practice his reading, to Ben Carson who at his mother’s insistence read every night.
Through the many narratives described in Perry’s essay, it becomes clear that the pursuit of education was not casual. It was intensely, persistently supported and fueled by an explicitly and continually communicated belief system. This belief system was part of an ethos, a culture of learning, that stood in opposition to the dominant society’s view of the intellectual capacity of Black people, the role of learning in their lives, the meaning and purpose of school and the power of their intellect. This insistence about getting an education came not just from mothers and grandmothers, but also from teachers and the preacher on Sunday morning.
In this post-Civil Rights society when the intellectual capacity of Black people is not as widely or openly challenged, this historical philosophy of education no longer seems to act as a source of motivation, yet it must. As globalization and technological advances continue, we are all better positioned to make choices about the quality of our lives and those of our grandchildren if we are educated, than if we are not.
While the study revealed real gaps in spending it does not mean that parents with fewer resources cannot support and foster their children’s educational attainment. As the time parents spend with their children is as central to their success as an experience at a summer camp, let’s consider spending this time more effectively talking about people, such as Ken Chenault or Mayor Kasim Reed, who are using their educations to lead a Fortune 500 company or an urban city; visiting library branches and free museum exhibits; reading together; discussing books and movies; and generally talking to children about what interests them.
Let’s also re-engage our religious leaders and teachers in the telling the stories of their own and others success through education so that more children believe they are expected to achieve, and that getting an education really matters!
Etienne R. LeGrand is president of the W.E.B. Du Bois Society in Atlanta.