[I feel uneasy making judgments in this area. The other day I posted a report to the effect that ‘black’ boys are resisting ‘white’ education and, thus, being excluded from full participation in American society. Another report suggested a program to cure racism in our schools so that no one need feel excluded: http://www.policy-bridge.org/

The piece below is a protest by a bright African American high school senior against our Eurocentric curricula which he feels denigrate Africa and Africans.

This problem has been a haunting one throughout most of my academic career. As an undergrad at Yale I participated in a student research project that revealed to us that New Haven was a cruelly segregated community — both jobs and housing. Later as a divinity student at Union Theological Seminary, I worked with a small group of African American kids in lower West Harlem (Manhattanville Community Center) who desperately wanted to participate in American life — their male role models were drug dealers and one African American cop in the 26th Precinct. The former won out. All but 3 had died violently by their forties per the report of one of three who had survived (one homeless in CA, another employed and living in Long Island, and the third, Odell Terry who filled me was just retiring as a hero cop from the NYPD. He had somehow made it into the Marines before acquiring a criminal record, a semester of college, and then promotion to sergeant in the force.

For me the sad contrast with these kids was a few months I had spent as a teen working with poor kids in East London — many war orphans — who were being prepared for productive lives by the efforts of Labour Party programs focused on children post WW2.

After my work experience with the teens in Harlem I married, spent a year in Oxford, returned to graduate studies in philosophy at Columbia and during these grad student days became involved in Harlem politics, working with J. Raymond Jones, (the “Harlem Fox”) who was for a time the power figure in NYC politics who also joined with Kenneth Clark, noted CCNY psychologist, to open up CUNY to all — it had been de facto excluding both minorities and working class kids who had not had the opportunity to develop entrance level high school scores. Guidance counselors had been routinely telling minority kids that they were not college material and that they should get jobs pushing wagons around the garment district. I had found myself for a time being able to steer kids to Yale who were not acceptable to CCNY.

With the help of the blue collar union leaders, Ray and Clark succeeded in persuading the pols that open enrollment for all into CUNY was the way to go and so we did. A host of new colleges were opened up and for a time any and all were accepted for admission — some dropping out after a semester or two but many hanging on and getting up to scratch. I ended up at Brooklyn College just as the doors were opened there in the fall of 1970 and by accident of the fact that our department secretary, Frances Morton, was one of the few African American college graduates employed by the college, the philosophy office became the main counseling center for African American kids still afraid that they might not be college material. As anyone knows who has started behind the field, it takes a year or two to get up to speed in college with some remedial work and tutoring often necessary here or there.

As I am now reluctantly retiring from teaching many hundreds of such students over the years, I am saddened to see that so many kids who could make it in college are still being discouraged by their earlier educational experiences. It is hard to compete with kids whose parents have been using big words and ideas that have never been heard or expressed by your friends and family. And our too often our chaotic classrooms do not make up the difference. We are still losing half or more of minority kids whom we are not bringing on board.

We do things on the cheap in this country which need all of our efforts. I weep to hear that Headstart and other programs that have proven their effectiveness for over 3 decades are now being cut back for lack of funding. The other day a gang of about a dozen — presumably kids from Harlem — jumped and badly injured a Columbia student out jogging two blocks from where I live in Riverside Park. I assume that these are of the 50% or more that we are still leaving behind.

Sad, but also disgraceful for the richest nation in the world. Better to educate our own than to go on hunting expeditions for people over there. No, it is not the Eurocentric curriculum alone that is injuring our minority students. It is the racism that goes along with it here in Amerika. Ed Kent]

…………….

Eurocentric curricula damage black students, says student in banned speech

By Hazel Trice Edney NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA)—Millions of students who attend America’s public schools are being indoctrinated with “Eurocentric” curricula that diminish their history and cause them to feel less than their white counterparts. That is the contention of Carl Noldon, a senior honor roll student at the Bronx High School for the Visual Arts, in a speech written for a Black History Month program, which, amidst controversy, was never presented.

“What I have to say is designed for the enlightenment of those who suffer from a school system that hypocritically manipulates black history in a way that causes a disconnection from black students and their history,” Noldon writes in the speech. “If you try to make a black child co-exist with a racist school system or a Eurocentric school system, then you are basically putting that child back into slavery, perhaps mental slavery…. There is something wrong with the educational system and the country. I believe the parents should take an active role in challenging the school system and even the curriculum of this school so that any residue of Eurocentrism is gone.”

Noldon continued, “All the history teachers I ever had were white and from every last one of them I never received the link to the genius of Africa. Those teachers always taught European history with a much stronger emphasis. The result was I was brainwashed. I was brainwashed
because I thought genius equated to white people because the teachers talked about how much a genius a person like Einstein was or the Greeks.

“Later on I had to realize that those people that the white history teachers talked so greatly about were used as devices to implant a slave mentality in me and an inferiority complex. But, what the textbooks never taught me was how Europe took a lot from Africa and how Africa precedes Europe with thousands of years of philosophical, religious, mathematical, scientific, artistic, and medicinal knowledge. The African represented a genius so powerful that advanced civilizations flourished even before the concept of Europe was thought of.”

Noldon, set to graduate June 27, wrote the speech for a Black History Month assembly held Feb. 27. Instead, he ended up calling the NNPA News Service, pleading, “I want my voice heard.”

Noldon said in an interview that he never got to do the speech—for one main reason: “The principal was basically talking about how he wanted me to change what I was saying in the speech…There were certain things in my speech, the content, you know, he wanted me to change to make it appeal to everybody. The principal gave me two options. The first one was to omit what I was saying in my speech, the other option was to not read my speech at all.”

Contacted by NNPA, the principal, George York, who is white, praised Noldon, calling him “one of our brightest and best.” But, York declined to discuss specific details of why Noldon did not do the speech.

“We offered Carl every opportunity to share his article with our entire student community. We wanted him to go into classes, faculty meetings, assemblies, etcetera. We even spoke to Carl on several occasions, myself and my assistant principal [Ms. Debra Logan], about finding a scholarly venue to publish his fine work…. Carl demonstrates the excellent education that he received at the Bronx High School for the visual arts, that he was able to do this research on his own on a topic that he is so passionate about,” said York. “He is really on to something that’s so
important. It was really Carl’s decision not to present.”

Though the speech hasn’t been presented, the message is riveting, said Ron Walters after reading excerpts of it, shared with him by NNPA. Walters is director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland and author of “White Nationalism, Black Interests” and “Freedom Is Not Enough.”

“The first thing I want to say is ‘wow,'” Walters offered after reading excerpts of the speech.

Walters said Noldon “points out the major contradiction of any student expecting an objective education— that the institutionalization of racism within the American system of education causes African descendant students to adjust to a one-way pattern of socialization…in a manner that devalues their own humanity, history and culture.

“He quite rightly calls for a new paradigm of American education that respects all cultures…. The problem here is that his perspective, a black perspective, has been sacrificed by black leaders, parents and others in order to position black students into a framework of viability with the American economic system as the primary function of education,” explained Walters.

Noldon’s mother, Anna Noldon, said she was not surprised at her son’s views.

“All he does is comes home and studies,” she said.

According to her, young Noldon was getting failing grades through elementary school until his uncle, Vincent Noldon, began teaching him about black heritage and middle school teachers took an interest in him.

On the day of the Black History Month program, “He called me at work and he was very, very upset,” his mother recalled. “He said they were not allowing him to do his speech.”

Ultimately, she said she met with Principal York and told him, “I wanted everything to be resolved. I told the principal that I felt that him not letting Carl do his speech was really wrong,” she said.

The principal offered a special assembly for his speech to be heard, she said. But, by then, it was too late. He said he felt violated at being disallowed to state his views to the body of 45 percent black, 50 percent Hispanic, and two percent white students at the Black History Month assembly. He contacted the NNPA News Service within a week after the program, asking that NNPA help his views be communicated.

Noldon ticked off a list of authors, speakers and mentors who have influenced his thinking, including Dick Gregory, Michael Erik Dyson, Cornell West and Cheikh Anta Diop, author of “The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality.” He credits his uncle, Vincent, a videographer, for introducing him to tapes of orators like Dick Gregory.

The speech, which is 2,700 words, also quotes from “The Myth of Black Progress,” a book by Alphonso Pinkney, and “Solutions For Black America” by Jawanza Kunjufu.

Based on his personal studies, Noldon—in his speech—questions the credibility of some public school textbooks.

“In the world history textbook in this school, it doesn’t directly say that the Egyptians were black people. The Egyptians were just as black and diverse as the black people in this country. In that world history textbook, it is quick to point out how the Greeks called their own thinkers ‘lovers of wisdom’ because they used observation and reason. But isn’t that a characteristic of the Africans?” he quizzes. “I realize that a lot of parents are just concerned about their child or children learning as much as they can. But I think the parents have to examine the psychological impact that the textbooks in the school system [has on] black students as well as students of other nationalities and cultures.”

National Urban League President Marc Morial, in NUL’s 2007 State of Black America report, describes the underachievement of black males as being among America’s greatest crisis. Noldon declines to cast all the blame on public schools for the conditions of black students. But the 17-year-old, who says he will major in film and metaphysics at Manhattan’s City College in the fall, attributes part of the problem to ignorance about their roots and schools that offer little cultural enlightenment.

Noldon’s speech concludes: “History has been twisted to brainwash the genius of the black child. These students are learning that African thought is primitive while European thought laid the foundation for civilization… The parents have to take a stand and challenge the school system, the teachers, and those that misinterpret black history because the mis-interpretation of one’s history will lead to a mis-interpretation of the knowledge of who you are.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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