Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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Young Black Males Are Perfectly Intelligent . . . So What Is Up With Their Literacy?

My ongoing research reveals that literacy among young black males and other young males of color remains stubbornly low.
     What is going on?
     I discovered an article called "Black English Vernacular and Educability." It was published in 1997. One of the major needs of education, it argues, is to raise the IQ score of black children, especially black males. The article claims that IQ tests, imperfect though they be as intelligence measures, nonetheless indicate a student's potential to do the readin', writin', and 'rithmetic necessary for life in an educated society. African American students apparently lacked cognitive intelligence, scoring 85 on IQ tests compared to white students' 100 or Asian students' 106.
     Eighteen years after that study, nothing has changed. African American girls have improved their statistics, but not boys.
     What can we say? That black boys as a group just aren't very bright? NO. That doesn't make sense. It was noted by a local educator at our community college that 70% of MALE students of color coming from village's schools needed at least two remedial courses before they could enroll in regular college courses. Seventy percent??!! That statistic does not reflect a lack of intelligence. It reflects decision making on the part of a group placed in a specific situation.There is no way that 70% of any group of humans could be cognitively disabled (especially when the issue is not only one of color, but of gender). Will anyone seriously assert that the overall intelligence of African American girls roundly exceeds that of African American boys?
     No -- if that many boys aren't learning, there is a reason. Actually, there is very likely a complex of reasons having to do with decision in favor of identity -- in favor possibly of being a certain type of person, but more likely in favor of not being like a certain type of person.
     I intend to add my voice to those who are trying to get to the bottom of this stubborn problem. I hope to get a grant to study my own village and see if I can figure out what is going on with its education system.


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