Education within a nation historically has had a political motive: It was aimed at strengthening one’s own group in comparison, often in competition, with other groups. The power elites, the dominant national culture, driven by tribalism and the impetus to remain superior, determined how the education curricula were constituted. The dominators also decided, often insidiously, what mental habits, e.g., character, the pupils were expected to acquire, especially as pertain to citizenship. This is socialization. (Tribalism was an urge our Founding Fathers assumed we could overcome; but we have not done so.)
Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History Month, in his book entitled, The Miseducation on the Negro, said: “The so-called modern education, with all its defects, does others so much more good than it does the Negro because it has been worked out in conformity to the needs of those who have enslaved and oppressed weaker peoples.”
The only way to predict success in the future for oppressed and weaker children is to equip them with the power to fashion their future through educational attainment.
However, no matter what the issue in society, any form of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, misapplication, inappropriateness, misfeasance, malfeasance, error, misunderstanding, deliberately bad intentions, or good intentions gone awry, the greatest harm will be inflicted on poor and minority children. This is particularly true when any of these issues exist in the education system, which has always been the case. Jefferson’s dream of “an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity” has not emerged.
People’s educational transformation is easy to prevent when we lose sight of the principal purpose of education. High quality/high quantity education redistributes usable societal power by changing people’s knowledge, skills, behavior, income, and psychological strength — anathema to autocracy. Racism, for example, does not disappear for educated minorities. Educated people know about new opportunities; are qualified to acquire them; know how to access the sub-systems that control their lives; and approach their world with confidence.
Leaders of subordinated groups, whether from inside the membership or from outside the group, who want the members to rise en masse from elites’ constrictions must revolt in an intensive, extensive and continuous way against the status quo. “Evolution” is considered a “Revolution” if the leaders from and for the oppressed groups truly endeavor to make significant and permanent changes in their conditions across the entire socio-economic spectrum.
Black Americans accomplished major transformation through Evolution/Revolution after slavery was abolished primarily through education in Black communities that was controlled by Black people. The changes wrought in Black people’s condition are unique in American history, given the starting point, the formidable obstacles Black people faced and the breadth of people elevated.
The Tenets of the Black Cultural Philosophy that prevailed through the fifties were:
• Educational diligence and respectful behavior in schools
• High quality performance in the workplace
• Fiscal conservatism, not overspending on material possessions
• A no-nonsense, open honesty about Black crime and personal morality
• Self-reliance as the primary means of overcoming disadvantaged conditions in America
• The highest level of respect for Black women
• A fundamental commitment to the traditional family
In Black communities, no lines separated the components of the community – the entire community was the Educational/Cultural classroom.
Black communities’ social and educational control was disrupted after 1954 with the Brown decision, not so much because of the asserted moral intention of Brown, but because of the way by which the decision was implemented and assessed. Numerical ratios, desegregation, replaced educational intent.
Fifty years after the Brown decision, Jack Greenberg of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, said: “… measured purely by its effects on poor Black schoolchildren at its center, Brown is a disappointment – in many respects a failure….” (Newsweek, May 17, 2004)
POWER YIELDS ONLY TO POWER THAT IS FORMIDABLE AND CONTINUOUS. With every victory against the forces that create and profit from inequities in America, victors must work even more diligently to overcome the next set of obstacles that inevitably will be put in place. The means a nation’s power elites will employ to prevent change in the conduct of government, or to restore the status quo ante, are unlimited, for their strategies and tactics are driven by the special ingenuity of greedy, hypocritical, unscrupulous individuals. America’s rulers and their minions have unlimited resources, so they can readily bestow valuable rewards for acquiescence and inflict severe punishments for defiance; thus, too often coopting opponents.
Post Evolution/Revolution endeavors must be directed continuously at the intrusion, oppression and manipulation by the “enemy,” of course; but even more conscientiousness must be exercised with respect to the salving of internal spiritual wounds caused by the intruders, for, if not, the beneficiaries may be distracted and forget what we were trying to accomplish.