By Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D., Kansas City, MO —
Heritage impacts education. A person’s heritage and lineage can have a major impact on educational achievement. The importance of each of these forces goes beyond the physical, mental and economic health of an individual. Imagine the void created if you do not know about either.
Lineage and heritage impact, often govern, our sense of anticipation, expectation and level of productivity as we move along life’s journey – determining how well we triumph over or succumb to challenges and circumstances.
Make no mistake about it, whether at a conscious or subconscious level, our sense of self, our sense of our past, which our lineage and heritage play a direct role, impact the present and future course of our lives. They can be direct determinant of our existence and overall well-being.
Where this phenomenon plays out daily is in the education of our children.
This nation’s educational achievement gap among its children has been a protracted challenge. The achievement gap between white children and black children remains deep and wide. There are examples where the gap is closing, but those are the exceptions, not the norm.
There are many things that play into the poor performance of black children as they sit in classrooms everyday: the deprived and poor conditions in which they live like blighted neighborhoods, poor housing, low income, poor diets, to name a few. Those are the physical forces that are their constant companions.
The mental forces include: many single parent families, a lack of parental involvement in schools because parents are struggling to make ends meet; parents being unable or unavailable to help with homework, all of which can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and hopelessness on the part of both parent and child.
So often, black children enter the classroom with a list of physical and emotional deficits. And yet, during those 6-8 hours – prime hours – a major opportunity to motivate, inspire and instill hope is so often missed.
These children are often presented with information – people, places, and things – that has little or no relevance to their lives. And yet, they are expected to grasp it, relate to it, and excel. Heritage and lineage impact education in many ways.
How many of us have had our lives impacted by someone we read about? How many of us have come to believe, “If they can, I can.” Heritage and lineage impact education and can have extraordinary positive outcomes.
Black children in school need to learn about their lineage, their history, their heritage. They need to learn about the accomplishments of blacks just as they learn about those of whites and others. Not just about slavery, the Emancipation, the Civil Rights Movement, but about contributions blacks have made in science, health, art, music, education, government, the military, space exploration, and other subjects.
As schools across the nation work to close the achievement gap between black and white children, the content of WHAT is being taught in the classroom must be a major focus.
Reading about, and seeing, people who look like us achieving, is believing. What are black children reading about, what and who are they seeing in classrooms every day, across America?
Feature photo credit: army.mil