AN ISSUE TO REMEMBER: THE OGBU STUDY
BY MIKE RAMEY
Out of Detroit, a web clip surfaced showing a gas station being ‘overrun’ by local teens who have decided to make the station their ‘hang out’, scaring away business for the owner. The true bottom line of the story rests with two parties: The teens and their parents. Web and blog comments don’t matter when there is a collapse of parental responsibility.
The economic ignorance of teens and adults of our modern era is tragic. Taxes are paid are generated by people who go to WORK daily. MOST of the jobs in the USA, your state, and your city are generated by small business owners, NOT by the government. IF teens are allowed to ‘vent’ their frustrations today, and IF their parents allow them to continue, few employers–Black, brown or white–will be sticking around ‘the hood’ to employ anyone tomorrow.
The same can be said for education. IF students ARE NOT motivated by their parents they WILL NOT achieve in the classroom. The teacher can OFFER your child knowledge, and teach them skills. However, IF the parent decides to abdicate their responsibilities, a student can be placed in a gold classroom with a diamond desk and silver computer–and still not be able to read, write or count!
A teacher can take you child to the academic fountain, but only the HOME can teach their child to drink, and motivate that same child to swim–even if it’s upstream.
AN ARTICLE AND A STUDY:
A few years back, I happened across a study concerning academic achievement and Black students. The article on the study was so insightful that I like to refer to it in those times when I hear how ‘unfair’ the ‘system’ is towards African American youth. The study was done by a Black researcher, and is available at Amazon.com. The formal title of the work, in book form is: “Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement,” by the late Dr. John U. Ogbu, a University of California at Berkeley Anthropology Professor. It was published in 2003.
There are far too many of us that like to believe that we–as a people–will never be able to achieve anything noteworthy. Let me offer some food for thought. Just because the ‘good’ news never seems to hit the newscasts or newspapers about our young Black men and women does not mean that we have to rely upon ‘majority culture interpretation’. IF other races can achieve…we can TOO! WE have to make sure OUR people are truly on duty in the home, and not just ‘hooked up’ to the entertainment system, taking their daily six to eight hours of ‘rump shaker’ trash intravenously.
SOMETIMES THE SOLUTION IS IN THE MIRROR:
In one ‘Geico’ commercial Mrs. Lincoln asked her husband, ‘Honest Abe’ about her figure in a dress…THEN stomps off out of the bedroom fuming when her husband tells the truth about her shape! Life lesson learned? Folks, no matter how much they say they ‘want’ the truth, can’t, don’t or even won’t handle it when it is right in front of them.
Back in the 1990s, Shaker Heights, Ohio, was a hip, happening suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. It had a sizeable, affluent
Black population, a great school system–and failing Black students. Things were so bad in the classroom that–according to a high school newspaper at the time–Black students had an average GPA (grade point average) of 1.9, while White students had an average GPA of 3.45. Furthermore, Black students were simply not cutting it in other academic areas, ranging from standardized test scores to enrollment in advanced placement coursework.
Of course, many of the Black parents–who were college educated themselves AND had high-powered careers–FREAKED! They reasoned–they ‘gave’ their kids everything! Why weren’t the offspring of the Black ‘best and the brightest’ achieving?
“It must have been some kind of intentional, systematic racism”, they thought. Some of the Black parents banded
together and sought outside help to make sense of the underachievement issue. They begged Dr. Ogbu to come and help.
At first, Ogbu, a Nigerian native, was apprehensive. However, he and a research assistant eventually came to Shaker Heights, Ohio in 1997, lived in the community for the better part of a year and made an in-depth study of the school system, the students, the parents, and everything in between. It took Ogbu and his team three years to crunch the numbers, and compile the data. Before the study was published in book form, he gave the parents a full year to respond to his findings. According to a lengthy article written on the study by Susan Goldsmith (which is still available on line in various parts of cyberspace) no parent ever responded to the work before it was published.
OGBU INVESTIGATES: THE TRUTH DOESN’T RESONATE:
One of the bottom line facts I have found out about life is that many people clamor for truth, only to rail against it when it surfaces. Even though Ogbu’s study was published nearly ten years ago, some of the results STILL stand out:
*Some affluent Black parents expected their merely moving to Shaker Heights to translate into improved academic progress of their children without their involvement. By ‘moving on up’ without keeping ‘parental pressure’ on their kids to achieve in the classroom, failure became not only an option, it became–a fact!
*Without Black parental involvement and pressure on their OWN kids, the ‘myth’ among young people that ‘achievement was a sign of acting white’ spread like wildfire, manifesting in lousy grades, dropping test scores and a host of other academic maladies.
*Lastly, in the classroom, there WAS a different treatment pattern by teachers towards Black and white students. Ogbu found that the cause for different treatment patterns centered in the fact that many Black students failed to complete assigned work and homework, while many of their white counterparts did. Thus, in the matter of performance and adhering to deadlines those who did not do their work did not reap better grades!
While Dr. Ogbu passed away a few years ago, his work will continue to speak for him–and to us–for years to come. It caused–and continues to cause–a LOT of controversy…ranging from sociologists who said that he ‘didn’t’ have the ‘credentials’ to properly do the study; to parents who ‘broke their silence’ after the study was made public, to those who stand to gain the most from the lack of Black responsibility–the ‘race hustlers’. Dr. Ogbu’s study unearthed more than a few unpleasant truths.
The central question: Now that we know, are we willing to DO what is necessary to reverse our own failures? Or, will we be content to follow the ‘advice’ from the ‘race hustlers’ over the cliff to our own destruction–while they line their pockets?
Why aren’t the children of our villages achieving? Read the article. Read the study. Let your kids read them as well, and discuss it with them.
Then re-introduce yourself to them as their parent (or parents) and start making academic demands of them.
People jumped on Bill Cosby a few years back when he wondered why many homes could afford the latest in electronic gear, but wouldn’t spend the money necessary for “Hooked On Phonics.”
The success of our Black youth hangs in the balance.
The REST of the world is not going to wait for your ‘precious baby’ to get his or her track shoes on to compete. They will be MORE than happy to run on and nab the brass rings of earning potential, jobs, and relationships while your child FAILS. Put another way; those IN the education system WILL motivate THEIR children to succeed. YOUR child is viewed as an ‘optional achiever’ to some of the same teachers who have ‘complained’ and went on strike about their ‘poor pay’ and working conditions while THEIR kids are enrolled in better schools and are turning in their work on time.
YOUR child is mentally starving to death daily in rooms full of academic food!
Dr. Ogbu said it best in his roadmap to academic freedom. The realities of academic progress MUST be stressed in the home…NOT learned via social media nor in the streets. Parental involvement at home WILL determine the types of grades brought home, and will cause our youth to strive to own businesses…not just ‘hang out’ at them.
RAMEY, a syndicated columnist and book reviewer, lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. THE RAMEY COMMENTARIES appears on fine websites/blogs around the world. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2012, 2013 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications.