The Mis-Education of the Negro

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” ~The Mis-Education of the Negro

I would be remiss if I didn’t write about education during black history month. Although I’m a firm believer that black history shouldn’t be celebrated only one month during the year but that’s neither here nor there. As far as the black community is concerned I think this past couple of generations the two areas in which we have become inattentive is the placement of black men as heads of households and the stress of importance towards education. Today I will be discussing the latter.

Black History Month began as Achievement Week which was fathered by Carter Godwin Woodson. He completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1912, where he was only the second African-American (after W.E.B. DuBois) to earn a doctorate. Woodson was one of my fraternity brothers and he brought forth the idea of Achievement Week during our 1920 National Conclave held in Nashville, TN at Meharry Medical College, the school that I now attend. I take great pride in that fact Dr. Woodson chose my school as the place where he wanted to promote the study of black life and history.

Howard Univ Students. circa 1900. Check their swag.

In generations following the end of slavery, there was great emphasis placed on educating ourselves. During slavery it was illegal for African-Americans to even know how to read so I would imagine that when we received the opportunity to do so we took full advantage.  In the approximately 40 years between post-slavery and the turn of the century great minds were produced such as George Washington Carver, W.E.B. DuBois and Carter G. Woodson. These names will forever be remembered for their intellectual prowess and contributions to their race. Their dedication to education was unparalleled.

Comparing the value placed on education within our community then and now would be laughable. DuBois’ philosophy on the Talented Tenth would be more like the Talented Two in today’s society.  Like Christopher Wallace said, “either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” Educating your mind is not easy. Sometimes it doesn’t pay off monetarily. Cultivating your mind just isn’t cool anymore. With young men idolizing Lebron James instead of Ben Carson and young women wanting to be Beyonce instead of Alice Walker the placement of idolization in our community is severely misplaced.

Everyone wants to be a rapper. No one wants to be a doctor. Everyone wants to be a ball player. No one wants to be a teacher. Why? Everyone wants fast money. And can you blame them? A doctor might make $200K a year while having $300K in student loan debts. A teacher (who is entrusted with our greatest assets, our children) might make $35,000/year. Children see rappers on television driving high end cars and flashing expensive jewelry or they hear about athletes signing multi-million dollar contracts for throwing or catching a ball.  This is the path of least resistance compared to the path that takes years of hard work just to make pennies on the dollar compared. Honestly, which one would you aspire to be?

There are many factors that have contributed to the decline to the significance of pursuing an education in our culture. The absence of parents in the schooling of their children. Governmental neglect and budget cuts when it comes to inner city schools. Pop culture and its anti-education propaganda. Most of all, individual responsibility when it comes to indoctrination.

By the way, Happy Valentine’s Day ladies. I love y’all long time.


33 thoughts on “The Mis-Education of the Negro

  1. Wu Young Agent of M.E.

    Good post man. The American education system is flat out under attack and our people are getting rolled by it. The budget cuts and infighting that is sone by the government bodies in charge of the schools only make things worse. America usually willingly throws money at problems but won’t when it comes to teaching long division. It is pathetic. I still can’t understand where the wave of anti-intellectualism in this country came from.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      like obama said in his state of the union address, “countries like china are excelling at teaching their children science and math” which is why they are passing is as far as technology and resources. education is an investment and we surely aren’t treating it as such.

  2. Euphoric Ears

    Great post Tu! My friends and I had a looooong, intense conversation about education last weekend at Panera Bread. So much so, that a professor from Rutgers University who was sitting nearby complimented us on our passion concerning education.

    As Wu stated, yes I agree the government as a part in the declining importance of education…but I think alot of it starts at home. Neither one of my parents are college educated, but school was very important. We had to read books in our spare time, we had family discussions, we had library cards…basically anything that enriched us in regards to education.

    So no, I don’t understand when a student who is in 12th grade doesn’t know how to write a research paper. I wrote my first research paper in 5th grade on the slave revolts of Nat Turner and Gabriel Prosser. Yes, the school system may be at fault for the student not knowing…but I blame the parents.

    Home sets the groundwork, and school is just a supplement in my opinion. Because no matter how much these kids may learn in school, if education is not reinforced at home, all of that sh*t goes out the window.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      “Because no matter how much these kids may learn in school, if education is not reinforced at home, all of that sh*t goes out the window.”

      ok let me play devil’s advocate.

      how do you explain children who have absolutely no positive reinforcements at home (in fact their household is a detriment) yet they find a way to educate themselves? it happens all the time in the hood.

      also i think it may be cycle of defeatism because when parents who grew up in households that never valued education its hard for them to instill something in their children that was never instilled in them.

      1. Euphoric Ears

        I wouldn’t say it happens all the time in the hood, does it happen? Absolutely. All the time…I don’t think so, b/c if that was the case…we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion right now,lol.

        Those children you speak of are rare. They possess an innate desire and passion to progress and learn…and that’s excellent. So they go against the norm of their enviornment and they succeed. However, most of what a child learns starts at home. They will mimic whatever actions and behaviors they see at home. Alot of the times they will adopt the same ideologies.

        I don’t have children, so maybe I’m oversimplifying this…but shouldn’t you want better for your kids? So what if education wasn’t instilled in you…as an adult you should understand the value of education, at the very least pushing your children to received and maintain good grades. IMO there is too many ways of gaining information and broaden your horizons now a days *shrugs* there’s just no excuse to me. It comes a point where people gotta own up to their responsibility in various situations. Yes, black people have endured a lot of sh*t in this country that has shaped many of the mindsets that exist today…but gotdamn! When is the cycle gonna end?

      2. madscientist7 Post author

        “…but shouldn’t you want better for your kids? So what if education wasn’t instilled in you…as an adult you should understand the value of education”

        c’mon you know there are plenty of people who don’t care about the overall well being of their children. which is why i don’t think that everyone should have children. some people weren’t taught that education is a necessity and they scoff at the fact that anyone wouldn’t want to “get money”. case in point, my best friend from high school. he had a 3.6 cumulative gpa but he didn’t even take the SAT. why because his family brainwashed him into believing that making money right now was a better option than investing in his educaion ultimately investing in future.

      3. Euphoric Ears

        That example about your friend proves my point about the importance of education (among over things) starting at home. Even with a 3.6 GPA he still couldn’t figure out on his own that investing in his education would be a wise choice. The thought process of “getting money” very much became apart of who he was. He had an opportunity to break that cycle w/ in his family a chose otherwise. I mean, dude basically had a perfect GPA…if he can’t see beyond the ideologies he was raised on, imagine how hard it would be for a kid who has a 1.5 GPA.

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  4. Corrin

    I.LOVE.THIS.POST. I think the importance of education has been lost on these last two generations. I can’t say I blame the government b/c they were never in our corner to start off with. I honestly think that the success and achievements of our parents spoiled our generation. Our parents saw their parents struggle and worked damn hard (either cleaning floors or in school) to ensure that WE never had to struggle nor endure what they and their parents went through. I believe their intentions (to make life easier for US) kind of back fired and caused a lot of us to think life was a crystal staircase and that we don’t have to work for anything. I honestly feel that a lot of our generation doesn’t truly understand what it means NOT to be able to do something. A lot of the opportunities and advancements that we are afforded we honestly sometimes take for granted,thus we tend not to appreciate them. I think we do however have our talented tenth, i think the problem is so many of us(yes I include myself n that 10%)leave and never come back to reach/help the others! just my 31cents 🙂

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      you’re right. a lot of our peers and those younger than us are truly spoiled. i wonder what would happen if some of our civil liberties were taken. actually a lot of them are already being taken but we’re to blind to see (that’s another blog post in itself though). i wonder what the response would be if what happened in egypt happened in the united states. i guarantee that most people our age don’t even know our constitutional amendments so how can they know when they are wronged?

      and you’re right. there is a talented tenth. i was just joking about the talented two but its hard to reach back and offer someone a helping hand when they don’t want to extend their own hand and help themselves.

  5. Mildred

    I’m loving the most. This is a conversation I frequently have in my household, especially after president obama addresses the nation. I honestly think it’s embarrassing the way education has deteriorated in our country. I do believe that the topic on the importance of education starts at home. At a very early age (about 6 or 7), I KNEW I was going to college. Why? Because my grandfather whom was not a high school graduate, emphasized and enforced it at home. It never crossed my mind of not pursuing college immediatly after college- it was never an option in our home. The one thing that bothers me, is parents that never instilled the value of education in their homes, but wonders why their child/ren do not excel in life. There are very few folks I know that did not get that nurishment on the importance of education from there homes, but still somehow managed to succeed- I guess its innate. For MOST, it is very important for them to have someone instill it in them (when it’s not present at home), and that’s where our government failed, and should make it more affordable. I have two girls, and the four year old loves to learn and is very sharp…now, that could be “her”, or because she used to see me study. I do believe what they see as children will help shape who they become. Turth be told…education has declined in our society because the entertainment industry is what we seem to value more.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      i agree with you. my mom had me in the library every week during summer checking out books. now it also helped that i liked to read but i believe that even if i didn’t she would have made me read anyway.

  6. TheMostInterestingManintheWorld

    We cannot talk about the devaluing of education in black america without talking about the systematic destruction of the black family over the past 40 years. Urbanization and the flight from the south, caused in large part by the indentured servitude of share cropping and the thousands of terrorist like attacks on black citizens, was the first step. Then came the heroin epidemic caused in large part by the african american males disproportionate drafting into armed services for wars in Korea and Vietnam where our soldiers left just fine, but came home with addictions. Then came crack and the zombie era it caused. Then came rocafeller drug laws with mandatory sentencing. All of this combined to remove nearly two generations of black parents from black children. We are the children of those lost generations and we are making our on way. Some of us took what we saw and used it as motivation to go another way. Some of us used it as example to follow. And still many of us, don’t even have the time to contemplate these larger, macro level occurrences. We’re just trying to get by and do the best we can.

    Great post.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      you know what? you’re absolutely correct. all the examples you mentioned has led deterioration of education as well as black households. what i don’t get is why it seems so many of use prior generation’s mistakes as an example to follow. for instance i don’t know how there can be new crackheads, heroin or meth addicts. you know how its going to end before you try it the first time, so why do it?

  7. Seeomara

    I’m in class and God knows I should not be commenting but this 4 hour lecture is not the business. This blog post however is! lol Before I get to the nitty gritty I would like to say those Howard men are looking toooo fly. Anyways…

    Your quote in the beginning of your post was essential and maybe is the reason why education isn’t really seen as a necessity in some of todays’ youth. I think today youth are not educated on how minorities fought for the chance to even have an education. Basically education starts at home. Piggy backing on what some of the other commentators said if it isn’t reinforced at home then thats where the problem lies. Also today most people don’t realize how being uneducated is the modern day slavery. When we choose to be ignorant chains and whips are not needed.

  8. That Damn African

    Great post. I pretty much agree with what LaLa and Most said.

    The overall destruction of the black family has affected so many aspects of our culture. It’s so overwhelming to really think about it all. And most of the time, the largest influence on a child is in the home. The family sets the foundation. There are plenty of other influences on a child as they grow and experience the world around them, but that foundation is usually the most significant. And if that foundation doesn’t include a love of learning, then that child is a lot less likely to all of a sudden develop it later on in life.

    “With young men idolizing Lebron James instead of Ben Carson and young women wanting to be Beyonce instead of Alice Walker the placement of idolization in our community is severely misplaced.”

    And why are young men and women idolizing these people? Because they spend more time watching Lebron and listening to Beyonce than they do with their parents talking about their future. Even two-parent households are too busy and too preoccupied nowadays with the stresses of work and everyday life to give their children the attention and support that’s sometimes needed. And then they blame the teachers and schools for their child’s failing grades smh.

    1. Euphoric Ears

      Even two-parent households are too busy and too preoccupied nowadays with the stresses of work and everyday life to give their children the attention and support that’s sometimes needed. And then they blame the teachers and schools for their child’s failing grades smh

      c/s the hell out of this!

      I work w/ high school students, I know 1st hand that whatever the hell I teach them and try to show them pales in comparison to what they learn at home (9 times out of 10). Bottom line.

    2. N.I.A.naturally

      I agree… If you really want to be a part of your child’s education, you make a way to be a part of it. Both of my parents worked, but if I got a B on my report card, they were at the school scheduling a meeting with the teacher who gave me a B. Both my mom and my sister are teachers, and they both reach out to parents to let them know that their child is having trouble. The parents never get back to them, but as soon as little Raheem or Shytwanna comes home with a D in Algebra, they come out to the school trying to fight the teacher. smh…

  9. MsEsquire77

    I work with abused and/or neglected kids and it never ceases to amaze me how much kids today undervalue education. So many of them want fast money without any effort. Maryland can keep kids in foster care until 21 and will pay for in-state tuition. You’d be surprised how many kids fail to take advantage of that. A good deal of them barely even finish high school or get their GED. The entire situation makes me sad.

    If we drilled into our kids “when you go to college” as opposed to “if you go to college” future generations would be much more successful.

  10. Wu Young Agent of M.E.

    My sister works for the SC Early Intervention Commission which sets out to alert parents to possible learning disabilities in young children. From what I understand a very small percentage of the parents are proactive. Sadly, the bulk of her clients are black or brown which only puts the kids further behind. She says it’s hard to make a parent give a damn about the kids future when they are unsure of their own or have no goals themselves. It wears her down and she’s only with the kids for an hour at a time so I can only imagine how stressed our teachers are.

  11. N.I.A.naturally

    The importance of education has declined as the value of celebrity has increased. From athletes skipping college for the pros, to Sarah Palin, we are seeing a decline in intellectualism in out society. Unfortunately, black and brown people feel this hardest in our communities. When you combine this intellectual malaise with a lack of parenting, failing schools, and political gaming, the institution of education can do nothing but crumble to the ground.

    Somewhere in our history, the pursuit of intellectual, educational excellence was pushed aside for the pursuit of money and fame. Parents praise their basketball star son, but shrug at his 2.4 GPA. Black parents put John Wall on a pedestal, but don’t stress the achievements of Katie Washington, 2010 Notre Dame Valedictorian.

  12. Divine

    Excellent post. It is one of the reason why I stay involved in thing that focus on educating the youth. I believe wholeheartedly that it takes a village to raise a child and if I can educate just one child and see them succeed I am proud. If each of us do this for just one child we will see a difference. You are right, history should serve to teach us but as we have seen time and time again rebellion is a positive force. It is not that we don’t know or can’t accept it rather it is because we feel we must do the opposite. At 30 years old soon to be 31 in a few months I can attest to the fact that there is plenty I should have listened too and carried out when my mother spoke. It was easier at least in my own mind at that given time to do what I pleased. You know a way to assert my independence. Maybe it is the way that my mother delivered her sage advice…who knows but it is interesting when I find myself repeating this same sage advice that I myself didn’t listen too. And maybe that is the problem. We not only have to talk the talk. We must also walk the walk.

  13. Alee

    I’m going to tweet the link to this post. It’s truly a breath of fresh air to see a young intelligent black man’s thoughts about education in relation to our race. If only more of us placed value on things that truly matter such as enlightenment and knowledge, we would have gotten much further along by now. Maybe one day my African American peers will wake the f*ck up, understand our true value and purpose in this world and strive to achieve greatness beyond being a rapper, athlete or video vixen. (Note: There is nothing wrong with any of those occupations, but for our ancestor’s sake it would be nice if more of us could see beyond that.)

  14. Nate

    Brotha you speak truth. I work at a University and it amazes me every day how young men put place their scholarship secondary to women, the party, being the Boss on campus. I had a long conversation with one of my staff members, a young black male, who fell below the required grade point average to keep his job. I was frustrated with hm because he is smarter than that. He got lazy, self admitted.

    In my conversation with him it boiled down to is this belief that failure is not something that he is afraid of. It has become something that is expected. He is a 1st generation college student who was thrust into a parental role over his siblings at a very young age. College was never supposed to happen for him and the support at home is not there.

    It is a heartbreaking reality because many of our young black men are not taught how to be successful. They are not taught how to succeed. they are exposed to Sponge Bob, and Diddy, and 50 cent, Waka Flaka, whatever…. Malcolm, Dr. King, W.E.B., or even Cornel West are no longer focal points in a young mans household. They are taught more to rely on their physicality than their intelligence. They are discounted from day one. They are taught to worship the superficial. And the worst part of it all is that we promote that within the culture ourselves. We become our own worst enemy.

  15. Vee

    “This is the path of least resistance compared to the path that takes years of hard work just to make pennies on the dollar compared.”

    Now, not to take anything off the value of this post, but becoming a professional basketball (or baseball, or whatever) player requires years of hard work as well. I just think that the priority of what should come first is skewed. Sports is important and it’s good if you do it, BUT education should be number 1. Coaches and especially parents should drill to their kids’ heads that anything can happen, at any moment you can break your leg or injure yourself so badly that any kind of future in sports is over for you. Or you might just not be talented enough (like 99% of aspiring athletes) to make it to the big leagues and make a living out of it. Parents are the ones that get baffled with the opportunity to get big bucks, they push their children and demand excellence, but NOT where it matters, i.e. education. Until you are at least 18 years of age it should be your number one priority. And that comes from home.


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