By Letter to the Editor
Published October 13, 2003
Re: Who will close the achievement gap?, by William Raspberry, Oct. 6.
Raspberry's article was offensive, not because of the results of the study that was requested by the black parents in the comfortable Shaker Heights district of Ohio, but because of Raspberry's lack of insight.
The parents were concerned at the time that anthropologist John Ogbu's findings would be misused, instead of used as a tool to solve a problem. I believe that is why Ogbu's good ideas for change are seldom discussed.
Ogbu used the term "involuntary minorities," to describe black minority underachievers. The involuntary minorities he contended are suspicious of institutions dominated by the predominant group. "Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement" should offer us a stepping-stone to improvement, not condemnation.
Raspberry says: Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, just study. Studying sounds good, but without hope and belief that you will receive benefits for hard work, achievement and respect within the community, hard work has a hollow sound.
You cannot improve the "gap" without improving the total package. There were solutions offered by Ogbu: the involvement of the community, parents and academically successful black role models to emulate; creation of a direct connection between education and success; starting after-school and weekend programs; giving awards for academic achievement; making education the center point of growth.
Much of what was suggested is simple. Why are solutions ignored? Everyone wants to blame and condemn instead of working toward a better future in education. Today is a good day to start changing.