This morning I read Forbes contributor, Gene Marks’ piece, “If I Was A Poor Black Kid”. Marks’ a self-described, “middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background” gives his blueprint on how poor black children can better themselves, given their circumstances. Since he is a technology contributor, it would make sense that most of this suggestions focus on how poor black children should use technology to their advantage. He also feels that more poor black children should take the initiative to apply to charter & private schools as well, to get a better education.
Could it all be so simple? Apparently through Marks’ rose colored glasses it is, but in all actuality, as a former poor black kid I know it isn’t.
See the thing about these poor black kids, is that they come from poor black families. Most of these children have parents that barely have an education beyond high school. There’s the saying, “Each One Teach One”, if their parents weren’t taught, how could they possibly teach their own? Marks suggests the use of technology in aiding poor black children. When I was a kid, technology wasn’t something that was readily available. In our classes in middle school we had a few Apple II computers, at home my version of technology was a typewriter & calculator. It wasn’t until I was in high school that we had our first computer in the house. The same exists today. How many poor black families can afford to have technology in the home? Have you seen the cost of a Macbook? Sure, a lot of schools in poverty stricken areas have “some” form of technology, but 3 computers to every 10 students isn’t much. What happens after school? Schools aren’t allowing children to check out Macbooks like library books, that’s for sure. So those websites that he list in his article are moot, after the school bell rings.
Marks also touches on the subject of private schools & charter schools, options which he states poor black children should take advantage of. He did mention how charter schools were competitive to get into, but what he fails to realize is that all charter schools aren’t created equal. Some of them have sub-par standards like a lot of public schools. Then there’s the private school issue. Once again, these poor black kids come from poor black households, even if 60% of the tuition is being paid by scholarships, where might these parents get the other funding? Sure, lets start families off on loans (if they can get approved for them) to pay for a secondary school education so by the time college rolls around, how much less will they be able to afford? Fortunately I had the opportunity to attend the largest high school in New Jersey, Elizabeth High School. Although EHS was in an ‘urban’ area, it afforded students the opportunity to excel in either academics or a technical trade. Through Advance Placement classes, extra-curricular activities and the help of the guidance counselors, the senior graduating class typically had about 900+ students. Most of these students either went on to college, the military or a technical school. I have plenty of friends from high school that grew up poor, that are now doctors, attorneys, and even educators in the same high school & district they graduated from.
It’s always easy to make suggestions when you’re on the other end of the spectrum. Being poor isn’t just a state of mind, that you can easily escape with technology and a charter school. If a child’s parents are barely making ends meet, being poor is about survival and in some cases education is a second thought. There are plenty of single & married parent households that are barely surviving in this economy. The saying goes is that you’re one paycheck away from being broke or homeless. Well, what about the people that are still broke, even when they receive that one paycheck? I’d be interested in knowing how many poor black kids Marks come across during the day as a “middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background”. How many of these poor black kids has he mentored or maybe donated a piece of technology to? How many supplies has he donated to public and charter schools? Even in my son’s suburban middle school, not a month goes by where the principal isn’t looking for supply donations, so I can only imagine what’s going on in urban schools. I’m sure if he polled some of these kids, and offer these suggestions to them face to face, they’d give him the same look that I gave him as I was reading his piece.