Throughout history highly educated people have done some very bad things. For instance, in two time periods of the past century-the early 1900s and during World War II-highly educated colonial German doctors and successor Nazi physicians performed atrocious experiments on Black people, both in Africa and in Germany. In the course of time, other victims included-but were not limited to-Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and the handicap. Hauntingly, some German intellectuals applauded these ghastly government-sponsored programs. This proves that education minus morality equal disaster. My point restated? Excluding morality from a rigorous academic program is a clinical experiment that has failed miserably. It has resulted in the creation of eloquent monsters. Humanity could have been spared a lot of heartache had it maintained the proven educational system penned by the divinely inspired Moses the African. (Deut. 6:6, 7) Instead, we adopted a European-based education system that was doomed to failure from the start. It has taken us from being pyramid builders to an impoverished people. Indeed, this embrace has been detrimental to what's left of our culture, namely, American Africana. A cursory look at certain components of this Eurocentric educational system is very telling. We'll start with "kindergarten."
The very word itself is of German origin (1840) and means "children's garden." Though a noble idea, it was NOT designed for Black children and runs counter to our African heritage. Think about it, you'll find that a traditional African mother will carry her child with her everywhere as she balances a load on her head (thereby giving her perfect posture!). A short while after the child is weaned he embarks on a training process sponsored primarily by his father. Compare this with traumatizing your child at a tender age by dropping him off at "pre-school" (another German-inspired idea that was called "Infant gardens" and started in London in 1851) or taking him to his first day of kindergarten where he becomes acculturated to institutional life. At some point he resists the unnaturalness of this and rejects the institutional methodology of European-based learning. And you wonder why more enlightened African American youths today become "dropouts"! Now, a society riddled with systemic racism and discrimination rewards the child by forcing an institutional way of life on him anyway. They call it a penis-oh, excuse me-I mean a penal institution where he may become a punk.
And then there's the word "academy," described in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary as a "gymnasium where Plato taught." Named after the mythological Greek hero Akademos and associated with the Greek goddess of wisdom Athena, there is nothing African about it. And even if there was a smidgen of residue Africana in Greek tales, it's because the ancient Greeks hijacked African know-how from Alexandria, Egypt. (See the book Stolen Legacy by George G.M. James for more details.) And why our Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) with their fraternities and sororities are enamored with ancient Greek culture baffles the initiated. In the community that was ancient Africa there was no place for such ego-feeding exclusionary organizations.
What shouldn't be baffling is the high "dropout" rate amount Black youth across the country. Apparently, these youths take to heart the slogan of the United Negro College Fund, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste," and don't want to waste theirs on subpar public schools. They feel that being in the system itself puts them at a disadvantage. It's designed to leave them behind. Take my elementary school alma mater for instance. The May 24, 2006, issue of the Los Angeles Times reads: "Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the school could face sanctions if it fails to raise its test scores significantly this year....Every student at 112th Street Elementary is poor enough to qualify for subsidized meals." As I stated in last week's article, it has been that way for over four decades now, and you wonder why the descendants of pyramid builders who mastered disciplines in medicine, science, astronomy, and others are jumping ship?
Charter Schools the Answer?: Alain Le Roy Locke High School, where I attended when the hallways still smelled new and where we had the number one high school band in the country, is now an experimental charter school run by Green Dot Public Schools. Before Green Dot took over Locke had more "dropouts" than graduates. Test scores have risen and safety isn't the issue it used to be. "The stakes are high for students, but also for Green Dot and the charter-school movement," reports the Los Angeles Times. "Locke represents a major expansion for Green Dot and its success-or failure-will be watched by education reformers around the country." Even if successful, you're still starting from a paradigm that's lacking at its core. "Green Dot has split Locke into seven separately run academies," says the Times. As we learned, academies grew from the Greeks, who stole African legacies. Not a very moral move. Being a "public," European-based school, its very premise is flawed. Again, why don't you teach your children? No matter how well-intended Green Dot is, two Black Dots (you and your wife) are better than one Green Dot.
My Other Experience: Although I hail from Watts and have taught as a substitute teacher at Centennial High School in Compton, I've been on the other side of the tracks. Living 'south of the boulevard' in Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley, my daughter attended a Valley school. Although still part of LAUSD, it was another world. A better world. I saw this up close and personal when I was a volunteer participant-for several years-with the Youth Motivational Task Force and Career Day programs. Actually, White pupils had a better learning environment, complete with better equipment and books. The list goes on.
A Quality Education: The government compels you to send your child to public schools that gives them half-truths and a mixed education that includes miseducation and misinformation. Then they don't give a full disclosure relative to certain historical events. It's as one Russian poet put it, "The truth has been replaced with silence, and the silence is a lie." It's little wonder that educator James Loewen wrote the best-selling book appropriately entitled, Lies My Teacher Told Me (revised 2008). Given these realities, as it is, navigating your child through the public school system is nothing less than damage control where we should try to get our children to unlearn the Eurocentric academic misinformation they've been taught. "You didn't turn out too bad," you protest, "and you're a product of the LAUSD." True, but I can thank my mother and father for my "success."
Every day after attending school at 112th Street, my father drilled me at my time tables, spelling, speech and grammar. Mom, being one of Jehovah's Witnesses, studied with us endlessly out of the Bible and Witness publications. At home and in the Kingdom Hall we were taught to be autodidacts and polymaths. Mom made us join the Theocratic Ministry School, a special school where whole families attend together. Imagine that. There are no graduates since we never stop learning. (Mom's been a participant since 1958!) Because of my parent's attention to our education at home, we were often candidates for being skipped a grade. But, so as not to disrupt our friendships with our respective peers, we declined. Finally, irrespective of the challenging, extenuating circumstances standing in the way of a quality education for our youth, NEVER give up on them. Don't let them be a wasted mind left behind. Work, pray, and God will make a way. Amen.
Dr. Firpo Carr can be reached at 800.501.2713 or