The Makings of Modern Mis-Education
by Ezrah Aharone
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month and second Black PhD to graduate from Harvard, wrote the acclaimed The Mis-Education of the Negro way back in 1933. In the 1940s, psychologist Kenneth Clark’s “Doll Test,” demonstrated that Black children were being psychologically conditioned to yearn and favor the looks of White people at the expense of self-dislike. His critical findings were cited during Brown vs. Board of Education when the Supreme Court desegregated schools in 1954.
Here we are, decades removed and Dr. Woodson’s book is still widely sold and studied, while Black children are still predisposed to view White dolls as “prettier and nicer” with hair that’s “better” than Black dolls. Educationally, we face ever-dismal challenges where Black children enter kindergarten a full year behind Whites; by high school the gap extends to 4 to 5 years; and 58 percent of Black males don’t even graduate high school.
Princeton researchers recently published a 7-year study, concluding that a 20-year “Manhattan Project-effort” is necessary to close today’s education and economic gaps of racial inequality. Just so you’ll know, the original Manhattan Project was a massive pursuit, costing the equivalent of $22 billion and comprising thousands of scientists who developed the A-Bomb in 1945 to nuke Japan into a crisp. So, to infer this same category of endeavor, speaks to the comparative enormity of the challenge.
There’s good reason for skepticism since Black kids who dropout commonly say “classes aren’t interesting.” And as far back as my childhood in the 1960s, “Acting White” has been a tagline used by Black kids to ridicule those who academically excel. Naturally, adults respond by saying, “there’s nothing White about being smart.” Although this is absolutely true, it absolutely misses the point and fails to address the sociopolitical and mis-educational factors that confound young minds to misconstrue smartness with Whiteness.
Children worldwide learn that the earth is round and 1 + 1 = 2. These are universal facts that are neither Black nor White. However, the functions and end-uses that nations apply such facts to educate kids are neither neutral nor universal. Hence, “Acting White” is a troubled way that youngsters express something that we have lacked the power to change – Which is that the functions and end-uses of America’s “System of Education and Intellect” are based on skewed purposes, processes, and interpretations that place European images, ideals, and institutions as the central and supreme frame of reference and relevance. This lack of intellectual and institutional equality, encapsulates the essence of the mis-education identified by Dr. Woodson.
Our mistake is that we consider it sufficient to simply insert Black people into existing White institutions, and then paste tidbits of sanitized versions of “Black History” into America’s larger body of education. By contributing without properly correcting the end-uses and known partialities within America’s “System of Education and Intellect,” we have allowed “the problem to masquerade as a solution.”
Ask yourself – To what end-use is our current system of thought being applied, and who are the ultimate beneficiaries and end-users? With our 4 centuries of collective intellect and institutions, we can’t stop our youngsters from shooting and killing each other. We can’t even stop them from cursing in front of elders. We have communities nationwide being held hostage to Black-on-Black crime. Mis-education is making us intellectually and functionally unfit to “rescue ourselves from ourselves.”
Black leaders and educators have convened for decades to debate and decipher “what’s wrong.” But here’s a hard truth – The very psychological inducements that trap Black children to idolize and overvalue White dolls, mutates into sociopolitical mindsets that induce Black adults to idolize and overvalue European ideals and institutions just the same . . . its one yoke with two levels of shackles.
Centuries of mis-education won’t simply evaporate, yet the purging process would undress America’s character and historiography in ways that America would find uncomfortable and unwilling to concede. So unless we mount ample intellectual and institutional capacities, The Mis-Education of the Negro will not only be the title of Dr. Woodson’s book, it will be an accurate description of a permanent reality.
Ezrah Aharone is the author of Sovereign Evolution: Manifest Destiny from Civil Rights to Sovereign Rights (2009) and Pawned Sovereignty: Sharpened Black Perspectives on Americanization, Africa, War and Reparations (2003).
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