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21 Century African American Curriculum st

Eliminating the Academic Achievement Gap


"Africans Have Made History All over the World"


I’ve known rivers As ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I’ve bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo … I looked upon the Nile and raised pyramids above it… I have heard singing on the Mississippi … I’ve known rivers. Ancient dusky rivers (Langston Hughes, 1926).


Until the late nineties • most educators assumed the achievement gap was related to poverty, and social conditions African American children find themselves. When analyzing standardized test scores it becomes clear that there is a correlation between the scores children obtain and the inequalities that exist in the society.


With few exceptions • the children of the affluent outperform children of the poor. However, what has baffled educators is the fact that the racial gap is unique because the benefits typically associated with middle class status don’t accrue to African American students. In many school districts, African American children from middle class, college educated families continue to lag significantly behind their white counterparts on most achievement measures.


In fact this gap • is larger than the performance gap between poor white and poor African American students. In addition students of color who meet the criteria for access to advanced mathematics and science courses are more likely to be restricted based on the recommendation of a counselor or teacher which is a manifestation of institutional racism.


There is one fundamental • reason the interventions and strategies have not closed the achievement gap. First, and foremost the prevailing assumption among many educators is that the task of academic achievement for African Americans as a group is the same as it is for any other group.


The pedagogy • that works for the white child should work for the African American child. However, the reality that learning is connected to culture and history, and fundamentally contextual means there are extra social, emotional, cognitive and political competencies required of the African American student that the school house must address.


Every school system • and school has a culture and this culture reflects the dominant culture within the society – European culture. The culture is represented by a set of beliefs, values, policies, and practices that either support and nurture students or create insurmountable barriers that hinder academic success.


In most cases in American schools • African American students are placed in situations that hinder their academic success because their culture is under continual attack. Policies and practices instituted and implemented in most schools are contrary to what African American cultural practices and values are.


This cultural bias • and racist curriculum usually results in rebellion and resistance in African American children and both white and African American teachers agreed when interviewed that this resistance becomes obvious in the classroom around 4th grade.


There are three glaring examples: • in most schools, wearing hats for boys is forbidden. This does not become a serious cultural confrontation until puberty – middle school, at which juncture African cultural practice is in conflict with the European cultural practice of taking off hats inside of buildings. African American boys at this age are putting on hats because in African culture putting on a hat symbolizes the transition to manhood.


In schools the resistance by boys • around this issue is consistent and accounts for most of the challenges of authority and resulting suspensions. Most African American boys don’t even know why they insist on the privilege and most African American men who are not in professional jobs that require assimilation - that is submitting to European cultural practices - don’t follow the European custom and wear their hats consistently indoors.


The second blatant cultural conflict • is the practice of insisting that African American girls wear small earrings as opposed to the large loops that also signify their transition from childhood to womanhood in African culture.


The third practice • is the regimented classrooms which don’t allow discussion and collaboration. The consistent punishing/suspension of students because they are talking in class is a reflection of the disconnect between the school and the student. Collaboration and peer sharing is a cornerstone of African cultural child rearing practices.


Children are expected • to help their peers and are organized into age grades to transition to adulthood. These age grades reinforce cultural values and interaction among peers produces a collective analysis of society and the collective responsibilities and goals of the group.


African American students • have a collective identity -. Collective identity refers to people’s sense of who they are, their “we feeling” or “belonging.” African Americans’ collective identity developed during slavery when different African nations and ethnic groups merged culturally in response to a devastating and oppressive system of domination and genocide.


The reaction • was to solidify resistance to domination in all forms. Persistence related to cultural practices, values, and language prevailed because these were the areas the slave master attempted to control and eliminate.


Over the century and a half • since slavery, African Americans have responded with different cultural strategies to overcome or maneuver through the minefield of institutional racism and economic discriminatory practices. These strategies have both protected and produced resilience.


In middle schools, the majority of African American students • from low income homes are resisters totally rejecting the imposed white cultural practices by continually wearing hats and jewelry that is considered inappropriate and risking continual suspension based on the resistance. In classrooms the resistance is reflected in the peer group talking, because the teacher is not listening to their voices nor offering them any participation choices or ways to express their cultural values or real life experience in the classroom.


The middle class African American students in middle school • fall in two of the categories: accommodators who pretend for specific teachers and administrators and resisters who, based on America’s track record related to jobs, upward mobility, police harassment and the schools system’s lack of effective placement of high achievers in honors or other privileged categories, form peer groups that don’t ridicule each other over grades but discourage adopting white attitudes and behaviors


This peer group influences the student’s style • of clothes, manner of speech, and future career orientation This also plays out in the classroom in the form of “dumbing” down – pretending you don’t know all the answers for the teacher and then sharing with your peers the answers.


In addition • this group will challenge the teacher’s knowledge and come prepared to expose the teacher as incompetent as payback for the racism evident in the teaching styles and attitudes about African American customs


To alter the achievement gap • educators have to not only apply the scientific methods we have discovered to be successful in the delivery of measurable skills but educators must also insist on a shift in the paradigm related to curriculum, pedagogy, and school wide practices and policies.


The economic realities • African Americans face are linked to the education system in two ways. First the lack of a quality education in the form of fundamentals mathematics, reading and science has led to the 18% unemployment rate of African American adults and the 48+% rate of unemployment of African American youth.


Secondly, the education system in the United States has failed to keep pace • with the new production processes and as a result has not produced the type or quality of worker necessary for the 21st century workplace. Over the last twenty years there has been a tremendous amount of quantitative change in the world culture and economic system as a consequence of the development of revolutionary technology and new forms of economic development and work environment requirements because of technology


This has led to a shift • in the type of worker needed and has increased the quantity and quality of the information that must be at our workers finger tips. All of these current realities compounded by racist policies related to school culture, and curriculum as well as inadequate access to technology and 21st century career pathways have led to our current dilemma.


Presently, the United States • finds itself ranked 12th in the world in education and lags behind the rest of the developed world with poor test scores in mathematics and science which are the skills that are the driving force of future invention and innovation or to say it bluntly our economic survival and superpower status is in serious jeopardy.


Very Often African American children face challenges • based on race that they don’t understand. These challenges frequently leave scars that decrease self esteem, a drive for success and academic achievement. They can’t explain the challenges because their attackers are often subtle sometimes simply ignoring them in class or ridiculing their clothes, their skin tone and their hair. All intricate parts of who they are. They are as debilitating academically as any violence.


The 21st Century Global Schoolhouse: Cyberspace International Inc. • found that African American children must be taught ancient African history as well as contemporary African American history that speak to our courageous fight for freedom during slavery, segregation and colonialism. They must know about the victories - equal rights in the United States and the end of colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean.


They must know that Africa • is on the brink of uniting and they have a dynamic and crucial role to play for the United States in the economic development of Africa. The world has moved to a global economy and Americans in general and African Americans in particular must become active players opening doors for our children worldwide ensuring their wealth.


In the 1950s and 60s • these were the ideas that drove a generation of American and African Americans to aspire to greatness. African Americans did not have an achievement problem or a dropout problem. They excelled and desperately tried to stay in school whenever possible because they knew it would help us live a better quality of life.


This generation of children needs • the same driving force. It is even more crucial because their rebellion/resistance to what is going on in the school house and their lack of a vision concerning a possible successful future has led to the recruitment of them in alarming numbers into gangs/criminal clubs which they feel are the only arenas they can reign supreme.


They don’t know of our financial wealth or the endless possibilities • for entrepreneurship in the United States if we connect with Africans abroad and develop the vast natural resources of the African continent. Right now in America African American children are the force that must develop to take the United States and African Americans forward and African American students don’t realize how crucial they are or what their role is because the school house has not made it clear


The United States through the public School systems and charters • has a chance to play a pivotal role in the progressive movement developing in education by effectively serving the African American population through the development of a dynamic interactive curriculum that addresses all of the issues African American students face.


Curriculum Design will include: • Ancient Africa – Empires, Nation States, Economic Development, Science, Mathematics, transportation, architecture, archaeology, religion, philosophy, Geography, and Astronomy. • Contemporary African History – Nation States, Economic Development, Scientific innovations, Mathematics, Transportation, Communications, Architecture, Archaeology, religion, philosophy, Astronomy , the slave trade, colonialism and the resistance to both. The 19th and 20th Century struggles and victories. • Cultural Practices and Contributions to the American cultural and Global culture in the form of: music, language, Art, theater, film, and dance.


Pedagogy That Incorporates: – African American cultural practices related to child rearing and customs related to behaviors and dress/beauty – Bilingual Approach to language – African American aspirations and visions of the future – All learning styles, personalities and study styles – All science/research based instructional strategies – Project Based Model, The Comprehensive Assessments Model, Integrated Studies Model, and Problem Posing Learning Model, Social and Emotional Learning Model, Technology Integration, and Teacher Development


Products: • Lesson Plans/activities in all core subjects from pre-k through 12th grade. • Textbooks • Academic Game – Description, Guidelines, structure and rules of game, competition both oral/live and online • Films – 3 –long and shorts for computers • Music used in lessons and incorporated in films and interactive education computers games • Digital Books • Written and Oral presentations of cultural activities


Products: • Daily Implementation of Cultural Practices • Description and Guidelines for Implementation of Student Organizations • Development of all assessment Tools – skills, personality, learning and intelligences, learning and study (LASSI) • Development of Entrepreneurship Curriculum – lessons and activities – focus on development projects in Agriculture science “Urban Deserts” in the United States and drought areas of Africa, water, transportation, renewable energy, technology, space and geology/geography/natural resources.


Products: • Teacher Training Package • Technology Training Package • 21st Century Career pathways – descriptions, requirements and entrepreneur and job possibilities in the United States and in Africa


Needs: • Funding • Artists- musicians, script writers, film producers, multimedia specialist, photographers • Scholars – African and African American Historians, African and African American Linguists, African and African American Anthropologists, Scientist, Mathematicians, Reading Specialist, Curriculum Designers, Teachers, African American Pedagogy Specialist, Assessment Specialist, Training Specialist, Technology Specialist, writers, Game Designers/Creators


Conclusions • The 21st Century Global Schoolhouse: Cyberspace International Inc understands there has to be a serious shift in the paradigm. The first shift in the paradigm needs to be a resounding declaration that we believe in the African American students’ ability to learn. This declaration needs to be loud and clear so that students hear no one doubts their abilities to master whatever educators put before them.


African American teachers • in the pre-integration South taught in multilevel one room classrooms using peer teaching and age grade structures effectively and regularly educated children of poverty to levels that allowed them to successfully enter universities and indeed to become local and national leaders.


The difference being • they believed the students could and would excel and the motivation of both the teacher and the student to succeed at this task was the desire for freedom and the knowledge that education was the path to that political and economic freedom. The African American student now is in an environment that does not speak to his political or economic problems or to his aspirations.


The second step • is to fight for rigorous instruction that incorporates both the African American cultural pedagogy and curriculum that includes African American contributions to the content area.


The third step • must be learning who the African American child is and the legacy he/she brings. Cultural customs must be incorporated into school culture and made into a privilege earned through appropriate behavior and academic prowess. This would turn these practices into effective transitions to manhood and womanhood in the 21st century.


African American students must • be exposed to the fact that they are the biological beginning of the human race and taught their rich intellectual and inventive legacy. They must be empowered through the discovery of their history in Africa because their history did not begin with slavery. Analysis of current economic conditions of African Americans and Africans should be interwoven throughout the curriculum.


Educators must create a higher ground • of expectations by clarifying the African American students’ position in a racialized society, not pretending it doesn’t exist. Vision is a key component of learning. African American students need a sense of purpose and they need to be empowered in their schools with the information that can help them create a better world for themselves and their descendants.


African American students must • be allowed to speak from their own history and voices while simultaneously challenging the very grounds on which knowledge and power are constructed and legitimatized.


Educators must fight • the notion that one size fits all and create intentional communities of learning designed around a productive pedagogy that incorporates the story of one of the inheritors of the planet offering them their rightful place under the sun.

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