A mobile gap favors black students

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Posted on 19th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Findability | Mobiles

How does a young black girl and boy reach beyond the disruptive school to which their circumstances have assigned them? As the New York Times reports today, that disruption is disproportionate for blacks:

Some 15 percent of the nation’s black students in grades K-12 are suspended at least briefly each year, compared with 4.8 percent of white students, according to federal data from 2006, the latest available. Expulsions are meted out to one in 200 black students versus one in 1,000 white students.

Certainly the expulsions reflect unruly school situations that affect every student, not just those who get suspended. Here at Handschooling.com, the hunger of black students for intellectual fare has been described, and several articles about the inherent equality of mobile posted. Handschooling avoids many school difficulties: Interacting with the internet using an individual mobile browser moves its owner through the gateway into the global commons.

And lo, the mobile escape by black students turns out to be quite real!

A report based on S. Craig Watkins’ book The Young & the Digital explains the mobile gap that favors young African Americans:

[Watkins said:] “Young blacks and Latinos are migrating decisively towards mobile media, using the phone as their main access point or gateway to the Internet.”

In fact, something of a “mobile gap” has arisen, in which young African Americans access the web for gaming, watching videos and other social activities for 1.5 hours per day, compared with 30 minutes per day for white youth, Watkins finds.

“There is always this impression that black and Latino youth, particularly those who live in deprivation and attend less-high performing schools, have a lag in their use of technology and their engagement with it,” Watkins says. “But, in some ways, they are even more assertive in their desire to be part of the tech world. Young African Americans are the early adopters of the mobile web.”

So, let’s respond to the black youngsters’ reach through the gateway by getting the global knowledge commons more findable, and putting the testing and certification there. The hands in the image here are those of Vernon Mason, suspended from school and working on his GED. Can he earn that GED using the mobile already in his hands? If not, let’s make it happen.

Obama presumes to put out black school fires

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Posted on 27th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Obamaschool | Politics

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“Obama strengthens black schools” is the headline for Politico’s story today that includes the above video and links to the executive order. Since that order is a pdf, making the text an effort open, I have copied the full text of the executive order on a webpage with a link to the pdf. I do so hoping it will help get people to look at it with some care. Just because it is about black education, does not mean it is good for black education. My opinion is that this executive order further federalizes control of schools — particularly black schools. It is nannyism that holds back individual black kids by allegedly coming to their rescue because they are black.

My opinion here is qualified by having been there and seen it done:

My own public education was at segregated schools in Texas. In 2nd-4th grades I was enrolled in the white school at Bastrop — a small East Texas town which also had a school for Negroes and a school for Mexicans. El Paso, where I spent 5-12, had a small Negro population, whose children were sent by law to their own school. A Borderlands article gives this history: “Douglass School Served Black Community Well.” I graduated from El Paso’s Austin High School in May 1954, the month the US Supreme Court ruled segregation unconstitutional. I remember my Mother’s concern at the time for the black kids, saying: “There won’t be the Negro football leagues any more, or a Negro girl winning beauty queen.” In the same vein, Borderlands includes this:

According to Arnold Williams, currently a biology teacher for the Socorro Independent School District, when Douglass closed, “Many students were upset at the fact they had to leave… They got used to the idea of being isolated from almost everything in society. They felt like a big part of their life was being shut out and a new door was opening.” Williams says some students were intimidated by society and the new surroundings, for Douglass had always been their home.

These things were thought and said a half a century ago. Today black beauty queens abound and many sports heroes are black guys. El Paso was to play a key role in ending sports segregation in 1966 — a story told by the recent movie Glory Road and which I blogged about when the movie was released.

In the present time, handschooling is a new big step to individualizing learning. The mobile a student uses does know or care about the race of its user. At the global online knowledge commons everybody studies from the same webpage, in an equality more pure than even the most visionary person could have hoped for in 1954.

My Mother was an individualist. I recall her teaching me in the setting of Bastrop that racial discrimination is simply wrong. The Bastrop setting in 1942-46 featured a white nannyism. We lived in a large and comfortable home near the edge of the center of town where only whites lived. Just a couple of blocks north of our house the small shacks where the Negroes lived began. I recall watching one day as the all-white volunteer Bastrop Fire Department rushed past our house. I looked on from the distance of our front yard as the white volunteers put out the fire that was burning one of the shacks, while the Negroes watched.

NEVER should we allow an African-American to be put in the position of those who were neither expected to nor knew how to put out the fire I saw in Bastrop. I may never get another reader for Handschooling.com, but I will say here: The Obama executive order yesterday is sending the federal government to put out presumed fires and thereby demeaning everyone involved in the HBCU. This move is akin to resuscitating Douglass School in 2010 and making it dependent on federal agencies. What follows is language from the executive order itself. I have left in cosmetic references to private sector inclusion, but clearly this is a federally controlled project with the central goal of nannying the historic black colleges and universities — of putting our their fires:

Here are excerpts from the federal nanny take-over provisions of the executive order: (more…)

Gifted black teens hunger to learn from a sparse intellectual table

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Posted on 11th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Findability | Mobiles

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This needs to be said: Public schooling is perpetuating a black underclass and Obamaschool will make this worse, and more permanent.

The Obamaschool “Race to the Top” panders to black kids (or to put it politically correctly: to minority kids). ED.gov describes the program this way: “Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms . . .” (which are summarized on the EdFed website). “Reforms” means fix things. Obama is looking for positive vibes by allocating big money (again!) to fix schools. Billions more tax dollars are about to cascade into public education. We already spend over $11,000 per child each year in pubic schools, more than a third more than it is taking in private schools to provide a far superior year of learning. (Chart from Cato video Economic 101)

This fixing the schools approach is perpetuating a black underclass. Making a public school a little bit better than awful does not release its students to partake at the bountiful intellectual table. They remain in the education underclass. I have watched it happen up close for thirty years.

Since 1982, I have worked in various capacities as a partnering volunteer in the New York City public schools. I got some background back in the 1960s when I taught high school for one year in El Paso, Texas. During that year I organized and coached debate teams at El Paso High School where I was teaching history. The boys I coached won the Texas State AAAA Championship and the girls team won the West Texas District title.

In the 1990s when I volunteered to coach a debate team at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School in New York City, I learned first hand what we are doing in public schools to bright black students. King HS is only a block from the Juilliard School of Music in Manhattan, and is across the street from LaGuardia High School (of “Fame” fame). The neighboring schools are exciting centers of learning; King not so much, and its students are primarily black. I once asked the kids I was coaching at King if there was any student in their school who was white, and they told me they did not think so.

The students who volunteered for the King debate team were at least as intelligent and intellectually curious and agile as the El Paso High School students whom I coached. The two boys who won the Texas debate trophy were accepted at Stanford University and Northwestern University respectively. The plans after high school graduation for the students I coached at King were go into the military, attend a traditional black college, or not to get any further education. One of the girls told me she would go the black college because they would give her remedial classes when she got there to “teach me what I didn’t learn in high school.”

During my three decades of knowing New York City public school students I have met many bright, able, eager black boys and girls. I have judged them in citywide debate contests, I have watched them in a large moot court competition which I helped organize during the decade that I administered a MENTOR program that paired dozens of public high schools with law firm mentors.

There is a common denominator among brilliant black kids who go through non-premium public schools. The common denominator — that cuts off their future — is that the have not learned much. Their vocabularies are noticeably small. They have little depth of knowledge in science. They have not read extensively in literature. And so, sadly, on.

Handschooling can fill the knowledge access deficit in a big way.

At the least, handschooling can make a pivotal difference for bright kids like the King debaters. We can put the internet in their pockets even as early as when they start school. Youngsters like these can be given the responsibility to take care of a mobile device. Even if we keep on forcing them by law to sit through public school classes where little is taught, they can uses their mobile devices to follow their natural curiosity to extend their learning online.

I think of one of the King debaters named Kurt — a handsome fellow, who was modest, highly intelligent, well-mannered, determined, and a natural leader. He entered the U.S. Army after high school. I feel sure he devoured the instruction the Army gave him, gaining competency. But in grade school his young brain did not ramify with math concepts to enrich it — because only the simplest arithmetic was offered in his public grade school. His early reading years were not as voracious as they could have been, his vocabulary remained small, limiting his concepts. Kurt and the other debaters treasured a class given by a tiny, aging assistant principal who challenged them with some discourse in literature. These gifted teenagers hungered to learn from a sparse intellectual table.

Many race to the top sorts of efforts have been made during the thirty years I have been acquainted with King HS. When I first got involved with the New York City public schools, for six years I helped staff President Reagan’s annual White House Conference on Partnerships in Education, an event that brought together hundreds of programs seeking to make schools better. That was followed by President George H.W. Bush declaring himself the “Education President.” Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush made education a priority as well. These efforts tried to move schools toward the top. Many efforts have been and are being made to improve the achievement of various schools and minority groups. Schools have not improved.

The real race to the top is among individuals. Black students like the debaters I coached at King should be at the head of the race but they are cut off at the knees at public school in the overall race to the top of their generation. At King all the students — not just the brightest — are held back by being there because expectations are low and knowledge scarce. There are races for the middle, and races to do a little better. Knowledge is the fuel for the sprint and for the marathon of education. Handschooling is a straightforward way to connect all of the the young generation with full knowledge — to make the race to the top individual and fair. Let’s do it!