Black Children and School: One Man’s Remembrances!

Dear Commons Community,

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, has a guest column in the New York Times, describing his experiences as a black male in a Baltimore public school and what they mean to him now that he is a parent.  His language is quite dramatic:

“I can tell you everything that was wrong with my education — how cold pedagogy reduced the poetry of Macbeth to a wan hunt for hamartia, how the beautiful French language broke under rote vocabulary. But more than that, I can tell you what happens when education is decoupled from curiosity, and becomes little more than an insurance policy.

I was a black boy at the height of the crack era, which meant that my instructors pitched education as the border between those who would prosper in America, and those who would be fed to the great hydra of prison, teenage pregnancy and murder. That impulse still reigns today, and compelled by a disturbing range of statistics, it is utterly understandable. But for me it meant seeing learning not as an act of work and romance, but as a kind of hustle, a series of trials in the long effort to get over…

I was saved by the relentless energy of my mother and father, and the greatest education I received was in seeing those who lacked that advantage ultimately not make it.

“There before the grace of hard parents go I” was the lesson of my life. The lesson was unintentional and ironic. I acquired it in the midst of failure in the very environs that I now deem unfit. And so you must forgive my overthinking. I am watching my child grow in a new world of comparable bounty and privilege and I can’t help but wonder, and worry, at what unintentional lessons I am now imparting.”

Important commentary for parents everywhere!



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