Acting Barack

A caller to a talk radio program earlier this week made an interesting point, and one I had not previously considered. She was an older, well-spoken black woman (the VP-elect would probably describe her as “articulate”), who told the conservative host that she agreed with both Presidential candidates on certain issues, but had ended up voting for Barack Obama. She was calling to share a personal observation: that, in the wake of election day, “doing well in school” had suddenly become a lot more important to a lot more black kids in her area. Teachers have been reporting fewer discipline problems. Kids are paying more attention in class and to their schoolwork.

In too many predominantly-black schools, kids who are bright and want to do well are denigrated by their peers for “acting white.” This leads to a perverse and ingrained culture that encourages delinquency and underachievement. (Mrs Yeoman Farmer and her siblings attended predominantly-white Catholic schools, so they did not encounter this problem.) If Barack Obama’s election helps turn this situation on its head, and academic success becomes regarded as “acting Barack” (I just made that phrase up), I’d say that is a tremendous cause for celebration.

I should emphasize that I still believe these election results, on balance, are not as good for the country as a whole (or for blacks in particular) as the alternative outcome would have been. But as much as I would prefer not to have Barack Obama as my president, the fact is … he will be. And if/when his presidency produces good fruit, I will be among the first to acknowledge it.

In the meantime, I’d be very curious to hear from any of you out there who are educators or otherwise connected to urban public schools. Are you detecting a post-November 4th difference in black kids’ attitudes toward education and academic success?

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