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    Children achieve the expectations we teach

    Children achieve the expectations we teach: Charting a path to a more perfect union begins with our guidance

    ... the “1619 Project,” an initiative from The New York Times that commemorates “the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery, and aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

    In addition to convincing Times magazine readers that “our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written,” the 1619 Project is making a concerted effort to ensure the next generation develops a warped view of America as well. Random House Group has acquired the rights to the 1619 Project and will develop a graphic novel and series of four publications for young people. The Pulitzer Center has become the project’s education partner. According to its annual report, the Pulitzer Center has provided free reading guides, extension activities, lesson plans and physical copies of the magazine to hundreds of schools and teachers across all 50 states, who have brought curricular resources to some 3,500 classrooms.

    Indeed, some of the poorest school districts in the country, with the lowest performance levels in reading and math, have adopted the 1619 Project as mandatory curriculum for their high school students. In cities such as Chicago, Newark and Buffalo, with high concentrations of minority students, what will these young minds now be learning?

    Central to the thesis of 1619 is that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy; that white racist supremacy is irrevocably intertwined in the country’s DNA; that plantation slave-labor camps were the catalyst for an enduring system of brutal American capitalism; and as Nikole Hannah-Jones, the person who spearheaded 1619, asserted in this video, it is “time for this country to pay what is owed.” She explains that reparations — in the form of cash payments — would be due to anyone who can “trace a descendant back to American slavery,” and who can “prove that 10 years prior to the discussion of the reparations bill, you actually lived as a black person.”

    Since 2010, I have run a network of public charter schools that now educates more than 2,000 predominantly black and Hispanic students in the heart of low-income communities in the South Bronx and Lower East Side of Manhattan. Because of frustration with their zoned schools parents must enter a random lottery to gain entry to our open enrollment schools. While parents themselves have faced structural barriers around race, and fear that their children will as well, they know a great education can make the difference. They do not believe that their children are doomed to be shackled by the horrors of America’s legacy of slavery. On the contrary, they want our teachers to provide the kind of quality education that equips their kids with the skills, knowledge and habits of mind to thrive in America.

    That is what is so disturbing and dangerous about the 1619 Project’s aspiration for children: to create in the minds of students and teachers of all races a vision of America that is imbued with a permanent malignancy that is hostile to the dreams of students of color.

    It is simply wrong.

    As educators, we must reject these tired ideas that lead to the soft bigotry of low expectations. We do our scholars no favors by treating them as victims because of a group identity, or teaching them to become dependent on a government system such as reparations in order to succeed in their own lives. As this Wall Street Journal author writes, “At the core of the reparation movement is a divisive and demeaning view of both races. It grants to the white race a wicked superiority, treating them as an oppressive people too powerful for black Americans to overcome. It brands blacks as hapless victims devoid of the ability, which every other culture possesses, to assimilate and progress. Neither label is earned.”

    Black students growing up in low-income communities are inundated with messages from many adults in their lives that they will be preyed upon because of their race. Rather than reinforce this false idea of powerlessness in the face of a system rigged against them, why not educate young people of color about the forces within their control that are most likely to put them on a pathway to power and economic success?

    For example, in 2014, a team of researchers led by Harvard’s Raj Chetty investigated the intergenerational mobility of more than 40 million children and their parents. What factors led to communities having high rates of economic mobility across generations, and others in which few children escape poverty? The Land of Opportunity study they produced found that “the strongest predictors of upward mobility are measures of family structure such as the fraction of single parents in the area.”

    A growing body of research underscores the transcendent role that individual decisions about the timing of family formation can play in achieving the American Dream. Indeed, a staggering 97 percent of millennials who followed the “success sequence”— getting at least a high school degree, working full time, and marrying before having any children, in that order — avoided poverty. And “Black Men, Making It in America: The Engines of Economic Success for Black Men in America,” reveals that a number of factors — education, work, marriage, church participation, military service, and a sense of personal agency — are all highly correlated to black male economic success in America.

    Shouldn’t our young people be taught to understand the pathways more likely to have them flourish financially, rather than perpetuate the noxious notion that black kids are owed something and that their path to success must be paved by a massive government handout?

    It is ironic that Nikole Hannah-Jones herself exemplifies how sticking to this middle-class script in her own life is creating an opportunity for her children. In the autobiographic New York Times story, “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City,” and in the discussion about busing and desegregation, Hannah-Jones courageously shares the fears that she and her husband had about enrolling 4-year-old Najya in a segregated, low-income school in Brooklyn. After describing all of the machinations that went into their decision, Hannah-Jones makes a revealing statement: “I also knew that we would be able to make up for Najya anything the school was lacking.” Consider the confidence and privilege Hannah-Jones expressed in her and her husband’s ability to ensure their daughter succeeds. No amount of anti-black racism, or putting their daughter in a high-poverty, all-black school, could overcome the power of the stable, two-parent home she and her husband provide.

    Ultimately, I know that the black and brown children from the schools I lead are entering a world in which factors related to race, class, or gender will force them to confront extraordinary challenges while simultaneously being exposed to extraordinary opportunities. The question is, what will make the difference in whether these young scholars succumb to challenge, or thrive on opportunity; whether they develop a mindset of enslavement or empowerment?

    We cannot deprive young black children — or kids of all races — of the knowledge of the series of decisions that Nikole Hannah-Jones, millions of black Americans and I have pursued on their pathway to economic prosperity and achievement of the American Dream.

    Many of us in the black community must preach what we have practiced achieving our own levels of professional success — and more importantly, share what we are teaching our children to help them have the greatest likelihood to achieve their chosen path of fulfillment. For many of us, this goes well beyond just having “The Talk” with our black sons about avoiding police brutality.

    It also means communicating to our sons and daughters that they have power in their individual choices, and that those decisions can shape their destiny despite structural barriers associated with race, class, and poverty.
    Last edited by Brian4Liberty; 06-28-2020 at 02:45 PM.
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