Tag Archives: Call to Action

Club 2012: This Is How We Do It

In 2007, a group of Black parents in Loudoun County Maryland became concerned as they watched their middle school sons fall behind in school. These parents’ expectations were high: they were raising their sons in one of the state’s most affluent communities and sending them to the high performing neighborhood schools. These well-educated, well employed professionals thought they were providing their sons with every opportunity possible.

But by middle school they noticed their sons getting passed over for honors courses and losing interest in school. Looking ahead, the high school statistics were even more sobering: African American children in their school district were consistently underperforming their white classmates on SAT’s and state standardized tests. What was going on? Did their sons feel too isolated in this predominantly white community? Were they not getting sufficient guidance from their teachers? Or were they simply not trying hard enough?

As reported in an article in The Washington Post, found here, these parents dispensed with the hand wringing, rolled up their sleeves, and got to work. They formed Club 2012, enrolling nearly every African American male at the middle school. The plan? Get parents involved, set high academic expectations, encourage positive peer pressure. Executing that plan proved to be quite labor intensive. According to the Post, “They organized twice-weekly homework clubs at school and monthly meetings at parents’ homes. They tracked their sons’ grades and test scores and pored over research about the causes and effects of the achievement gap. They set up study skills workshops, etiquette training and father-son rap sessions.”

As importantly, Club 2012 parents partnered with the teachers and the administrators of the school. They requested that their sons be assigned to classes with other black students. Parents sent letters at the beginning of the school year introducing their son to his new teachers, describing his personality and work habits, and explaining that they expected “nothing short of excellence” and that the teacher could count on their “unlimited support.” By the end of middle school, their sons were competing with one another to get higher grades and their GPAs were improving. While the parents put their most intensive efforts into engaging the boys in middle school, they continued working with them through Club 2012 in high school as well.

Six years later, the statistics for the core members speak for themselves: 100 percent graduation rate, 92 percent enrollment in Advanced Placement classes, a cumulative 3.7 grade-point average and a combined $1.3 million in college scholarships. 100 percent of the Club 2012 parents proud that their hard work coupled with their sons’ working harder and smarter paid off. At a private graduation ceremony organized by the parents, John Johnson told the students, “For the last six years, we’ve told you to do more, do better. We’re never satisfied, right? Well, tonight, we are satisfied.”

OK, GCP readers, if this isn’t inspirational proof that parental focus and support can positively impact our sons’ academic lives, then what is? These parents recognized that together they could make a difference, and they did. Good ideas abounded here, like writing to the teachers and pledging unlimited support for their sons’ academic growth during the year, forming homework clubs, and holding monthly parent meetings to share ideas and strategies. Good ideas that worked.

Kudos to the parents of Club 2012 who saw the issues, researched how to address them and got results. Read this article, and let us know what you think. Middle School parents, is there a Club 2018, 2019 or 2020 in you and your community?

Merci to our Parisian correspondent Albert Pettus for the heads up on this article.

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Filed under Ages 8-12, Parents

Are Black Mothers Failing Their Sons?

Blogger LaShaun Williams, writing for the Madame Noire site, raises the provocative issue of whether Black mothers, who can rely on their personal experiences to raise their daughters but do not have such natural instincts with their sons, are not doing as good a job raising their boys. She suggests Black mothers may be coddling their sons through life– “loving them as boys but not raising them to be men”.

In the article, found here, Williams notes how Black women are outpacing Black men academically, professionally, and economically, and asks if there is something about the way we are raising our sons which contributes to this. Using her own experience raising two young sons and a daughter, she acknowledges having greater difficulty disciplining her sons than her daughter, and wonders whether her tendency to excuse their poor behavior fuels the irresponsibility and immaturity which can follow boys into adulthood. She suggests that mothers work harder to consistently hold our sons to higher standards and place the same boundaries on them as we do our daughters.

While Williams is particularly concerned about how this impacts single Black mothers who do not have men in the house to help raise their sons, this issue is food for thought for all mothers of color, married or single. Do we, as Williams suggests, unintentionally favor our daughters by being clearer and more comfortable with how we discipline them? Do we allow our knowledge of how poorly the world can treat our sons affect our ability to firmly and confidently teach them right from wrong? And if Black mothers do have a tendency to coddle their boys, in households where there is no constant adult male presence, what can be done to make sure there is a firmer perspective at work? How can we all, as Williams suggests, “work harder to consistently hold our sons to higher standards”?

How can we parents best help our sons? Examining issues like these, which have no easy answers, is one of the key reasons GCP was created. We don’t want to wring our hands about such issues, we want to figure out how to resolve them. We look forward to exploring them fully, with your input, in 2012.

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Filed under Parents, Saving Our Sons

Focus on Facebook = Poorer Grades?

A professor at a Pennsylvania university recently set out to determine how college student’s grades are impacted by their Facebook usage.  Today’s New York Times reveals his study’s surprising conclusions, in an article found here.  The study found that while spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook is related to negative outcomes,  just checking Facebook for a few minutes at a time is not.  The study also concluded there is no significant connection between the time students spend on Facebook and the amount of time they spend studying.  (Really?)   While we would not suggest running to share this information with your sons in middle school, high school or college, it is interesting to hear that their focus on Facebook may not automatically have a negative impact on their grades.  Take a look at the article and see what you think.

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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, Entertainment

What Do Your Children Know About Our Civil Rights History?

Today’s New York Times features an article, found here, which details how little today’s schools teach about the history of the Civil Rights movement and how little today’s students know about basic civil rights history. Julian Bond, the former civil rights activist who began teaching the history of the civil rights movement twenty years ago, speaks of having students who confused segregationist Gov. George Wallace with “60 Minutes” journalist Mike Wallace. While we can decry the lack of inclusion of Civil Rights history in our children’s schools, this is no different than when we were schoolchildren and there was scant, if any, mention of African American leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, A. Phillip Randolph or even Frederick Douglass in our classrooms. It was incumbent upon our parents then, and it is incumbent on us as parents now, to make sure that Black children understand the history of African American struggle and achievement that allows them to live in a country where their equality is rooted in the law.

Of course, some of us had the advantage of growing up during the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, so we could see the battles unfolding around us on the evening news. We could see the value in learning Black history to understand how those movements fit in the continuum of the struggle of Black people for full citizenship. Our parents made us aware of the responsibility we had as the first generation able to take full advantage of entrance into elite schools and mainstream professions and companies. The reality is that two generations later, many of our children don’t feel that sense of urgency. We’ve all had conversations with friends bemoaning the unintended consequences of the hard won gains of the civil rights movement and the comfortable, integrated middle and upper middle class lifestyles it has made possible– our children believe they have the freedom to be mediocre.

The last three years of the Obama administration have shown us that the backlash against the Black equality his presidency represents is a real threat for all Black Americans. Considering the efforts by several Republican state legislatures to restrict our access to the ballot box and the persistently higher unemployment rates among Black people pushing many middle class people into poverty, our children can ill afford to skate by academically or bask in comfortable ignorance of our history. As the axiom says, “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.”

GCP would like to know, “How are you making sure that your children know the history of the Civil Rights movement?” We’d love to share good ideas about how to make our history come alive for our children.

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Filed under Ages 0-4, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, College Bound Students, Parents, Saving Our Sons

Are We Helping Our Children Learn to Handle Adversity?

Today’s New York Times Magazine includes a very interesting article, found here, about how the heads of a Manhattan private school and a national charter school program are working to help their students develop good character traits as well as good study habits. The private school head feared that his school’s focus on testing at every juncture and encouraging students to excel academically above all else did not give them a full set of tools with which to lead a successful life. While the head of the charter school program, whose students are almost all Black or Latino and from low-income families, was less concerned about the effects of frequent testing, he was concerned that a number of his highest achieving graduates had trouble doing well and sticking it out through college (an oft stated goal for all of their students), and that the students who were graduating college were the ones with the stronger character traits rather than the best grades.

Both educators saw a real need to give their students the psychological tools to pull themselves through a crisis (academic or emotional), come to terms with their own shortcomings and to work to overcome them. The article details how they worked together with a University of Pennsylvania researcher to come up with ways to teach their students important character traits which can help them develop these tools.

We at GCP have had many conversations with African American parents who worry that some of our children who are being raised in comfortable homes, with many of their wants and needs met on a regular basis, haven’t fully developed the skills to deal with adversity in or out of the classroom. A comment in this article made by one of the officials at the private school sounds uncomfortably familiar: “Our kids don’t put up with a lot of suffering. They don’t have a threshold for it. They’re protected against it quite a bit. And when they do get uncomfortable, we hear from their parents. We try to talk to parents about having to sort of make it O.K. for there to be challenge, because that’s where learning happens…[These parents are] overindulging kids, with the intention of giving them everything and being loving, but at the expense of their character.” While GCP staunchly advocates active parent involvement in our sons (and daughter’s) schooling, we agree that parents who are focused on fixing each and every problem for their children can impede their children’s ability to fix things for themselves, which is a critical life tool. Moreover, it can make the children believe on a subconscious level that they are unable to fend for themselves.

Of course, no parent thinks it is a good idea to create spoiled, soft children. And as this article notes, parents from every economic strata have the natural instinct to want to give their children what they want and need, and to protect them from discomfort and harm. The struggle for parents is knowing when and how to step back and let the child experience adversity and figure out how to make things better on his or her own. GCP will be exploring this issue, and how it particularly pertains to our community, with parents, teachers and experts. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Ages 0-4, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, College Bound Students, Parents, Saving Our Sons

A Persistent Problem: Being Bullied By Our Own for Being Smart

A generation ago, when I was a kid being bused into a predominantly white school in Brooklyn, I faced daily taunting and intimidation on the school bus from other Black students, who accused me of “acting white,” and “thinking I was cute” for the crime of being the only Black kid picked to be in the class for high achievers in my grade in the predominantly white school. I was teased, spat on and physically assaulted frequently during that 25 minute bus ride. While intervention by my parents and the school stopped the physical assaults, the ostracism continued. Luckily for me, my parents had the resources to move us out of Brooklyn to a more racially and economically integrated suburb.

A generation later, my husband and I moved to a similarly integrated suburb with the belief that our kids would be spared social ostracism for liking books as well as Lil Wayne. Imagine my disappointment when my son hit middle school and was subjected to daily taunting from his Black schoolmates because he liked to read, spoke standard English and had a diverse group of friends. After being on the Honor Roll his first semester, his grades took a nose dive. It took several months for us to ferret out the extent of the bullying to which our son was being subjected. Our suggestion to his teachers that the decline in his grades was caused by the bullying fell on deaf ears. Several of his teachers, including a Black teacher, preferred to believe that his newly mediocre grades were the best he could do. We ultimately moved him to a different school, where he is happier and his grades have improved.

A recent study conducted by sociologists at Virginia Tech and Ohio State University validates what many parents understand – bullying can be particularly detrimental to high achieving Black and Latino students. An article detailing the study can be found here. In his 2006 study “An Empirical Study of ‘Acting White”, Harvard Economist Roland Fryer determined that being ostracized for “acting white” is most prevalent in racially integrated public schools and has the highest social costs for adolescent males of color. An article written by Fryer about his findings can be found here.

Has your child been subjected to this kind of bullying? What did you do about it? Please share with us your experiences in confronting bullying.

Lisa Davis

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Filed under Academics, Admissions, Ages 0-4, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, College Bound Students

NPR Series: America’s Dropout Crisis

This week National Public Radio is featuring a series called “School”s Out: America’s Dropout Crisis” in which it looks at the dropout crisis through the stories of five people, three of whom have already dropped out and two who are at risk. The series overview can be found here. Today’s broadcast features the story of Patrick Lundvick, a Black teenager from Chicago who left school in the ninth grade, and has returned to a special charter school for dropouts after spending time in prison.

The national statistics on Black male high school graduates are devastating. Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education reveals that the overall 2007/8 graduation rate for Black males in the U.S. was only 47 percent. Half of the states have graduation rates for Black male students below the national average. New York City, the district with the nation’s highest enrollment of Black students, only graduates 28 percent of its Black male students with Regents diplomas on time. Overall, each year over 100,000 Black male students in New York City alone do not graduate from high school with their entering cohort.

Check out this NPR series which focuses on the human element of this national crisis. We cannot afford to be anything less than laser focused on the issues concerning the education of our boys and the educational reforms which are critical for their future.

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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Entertainment

Say What? Black Men Survive Longer in Prison than on the Outside

A study recently conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina concluded that the death rate was lower for Black men in prison than for those outside it. Take a look at theroot.com’s reporting of this study here. This kind of news gives us another good reason to make sure our sons flourish in school: so that they can learn how to conduct useful research and provide more thoughtful and balanced interpretations of it.

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Filed under Ages 16-18, Parents

NYT “Room For Debate”: Educational Issues

The New York Times online has a series called “Room for Debate”, in which it invites experts in the field to discuss news events and topical issues. Periodically the topic is education. The comments are often interesting and informative, and the format allows you to hear a variety of voices in the nation’s educational debate. Check out today’s topic, “How to Improve Summer School”, which can be found here, and the June 12th discussion on “Who’s Ready for Kindergarten”, found here.

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Filed under Parents, Saving Our Sons

The Educational Crisis of Young Men of Color

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of Harvard’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, and Gaston Caperton, President of the College Board, have written an essay in today’s Huffington Post and theRoot.com calling for national focus on educating young Black men. You can read it here. Gates and Caperton co-hosted a webcast discussion of this topic today at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute. The College Board Advocacy and Policy Center’s recent research in this area produced a report, “The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color”, which you can read here.

GCP heard some additional info today from Professor Gates which we'd like to pass on:  According to the 2010 census, there are 720 black cardiologists practicing in the U.S.  How many black basketball players?  About 350. Even assuming that only half of the cardiologists are men, it is statistically easier for our young men to become a board certified cardiologist than a basketball player in the NBA.

Let's get this word out to the boys who most need to hear it.

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Filed under Ages 0-4, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, College Bound Students, Parents, Saving Our Sons