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Deep Africa becomes US Africa Educator
While Austin Africa’s primary goal is to build up a village square for Africans and others interested in Africa, African culture or are part of Africa in some way; it has had a special interest in education. This focus middle-class in its approach to content found in AAAcademy, AAReview, and Village in the Metropolis.
So far I believe AustinAfrica has got off to a good start. Austin Africa has published two articles in four of its five blogs; Austin Africa News, AAAcademy, AAReview, and Village in the Metropolis. However, Deep Africa has not had a follow-up article for two reasons. First, the idea I had for its second publication which was oriented to Africa Agricultural Development became a project which I am working on pro bono for a state-based farmer education program in Ebonyi State, Nigeria.
Secondly, based on the research done for the first Deep Africa, I came to understand that African immigrants, including Nigerian immigrants, are some of the most educated immigrants coming to the US, and there is a need for guidance on the issue of educating the second generation, children of immigrants ranging from pre-K to University so that they can get the best of the US educational system.
Arising from this research and from my many contacts with African immigrants I also began to understand that there are many educational issues now facing African immigrants, not only for themselves but also for their children. In the capacity as detailed in Princes of Africa, I consult with many Africans on the issue of the education of their children so as to optimize the educational resources available. The US educational system is well funded, but it has many problems that parents must address as they think to develop and discipline their children.
The Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) which consists of the most advanced nations in the world economy has estimated that the US spends more ($15,171 per
student in the system) than any other country. Despite this, it has many problems that are evident from the research which shows that US students their foreign counterparts in international testing in science, math, and reading. These facts confirm my direct observations on how our public school system is falling short of basic educational expectations.
I have addressed the issues with US universities in the AustinAfrica Princes of Africa section where the many systemic problems of the university system are detailed. Of these problems, the most egregious is that a university degree can entrap students into enormous debt for ‘certification’ that does not provide professional employment and the salary level needed for a middle class life. Presently, society seems in denial as the total student loan debt has surpassed a $1 trillion and in a time of economic weakness has resulted in students remaining with their parents for extended periods and has even impacted the national real estate market as many young people cannot afford to buy their first home. This is made more serious as recent research when 40% of student debtors do not make payments against the $200 Billion owed by them.
Over time, the US Africa Educator will address all of these problems in depth.
The problems faced by students at the university level have their roots in the US public education system beginning from Pre-K and continuing through elementary, middle, and high school study. However, as will be demonstrated later, many of these problems arise from the primary goal set for the US public education system: to get all students into college. This goal never questioned influences the curriculum at all levels. If it is in any way off target, the entire systems educational approach is skewed away from more practical blueprints.
Why education? What motivates US Africa Educator? First and most important, I have two young African American sons that will be going through the system. I have ‘money in the game.’
Recently my first son was included in the Talented and Gifted Program at his elementary school. While he is a smart boy, getting him there took much work and struggle in the whole Pre-K world. My second son approaching his third birthday will benefit from his brother’s experience and our experiments in education in his early years. However, we are already working hard for him to begin to read and do numbers. The struggle to get the right education begins practically at the beginning. We have experimented with so many products that promise everything. Just now I googled the simple statement ‘your child can read at two years’ and there were 142 million results. Fortunately, my wife is African and grew up on village paths, and we have a large backyard with room to run and a trampoline upon which to jump.
In other words, there is something to be said about living life a little as you go. Pushing children into the adult world prematurely is a theft of joy and exuberance that they can only have when they are young.
While I do not have an education background, graduating first from UT Austin in liberal arts and then at Cornell in International Economic Development, when I returned from Africa I entered an alternative teacher program and passed with good scores Texas teacher tests at K-6, Middle School (all subjects), and 6-12 Social
Studies. I am qualified to teach in Texas at all these levels. Of the three exams, the exam for elementary qualification was the hardest because of the complexity of language development in children. Children, while are thought to be born with the language gene (Chomsky), do not learn to read by themselves they have to be taught, and it is no small work.
While I do not expect to teach full time, I found studying to pass these exams very helpful in knowing what is expected of my boys at all levels. Additionally to understand the school system as it is, I became a substitute teacher in two school districts and have ‘taught’ at all levels and in all subjects (language arts, social studies, science. mathematics) as well as all the elective subjects such as band, athletics, agriculture, vocational subjects in the medical field, construction trades, shop (woodworking, metal work) etc. I was also reintroduced to the dynamics of children’s dealing with adolescence and relationships, and very importantly the digital world in which so many of them live a virtual existence.
Our schools are great, and the teachers are dedicated. Teachers and students work under tremendous pressure coming from established goals and assessed based on standardized testing. There is tremendous diversity, our schools not only having children from all parts of Africa but also Asia and Latin America. Having worked in most of the places where these children originate it is possible for me to see the cross-cultural interaction between the children of immigrants and non-immigrants. Of this, I will say that everyone, but especially the children, handle the diversity issue
extremely well. However, to my mind, there is an overemphasis on the differences rather than the similarities and universalities. Having lived 30 years abroad, I am more impressed with the commonalities among peoples than the differences. Education itself assumes that there are shared abilities and aptitudes that need development, and a sound curriculum will do all of us, no matter our background, good.
The problems? Well, there are many, the weakness of homes and families. Children’s unrealistic expectations of schools and teachers based on digital narratives as found on TV and movies. The economic pressures weighing on parents because of the general economic malaise of recent years. But most importantly what weighs most heavily on the system is that is its focus on readying children for college or university. Much of the expectations of what universities are supposed to provide are very unrealistic, and universities themselves are often now not structured to train children to work in the world. As many educated Americans have learned it is best to be trained in a skill or profession which is not fungible. Check out Freelancer.com and it is possible to see how much technical work can be done by talented people all over the world via the internet. One of the non-fungible skills is being able to work with our hands. One of the big surprises, when I returned from decades abroad, was how so many Americans have become DIY. DIY is needed now because I believe we have reached a limit on disposable objects. Does it really make sense to buy your child a new bicycle because you cannot change the inner tube and to take it to a repair shop might cost nearly the equivalent of a new one?
As explained in Princes of Africa, universities are structured to make money (and in many cases to brainwash), and the premise that all children will do best going to university might be false as an absolute. Whether true or not, this premise is passed down the system all the way to elementary school causing distortions that become problems for children. These problems demand that parents be aware of the bias and intervene to help their children get through with both the most optimal knowledge and that disciplined behavior required to adjust successfully in what is becoming an Orwellian society.
It is hoped the US Africa Educator as it provides both opinion and pedagogical algorithms will help parents guide their children through the maze of expectations and deliberations.