond a crisis state," writes Alfred Tatum, PhD, Dean of the College, in an op-ed in the latest issue of The Black History Bulletin.

In his op-ed, he calls for a recognition of the struggles Black Americans have faced to secure an education but also their successes in doing so.

Any hesitation to develop full capabilities will lead to contraction and the ultimate destruction of the race. A race putting forth the full might of its carefully developed powers will expand through increased world power. In my analysis, any discussion of the crisis in Black education has to recognize the ongoing progress and resistance put forth by Blacks, within and outside of the US, to secure and protect their right to an education. There also has to be some recognition of surrender by Black youth and adults to the most egregious political, economic, and cultural assaults on their humanity, and the failure of some Black adults to protect Black children either due to a non- response, a lukewarm response, or an ill-timed late response to the crisis. Drawing from the novelist Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities, this is certainly not the best of times in Black education, but it is far from the worst of times.

The historical archives are replete with the struggles that ordinary Black people in the American South faced to provide education for themselves under federal- and state-
sanctioned denial and repression of educating African Americans. Still, Black people secured literacy to attain power that was withheld from; them. Historical narratives similar to the one below capture the determination of Blacks:

I ain’t never been to school but I jes’ picked up
readin’. With some of my first money I ever earn
I buy me a old blue-back Webster. I carry dat book
wherever I goes. When I plow down a row I stop at
de end to rest and den I overlook de lesson.

The expressed individual determination reflected in the quote is not intended to romanticize the struggle for Black education, but it does suggest that any people determined to abate a crisis can do whatever they deem necessary without seeking permission from others. This determination is manifest in the ongoing struggle of Black educators and those outside the field of education who work independently or collaborate with others to counter the neoliberal assaults that continue to position Black children, youth, and adults as guinea pigs for economic, legislative, and political reforms.

Read the full op-ed at The Black History Bulletin.

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