Saturday 4 February 2023
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Is the School System Setting Our Children Up for Failure?

Op/Ed By Celeste Barkley,
Lead Organizer of The Children’s Agenda –


Celeste_HeadshotHas it ever set them up for anything else?

There’s a relatively new colloquial saying, “They don’t want me to be great.”

If I’m explaining it correctly, it is, generally, applied in the most trivial instances.

Say, for example, you were putting on your makeup, and your eyebrows just didn’t want to cooperate.

One might say, “My eyebrows just don’t want me to be great!”

It is laughable to believe that someone’s eyebrows could form an alliance to sabotage a person’s greatness.

But, the hyperbolic nature of our speech isn’t the point.

Think about this idiom in reference to education.

Could “they” be conspiring to disrupt our children’s greatness? What is really denying our children their greatness?

What is truly the source of all the dreams deferred, generation after generation?

The Black mind is a reflective instrument, with a capacity that has been long denied to Black folks.

Our babies are brilliant. Literally. We often become uncomfortable when we hear discussion of Black and white children having inborn differences because, reflexively, we assume that a case is being made for Black inferiority. However, a very interesting study finds that there are clear distinctions between Black babies and white babies, in terms of development.

In “The Developmental Psychology of the Black Child,” Dr. Amos Wilson analyzes studies conducted by white social scientists that reveal significant differences in how quickly Black babies develop, in comparison to European babies. The study, which looked at infant development, revealed that it takes African babies approximately 9 hours to hold their own heads forward, without neck support. In comparison, it takes European babies approximately 6 weeks to accomplish this.

By the time that African babies were 11 months old, they were able to climb steps alone, while European babies typically didn’t accomplish this until they were 15 months old.

The study focused specifically on African babies, but Wilson explains that the same trends were also found to be true in Black children of other nationalities. I can attest to this – my son followed me around the room with his eyes before his first bath.

Our greatness is normal. Greatness is truly our birthright. Whether it is because of our evolutionary head start, or our melanin, the chemical key to life—no matter the reasons—greatness is the legacy bestowed upon us by the Creator.

In this case, nobody has the power to stop us from being who we are, when we remember who we are.

When we begin to understand the innate potential of our children, it is imperative that we ask ourselves, at minimum: 1) How did we get here, and 2) What is our purpose?

The major function of the education of Black people—whether we’re talking about on-the-job training during slavery, convict leasing and peonage during reconstruction or, right now, in this very moment—is for Black people to serve the direct and/or indirect interest of white people.

If you look at the history of our relationship to the dominant culture, you will note that certain basic things have not changed. In this political climate, many of us are afraid because we have believed the American lie for so long. America has been showing us who she is all along, but a lot of us don’t want to believe it.

Many of us have forgotten the fact that we are not here by choice. We have forgotten the fact that this is how it has always been.

We have also forgotten our power and, when you feel powerless, you become afraid. You feel as if your power is in the hands of someone else. Powerless people are dominated and exploited. If you are detached from your own power, and the source of your power, you will be afraid, and fear is an infectious force.

We have grown comfortable with our oppression.

However, simply talking about oppression won’t end it. If we are serious about solving the inequities in education, we have to talk about how the system fails us, and how we’re going to respond to that.

If our children are being destroyed in the public “fool” system, it is because we allow it.

Join me on March 18th 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM at Adams Street R-Center to determine how we are, collectively, going to take action.

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