One of the most important things I learned to do during my engagement with the K-16 educational system was to discern what academic information was, and was not, of value. The process served me well because much of the “information” being taught by my teachers/professors was of absolutely no utility to my future. I quickly learned that it would be in my best interests, particularly if I hoped to ever be of any utility to my people, to memorize much of the drivel that was taught in American History classes, from a white perspective I might add, and quickly erase it from my mind the moment I stepped out of class.
I now realize that I was most fortunate to have been educated during the eighties and nineties as I had several educators, ironically all of them African-American, who guided me through the educational process and pointed me towards relevant materials such as: James Baldwin, Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois, Alice Walker, and Booker T. Washington. I now realize that these brilliant educators had tailored a unique intellectual diet specifically designed to maximize my chances of success as a Black man in an often hostile white world. Although I may have been in the same classroom as whites, my African-American instructors knew, even before I realized it, that my path would be much different than those around me for obvious reasons. This is not a cry regarding the unfairness of America, rather the statement of obvious realities.
The alluded to path has led me to develop views that oppose many Black leaders political positions, particularly, when they are doing their best to ingratiate themselves to white power structures by falling in line with a politically correct company line; a posture that will invariably prove to be personally beneficial to them, yet disastrous to the majority of African-Americans. It is this ability to think and weigh issues that has led me to take significant issue with many African-American elected officials and Civil Rights leaders regarding this monstrosity known as the Common Core. For those who are unaware, the Common Core is a dastardly attempt by a coalition of woefully misguided school administrators, politicians, and social advocates, please note that educators, the front-line of any school system, are largely left out of this process to ensure that every child is provided an opportunity to succeed. Never in the history of thought have one group of highly educated people been more misguided.
Although I understand the angst and anxiety that leads African-American elected officials to embrace the Common Core, they are well-meaning and seeking to ameliorate the suffering that Black children repeatedly endure, this particular plan is not the path to aiding our children. The embrace of Common Core State Standards is promoted as a means of guaranteeing that all American school children, regardless of race, class, gender, or geographical realities will be put on an even playing field. However, such a view is ill-informed, myopic, and takes much for granted regarding the American educational system. It is difficult to debate that the one-size fits all educational model has never served African-American children well; particularly when one considers that the alluded to hand-me-down garment was never altered to fit their unique psychological needs and career aspirations; make no mistake about it, this garment was, and still is, exclusively designed for white America.
Considering that education is one of the primary pillars, along with exposure, observation, and participation, that facilitates humans learning everything they know, or think they know. Consequently, it is important that we take the education of our children with the utmost importance, it should super cede even our adherence to religion; yes, it is that important. However, the African-American community behaves as if matters regarding who educates their children and what this education includes are as inconsequential as where they will purchase a pizza. Such a position evokes the memory of Malcolm X and his admonishment that “Only a fool would let his enemy teach his children.” Considering the contemporary state of Black children one is hard-pressed to state that the current educational system is serving their needs and the Common Core State Standards moves us further down this road of rote memorization, white curriculum, and an absence of educational utility for African-Americans.
As a History professor, I have seen the affect that movements such as the Common Core has had upon the minds of Black Children. Put simply, many of them are unable to think for themselves. The process of intellectual inquiry, the only path to education, has been replaced by one simple question for the vast majority of students; “Will this be on the test?” They have learned that the only means of successfully navigating this current system of standardized testing is to memorize everything and question absolutely nothing. Instead of engaging a historical event such as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to discern what were the reasons that stolen Africans were imported to the West, educators are forced to dumb down their curriculum in preparation of test questions that test a child’s memorization skills, not intelligence: What year was the war of 1812? What year did Columbus discover America? What year was the Declaration of Independence created? If only they memorize these dates, they will receive a diploma that signifies that they are educated.
In actuality, they are little more than robots who have had their entire reality, even the things that they can conceive in their imaginations, dictated to them by individuals who have scant interest in their intellectual development. Ironically, many of the alluded to individuals who are developing and advocating for the Common Core have not been inside of a classroom in decades. Such a prospect is particularly daunting and scary for African-American schoolchildren as the creators of these curriculum, regardless of their racial classification or ethnicity, are exclusively emanating from a white world supremacy educational paradigm. Put simply, our story is not in these draconian curricular offerings. The creators of school curriculum are akin to a mafia-like cartel that dictates the future realities of African-American schoolchildren.
Trust me when I say that the costs of this robbing of American educators the ability to educate children while already high will eventually cost this nation its status as a leading industrial nation. Because when education leaves, so does ingenuity, technology, and economic growth. If white children are lagging behind the rest of the world in regards to educational achievement, I shudder to think where the masses of Black children are situated. From my perspective, our children, the one’s that the village is supposed to be raising, deserve a much better present and a blindingly bright future. We all know that education is the only way for African-Americans to improve their lot in life, unfortunately, they can no longer receive it from the local school.
James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D., M.A., M.A., M.A.