January 30, 2015
The African American community faces unique educational challenges due to a number of mental, cultural and environmental circumstances. After attending a meeting at my child school concerning the implementation of new course curriculum, I saw a handout that analyzed educational achievement according to race. In every category, African Americans were achieving noticeably less. I was shocked by what I saw, and I was compelled to explore the issue further. This made me wonder why African Americans were not reaching their full educational potential. One can consider multiple factors that hold significant influence.
Effects of Slavery on Education in the African American Community
During a dark time in American history, African Americans were openly oppressed. Education was seen as a privilege not offered to slaves. Slaves were not allowed to read or write, and they were forbidden from trying to learn anything that could empower them. This practice went on for over two hundred years. This initial barrier to education placed a low value on education from the perspective of many Blacks during times of slavery. Most parents discouraged their children from pursuing educational endeavors in fear that they would become targets of violent outbursts and attacks from their oppressors, because an educated slave was seen as a threat. The lack of educational materials during times of slavery prevented Blacks from gaining a formal education and the knowledge necessary to thrive in America. Slaves had to sneak to learn how to read and obtain literature, or they were secretly taught by another slave.
After slavery ended, the Jim Crow laws continued to limit African American access to education. Segregation in the school system continued after slavery was abolished, and further ingrained the philosophy that Blacks did not deserve a good education. Even today, we still see the effects of the dead Jim Crow laws. The extreme scarcity of strong educational resources and faculty support in the current time prevents blacks from achieving higher educational success. If African Americans can fully harness the power of education, then the entire race will be uplifted.
The Broken Family Unit
Although the value of education varies in each African American household, the broken family unit also affect ideas and habits toward education. African Americans are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to live in a two-parent home. Single mothers working multiple jobs and shifts to make ends meet may not have adequate time to invest in their children’s learning process. A lack of fathers in African American households also adds to the economic disadvantage. This disparity may have caused most African American children to place a higher value on basic needs (food, clothes, shelter) over educational pursuits. When survival becomes more important than school, attitudes toward formal education suffers.
The absence of role models in the family or community who finished school can lead Black students to set low educational standards for themselves, if any at all. These same students often fail to pursue or complete a college degree. Developing better attitudes toward education in the black household is necessary. In a household with a healthy educational attitude, education is seen as a vehicle to the perfect job and career.
Mental Conditioning and Attitudes
The attitudes that African Americans developed after multiple forms of oppression over the years has had negative mental effects on them, and warped their mindset towards education. The lack of self-esteem in the black community contributes to the mental oppression resulting from slavery. Some African Americans do not feel worthy of education, or they may feel that pursuing an education will not help them. Others were told they were not