As another academic school year unfolds across America, it’s important we take a moment and consider what we as parents, caregivers, and advocates can do to lay a solid foundation for the academic success of our youth. For our community in particular it’s a supremely urgent task, as test scores show that our youth – our black males especially – are continually lagging behind the academic performance of other ethnic peer groups. The abolitionist Frederick Douglas once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Regardless of cause, there gaps remain in the academic performance of African-American and Hispanic youth relative to their White peers. The end of the achievement gap will begin in our own home. Let’s invest in success with these five steps.
- Do a DVD Detox
As a fitness professional, I am constantly coaching my clients to ‘detox’ not only their bodies, but their kitchen pantry, as well. I have the same attitude toward the glut of DVD movies that occupy many homes in our communities. There are tons of DVD movies and very few, if any at all, books in our homes. Somehow we have got to resist the urge to pop in a movie to satisfy the attention of our children. A home full of DVD movies is as toxic to a kid’s brain as a pantry full of sugar-ladened cereal boxes are to their bodies. Detox your home of DVD movies!
- Make Reading a Priority
Which leads me to my next point: it’s time we reinstitute reading as a priority in our homes. Reading is the vehicle that can and will close the achievement gap both in our homes and nationally. The five worst words a parent with early childhood children can say is: “everybody don’t like to read.” Reading improves a child’s imagination, improves their concentration and teaches a child about the world outside their experience. Phillip Jackson, of the Black Star Project, an education advocacy group, suggests we should teach our children to read at grade-level by third grade.
- Take the television out of the Bedroom
A recent study suggested that the education achievement gap has linearly increased alongside the advance of the number of televisions Americans have purchased since the nineteen-fifties. Not only have televisions in every room of the typical American home eroded the bonding tendencies of the family structure, it has also crept into the academic potential of youth. A television in the bedroom of our youth is the epicenter of the achievement gap. Television and DVD movies cripple the intellectual capacities of early-childhood development.
- Cure ourselves of ‘Excusitis’
Yes, funding for urban schools is lower than that of suburban schools; yes, inequities exist in the application of standardized testing and yes, there is a dearth of positive, black male role models in our communities. But can we afford to use these and other realities as excuses? I say no. As adults, we must be the first to outlaw excuses. We must then demand the same of our youth. We must insist on excellence – that they give their very best – academically and otherwise. Previous generations have accomplished more with much less resources and advantages than our present circumstances.
- Get actively involved
You can argue that this is the primary reason for the existence of the achievement gap. We tend to believe that once we have raised our own children into adults, our job is done. Truth be told, our job is just beginning! There are far too many of our youth who languish in mediocrity; who are being assigned an inferior academic status and who are riding first-class on the non-stop, school-to-prison pipeline. Active involvement is not limited to joining a mentoring or volunteer program in your community or church. Awesome if you do! At the least, though, identifying a youth or two at church or in your community and making it your job to encourage them to do better; to pat them on the back and tell them their doing a good job goes a long way toward motivating them to success.
Young people thrive on self-worth; their eyes light up when they realize they can indeed succeed and when they are exposed to examples of others who have succeeded.
Let’s infuse them with success mantras and affirmations; let’s get them declaring and then acting as if they are successful and understanding that failure is indeed an option – but success pays more!
The end of the achievement gap will begin in our own home.
W. Eric Croomes is a Transformation Coach and Inspirational Speaker. Book Eric at: