Is School Choice a Black Choice? Roland Martin and Dr. Jacquie Hood Martin explain

10/28/2016 11:56 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2016
Lacy Atkins

Earlier this month we published the article entitled, “More Black Families are Choosing Homeshool over traditional schools" and we received enormous feedback about parents exercising their right to choose the school their children attend. In the article, I wrote about Kumani and Cory McAfee, an Atlanta couple who opted to send their child to Urban Village Academy, An African centered homeschool operated by Aubrey “Walli” Williams and Deborah Boldt. The McAfees shared their reasoning for this school choice saying, that “as we became more conscious-minded we realized how important it was for our child to not be in a learning environment that mis-educated her about her culture and history.” The McAfees were afraid that institutional racism would deprive their daughter, Da’ Naia from the education required to be her best self. The Atlantic newspaper, reports that “although Black students only make up 16 percent of all public-school students nationwide, they now account for 10 percent of the homeschooling population and these numbers are rising rapidly.”

The rise of non traditional schooling including Charter schools and private schools among Black families struck a chord to our reading audience and has been a hot topic since then. On October 28th, at 7:00 a.m. ET, TV One, NewsOne Anchor, Roland S. Martin will air a special that focuses on school choice as it pertains to Black families. Both Martin and his wife, The Reverend Dr. Jacquie Hood Martin are passionate about education and ensuring that African-American children receive the necessary tools to succeed in life through a proper education. They launched School Choice Is The Black Choice which is a national initiative designed to rally Black parents to take control of their children’s future.

As an ambassador of the school choice movement, Martin says it’s imperative that Black parents fully embrace all aspects of education, and advocate for what works best for their children. He says that the school choice/ed reform movement desperately need Black voices leading it, especially when it comes to mobilizing and organizing African Americans to make their voices heard about the education of their children.

”If you are standing in the way of kids getting a quality education, even if you wear the liberal/progressive label, you are the enemy,” said Roland Martin. “I’m sick and tired of seeing Black kids travel through traditional schools with little or no road to success. I’m a product of traditional public and magnet schools. For me, I care about what works. Traditional public, charter, private, magnet, home school, online schools, vouchers, I really don’t care. If it works for the parent and the child, I’m down with it.”

Dr Martin talked to us in detail about School Choice. Martin stated that, “Parents and students of color are looking for options that allow their children to excel in an academic environment that levels the playing field upon graduation. How can we accept colleges and universities that cater to a certain group of students and not provide the necessary individual education and opportunity to children through their formative years of academia? It is our responsibility as parents of color to seek out the best available educational opportunity for our children from birth to college graduation.”

Check our Q and A with Dr. Martin below:
What inspired the creation of School Choice The Black Choice?

A profound need to create awareness, options, and opportunity is serving as the catalyst. Too often families are forced to attend a school that does not meet the academic needs of children on both ends of the learning spectrum. There are children who are excited about learning and who have the capacity to learn, yet the school in their immediate community does not offer the rigor needed to engage them fully in and outside of the classroom. On the other end of the spectrum there are children who have learning exceptions and need individualized learning to bridging what are called 'learning gaps'. When schools do not offer a wide variety of learning and teaching styles, children become disinterested in learning and are not attentive or enthused about the possibilities of a greater and brighter future. Teachers, parents, and children should be engaged in the same dialogue about what it takes to educate a child, then put the resources in place to create an environment conducive to and for learning.

What are your thoughts on the rapid rise of Homeschooling? 

I have personally homeschooled six of my nieces and it was born out of necessity to provide them with experiences and exposure missing from our local school. Learning requires co-curricular and extra-curricular activity. Homeschoolers have the ability to learn in an environment that is set to their pace, style of learning, and ability. One of my nieces had brain surgery to remove a tumor from her left temporal lobe at age 10. Although, high functioning, she still was susceptible to seizures due to her inability to handle stress, as well as, having severe food allergies. Public school meals and certain levels of peer-to-peer interaction was not favorable. So rather send all six girls to public school, traversing to elementary, middle, and high school, homeschool was the option most favorable to continued success in learning. Parents should be afforded the courtesy, dignity, and ability to select where their children learn and how they learn, based on that child's capacity, the educational system, and teachers who can equally cause the child to learn. Often times parents who have earned degrees find it more favorable to homeschool, because it is a rewarding way be part of their child's developmental stages than going to work outside of the home. It is important to note that not all homeschooling is born out of crisis, but out of control to direct their child's future. Learning is a series of building blocks for both the classroom and life-long success.

Why do you think African American children have such a high rate of success  when they are in non-traditional schools?

The non-traditional academic environment is less threatening and offers more creativity, coupled with the required rigor and the child's scope of learning ability. Traditional schools in many of the communities where black and brown children live, offer few programs and classes that are pathways to success. Music, the arts, physical education, and technical education all support learning math, science, and leadership in a different, unique and fun way. People of color are rhythmic and creative. Children in band learn to count measure and half-notes. Children in cooking, fashion, and the arts learn color spectrum and measures for cutting that support and enable success in math, science, and technology. Non-traditional schools provide children to connect to future careers that lead to their ability to sustain themselves and their families. Auto shop, wood-working, welding, home-economics have played a vital role in industry today. Honestly, it is S.T.E.A.M. in the non-traditional academic setting that is keeping children engaged in learning. We do our community a disservice when have we classrooms and institutions of learning that are not inclusive of diversity of humanity, but also diversity of thought toward how knowledge acquired turns into knowledge in action. All of which opens up endless possibilities of entrepreneurship, more students headed to college with the ability to succeed, and more people in fields of study toward careers that have an improved impact on society as a whole. 

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