The Rap on Culture

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 05/16/2007 - 11:21.

It is good to see just released the latest research report from Policy Bridge, which explores: "How Anti-Education Messages in Media, at Home, & on the Street Hold Back African-American Youth". They contend "that institutional policy changes cannot succeed without addressing lifestyle factors that derail far too many black youth – boys in particular – from the surest path toward economic well-being: education." Policy Bridge is a think tank directed by Timothy Goler, who I got to know when he was acting economic development director in East Cleveland. This report is found at their website, here. It seems to do a good job of surfacing many issues and proposing solutions not now part of our dialog. There are other similar issues that make education more complex than it seems.

The example I can point to is lead poisoning - a huge percentage of inner city kids are lead poisoned - a huge percentage of those around Cleveland and black. It seems to effect boys more than girls. It leads to problems learning and with behavior, which leads to crime, drugs, and prison. Some of the kids dragging down other kids are doing it because they can't learn in the same environment - the education system needs better ways of identifying and supporting lead poisoned kids, for their benefit and so other kids can learn well too.

It is essential that the community of educators come together with experts in other fields like urban policy and public health to create and communicate a complete understanding of the complexities of challenges confronting kids today - in general and in our Cleveland urban neighborhoods. The checklist of hazards that may impact ability to learn is huge, from prenatal care, to breastfeeding and other nutrician factors, to early child healthcare, to drugs and toxins in the mother and environment, like lead, to being shaken or dropped, to physical and emotional abuse or trauma, to family crisis, to exposure to horror and poverty, to living in neighborhoods of poorly educated people communicating and behaving poorly, often violently, all with an overlay of poor media influences of many types. All these things and others have an impact on education, crime and the economy in limitless ways.

The media, government leaders, educators and the public need to become more advanced in their understanding of the range of challenges and invesnt in solutions at all levels, from lead eradication to changing anti-education cultures. No less will do.