Parents Notebook

Parents Notebook: Kujichagulia – Self Determination



Mayor Bloomberg recently announced his plan to use test scores as a factor in deciding which teachers earn tenure. Test scores are already being used to determine teacher and principal bonus pay, to assign A through F letter grades that schools receive and to decide which schools are shut down for poor performance. Apparently eyeing President Obama’s Race to the Top federal grants to states for innovative education programs. It’s obvious that the Mayor needs a few lessons, particularly of the meaning of innovative education programs and achievement. I’m praying that there are still enough educators whose educational philosophy centers around providing an environment where each student learns to think, problem-solve, discover and hone skills to contribute to community and society.


The time has come when we must take the Kwanzaa principle “Kujichagulia” into our daily practice. As African-Americans, we know the history of physical slavery and the resulting mental slavery. The question today is do we recognize the 21



century form of slavery? Dependency! In fast-food restaurants and on cell phones that dial numbers that we can no longer remember – as starters. And as usual, children are the ideal targets because we’ve heard “train a child in the way it should go and when he is old, he won’t depart”. Parents, our children spend forty hours a week, nine months a year in school. It’s time we ask the question – For whose purpose? If achievement means scoring three or more on a standardized test, I’m clear that the achievement has little if anything to do with personal growth and development needed to transform our communities and society, changing the dismal statistics on our youth.


We must get involved, not for the coffee clutches or run-of-the-mill PTA meetings but for total involvement in our children’s education, starting with creating a stimulating home environment to advocating for the needs of the school, holding legislators accountable for decisions that affect our children to preventing principals and teachers being forced to choose between their jobs and educating our children. We are the ones to save our children. Let’s celebrate Kwanzaa 2009 by joining or creating a project to save our children from the mayor’s scheme – projects to reinstate educators to the jobs of educating – professionals who understand the difference between achievement and memorizing answers to test questions.

Researchers have established evidence of students having different learning styles and multiple intelligences. The intelligent direction for heads of education would be to adapt their school environments to foster true student achievement. Anything short of that continues the dropout rates, the school-to-prison pipeline and contributes to drug abuse and violence among our youth. Do we have a choice?

With the glaring need to practice Kujichagulia, I recalled working with individual parents concerned about their child not being promoted made the difference in their child making the grade.

Following our motto, “The transformation of a nation begins in the homes of its people”, The Parent’s Notebook is seeking parents whose child scored a one or two on the most recent tests to participate in the project – Making the Grade 2010. We’re using the research to support the students becoming self-directed – the S in our development of SMART children and families. Although the research is in verifying that individuals have more intelligences than English and Math, those remain the basis for scores. We will use the research to 1) acknowledge the child for the strengths they have, 2) ensure their exposure to activities where those skills are used and appreciated, and 3) connect them to activities that increase skills in weaker areas.

This year marks the 40



th Anniversary of the Kwanzaa Celebration at Boys and Girls High School, Harriet Tubman Ave. and Fulton Street being held December 26th thru 28th. Featured on December 26th , the first day of Kwanzaa, will be a panel discussion on Economics, Education and Health from 3 to 5 pm. I will present the Making the Grade 2010 on that panel. Mark your calendar. The goal is giving the gift of Kujichagulia to ourselves and to our children. For questions beforehand call 718-783-0059 or e-mail


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