On Feb. 28, 2011 six African Americans met with the Superintendent of St. Charles Parish Public Schools and among other concerns, raised the question of the gap in academic performance between African-American and white students. Following is precisely what we requested:
"There is a significant gap in academic performance between African-American and white students in our school system. We are requesting that a comprehensive study be conducted by professionals to determine the causal factors for this difference. Upon completion of the study, an action plan should be formulated to address the elimination of the gap. Our expectation is that a quarterly report will be made available to us on the progress of the study/action plan."
We have another meeting with the Superintendent scheduled for March 12 to review his findings. Guided by the principle that the people make history everyday by their actions and omissions, we view these meetings as a modest contribution to the forward flow of history. Malcolm X reminded us that of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research. With that in mind, we share with you what Dr. King had to say some 45 years ago on the academic achievement gap between African-Americans and whites:
"Whatever pathology may exist in Negro families is far exceeded by this social pathology in the school system that refuses to accept a responsibility that no one else can bear and then scapegoats Negro families for failing to do the job. The scattered evidence suggesting that family life is important in educational progress provides only partial support for the rationalization of educators; for family life explains only a small portion of learning difficulties. The job of the school is to teach so well that family background is no longer an issue. The sad truth is that American schools, by and large, do not know how to teach – nor frequently what to teach. The ineffectiveness in teaching reading skills to many young people, whether white or black, poor or rich, strongly indicts foundations and government for not spending funds effectively to find out what different kinds of reading experiences are needed by youth with various learning styles at various points in their life.
"We have been timid in trying to improve schools.
"Programs that throw a little money into a school for counseling or remedial reading instruction cannot prepare youth for the educational needs of today. The task is considerable; it is not merely to bring Negroes up to higher educational levels, but TO CLOSE THE GAP BETWEEN their educational levels and those of whites. If this does not happen, as Negroes advance educationally, whites will be moving ahead even more rapidly."
The above is found on pages 193-194 of "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community" by Martin Luther King Jr., published in 1967.
As a means of emphasizing the historic continuity of our people’s concern for quality education, we plan to share with you in next week’s issue of the St. Charles Herald-Guide a 1906 perspective on education by William Monroe Trotter and W.E. B. Du Bois.