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Why Do Black Students Underachieve?

New research has found that gifted black students often underachieve in school because of the stress on them to "act black," which may be one reason for the achievement gap between black and white students in US schools.

Researcher Donna Ford says, "Part of the achievement gap, particularly for gifted black students, is due to the poor image these students have of themselves as learners." She set out to discover how their social attitudes may be affecting their achievement, with regard to what?s known as "acting black" and "acting white."

Most of the students she studied were familiar with these terms and described "acting white" as speaking properly, being smart or too smart, doing well in school, taking advanced courses, being stuck up, and not acting your race. Terms they used to describe "acting black" were having a "don't care" attitude, being laid back, being dumb or uneducated and pretending not to be smart.

Ford says, "Tragically, only one student (surveyed) indicated acting black was positive. Instead, the gifted black students?believe that acting black means lacking in intelligence, placing a low priority on academics, speaking poorly, behaving poorly, and dressing in ill-fitting clothes. The gifted black students clearly hold negative stereotypes about blacks, namely their attitudes, behaviors and intelligence." In other words, they are unwittingly prejudiced against THEMSELVES.

66% of the students surveyed reported knowing someone who had been teased or ridiculed for doing well in school, while 42% reported being teased for this reason themselves. One of the students Ford surveyed says, "?They don't want to be associated with the stigma attached with achieving and doing well; plus they try to keep up with friends and don't want to be singled out or 'played.'"

Recent reports in The New Yorker and elsewhere have warned that people are no longer reading books and that we are becoming a culture that takes in information visually and aurally instead (through TV, movies, DVDs and the internet), and this type of information is processed differently by our brains. And when school budgets rise, kids do NOT necessarily do better! But all is not lost: new studies say that young adults (aged 18 to 30) are visiting libraries more than ever?even though they ARE mainly reading things over the internet.

According to reporter Julie Vorman, "More than half of Americans visited a library in the past year with many of them drawn in by the computers rather than the books." She quotes researcher Leigh Estabrook as saying, "Internet use seems to create an information hunger and it is information-savvy young people who are most likely to visit libraries." At least kids are still reading, and we know why.

When school budgets rise, does this result in a better education for students? A new study by researchers Elizabeth Plummer Tanya M. Lee looked at school budgets and found that more spending does NOT necessarily translate into a better education for the kids involved. However, since these researchers are university academics who are presumably in charge of budgets, there may be an element of wishful thinking involved. As for the black/white achievement gap in schools, this may be a problem only the black community itself can solve.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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