Can We Blame Kids for Bad Schools?

Gregory Kane, BlackAmericaWeb, January 14, 2011

Can we at least put the question of whether bad students make for bad schools on the table? Most can’t, but Robert Weissberg and Mark Bauerlein have.

Weissberg is the author of a book published in 2010 with the controversial title, “Bad Students, Not Bad Schools.” His thesis is that the millions of dollars taxpayers are pumping into public schools won’t make a bit of difference if there are students who don’t give a fig about learning. {snip}

Bauerlein is the author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future.” Bauerlein did a review of Weissberg’s book for the November issue of Commentary magazine and had this to say about America’s bad students:

“Millions of lazy, incurious, disruptive, unintelligent and nearly illiterate youngsters flood classrooms every day, and none of the popular and hugely expensive initiatives and ideas peddled by ‘education mayors,’ well-meaning foundations and professors of education will change them.”

Black folks, being the feisty and contrarian people we are, will simply dismiss Weissberg and Bauerlein as two racist white boys with a conservative agenda. But their point has already been proved. And it came not from some erudite authors like Weissberg or Bauerlein, but from a street-smart but academically clueless kid named Audie.

If you don’t remember Audie, then you didn’t see the 2008 documentary “Hard Times at Douglass High,” about the Baltimore school named for the great Frederick Douglass. {snip}

Here’s Audie’s assessment of the importance of school and academics: “This is what we do,” he said in the documentary. He was talking about himself and a bunch of other students, who roamed the halls all day and learned nothing.

“Just walking the halls all day, baby. (Bleep) class. That (bleep’s) for clowns, man. Don’t nobody go to class around here, man. Man, (bleep) academics. Academics? We gon’ leave that to them nerd-(bleep)(bleeps). We gon’ keep it straight ‘hood. All my (bleeps) out here, we gon’ keep it gutter.”

A black Baltimore businesswoman told me of her latest run-in with black America’s Audies. {snip}

“The boys were like zombies,” she told me. “They hardly did or said anything. One put his head on the desk and went to sleep.”

The girls, she said, showed more life, but had a problem with that “respect for elders” thing. When she asked members of the class what year Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, she got only blank stares.

“1964?” one brave soul volunteered. Close, kid, but no cigar.

{snip}

So the question of whether bad students make for bad schools should definitely be on the table. {snip}

It’s been seven years since Bill Cosby made his famous–or, for some black folks, infamous–remarks about those poor blacks who “weren’t holding up their end of the bargain” when it came to education. A lot of black folks–few of them poor–got mad at Cosby about that. Some of them, like writer and professor Michael Eric Dyson, are still mad at Bill.

But the Cos did something interesting after he made his remarks. He went to several cities and held town hall meetings with some of those same poor blacks he had supposedly dissed. Most welcomed him with open arms because they realized one thing. They didn’t just know some of those blacks he was talking about, but they knew some of them by their first names.

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