My great-grandmother Catherine was a freed slave. She had 12 children and her youngest son, my grandfather David, only managed to get a sixth-grade education. My family, like most black people in the 20th century, lived in an agrarian society where schooling depended on the planting schedule of the land. Later they moved to an area where schooling was not based on farming and that is the reason why my grandfather and his twin sister were able to get an education at all.
My grandfather in turn made sure all six of his children got an education. My mother in the 1930s not only graduated high school but went to college as well. The pursuit of education and knowledge has permeated my entire family with many who got their college degrees, attended college for a year or two and, at the least, all got their high school diploma.
As I raised my own children, education was always at the forefront in my rearing of them. My daughter graduated college and my son is still working toward getting his degree.
Education is the only attainment no one can ever take from you. When a person can read, they have the world at their feet. Technology has made it even better, as no longer does a person have to spend hours in the library going through a card catalog to find out the answers. A simple “Google” search and information fills the screens in seconds.
That is what I did recently and discovered a movie I had never heard of as I looked for anything on Netflix starring Denzel Washington. The movie, Hard Lessons is based on the real life story of George McKenna who became a principal of a high school in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Although the movie was made in 1986, 90 percent of the storylines are as applicable to 2016 as they were back then: A high school filled with predominately black children who aren’t taking their education seriously; the majority of their parents unconcerned about their children’s education; litter, graffiti, disinterested and burnt-out teachers; gang fights, guns and knife fights; good kids wanting an education and unable to get it; bad kids believing that prison will give them props and respect. Thus they succumb to the stupidity that will land them in jail. I was prepared to call the entire movie “a stereotype” except that it was based on reality.
Now I know a lot of black folks love to profess that they are sick of seeing “movies about slavery.” My question is at what point do we get sick of seeing movies about education being the solution when the reality is that our children aren’t getting educated? Off the top of head, I can name a plethora of movies all in the same genre as the one I saw: Blackboard Jungle; To Sir with Love; Coach Carter; Lean on Me; Dangerous Minds; Antwone Fisher; Akeelah and the Bee; The Great Debaters and on and on. Change the location, change the year, change the students and teachers, but in the end, education is the only solution that solves the problem.
A school is where young minds can be molded to become the leaders of tomorrow. Education is what we were denied during slavery, and education is what we now deny ourselves as we continue to blame slavery. The constant reality is that until each parent and child takes getting an education as seriously as they take the inconsequential accessories to it — clothes, hair, cellphone, gym shoes, etc. — we will forever be at the beck and call of others. Add in the technology that is being created every day, and fewer humans are needed as machines do all the work.
There is a movement to bring a new high school to Austin. I am fully in agreement with the idea so long as the new school doesn’t utilize land that is already on the tax roll. But before a new school gets here, let’s all strive to make sure children are taking their education seriously. It is the only solution we need.