This documentary by Tony Harris takes an indepth look at the failure of the educational system, particularly for Black males and uses Baltimore’s inner city as the backdrop to address cartain issues. I found it rather fascinating that some of the issues he discusses are similar to the ones my wife and I contend with in Ottawa, Canada in regards to our 5 year old son. Although we reside in what could be describes as an upper middle class neighbourhood and our son attends a “good” school with dedicated teachers and abundant resources, we are forever cognizant and vigilant to the lower academic expectations and negative behaviour labeling that our “little Black boy” may be subconsciously or subtly subjected to by members of the school community.
However our son is excelling academically in school. He is enrolled in the senior kindergarden french immersion program. His success is due in large part to three factors. First, my wife and I take an active interest in his educational and athletic endeavours. We have made the commitment to take full responsibility for his education and not shift this responsibility to his teachers. We see them as a valuable resource in assisting us in his education and development. We have also enrolled him in piano lessons, which we find is a great tool not only in the development of his musical abilities, but also in his emotional progression as well as his logic and mathematical comprehension. Athletically, he takes swimming and ice skating lessons, plays organized soccer and T-ball.
Second, “we’re are constantly on his azz!” lol! He is fully aware and constantly reminded of our high expectations of his academic performance as well as his behaviour. He goes to school half day, so we have purchased academically based activity workbooks (math, science, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension and logic), as well as writing exercises which we do with him when he gets home. He has lunch, then has to do at least an hour of this work before he is allowed to watch televison or play with his toys. He reads to one of us every night (we don’t read to him) before bedtime. He is only allowed to play his Wii on the weekends, i.e. Friday and Saturday evenings, if he has performed and behaved to our expectations! Therefore playing video games for him is a privilege and not a right.
Third and most importantly, his parents are married to each other and we all live in the same household. We are both Black and professionally employed. Neither my wife nor I have children from previous marriages or relationships, so we can focus all our time, energy and resources on him and his sister. He is also expected to do his chores, which includes assisting us in taking care of his baby sister.
Is all this the formula for success for Black boys? We don’t know, we’re just doing the best we can with what God has blessed us with. So far it is working for us. It literally punched me in my gut and broke my heart when a mother in the documentary discusses what her realistic expectations are for her son: click 31:48 – 32:45. It really brings home the point that by the grace of God go we all!