Saturday, May 12, 2007

Black Moms Push Their Kids’ Educational Aspirations More Than White Moms

Time for more stereotype busting.

This is an interesting headline that I came across on a forum go to a lot: Survey: Black Moms Push Their Kids’ Educational Aspirations More Than White Moms

Of the women who took the voluntary survey in November, 74 percent of the black women said their mothers had specific educational goals for them, versus 64 percent of white women.

The survey of 1,010 women also showed that 31 percent of black women expect their children to go on into graduate and professional school, while 20 percent of the white women had the same expectation.

A total of 717 white women responded in the survey, and 293 black women responded.
The tone of the thread seem to express some surprise over the results of this survey.

I know my mother did. I don't see why that's a surprise.

For white mothers, the system is on their side. They expect their children to be educated and, in general, aren't worried that their kids are going to fall through the cracks.

Also, it's an issue of social-economic class. If you come from an educated upper-middle class white-collar family you're going to expect your kids to follow in that example. However, in American most whites aren't in that demographic. We're talking about averages and normal curves here. The average white people I know who grew up in the same social-economic class than me, lower middle class, aren't as educated as I am.

However, you hear story after story of the black people who came from poor and modest backgrounds but got their education and are now professionals, white-collar workers and above. That's huge, but we don't give enough credit to people when it happens because we're too busy focusing on the negative stuff. The stereotypes show blacks as anything but educated and hard-working.

So, I say again, thank you so very much mom. I miss you, and I love you.

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  1. I hope this means we can get rid of affirmative action.

  2. When we get rid of the glass ceiling and the old boy network both of which are very real, I'll be on that getting rid of affirmative action bandwagon too.

  3. Great post! No surprise to me either! Both my parents are teachers and I remember my mother coming up to school all the time having to deal with guidance counselors and some teachers who didn't have the same educational aspirations for me as my parents.

    Because our mothers know how much racial discrimination is still happening, they know they have to fight that much harder for us. My mother always wanted me in the Honors classes, but the school kept pushing me back. My mom kept having me put back in the Honors program.

  4. Thanks for the comment. At least you're not some bitter person leaving anonymous affirmative action digs on what is a positive piece of news. Some people. Comments like that show exactly why we have such a long way to go.

    Yes, honestly, I didn't realize how deep prejudice went. I was that sheltered by my parents. Should I have children, I'll be very similar to my parents in this respect.

  5. My mother grew up in rural poverty in the south, but in her family there was a strong belief that education and religion could make anyone a better person. Not everyone in her family graduated from college, but even those with only a high school education could recite poetry and knew their Bible.

    I was sheltered by my parents too. Until I left home, I had no idea how much bigotry and hatred were in the world, and it came as a huge shock. Mr or Ms Anonymous's comment is as nothing compared to some of the things I've seen and heard.

    I've tried not to shelter my kids, but I know that they're sheltered, all the same, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. The legacy of my parents.

  6. As I sit here in my office eating ramen (yes, totally NOT healthy) and taking a break from writing my thesis, I'm glad to read your comment.

    I'm sure you've heard a lot. Honestly, I was so sheltered and that's good. But what that means is I've had to have moments of complete and utter surprise when someone comes at me with an attitude like the first comment on this blog.

    My parents are from the same background: the poor rural south. It's just that layer being black on top of that. I can totally see why my mom pushed me. I really see why she pushed me now when I deal with short-sighted people. It's scary to think where I'd be if she hadn't.

  7. I've been back to my mother's little hometown and seen what she might have become. And I do agree with you that it is hard enough even if you are white; if you are black and grow up in that sort of poverty, then the odds are really stacked against you. But the victory is that much sweeter...

    My mother used to tell us about what things were like where she grew up, but I listened to them with half an ear. When I moved away from home at the age of 17, I suddenly saw what she was talking about.

    I lived with a cousin in Miami for a year and worked for an insurance company where, essentially, segregation was practiced. Blacks worked in the mail room downstairs, Cubans worked in yet another department on a separate floor, and whites worked on yet a different floor. When I commented on the weirdness of this arrangement (I was only 17, after all, and stupid), everyone acted like I was crazy.

    I still think it is better to shelter your kids -- to an extent. My kids are still naive about a lot of things, but far less so than I was.

  8. Yep, I'm all for sheltering ;)

    The world hits you way too quickly with this stuff and who wants jaded kids?

  9. Well, it will have to be the mothers who encourage these children in their studies because sadly 70% of black children in the US will grow up without a father.

    Also, I wonder what tangible effect all this supposed education is having on black youth. The statistics aren't encouraging: even though blacks only represent 12% of the population of the US they are responsible for committing 50% of the murders and manslaughters there. There are a lot of other figures that are equally as grim and seem to contradict your rather rosy picture of the African American community (denial anybody?). I don’t think I’m making a controversial or debatable statement by saying that academic overachievement isn’t exactly prevalent or anywhere near the norm amongst the vast majority of black students. Unfortunately, that’s the reality.

    I don't buy into the white privilege excuse either (which you seem to be hinting at in your post). That’s pure hokum; a way to paper over our own shortcomings (as individuals and a community) while childishly dismissing the genuine accomplishments and hard work of others because they happen to be not black. There's a little thing called individual responsibility and accountability; a lot of other minorities have come to the US, grafted hard, gained the trust and respect of the majority culture (which is a necessity whether we like it or not, time for some realpolitik here people), and improved their standing in the society without whining about discrimination and succumbing to defeatism or criminal behaviour every time they encounter an obstacle (whether it be real or imaginary).

    Just my 2 cents on the subject.

  10. An interesting two cents which seems to tap into every negative notion of black American society. But also fails to recognize that there are identifiable issues which impact black Americans pretty much exclusively. Denial? Unfortunately not, because with those stats you refer to so easily translate into real people that I'm connected to. Do you fail to realize that I see it when I go home to visit? It's heartbreaking to the point that it moves me to tears. However, in spite of those stats there are positives in my community and chosing to blog it isn't denial as much as it's sorely needed because let the media tell the story and each and every black American is two steps in or out of jail, unwed, pregnant or otherwise engaged in less than desirable behavior.

    I know that academic overachievement isn't a majority trait for us and I do wish it was. However, it might be interesting to see what happens to these kids mom's push so hard hit a society where they have to deal with someone who in the face of a positive story falls back on assumptions that they're low achieving, excuse making, whiney people who don't work hard. That's something I've got to deal with quite a bit and I can tell you white privilege does exist because my white peers get the benefit of the doubt.

    I agree that individual responsibility is crucial and I think that those mothers who answered the survey are motivated by that. Also, from what I know looking at the mothers who answered the survey is crucial as it wasn't a scientific survey but a volunteer one. What I'm saying is I doubt since it wasn't random samples but people stopping to do the survey that those who do push their kids are the ones who completed it. What I know that it shows my experience of having a mother who pushed me and had high expectations of me. But I wouldn't argue that it's a sample that follows the normal curve as it's pretty easy to see that it's probably not the case.

    To your criticisms of black America, it can't be and shouldn't be denied that even today black Americans struggle with the spectre that slavery left behind. It's powerful, and I see it first hand even in myself. Unlike those "other minorities" that you mention who have their native history, languages and cultures black Americans haven't the slightest clue where they come from except that it's from somewhere on the African continent. Unless you're one of us I wonder how many conversations have you had where people are talking about their origins and you have absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation? That's a part of my reality which brings home the impact of history everytime it happens and also points out to me how the others don't notice that I've grown silent and reflective when they're talking about the regions of the world that are an essential part of how they see themselves.

    Our ancestors were subject to the most inhumane form of slavery ever and, excuse or not, it's still felt today. I say I'm not making an excuse because to deny its impact is foolish. I'm certainly however not arguing for slavery in any situation but in what other slavery scenario was complete dehumanization and a divorce from their native culture was allowed and encouraged? Are you really saying that it has no impact on us a group? Unfortunately, it can't be undone, but I fear that while I've stared it square in the face and have tried to make peace with it, many black Americans have not. Now those people you compare black Americans to may come willingly or unwillingly to the US for various reasons from various parts of the world but they can all pretty much point to a map and say "this is where my family, my values and my roots come from". Those ties that make-up a vital part of the human experience and make you feel like you're part of something is a strong part of the human experience which we lack. There is no legacy to connect to and no tradition to lean on. Things like native language, religious history, code of values, and deep history help ground people and give them drive and focus. It's easy to lean on history and the memory of those who came before you. It's much harder to generate that motivation in isolation. However, plenty black Americans successfully motivate and do it. We do it by realizing that the history we must refer to while limited is rich and inspiring. Many do so successfully hence why blogging about it isn't denial. However, maybe focusing soley on the negatives IS denial?

    To deny the negative psychological impact the lack of ties and knowledge has on a group of people even today I think is ignoring a crucial part of the puzzle. For a people to survive in spite of that is massive. It's much harder to see the world as a place where you can make a difference without a tie to who you are. The difficulty can be seen when you compare the academic and professional achievement of black immigrants to the US to native born black Americans. However, while it's hard it's not impossible.

    I had an ideal background: a stay at home mom and a father who provided for the family. It's hard for me. Those children without that I'm sure it's much harder for but they make it too. To ignore the positive stories and clump us all together is just as bad as calling us unmotivated whiners. To make a pull yourself up by your bootstrap argument simplifies the issue in absurdium to the point where it seems the argument is to blithely ignore the powerful impact of history.

    And with that, I return your two cents to you.

  11. Absolutely, I agree that we should celebrate black mothers who encourage their children to pursue education. Any good news or progress on this topic is welcome. However, I think what you’ve written will be objectionable to some because you have, in my opinion, taken that positive development and used it to rag on other ethnicities (read: whites).

    You seem to be implying (correct me if I’m wrong) that whites simply spring out of the womb fully literate, with a complete education, and there’s nothing left for parents of white children to do but drop them off at school, sit back, let “white privilege” take effect, and watch the high marks and scholarships roll in. By such an insinuation you are doing a great disservice to the significant effort these parents (whatever their colour) devout to the education of their children and seem to be completely oblivious to the realities of pedagogy and how children learn. Regardless of how much “white privilege” is out there no child will be a successful student without substantial parental instruction/guidance. This is especially true with regards to literacy.

    I should add that I am a teacher and I have to deal with this issue everyday. If you’re looking for a reason, based in reality and in spite of the article you cited, why black students don’t perform well academically you need look no further than the behaviour of their parents. To be honest, and I’m drawing from my experience and that of my colleagues, what distinguishes the majority of black students from their white and Asian peers is a glaringly obvious lack of parental involvement, or even interest, in their education. This is borne out in the fact that a significant majority of black children enter the school system utterly lacking in any of the basic skills necessary in education which, predictably, leads to a subsequent poor academic and disciplinary record. This also has a negative effect on the quality of education for all students: I have to take time away from the general instruction of my class, or time that would have been spent on challenging extension activities, to help primarily black students’ master basic skills they should have learned when they were in kindergarten or earlier. On top of it all we can’t even expel those black students who are highly unmanageable (in some cases dangerous) anymore because the school board will be sued for racism; we don’t have enough resources to set up individual programs for all of these students, so we have to keep them around the school disrupting those students who are actually trying to learn.

    So you have the full picture, I am black and I teach at a good school in a solidly middle class neighbourhood in Canada were there hasn’t been a long history of slavery or racial tension/segregation so, in my opinion, we are dealing with a cultural issue here not a sinister, conspiratorial, form of systemic racism. This is something that can be remedied but not if our community continues to blame others and externalize what is essentially an internal problem.

  12. I thank you profusely for handling Mr(or Ms) Anonymous with as much tact as possible, because I was truly about to go off on that misinformed individual. I wonder if said individual understands that statistics are often skewed and can be....dare I say....challenged (For the record, single-parent households are becoming rampant across the board, not just within the black community. Let's get that straight!)

    With ignorance spewing from the mouths of people like Mr (or Ms) Anonymous, it is no wonder why we need more positive posts like this. Believe it or not, there are many blacks aspiring to become successful. I have had the opportunity, for instance, of attending various conventions for Black Civil Engineers and Chemists. Interesting how the media is conspicuously absent from these conventions, yet they're all too eager to jump on the first story about black degenerates. Of course, the media is never biased, right? The media is never capable of distorting information, right? Riiight!

    I better stop here before I become more heated than I really am. The point of this post was to commend YOUR post. Sorry I deviated slightly :).

  13. To anonymous (Wed Jun 06, 01:47:00 AM KST)

    I know you're in Canada as blogs have traffic trackers. The use of the Queen's English was also a hint that you were either in the UK or a Commonwealth. However, thanks for the confirmation. ;-)

    Where did I attack whites or any other race? Where did I imply that they don't motivate their kids or otherwise imply that their children are born rip-raring to go? I said this: "For white mothers, the system is on their side. They expect their children to be educated and, in general, aren't worried that their kids are going to fall through the cracks."

    Black mothers, if they care about education are terrified that their kids will not be treated fairly by the system. Thus why you have the very real belief in the black American community that in order to have the same level of success as a black person you've got to work ten times harder to get the same level of recognition. I know I grew up with this and it's why now that I'm abroad, I make sure I keep my nose clean. All around me who are the people breaking the laws of the country I'm in? It's the people who don't already have presumptions stacked against them.

    Also, this might just be from my experience, but most of my university and law school peers were whites who came from families that were already highly educated and well off. There were exceptions, but the vast majority also had moms and dads who were, at least, college educated but were often professionals. In contrast, that's not my background and most of the student I knew who had that background were ethnic students (and I'm including everyone in that because L.A. has immigrants from all over the world and, thus, UCLA has a lot of students from all over).

    It's because the assumption is that black parents DON'T do give two cents about their kid's education that I posted it. If you disagree, as you clearly seem to do, well thanks for your imput. As an educator, fire up a blog and write your perspective on it. I don't have your perspective on it. Feel free to link back to me or the study if you're so inclined.

    Clearly, you're the one with issues with the white privilege argument because I neither mentioned nor brought up except in reply to your comment. My point in mentioning white mothers was this: there is not an overwhelming fear that the system is out to get you if you're white. Yes, you've got to push your kids too (and some don't). Yes, you've got to work hard and put money aside to send them to college. But their children will not grow up in a society and larger world where people will be surprised to hear they went to college, graduate school or professional school at all. If you're a black educator then you know what I'm talking about.

    However, whatever your read on the comparison/contrast I made, the focus was square on the black moms who took the survey who strike me as very similar to my black mom who did push me in school. If what you say about yourself is correct, you too must have had a similar experience or maybe just incredible internal motivation because you're an educator.

    There are problem kids. For sure. This is a big problem in the black community. However, I think my point is this, so much overwhelming attention is put on the negative stories by the media and virtually none on the positive that I blogged about a positive one.

    I get your point, but, honestly, since the points you're arguing weren't the points I was making in the first place AND I am one of those highly motivated black students who has finals in a week and must study, I'll leave my reply at that.

  14. Hi Mimi,

    Well, anonymous is back and has given more information. In fact, he or she claims to be a black educator in Canada.

    I agree with your assessment too. There are single parents homes across the spectrum. However, I won't make any claims as to the numbers because I don't know. I do think single parent homes in black America is something we should frown upon because those mothers (often young girls) are not ready to face that challenge. Some do so with marvelous results, however, we can see the results and they're overwhelmingly not good ones.

    However, that's my point, since they're overwhelmingly not good ones, when I see a positive story, I'm blogging it. I think that's simple enough to understand and thanks for your support.


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