Rescuing the Souls of Our Children
We have some choices to make. Do we continue to do the same things over and over and expect different results? (That has been called insanity) Or do we summon the courage to rescue our children from the labels and the stigma placed on them by institutions that are in the business of handling them.
We are raising our children in an environment where the dominant culture dominates and controls by manipulating the psyche of other ethnic groups, not only Africans, into believing that their indigenous cultures and abilities are inferior. Our children are now tested with biased instruments and labeled accordingly. They are then tracked based on inaccurate assessments or ignorance of their intelligences.
While many parents wait anticipating miracles as a result of the Department of Education’s restructuring, understand that no innovation will ever relieve parents of their duty. However, there are revolutionary concepts in education. Whether they find their way into public schools in general and inner city public schools in particular is the question.
Howard Gardner’s work, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, has been around for a few years. He disproves the theory that linguistic (words) and logic-mathematical ability are the sole measures of intelligence and defines intelligence as the ability to problem solve within a given culture. In addition to the two intelligences used as the bar in Euro-American culture, Gardner identifies the following: musical/rhythmic, visual/spatial (artistic), bodily/kinesthetic (adept at control of body motions and movement of objects), naturalist (keen sense of plant and animal life), intrapersonal (in touch with own feelings), interpersonal (understand others)
Discovering your child’s strengths (by observation) allows you to teach him or her using the methods compatible to those intelligences. If used in classrooms, it could free students from the boredom of hours spent listening to teachers talk or copying from blackboards. It could save you and your child the task of doing more of the same with homework. Who knows what genius could be discovered under the mass of boredom?
In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong takes Gardner’s theory further. Armstrong quit his job in learning disabilities and adopted the concept learning differences. He warns that negatives need to be dropped in describing children and their learning behavior. His listing of terms and suggested alternatives include: learning disabled can also be considered learning different; hyperactive – a kinesthetic learner; dyslexic – a spatial learner; aggressive – assertive. After generations of bias, a concept is advanced that challenges the cultural genocide practiced by Euro-Americans. And the beauty of it is – it’s parent friendly.
I suggest we accept our own diversity and focus on the commitment to have each and every child reach his potential in his own way. If we redirect the energy that we now spend attacking each other’s views, we can make a difference in our children’s education and their schooling. Educating them means discovering as much as we can about each child and providing a range of real life opportunities for them to learn, grow and contribute to their community. Schooling means utilizing existing resources to obtain the necessary training, skills and support for our children to prepare for their vocation in life while protecting them from practices that damage the psyche of African children.
In his book, The Maroon Within Us, Asa Hilliard cites nine things African-American children need in order to grow and become competent. Hilliard calls on parents to 1) study their history and culture; 2) model the behavior that is expected of children; 3) expose their children to the widest variety of experiences as possible; 4) involve relatives and friends in the parenting process; 5) involve children in the real world of work and play, joy and pain, and truth; 6) participation by parents and children in organized groups that serve the interest of the larger group; 7) giving children responsibilities and holding them responsible; 8)listening well to what children think and feel; 9) telling and retelling the story of one’s people so that they experience continuity and know how to be. Hilliard concedes that none of these will happen unless parents are motivated and the motivation comes from committing to something larger than one’s immediate family. Having African American children reach their highest potential should be motivation enough for us all. Questions and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org