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Friday, May 18, 2007

Baby Moses Project: Solving the Crisis of the Black Boy

Part I – The Intellectual Challenge
Friday, May 18, 2007

I believe that there is a place in the world for black boys if we teach them the right things and allow them to develop their natural aptitude, skills, and talents.

One of the most interesting and intelligently written questions came from a stakeholder in Bell Curves LLC:

The Supreme Court of the U.S., arguably, seems to implicitly concede that there are barriers to entry at prestigious institutions that require the use carefully tailored affirmative action policies/preferences to redress. To the extent that any given standardized test represents such a barrier, how, in your opinion, does the current climate of increased standardized testing exacerbate the discrepancy in performance between African-American male and female students? Between African-Americans and other racial groups?


The Supreme Court seems to “implicitly concede” that there are barriers to entry… To the extent that any given standardized test represents such a barrier, how… doe the current climate of increased standardized testing exacerbate the discrepancy in performance between African-American male and… other racial groups?

Eddie Griffin ANSWERS:
Standardize testing is not one of the “barriers” for which affirmative action was created. The fact the African-Americans score lower on standardized tests and are helped into prestigious institutions, despite their white counterpart scoring higher, does not supplant the fact that African-Americans are still trying to make up for past discriminations. Affirmative Action college entrance programs were created to overcome the age-old practices of keeping blacks illiterate and uneducated.

The Supreme Court has consistently upheld this principal. But some would pull the early plug on Affirmative Action like the abrupt end to antebellum Reconstruction. The African-American family is still only two generations removed from total illiteracy.

Does standardized testing widen the performance gap between African-American male and other racial groups? Of course!

Now if the standardized test was basketball and performance measured by how many shots you make, then the performance levels would be reversed. If performance were based upon how well you read and understand Shakespeare, then the aristocratic child would have the advantage. And, I believe this is where the disparities come in.

Put a child in a classroom with a teacher that spoke ghetto slang with a Jamaican accent, then it would be easier to see and understand how an African-American child might struggle to understand Euro-Germanic dialect with $10 words. Disparities are manufactured through inadvertencies and misreads and misunderstandings.

Whose responsibility is it to insure that every child understands instructions?

A technician sometimes makes a better teacher because the tech is hands-on. Most public school teachers take a hands-off approach to teaching. With techs, the level of engagement is higher and there is a greater appreciation for learning because the some students learn better by See-Do learning.

The methodology now being used for teaching African-American boys is different from the way they learn at home. Even the vocabulary is radically different.

What is the greater potential for this African-American young generation?

Cutting-edge Nanotechnology, Multimedia design, micro-science and system modeling are skill sets of tomorrow, which many black boys now have the mechanical and creative aptitudes for. Applied math and physics should conjoin with their natural knack for inventing, tinkering and discovering. For example, more useful information can be learned in musical science (sound waves, amplitude, sine waves, trigonometry, etc., than by simply listening to the classics and guessing at the author. A study in spatial science, computer drafting, graphic arts, and animations are new and exciting fields that many African-American kids would probably enjoy if offered such a curriculum.

After watching how easily they adapt to new technology and how they explore the computer in the idle time, gives an indication of their interest, aptitude, and latent skills. Core curriculum, such as reading, writing, and math should be integrated into the technical and professional development program, not the other way around. Abstract learning and memorization skills (as now required by the public school system for standardized test taking) cannot build a foundation inside the head of Africa-American boys in the same way as with other children who have reinforcement support by more educated parents. The first major hurdle in learning for many African-American children, I found, was the concept of abstraction when the child first encounters Algebra and no one at home can help him.

Henry M. Levin (partial) response to the Question

African-American male students do not do as well on the tests as African-American females. My guess is that much of this is attitudinal. It seems more difficult for African-American males to accept the regimen of middle schools and high schools, and some of the influences in inner-city communities such as gangs encourage resistance to school demands.

Eddie Griffin reflections on the Statement Above

What middle school and high school regimen? That is the problem: There is no regimentation or discipline. Most middle and high schools are ruled by chaos. Teachers are not trained in multi-tasking, nor can they orchestrate multiple learning challenges, whereby he or she can track all students’ progress at the same time.

The public school teacher uses one of the following ineffective delivery systems: The dictator approach where the teacher stands in front of the classroom and pounds the knowledge into the kids’ heads, or jumping from student to student in the over-the-shoulder guidance mode. In both scenarios, the teacher is disengaged from the student, which allows for the student to disengage with the teacher.

If there is an attitudinal divide, then it is due to alienation between student and teacher. In the case of black boys, alienation precedes a 50% dropout rate.

Henry M. Levin concluded:

I think that the deeper and more meaningful improvements will come only from a focus on the quality of instruction and learning, and not the present focus on test scores.

On this, I agree.


  1. I'm looking at a report of last year's standardized test results for my son's elementary school. Generally I don't agree with their breaking down results into ethnic, gender etc. groups because the results can easily be misinterpreted to make one group seem inherently more or less intelligent than another. But for the purposes of your project they seem to come in handy.

    It appears that African American children do better at math than most groups, including whites, but are doing poorly in English and science. Asian children do the best in every category. I'm wondering how Asian children, whose parents often only speak English as a second language, do considerably better in English than anyone else. I think we could stand to take a close look at that culture and learn from their example. If Asians can learn an entirely different language including our alphabet, why wouldn't black children be able to adjust to not using slang? Something doesn't add up.

  2. Anne, I have found that standardized test scores do not neatly correlate with race categories. The race-base achievement gap is a farce. I am set out on proving it.

  3. I'm glad to hear it. By the way, have you ever looked at the questions on a test for kids to get into GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) programs, or I.Q. tests? Also farces.

  4. Anne, I have not seen it. I have my own custom curriculum, base on my experience in running a community computer school and tutoring. Most of my kids are Whiz Kids.

  5. The GATE test that my older son took relied heavily on patterns and abstract math, not something everyone is good at. Some students who are gifted in other fields may not be getting into programs they deserve, and may be underestimated because of tests that don't tell the whole story.

    An IQ test that my son and I took for fun once was very heavy in European expressions and ways of communicating, something that relies on exposure to European literature and culture, and not on subjective ability to learn.

    I think custom curriculums are awesome. Schools should be encouraged to use kids' natural curiosity and individual talents, rather than the "sit down, shut up and memorize this" approach. Not all children learn the same way, and I suspect most teachers don't understand or care about that.

  6. I want to develop a custom curriculum that will, not only catch them up, but push them ahead in academic achievement on an international level. We have all the online tools we need to create a superior education format for our kids.

  7. I don't know how I managed to miss all this good discussion until now, but plez hipped me to what's going down over here. I had to chime in on this standardized testing issue, because not only are the tests flawed, the fact that teachers and schools are now evaluated almost entirely on their students test results has cause an extremely destructive shift in teaching methods and the focus of instruction in the classroom. it seems to me like the children are being taught to take a test, rather than given an education that will help them to succeed in life. the education is not related to learning for life, it's purely and simply rote and test taking skills.

    My 4th grade daughter's homework is usually in a mock test format. She gives us a report on what happens at school everyday, and everyday there is mock testing. If it wasn't for the fact that her mother and I supplement her education with our own assignments, even though she would still be a great students by their "standards" she wouldn't really be learning anything.

    Standardized testing may be the worst innovation in education in the history of education. Something this bad can't be an accident, so it must be a designed method of maintaining the status quo regarding mis-educating our children.