Education that focuses on seeing students as statistics is bound to plague our youth for years. When systems and/or institutions are setup to measure the success of a child based on how well he/she does on specific tests, the overall makeup of the child is neglected, overlooked, and ignored. Because education is so critical to the success of our children, we must develop them holistically. What do I mean by this? The educational system must see our students as being more than statistical data, but as human beings with creative traits that extend well beyond the classroom or any state test.
Sadly and shamefully, there are many students who are simply being used as pawns to fill the prison system. In many states, students are tested in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade in order to determine the number of prison beds to get ready. Under this concept of the prison industrial complex, many of our children, especially children of color are set up to fail. When money and contracts are contributing factors to building prisons within certain communities, our children suffer. Not only do our children suffer, but families are shattered and communities are cracked.
Each year, leaders within the educational system gather together to go over data. They discuss topics such as how well students are learning, how much they improved or declined in particular subjects, and what can be done to improve overall student performance? These are just a handful of topics discussed. In addition to this, teaching methods along with alternative methods to the tradition discipline of in-school and out-of-schools suspensions are discussed. After all of this, the question someone will raise is how can we get people in the community to participate?
Speaking as an African-American male within the educational system, I’m concerned that we have labelled as well as categorized children into statistical data. Listening to experts in the field, I wonder if they see our children as human beings. I often wonder if these professionals who look at statistics ever consider the makeup of a child’s family structure and environment which includes their psychological, cultural, economic, and social status, just to name a few. Let’s face it – children learn differently and retain information differently. If our educational system is simply concerned with regurgitating and training and not educating, we have a problem. I use the word ‘train’ because for so long, we have adopted a method of programming and even brainwashing our children to do this and that according to a method. While I’m not dismissing the importance of structure and memorization, I am, however, stressing the importance of educating our children.
To help illustrate my point, let me point out the meaning of the word educate from the Latin meaning. The prefix of the word is ‘e’ which means ‘out of.’ Now, if we examine the root word which is ducere, you have the meaning ‘to draw or lead.’ So if we put it together, we can conclude that to educate is to draw out of. Students, regardless of who they are or where they come from have so much in them and we need to draw out of them what the Creator has instilled in them. That’s why we need to deal with the whole person and not be so caught up on data and more data. Because data can be manipulated as well as misinterpreted, many our youth suffer, especially African-Americans.
School systems must learn how to collaborate/partner with outreach programs that are able to reach as well as teach students regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, and sexual orientation. Because schools are limited with budgets, they should seek to think outside of the box. Just as school systems must step up to the educational plate, parents and community leaders cannot simply cheer on children in athletics and fail to attend and participate in PTA meetings and board of education meetings. Every year, our tax dollars go towards education and yet, very little participation is seen. Without active participation and holding all parties accountable, students suffer.
Here’s the challenge – invest in our children not just to take a test, but to become leaders throughout the world by educating them and not training them. As Ralph Ellison stated, “Education is all a matter of building bridges.”