The myth about smart black kids and “acting white” that won’t die

By Jenée [email protected] Jan 5, 2017

You’ve probably heard it before: Too many black students don’t do well in school because they think being smart means “acting white.”

Just last week, Columbia University English professor John McWhorter mentioned it in a piece for Vox to support his critique of elements of the Black Lives Matter platform. Key to his argument was the assertion that the similar goals of the 1960s “war on poverty failed,” in part, due to black people’s “cultural traits and behaviors.”

While the “acting white” theory used to be pretty popular to bring up in debates about black academic achievement there’s a catch: It’s not true.

At best, it’s a very creative interpretation of inadequate research and anecdotal evidence. At worst, it’s a messy attempt to transform the near-universal stigma attached to adolescent nerdiness into an indictment of black culture, while often ignoring the systemic inequality that contributes to the country’s racial achievement gap.

Yet McWhorter — despite being a scholar of linguistics, not sociology — has become one of the primary defenders of the “acting white” theory and has dismissed those who debunk it as “pundits” who are “uncomfortable with the possibility that a black problem could not be due to racism.” But the people who challenge it are not pundits — they’re academics who’ve dedicated significant time and scientific scrutiny to this theory. Here’s why they say it’s a myth.

Where the “acting white” theory came from
The “acting white” theory — the idea that African-American kids underachieve academically because they and their peers associate being smart with acting white, and because they’re afraid they’ll be shunned — was born in the 1980s. John Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California Berkeley, introduced it in an ethnographic study of one Washington, DC, high school. He found what he dubbed an “oppositional culture” in which, he said, students saw academic achievement as “white.”

The acting white theory has since become a go-to explanation for the achievement gap between African-American students and their white peers, and is repeated in public conversations as if it’s a fact of life.

Authors such as Ron Christie in Acting White: The Curious History of a Racial Slur and Stuart Buck in Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation have written entire books (heavy on personal observations, anecdotes, and theories) dedicated to the phenomenon.

Even President Barack Obama said in 2004, when he was running for US Senate, “Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

Perhaps aware of some of the research debunking this as an academic theory in the intervening years, he noted in 2014 remarks related to the My Brother’s Keeper program that it was “sometimes overstated.” But he still offered the theory in the form of a personal observation, saying that in his experience, “there’s an element of truth to it, where, OK, if boys are reading too much, then, well, why are you doing that? Or why are you speaking so properly?”

It’s no surprise that the “acting white” narrative resonates with a lot of people. After all, it echoes legitimate frustrations with a society that too often presents a narrow, stereotypical image of what it means to be black. It validates the experiences of African-American adults who remember being treated like they were different, or being smart but not popular in school. And for those who are sincerely interested in improving educational equality, it promises a quick fix. (“If they would just stop thinking being smart was ‘acting white,’ they could achieve anything!”)

The “acting white” theory also validates a particular social conservative worldview by placing the blame for disparate academic outcomes squarely on the backward ideas of black children and black cultural pathology, instead of on harder-to-tackle factors like socioeconomic inequality, implicit racial bias on the part of teachers, segregated and underresourced schools, and the school discipline disparities that create what’s been called the school-to-prison pipeline.

The “acting white” research was weak to begin with
“The acting white theory is difficult to assess through research,” Ivory Toldson — a Howard University professor, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and deputy director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities — wrote at the Root in 2013. “Many scholars who claim to find evidence of this theory loosely interpret their data and exploit the expert gap to sell their finding,” he said.

Despite abundant personal anecdotes by African Americans who say they were good students in school and were accused of acting white, there’s no research that explicitly supports a relationship between race, beliefs about “acting white,” social stigma, and academic outcomes.

Even those who claim to have found evidence of the theory, Toldson explained, failed to connect the dots between what students deem “white” and the effect of this belief on academic achievement.

“Observing and/or recording African-American students labeling a high-achieving African-American student as acting white does not warrant a characterization of African-American academic underperformance as a response to the fear of acting white,” he said.

Studies suggest that the highest-achieving black students are actually more popular than the lowest-achieving ones
A prime example of a shaky study on this topic, according to Toldson, was Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer’s 2006 research paper “Acting White: The Social Price Paid by the Best and the Brightest Minority Students.” Published by Education Next, the paper purported to affirm Ogbu’s findings by using Add Health data to demonstrate that the highest-achieving black students in the schools Fryer studied had few friends. “My analysis confirms that acting white is a vexing reality within a subset of American schools,” he wrote.

But the numbers didn’t actually add up to support the “acting white” theory, Toldson said. To start, the most popular black students in his study were the ones with 3.5 GPAs, and students with 4.0s had about as many friends as those with 3.0s. The least popular students? Those with less than a 2.5 GPA.

It seemed that the “social price” paid by the lowest-achieving black students was actually far greater than the price in popularity paid by the highest academic achievers.

Fryer conceded this. He said there was “no evidence of a trade-off between popularity and achievement” for black students at private schools, poking another hole in the theory.

Plus, Toldson pointed out, even if the results had shown that the highest-achieving students at all schools had the fewest friends, that would have indicated a connection between grades and popularity, but wouldn’t have supported the core of the “acting white” theory itself. “Methodologically, the study has to make the ostensible leap that the number of friends a black student has is a direct measure and a consequence of acting white,” he explained.

In 2009, the authors of an American Sociological Review article, “The Search For Oppositional Culture Among Black Students,” concluded that high-achieving black students were in fact especially popular among their peers, and that being a good student increased popularity among black students even more so than for white students.

McWhorter has dismissed this study as one that “encourages us to pretend,” because he says that black kids may be dishonest when asked if they value school. It’s unclear why the suspicion of dishonesty only applies to black students and not the white students who were also studied. He’s also written the self-reports can’t be trusted because, according to reasoning he attributes to Fryer, “[a]sking teenagers whether they’re popular is like asking them if they’re having sex.” That may be fair, but it doesn’t explain the stronger link between being a good student and self-reports about popularity for black teens than for white teens.

In 2011, Smith College’s Tina Wildhagen, in the Journal of Negro Education, tested the “entire causal process tested by the ‘acting white’ theory,” using the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, and found that “the results lend no support to the process predicted by the acting white hypothesis for African-American students.”

Research suggests that black students have more positive attitudes about education than white students
There is an established phenomenon called the attitude-achievement paradox, which refers to the way positive attitudes about school can fail to translate to successful academic outcomes among black students. Originated by Roslyn Mickelson in 1990, it’s been the subject of extensive sociological research.

For example, in a study published in the American Sociological Review in 1998, James Ainsworth-Darnell and Douglas Downey, using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, found that black students offered more optimistic responses than their white counterparts to questions about the following: 1) the kind of occupation they expected to have at age 30, 2) the importance of education to success, 3) whether they felt teachers treated them well, 4) whether the teachers were good, 5) whether it was okay to break rules, 6) whether it was okay to cheat, 7) whether other students viewed them as a “good student,” 8) whether other students viewed them as a “troublemaker,” and 9) whether they tried as hard as they could in class.

Findings like these fly in the face of the idea that black students think academic achievement is “white” or negative, or that it’s something they must actively shun for acceptance and popularity.

When Toldson analyzed raw data from a 2005 CBS News monthly poll of 1,000 high school students who were asked their opinions on being smart and other smart students, he saw this reflected again.

Students were asked, “Thinking about the kids who get good grades in your school, which one of these best describes how you see them: 1) cool, 2) normal, 3) weird, 4) boring, or 5) admired?” The responses of black boys, black girls, white boys, and white girls were around the same. But black boys were the most likely (17 percent) to consider such students “cool.”

Students also answered this question: “In general, if you really did well in school, is that something you would be proud of and tell all your friends about, or something you would be embarrassed about and keep to yourself?” Eighty-nine percent of all students said they would be “proud and tell all.” Black girls were top among this group, with 95 percent saying they’d be proud. Meanwhile, white boys, at 17 percent, were the most likely to say they would be “embarrassed or keep to self” or report that they “did not know” how they would handle the news that they were doing very well academically.

As recently as 2009, researchers have revisited the theory and confirmed the findings of pro-school attitudes among black students.

All racial groups have nerds
Fryer’s research found that the very highest-achieving black kids were the least popular — but this likely had much less to do with beliefs about acting white and more to do with the fact that the very smartest kids of any race tend to suffer social stigma.

“In my own research, I have noticed a ‘nerd bend’ among all races, whereby high — but not the highest — achievers receive the most social rewards,” Toldson said. “For instance, the lowest achievers get bullied the most, and bullying continues to decrease as grades increase; however, when grades go from good to great, bullying starts to increase again slightly. Thus, the highest achievers get bullied more than high achievers, but significantly less than the lowest achievers.”

In a 2003 study titled “It’s not a black thing: Understanding the Burden of Acting White and Other Dilemmas of High Achievement,” published in the American Sociological Review, researchers concluded that the smartest black and white students actually had similar experiences and that the stigma was similar across cultures:

Typically, high-achieving students, regardless of race, are to some degree stigmatized as “nerds” or “geeks.” School structures, rather than culture, may help explain when this stigma becomes racialized, producing a burden of acting white for black adolescents, and when it becomes class-based, producing a burden of “acting high and mighty” for low-income whites.
So very high-achieving kids of all races experience social isolation at times. This is why there are plenty of high-achieving black kids to provide anecdotes about being socially shunned (and there are probably plenty of white kids who could do the same, but there isn’t the same appetite for collecting these stories to explain the white experience). There are also plenty of black kids — many of whom are also smart — who have been accused of “acting white.” But there doesn’t appear to be much of a basis to connect the two experiences.

Jamelle Bouie gave his take on the distinction between these two experiences in a 2010 piece for the American Prospect:

As a nerdy black kid who was accused of “acting white” on a fairly regular basis, I feel confident saying that the charge had everything to do with cultural capital, and little to do with academics. If you dressed like other black kids, had the same interests as other black kids, and lived in the same neighborhoods as the other black kids, then you were accepted into the tribe. If you didn’t, you weren’t. In my experience, the “acting white” charge was reserved for black kids, academically successful or otherwise, who didn’t fit in with the main crowd. In other words, this wasn’t some unique black pathology against academic achievement; it was your standard bullying and exclusion, but with a racial tinge.
Why it matters that we get this right
The “acting white” theory is tempting to believe because it does contain pieces of truth. Yes, there’s a racial academic achievement gap. Yes, there are plenty of African-American adults eager to tell stories about how they were shunned because they were brilliant.

(McWhorter has vigorously defended the “acting white” theory against academic critics primarily by citing 125 letters he says he received from people describing their experiences that reflect the theory. While he argues that accounts in these letters should be accepted without question, he disregards data such as the scientific study responses indicating pro-school attitudes among black kids because of his view that “personal feelings are not reachable by direct questioning.”)

And, yes, some high-achieving black kids — like kids of all races — experience social stigma. These individual facts are painful, and they resonate with people in a way that makes it easy to blur what’s missing from the “acting white” equation: an actual, causal connection between the accusations of acting white, social stigma, and lower academic outcomes. There isn’t one.

It’s particularly troubling that this myth persists, because stories about the sources of educational inequality can shape public attitudes and policy. A perfect example is in McWhorter’s recent Vox piece. Readers who believed his assertion about the “acting white” theory may have been more likely to be convinced of his larger argument that “cultural orientations” of black communities are a cause of inequality. That is, of course, a very damning charge that could shape attitudes about black people and perpetuate racism. But the most glaring problem with it is that it’s an outdated theory that has fallen out of favor with actual sociologists.

A continued willingness to believe that solutions lie in simply repairing backward attitudes about getting good grades will continue to distract from the real problems: poverty, segregation, discipline disparities, teacher biases, and other structural factors. Unfortunately, none of these issues are as easy to fix as simply changing the beliefs of black students.

The Purposeful Silencing of Black Women in Educational Leadership

Thought this was a fascinating take on African American women and Leadership.  Article by Rebecca Lais.

By Contributor Rebecca Lais

“Aggressive.”

“Strong-willed.”

“Passionate”

— have been words falsely labeled as simple descriptors when in actuality, they are evidence of the continued sexism and racism that plagues our society. Women in leadership have always faced adversity and are still seen as second-rate citizens in our country. We see this play out on a national level, but we also see this through daily interactions with those of privilege.

Naively and ignorantly, I believed that we as women shared the same experience. It wasn’t until I was under the leadership of an incredible, Black, female leader, that I realized I was horribly wrong.

During my three years as a middle school English teacher in Tulsa, Okla. I had the opportunity to work under the tutelage of a phenomenal Black, female principal. She embodied the vision of not only equality but equity for our scholars, and she specifically combated the school-to-prison-pipeline narrative through our restorative justice program.

She worked tirelessly and fiercely on behalf of her students. Yet, through several interactions and conversations I observed, she was unfairly labeled as

“too difficult to work with” or “too pushy.”

As a Black woman in a white male/white female dominated arena, her experience is utterly different than those who enjoy the perks of privilege and one all too well-known by her fellow Black women leaders.

One such example that comes to mind is a meeting I attended as a Special Education teacher. Our principal was explaining to a district-level worker (a white female) that one of our scholars needed additional behavioral assistance due to several concerning situations which our school was not qualified to address. We were then told the district did not have the financial resources to help “all students,” and we would have to make due.

As our principal was advocating for our scholar, the employee begins to talk over her, turns to me and asks me to “reason with her.” I can’t help but wonder if our principal had been white or male, would she have been deemed as “unreasonable”?

As I’ve known our principal and as we’ve discussed her experiences as a black, female leader, she’s shared various memories that she’s given me permission to share. She recalls a time when she had to ask the Assistant Principal, an African-American man, to lead certain conversations with district-level employees because she knew her voice would not be heard and our scholars would lose opportunities as a result.

She also describes a conversation with another Black woman who told her that her long braids were “unprofessional” for a principal. Too often to count, she’s been told by fellow colleagues that her voice is “too stern” or her approach is “too dominant.”

She has faced discrimination from all sides, and yet she still continues. When I asked her why she remains committed to her work as a principal in Tulsa, she said,

“I want our young, black women to know they don’t have to change who they are because of what our society tells them to be. They may not be accepted for who they are, but that is not their responsibility. They need to see black women in leadership who refuse to let prejudice dictate how they will live their life. I want them to own who they are because we need them.”

It is not the responsibility of black women to tailor who they are and how they express themselves because of our white and male-dominated society.

It is not the right of others to label anyone as “too” of anything.

We need black women in leadership.

Our country is evidence of that right now. We need our young, black, female scholars to see their reflection in leadership and to see how each of them can make our nation better.

The Purposeful Silencing of Black Women in Educational Leadership 

 

U.S. life expectancy down again due to substance abuse: report

I was motivated to write about this a few weeks ago. My point was to share how the record industry and media is helping to ruin so many lives across the USA. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no outrage. We only absorb and accept.  (Social Learning Theory) Results equal a shorter life expectancy and devastated families left to mourn.

By Sara Shayanian | Feb. 8, 2018

Feb. 8 (UPI) — U.S. life expectancy has fallen for the second year in a row as drugs, alcohol and suicide contributed to a public health crisis, a British medical study found.

The report Wednesday by BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, found that Americans are more likely to engage in “unhealthy behaviors” like high caloric intake, drug abuse and firearm ownership.

The report said the opioid epidemic is “just the tip of the iceberg” of an even larger public health crisis in the United States.

“Between 2000 and 2014, the rate of fatal drug overdoses rose by 137 percent, a crisis fueled by the growing use of highly addictive opioid drugs,” the BMJ report said. “In 2015 alone, more than 64 000 Americans died from drug overdoses, exceeding the number of U.S. casualties in the Vietnam war.”

The study found that U.S. life expectancy fell to 78.6 years in 2016, a decrease of 0.1 years from the year before. The report is based on data from the World Bank. Life expectancy in 2017 has not yet been calculated.

The decline in life expectancy in the United States began in the 1980s, after Americans had the highest life expectancy among developed countries in the 1960s. Life expectancy for Americans is presently 1.5 years lower than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s average.

The study said alcohol and suicides have also been rising, with the suicide rate climbing 24 percent between 1999 and 2014 — an increase affecting mainly white Americans, persons with limited education and women.

“The answer [is] likely some combination of factors in American life-must explain why the rise in mortality is greatest in white, middle aged adults and certain rural communities,” the report said.

“Possibilities include the collapse of industries and the local economies they supported, the erosion of social cohesion and greater social isolation, economic hardship, and distress among white workers over losing the security their parents once enjoyed.”

In contrast, that black Americans may have a greater resilience to suicide due to “longstanding structural disadvantages, discrimination and higher all cause mortality,” the study noted.

The BMJ report added that although the United States is a rich country, its wealth is “not inclusive” and the “American Dream” is increasingly out of reach.

The research comes after a National Center for Health Statistics report in December also found that life expectancy for Americans had fallen for the second straight year due to opioid overdoses.

In October, President Donald Trump declared a national health emergency in the United States due to opioid addiction.

Black February 2018: Beloved cartoon Betty Boop influenced by black Harlem singer Esther Jones

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/black-harlem-singer-inspiration-betty-boop-article-1.2526508

It’s not widely known, but Esther Jones — a black Harlem singer who performed regularly at the Cotton Club as Baby Esther — was an inspiration for the beloved cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop.

This revelation came to light in part due to the popularity of Betty Boop, a white cartoon character who first appeared in the 1930s Max Fleisher studio cartoons, singing a signature “boop-oop-a-doop” phrase.

A Max Fleischer Studios animator’s 1930 caricature of popular white singer and actress Helen Kane were the visual inspiration for the cartoon. And in 1932, Kane filed a $250,000 lawsuit against Max Fleischer and the film company Paramount Publix Corp., contending that they had exploited her persona and asserting she had invented the phrase, “Boop-oop-a-doop,” most famously heard in her 1928 hit song, “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”

Before a judge in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, the defense called Jones’ manager, Lou Walton, to testify. Walton said he taught Esther how to merge the scat lyrics “boo-boo-boo” and “doo-doo-doo,” and use them in her uptown performances. He added that he saw Baby Esther’s acts with Kane before the white singer started her “booping.”

When Walton produced a sound film featuring Baby Esther practicing in her baby voice and “scatting” as proof, Kane, at the height of her career, was exposed as a fraud and lost the case.

In “The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who’s Who of Cartoon Voice Actors,” authors Tim Lawson and Alisa Persons agreed that Kane had made the phrase famous in her song “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” but there were several other women who voiced the Boop character, including Mae Questel, who was actually imitating Kane’s voice.

But Charles Solomon, author of “The History of Animation,” summed up the case and the reason Kane lost, saying, “The Fleischers won the case by proving that a black entertainer named Baby Esther had previously used the phrase before either Kane or Questel.”

Laptops And Phones In The Classroom: Yea, Nay Or A Third Way?

This is an ongoing debate throughout America’s school districts. I enjoyed this article by Anya Kamentez. It could make a great debate for middle and high school students.

By Anya Kamenetz
JANUARY 25, 2018

“If something on their desk or in their pocket dings, rings or vibrates — they will lose focus.”

“Students are doing so much in class, distraction and disruption isn’t really something I worry about.” How should teachers — both K-12 and college — deal with the use of computers and phones by students in class?

On the one hand, those sleek little supercomputers promise to connect us to all human knowledge. On the other hand, they are also scientifically designed by some of the world’s top geniuses to feel as compelling as oxygen. So where does that leave teachers? Should you ban these devices in the classroom? Let students go whole hog? Or is there a happy medium?

This seemingly simple topic ends up being what one professor and pedagogy expert calls “a Rorschach test for so much that’s going on in education.” Recently, the California state teachers’ pension fund weighed in — as a large investor in Apple, the makers of the iPhone. In an open letter, along with another activist shareholder, they called on the company to study digital distraction among youth and to make it easier to limit young people’s use.

The letter cited a national survey that found two-thirds of K-12 teachers said the number of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom is growing. Of those teachers surveyed, 75 percent said students’ ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased.

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Research at the college level backs that up; a small, 2017 study at the University of Michigan found students in an introductory psychology course spent up to a third of class time surfing the web to non-academic sites — even though they knew that the researchers were tracking their computer use. Sounds ominous. But the debate over devices in the classroom has many more perspectives. I spoke with four professors, a high school teacher, a psychiatrist and a technologist to get a range of different views.

No way, no how

Allia Griffin teaches in the Department of Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University in California. Her policy is simple: “Phones/devices must be turned off and not visible during class time.”

Her reason is simple too: “Phones are distracting. My experience has been that no matter how invested a student may be in a class discussion or lecture, if something on their desk or in their pocket dings, rings or vibrates — they will lose focus.”

And she worries about missed opportunities to socialize face-to-face. “Beyond being distracting, students also use phones/laptops/devices as objects to hide behind to avoid participating in class or interacting with their peers.”

Frequently, Griffin adds, “I will walk into a classroom on the first day of the quarter and will find 30 students sitting silently in their seats and individually texting or Instagram-ing on their phones. This is a tragic scene. The college classroom is … a unique space to exchange ideas and thoughts and develop the ability to communicate with a variety of people.”

“Candy” is unhealthy

Katherine Welzenbach teaches high school chemistry in Overland Park, Kan. She, too, bans cellphones — and even backpacks, where phones often hide — in her classes.

These devices are worse than distracting, she says. They can connect teens to cyberbullying, hate speech, sexting and other “unhealthy” experiences. Welzenbach is vocal about her stance, despite what she calls “shaming” of teachers like herself who take a hard line. “Teachers who see cell phones as distractions are often labeled as being ‘unengaging.’ ”

She understands the argument that teens need to learn to use the Internet appropriately. But she uses healthy eating as an analogy: Don’t give kids unlimited access to “Halloween candy and Christmas cookies while they are still learning to eat a balanced diet.”

Distraction has an upside

What you’re really talking about when you talk about laptop bans, says Jesse Stommel, is student freedom.

“Ultimately, I see strict laptop policies (and especially blanket bans) as a form of control,” explains Stommel, who directs the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

And that, he tells NPR, is a bad thing. “I don’t think the attention of students is actually something teachers can or should control.”

Stommel, who’s been engaged in many debates over laptop bans on Twitter, calls the issue “weirdly divisive” but also, in the end, “a red herring.”

Instead of an “authoritarian approach,” he suggests a conversation. “We can talk to students about attention and have them talk to us about how attention works for them,” Stommel says. “This is the kind of metacognitive work that is the stuff of learning.” Distraction, he adds, can actually be a gateway to learning. It can be necessary for “peak experiences like making connections, having epiphanies, understanding abstract concepts.”

There may also be times, he says, that the phone or computer can be an in-class tool. “We can also ask students to use their devices in ways that help them and the rest of the class, looking up a confusing term, polling their friends on Facebook about a topic we’re discussing or taking collaborative notes in an open document.”

On the other hand, says Stommel, there may be times and places to shut it down, too: “We can ask students to close their laptops at particular moments, recognizing that it is useful to learn different things, at different times, in different ways.”

Embrace diversity

Catherine Prendergast, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also believes that blanket bans are a bad idea. But her concern is a little different than Stommel’s. She’s thinking about students with special needs.

“Federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA], extends to protect students’ classrooms,” she tells NPR. “If a student needs to use a laptop as an accommodation, they have a right to do so.”

But making the student ask to bring a laptop could be seen as an invasion of privacy, Prendergast says. Better to allow them for all: “The ADA enjoins us to affirmatively seek to remove barriers to education and to make our classrooms more inclusive, not less.”

Some students need to be device-free

Victoria Dunckley, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and the author of Reset Your Child’s Brain, has a different perspective. She prescribes strict limits on screen time to young people who are suffering from a variety of psychological ills. She says she’s encountered “pushback” when trying to shield her patients from using devices at schools that have integrated them into the classroom.

If your students are distracted, then improve your teaching. Derek Bruff is a mathematician and director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He says research finds that note-taking by hand can lead to better recall than note-taking by typing on a computer. The reason is that when you write more slowly by hand, you have to think through what you’re hearing and put down only the most important bits; touch-typers tend to transcribe what a person is saying without doing much processing of what they’re hearing.

However, Bruff adds, comparing those two scenarios misses a point that’s backed up by even more research: Lecturing while someone takes notes is not a very engaging or effective mode of teaching to begin with.

“If you’re going to spend 80 to 100 percent of your class time lecturing, phones are going to be distracting to students,” he says.

What works much better? Getting students to collaborate and debate in small groups, for one thing. He’s also seen anecdotally that, “If you give students something productive and on-topic to do with their devices,” it reduces idle browsing. He calls this the “Google jockey” approach.

Like Stommel, he believes there is a time and a place for laptops and phones, but also a time and place to exclude them. “Sometimes you want three students around a piece of paper.”

Fight technology with technology

Alanna Harvey is the co-founder and marketing director of Flipd, a phone app that limits the use of your phone. You can set a timer to lock yourself out of all functions except for basic texts and phone calls.

Not long after launch, they noticed that college students were among their biggest user base, and began aiming the app at educators.

“Our research and discussions with customers have consistently found that digital distractions are negatively impacting the learning experience for students and educators,” she says.

Harvey argues that Flipd offers a fresh, not coercive approach. Rather than instituting a ban, the company encourages professors to offer extra credit for installing the app and using it during class.

Highly engaging lesson plans, as Bruff advocates, are all well and good, but they’re no match for the latest game or social network, Harvey says.

“Some of the most engaging professors I know are Flipd customers,” she says. “Which I believe suggests that the problem isn’t the professor, it may not even be the students, but it’s the devices we know that are designed to influence and manipulate our behavior in many ways.”

Bring policies in line with values

John Warner, who teaches English at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, has been on both sides of the device divide.

As recently as four years ago he had a policy of “no laptops in class, except for specific, designated activities,” and banned cell phones except for emergencies. But after engaging in debates online with Stommel and others, his position shifted.

He sees himself as “more of a catalyst for learning, rather than a conduit of information.” In order to live up to that value, he in turn needed his students to be what he calls “self-governing” over technology.

Warner says it’s been working well. He has small writing classes, with about 20 students, and he almost never asks them to simply sit and take notes. “Students are doing so much in class,” he says, “distraction and disruption isn’t really something I worry about. They’re too busy.”

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

College and Career Ready Workshop!!

This workshop will provide valuable information to parents and students. During this workshop parents will have the opportunity to raise important questions with a panel of educators from Columbia Public Schools, Mizzou & Columbia College.

Time: January 18, 2018

Address 1818 West Worley, Columbia, Missouri

Teacher perceptions and race

Fixed mindset compared to growth mindset.  Fixed mindsets work against the achievement of all students. When educators are of the mindset that all students cannot learn, he or she may be in the wrong profession.  This article from Brookings (Brown Center Chalkboard) sheds light on how teachers’ perceptions of their students can be harmful if teachers’ perceptions are fixed and they are opposed to a growth mindset.

(The young girl in the picture insisted on showing me what she learned in her ballet class.  I allowed her to demonstrate because I believed in her). Growth mindset. She was overjoyed to show me and her peers. Awesomeness!!

By: Dick Startz Monday, February 22, 2016

When it comes to student behavior, what’s polite or rude—what counts as acting out versus what’s seen as healthy youthful exuberance—depends not only on actual behavior but on how teachers read behavior. Black and white American cultures are still sufficiently different in that how teachers read behavior depends in part on the teacher’s race. New research shows that black and white teachers give very different evaluations of behavior of black students. When a black student has a black teacher that teacher is much, much less likely to see behavioral problems than when the same black student has a white teacher.

New research by Adam Wright, “Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Disruptive Behavior: The Effect of Racial Congruence and Consequences for School Suspension,” documents that black teachers have much less negative views of black student behavior than do white teachers. (Conflict of interest notice…hmmm no, braggin’ notice: Wright is one of my PhD students.) Wright looks first at teacher evaluations of behavior, and then at data on school suspensions. Let’s begin with the teacher evaluations.

Wright uses data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to follow the experience of more than 20,000 students in kindergarten, first, third, and fifth grade. During the elementary school years, teachers were asked to assess a number of noncognitive skills. The measure of interest here is “externalizing problem behaviors,” which asks how often the student “argues, fights, gets angry, acts impulsively, and disrupts ongoing activities.” Notice that we see a measure of teacher perception, rather than counts of disciplinary events. Wright focuses on externalizing behavior because this measure is highly correlated with school suspensions.

On a scale in which the average measure of externalizing behavior is normalized to zero, white and Hispanic students average -0.07, while black students average +0.37. (Asian students average -0.38.) So on average, black students are viewed as having much worse behavior—which presumably reflects some combination of objectively worse behavior and perceived worse behavior.

Wright does something very clever, taking advantage of the fact that students are observed several times and that we know which students are in which classes with which teachers. Wright asks how black students are rated by black teachers, controlling for both the average rating of an individual student by all his teachers and for the average rating a particular teacher of all of her students in a given class. What this means is that Wright can identify how a black student’s behavior is perceived by a black teacher as compared to how the same student is perceived by white teachers. The procedure also adjusts for the possibility that black teachers are just more “easy going,” because the average rating given in a class is effectively subtracted off. So Wright is arguably identifying a causal effect of black students being matched with black teachers.

BEING RACE MATCHED MATTERS A LOT FOR BLACK STUDENTS BUT NOT FOR OTHERS

Bottom line: black teachers are much less likely to find problems with black students than white teachers are with the same students. The difference is enormous, accounting for about half the black/white externalizing behavior gap. (Remember that the data does not tell us whether black teachers have different perceptions of black students or whether student/teacher race matching leads to objectively different behavior.) For black students, being matched with a black teacher matters.

How about white or Hispanic students being matched with white or Hispanic teachers, respectively? Nope, no discernable differences in externalizing behavior. (To be clear, black teachers rate white students about the same as do white teachers.) In other words, being race matched matters a lot for black students but not for others.

Wright drills down further. First—and this is probably unsurprising—the effect of race matching is entirely due to the evaluations given to black boys. There isn’t a noticeable difference for black girls. Second, the effect of matching is limited to the year of the match. When Wright checked reports of black students when they were assigned to white teachers following a year with a black teacher he found no lingering effects of that year of being race-matched. This suggests that the findings reflect teacher perceptions rather than real behavioral differences since we might expect improvements in behavior to persist the following year—and that’s not what happens.

HOW SUSPENSION RATES BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE STUDENTS PLAY INTO RACE MATCHING

Wright then turns to the question of suspension. As is well known, black students are much more likely to be suspended than are white students. Wright shows that the more times a black student is matched with a black teacher, the less likely that student is to be suspended. Unfortunately, the data does not note the grade in which a suspension happened. It is reasonable to speculate that most suspensions come in later grades and that the finding is due in part to the effect of student-teacher race matching in earlier grades. We can’t be sure of this however, and some part of the finding may also be due to fewer suspensions of black students during years they have black teachers.

The difference in suspension rates is large. Taking these findings at face value, Wright estimates that if we doubled exposure of black students to black teachers, the black-white suspension gap would fall in half. Because of data limitations, it’s not possible to test whether black students’ likelihood of suspension changes when they move from a black teacher to a white teacher. Instead, Wright looks at black students who enter the same school at kindergarten but are exposed to different percentages of black teachers through eighth grade. So the causal interpretations about suspensions are less certain than are the interpretations about behavior reports.

In summary, black teacher perceptions about the behavior of black boys is very different than the perceptions of white teachers. This doesn’t happen for other racial groups. None of this necessarily suggests malice or prejudice or favoritism on anyone’s part. It does suggest one more way that race still matters in our schools.

Study Shows Strong Racial Identity Improves Academic Performance of Young Black Women

 

This is interesting research that continues to make the case for what it takes to educate all students. We have to move beyond the theory and take actions that improve academic performance for all students.

A new study led by Sheretta Butler-Barnes, an assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, finds that young African American women with strong racial identity are more likely to be academically curious and persistent in school.

Researchers surveyed 733 adolescent Black girls from middle and high schools across three socio-economically diverse school districts in the Midwest. The study found that racial identity and positive perceptions of school climate were associated with greater academic motivation. Moreover, the researchers learned that racial identity acted as a protective factor in hostile or negative school climates.

“Persons of color who have unhealthy racial identity beliefs tend to perform lower in school and have more symptoms of depression,” Dr. Butler-Barnes said. “In our study, we found that feeling positive about being Black, and feeling support and belonging at school may be especially important for African-American girls’ classroom engagement and curiosity. Feeling connected to the school may also work together with racial identity attitudes to improve academic outcomes.”

Dr. Butler-Barnes joined the Brown School in July 2012 as an assistant professor. Before coming to the Brown School, Butler-Barnes was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan’s School of Education affiliated with the Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Dr. Butler-Barnes earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Wayne State University in Detroit.

The study, “Promoting Resilience Among African American Girls: Racial Identity as a Protective Factor.” was published on the website of the journal Child Development. It may be accessed here.

2018 ACT Personalized Learning Summit March 19-20, 2018

The Summit will feature action-oriented breakout sessions and motivating keynote speakers. Session topics include, but are not limited to:
Encouraging access and equity through technology
Successful K-12, postsecondary, and workforce partnerships
Increasing student preparedness for college and career
Social and emotional learning
Free resources from ACT
We are also happy to announce that Jaime Casap, Education Evangelist at Google, will provide an energetic kick-off to the Summit with his morning keynote on day one. You can check out his 2013 TEDx Talk here.
WHY YOU SHOULD ATTEND
button_register_blueEducation professionals will come together to discuss the diverse needs of today’s learners and learn a variety of methods to address these needs. You’ll learn about key education and workforce initiatives to help foster positive change throughout your community. Networking opportunities will provide time to get to know one another and discuss best practices in preparing all learners for college and career success.
DETAILS
WHEN
Monday, March 19, 2018 – Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Camouflage Off

“I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I can not imagine how knowing one’s history would not urge one to be an activist.” — John Hope Franklin, one of most important historians of 20th century.

Introduction

I love my community too much to just sit back and say nothing. I feel obligated to speak out.  After all, one of my first cousins who is the father of an eight months old baby girl just died December 2017 due to an accidental drug overdose. His overdose has put a huge burden on the family. Now there is an eight months old girl without her father and mother who is hanging on the edge of depression.  Therefore, this is personal for me. I have nothing against others. Nonetheless, I am saying we need to speak out against things that harm our well-being and overall progress.  When we hit music industries and others in their pockets, they listen. Think of the Bus Boycott during the Civil Rights struggle. Why did the City of Alabama reconsider bus discrimination? Money

One day while sitting in the barbershop, I became intrigued, distraught, fraught, ashamed and embarrassed all at the same time. I was not sure of what I heard blaring out of the speakers. Nevertheless, clearly derogative for any public establishment. I started to listen with more focus for the purpose of attempting to decipher the lyrics. I still had no idea of the mumbling or lack of clarity on the part of the artist. Despite my difficulty of trying to make out what the artist was saying, it was clear the young black boys, teenage boys, and African American men had no problem. After all, they were singing the song with gestures and dance. I needed to know more about the craze. Some of the lyrics became apparent enough for me to google the lyrics and follow the song on YouTube. To my surprise, the song had an astonishing 228 million hits. The video and lyrics were simply deplorable and ruining. This type of song can be categorized as a modern day form of Jim Crow and oppression no matter how the record industry, critics, or other artists are trying to spin the meaning. Even more disturbing were the young black minds that were being shaped and molded by this image of life and perception of females.  As a trained sociologist, I started to think like a sociologist. I wondered how habitual exposure to such adverse events which flirts with glorifying violence and drugs manifest in school and do they contribute to the demise of family institutions and school achievement. The words that come to mind are learning, behavior, and socialization.  In the next section of this article I will define socialization as well as the different agents of socialization and how these agents impact our individual behavior as well as their impact on social groups at the micro level and macro level.

Agents of Socialization

On our journey to becoming teenagers, young adults, and eventually mature adults, how do we come to be? What impacts our thoughts, personality, behaviors, likes, dislikes and our decisions? Why do we like certain music, certain foods, and certain clothes that we wear? Who told us it was appropriate? How do kids know to sag their clothing in Seattle, Washington and clear across the country in Teaneck New Jersey? Why have tattoos taken our country by storm?  Why do females now call each other bitches and laugh about it (Reality TV)? Finally, despite how we feel while growing up, why do we more than not, eventually start to behave like our parents? The answers to all of these questions lie inside of what is known as socialization.

Socialization is known as the process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group (or society) and behave in a manner approved by the group (or society). According to most social scientists, socialization essentially represents the whole process of learning throughout the life course and is a central influence on the behavior, beliefs, and actions of adults as well as of children ( Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017). However, it is much deeper than just socialization.

There are Five Agents of Socialization and these agents have a profound impact on who we are or become as time progresses. These agents are known as family, peers, school, mass or social media, and religion. Some sociologist omit religion and instead focus on culture.

FAMILY

Family is the first agent of socialization. Mothers and fathers, siblings and grandparents, including members of an extended family, all teach the child. Many social factors affect the way a family raises its children. Sociologists recognize that race, social class, religion, and other societal factors play an important role in socialization (National Opinion Research Center 2008). A person may pick up traits from elsewhere in the world, but they also seem to always carry the unique traits that were initiated by their family.

PEERS

A peer group is made up of people who are identical in age and social stature and who have things in common. Peer group socialization begins in the earliest years, such as when kids on a playground teach younger children the norms about taking turns. Peers tend to play a bigger role and influence as the child becomes older.

SCHOOL

Most U.S. children spend a great deal of their day in school, 180 days a year, which makes it hard to deny the importance school has on their socialization (U.S. Department of Education 2004). Schools build a sense of competition into the way grades are awarded and the way teachers evaluate students (Bowles and Gintis 1976).

RELIGION

The United States is full of synagogues, worship sites, and similar religious communities where people gather to worship and learn. Like other institutions, these places teach participants how to interact with the religion’s material culture. Many religious institutions also uphold gender norms and contribute to their enforcement through socialization.

The many Facets of MEDIA

The media distribute impersonal information to a wide audience, via television, newspapers, radio, internet/cell phones, iTunes, social media such as Facebook, Snap Chat, Instagram and music industry like Epic Records. With the average person spending over four hours a day in front of the television (and children averaging even more screen time), media greatly influences social norms (Roberts, Foehr, and Rideout, 2005). People learn about objects of material culture (like new technology and transportation options), as well as nonmaterial culture—what is true (beliefs), what is important (values), and what are expected norms (Lumen Learning, 2017).

“Children learn through watching television. Some of the things they learn are beneficial; others are not. They learn about the world and the ways of the society. Children learn more than facts from television; they also get a good daily dose of stereotypes and a lot of misleading information about their world. Most of all, they get a big helping of violence” (Gonzalez-Mena, 2010).  Of the five agents of socialization, the one that enter all homes across the globe is media (Lumen Learning, 2017).

The Impact of Media and how it Shapes our Lives

The media is my main area of concern. The impact of media has grown significantly in the last seven to ten years. Media comes into our homes through multiple channels such as social media, television, internet, and cell phones. Parents purchase cell phones for their child. In many cases, students receive their first cell device as young as first grade. From that moment forward, parents are left in the dark in regards to what their children are exposed to on their hand held device. Young people are exposed to rated “X” porn to “X” rated music. These exposures can very well have a positive or negative impact in regards to who we eventually become, how we treat one another, as well as ones’ outlook on societal topics and life.

Now it’s important for me to disclose what I witnessed in the barbershop which had me acutely despondent and discouraged. The song “Mask Off” (2017). A tune that seems to consistently reference a mixer of Molly and Percocet drugs. Urban dictionary (2017) defines Molly Percocet as Molly is a pure form of MDMA also found in some ecstasy pills. Gives you warm butterfly feelings , bliss, euphoria and more intense sexual experiences. Makes you want to dance, grind your teeth and dehydrated. An additional definition from another source states, Percocet contains a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. Oxycodone is an opioid pain medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Acetaminophen is a less potent pain reliever that increases the effects of oxycodone (Drugs.com, 2017). Now this is alarming because throughout 2016 and 2017, one could not turn on their television, radio, or internet and not hear how opioids had destroyed an entire family or neighborhood such as neighborhoods in Ohio and Missouri.

I am not saying the artist is promoting the use of drugs. Nonetheless, one thing is true across the country.  There has been a definite increase in accidental drug overdose. I am saying the audiences who listen and watch through media outlets are young and impressionable children, adolescents, and young adults. Can we assume young audiences are NOT trying to determine if the artist is promoting or not promoting the use of drugs? I am saying young people are being exposed to these events during happy and motivating moments  when they attend bars, clubs, family reunions, on social media, and other social events.  As a result, young minds may associate these types of songs as acceptable because adults are idolizing certain types of songs. Therefore, act upon them by living these events out which ultimately may lead to devastation to them and their families.

 Drug Epidemic on America

“In August, President Trump declared America’s opioid epidemic a national emergency two days after vowing the U.S. would “win” the fight against it. About a month earlier, the Department of Justice charged more than 400 people who officials said were preying on addicts to shell out money for unnecessary treatments that only worsened their condition, and doctors who were allegedly prescribing unnecessary opioids (NBC News, 2017).

The White House Council of Economic Advisers recently reported that the epidemic’s true cost in 2015 was $504 billion — more than six times the most recent estimate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in late October that illegal, lab-made fentanyl contributed to the death of at least half of fatal opioid overdoses in 2016, underscoring how deadly the epidemic has become in recent years” (NBC News, 2017).

As a community, do we sit and absolutely do nothing about what we know could potentially be detrimental to young lives and the community? Do we continue to allow Epic records and others within the music industry sell us snake oil? Do we continue to provide paid critics a platform to say certain songs are the best ever even though the songs may degrade our black women and undermine our community? Do you believe the owners of the music industry have no clue as to what drugs do to individuals and a community at large? Do you think the music industry doesn’t realize there has been a spike in drug overdoses? Money is at the root of our children demise. The next section addresses one of young children’s idols and models.  This leads me to ask, will you as parents allow your boy or girl to hang out with people who just talk about illicit drugs? Do you desire your child to have such role models? As responsible parents or leaders of the community, would you allow your daughter or son to go for sleep overs in such environments?

Yes, it is understood people change but before they change will you allow your child to be exposed to such horrific environments that glorify violence and drug use? I know critics will say I am hating, but nothing could be further from the truth. There were people who told Rosa Parks to get up because they were scared and she was going to make things worse for all African Americans. There are those who say Colin Kaepernick shouldn’t kneel due to him giving the NFL a deplorable name. These status quo humans have always been around. I am simply trying to point out how the media is allowing such deplorable songs not rap music but horrifying songs which are only beneficial to the artist(s) and owners of record labels.  However, at the expense of so much more such as our children, families, and communities.

 Product of your Environment

Have we ever wondered who some of these people are and their origin? To be clear, this is not to be judgmental, but instead to disclose the facts. Who have these strong grips on our young children and in some cases communities? Though I am pointing out one person thats hot right now, he is by no means the only one. There are too many spreading lyrics that are alarming. Some communities suffer more than others.

Born Nayvadius Wilburn into a family of street hustlers going back at least two generations. Future has four children with four different women: Jessica Smith, Brittni Mealy, India J, and singer Ciara. He was engaged to Ciara in October 2013, but Ciara called off the engagement in August 2014 due to his infidelity (Wikipedia, 2017). Their son, Future Zahir Wilburn, was born on May 19, 2014. As of 2016, Future is being sued by both Jessica Smith and Ciara. Smith is suing him for failing to pay child support, and stated that their son “suffers from emotional and behavioral issues stemming from Future’s neglect as a father” (thejasminebrand, 2016). So how many of our school age students are experiencing the same negative adverse events? Events that negatively impact academic performance, but yet society is expecting school systems to be miracle workers, but never point out the short comings of many parents. Ciara is suing him for defamation, slander, and libel (Wikipedia, 2017).

Future is also known to drink a drink called “Dirty Sprite”.  This drink is a drug infused concoction that contains cough syrup among other ingredients. Despite rumors of the drink having negative side-effects, the rapper is a fan (Capitalxtra.com, 2017). Finally, while a teenager and running the streets, the young artist was shot (Capitalxtra.com, 2017).

In closing, this argument I am presenting is not new. During the 1920s, it was Jazz. During the 50s it was Blues and Rock and Roll. During the 60s it was long hair and the Beatles. However, I am not sure if Jazz and long hair increased death by 30% across the country. I dig rap music, but not songs which flirts with taking opioids that paralyze the country.  We cannot continue to normalize these types of songs. I did not say rap music.  We can not normalize opioid use. 

Lyrics to the Song

Full Lyrics:   https://genius.com/11364239

Call it how it is
Hendrix
I promise, I swear, I swear
You heard, spit it, yo

[Chorus]

Percocets, molly, Percocets
Percocets, molly, Percocets Rep the set, gotta rep the set

Chase a check, never chase a b—h, Mask on, f— it, mask off (Future, 2017).

References

Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis. 1976. Schooling in Capitalistic America: Educational Reforms and the Contradictions of Economic Life. New York: Basic Books.

Encyclopedia Britannica (2017): Retrieved December 30, 2017

Future Facts: 20 Things you need to Know about Mask Off Rapper: Retrieved December 30, 2017 from http://www.capitalxtra.com/features/lists/future-facts/where-from/

Genius Lyrics Retrieved December 28, 2017 from https://genius.com/11364239

Family, and Community: Family-Centered Early Care and Education, by J. Gonzalez-Mena, 2009 edition, p. 335-336. Retrieve December 28, 2017 from https://www.education.com/reference/article/media-as-influence-socialization/

Lumen Introductory to Sociology: Retrieved December 24, 2017 from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/sociology/chapter/agents-of-socialization/

National Opinion Research Center. 2007. General Social Surveys, 1972–2006: Cumulative Codebook. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center.

Percocet Drug: Retrieved December 30, 2017 from https://www.drugs.com/search.php?searchterm=Percocet&a=1

Roberts, Donald F., Ulla G. Foehr, and Victoria Rideout. 2005. “Parents, Children, and Media: A Kaiser Family Foundation Survey.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved December 30, 2017 from (http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/7638.pdf).

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2004. “Average Length of School Year and Average Length of School Day, by Selected Characteristics: United States, 2003-04.” Private School Universe Survey (PSS). Retrieved December 30, 2017 (http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/tables/table_2004_06.asp).

Urban Dictionary 2017

“I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I can not imagine how knowing one’s history would not urge one to be an activist.” — John Hope Franklin, one of most important historians of 20th century.