Dramatic shifts occurring since the mid-twentieth century have increased the influence of school in the life of youths. Schools play an integral part in forming the patterns of adolescent identity. With the myriad of societal problems escalating schools will continue to play a fundamental role in shaping the lives of young people. It is because of the influence of schools in our students’ lives that gives educators an advantage.
We must begin to educate our children very early about the realities of life. Some sight argue that perhaps my curriculum enforces a passive attitude. My reply to that argument is to look at the past. Our children must learn that militant reactions always net negative responses. It is more beneficial for them to effectuate change from the positions of lawyers, doctors, nurses, engineers,-constructive citizens utilizing the power of the vote than from the cell block. African American children must be taught not to be defeated by a sense of futility and to attack the barriers vigorously and assertively.
The past ten years have resulted in budgetary cuts in education while at the same time criminal justice systems budgets have increased. New state of the art prisons are being constructed while our schools lay in decay. We must begin to ask why and for whom are these lavish prisons being built. The answer is frightening.
What can educators do to help keep these Jail cells empty? Teach the children the truth and offer alternatives. Debora Parks, (1994) contends that:
‘Engage women in politics and women become interested in politics. Address children’s perspectives in books and children become interested in books. Discuss the history and accomplishments of African-Americans in the classroom and African-Americans are interested in African-Americans.‘
Teachers must be trained and equipped to empower children by teaching them how to overcome the obstacles that they face as being African-American.
Our universities must prepare teachers to handle a student population that live with the following conditions which Howard and Hamond (1985) identify as rooted directly or indirectly in racist, discrimination and oppression:
Single parent homes
High school drop-out rate
Imprisonment of significant family members
Howard and Hammond (1985) asserts that due to the miseducation of educators which is passed on to students, African-Americans have been intellectually suppressed.
Deficiencies in the process of intellectual development are one effect of long-term suppression of a people: they are also, I believe, one of the chief causes of continued social and economic underdevelopment. Intellectual underdevelopment is one of the most pernicious effects of racism, because it limits the peopled ability to solve problems over which they are capable of exercising substantial controls.9