Too Lucrative to Succeed

Victim: One that is injured, destroyed, or sacrificed under any of various conditions: One that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment.

Pity: Sympathetic sorrow for one suffering, distressed, or unhappy: Something to be regretted

Tavis Smiley’s report on the failure of African American males must be commended. Unfortunately, what is debilitating for these young men is the very concept that Mr. Smiley has proposed, that they are victims.

When we speak of the victimization of children we must understand the perception that allows others, those who do not feel victimized, to pity those they believe are victims. The attitude that aligns with the perception is that these victims are regrettably incapable of “normal” reasoning and therefore require “special” attention. It is this perception and attitude that led to the overwhelming influx of African American males into Special Education.

Approximately one minute into the video Dr. Alfred Tatum, Director of the UIC Reading Clinic, states, “We look at these kids as if they’re expendable. W. E. B. DeBois said, “Don’t look at these boys as if they’re scorecards of achievement, recognize their humanity.””

When we move beyond the circumstances of the children we receive in our classrooms and recognize their humanity we allow them to be and become powerful human beings.

When we recognize that a child has everything necessary to be successful in this world we need only teach them how to access the knowledge and power they possess within.

When we teach children that they are powerful, not because of some outside force that they conquer with the help of well meaning adults, but because that is what we were all created to be, powerful, we will have truly reformed education.

So, if that is how simple the answer is, why is there so much failure? Because powerful people cannot be controlled!

It is impossible to convince powerful people that they cannot succeed, the video bears that out, history also attests to this fact.

When we become powerful adults we will be able to recognize the power within our children.

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Back To Summit Business

Dr. Alfred Tatum is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Director of the UIC Reading Clinic at the College of Education. He has both his M.Ed. in Instructional Leadership and PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. Tatum has created an African American Adolescent Male Summer Literacy Institute, the UIC Reading Clinic, the Boys College at Smyth Elementary, and has secured funding from top foundations to support his work.

His comments about literacy, reading programs, and culturally responsive teaching are provocative but insightful and, backed by research.

Dr. Tatum begins by saying that reading research, the research on culturally responsive teaching is becoming problematic because its “severing our kids relationship with academic, rigorous text . . .” and “the nation has given us permission they say, let’s differentiate the text. That means let’s give our boys easier texts, let’s give them lower level texts . . .”

Tatum says that “school district leaders are authorizing these practices and it goes against the conduct of reading and writing achievement for boys historically, and as a result, we are not only under serving our low performing African American boys, we’re under serving our high performing African American boys because we’re severing their relationship with texts.”

Dr. Tatum points out the reasons why African American boys write, to:
* define self
* nurture resilience
* engage others
* build capacity

historically, the reason African American boys read is:
* for a healthy psyche
* modern day awareness of the real world
* a collective struggle
* build an agenda around a wide range of texts

Finally, Dr. Tatum warns us of the usefulness of data, “It can’t be research based if we don’t have one school district in the United States with more than 40% of African American boys reading above grade level.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in a charter, a public, pre-school, or the university level, we’re using the same research from a narrow lens and until we expand that, we’re going to continue to fail our boys.”

Indeed, until we expand our lens to include all children we will continue to fail all children.

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