• Donna Shannon

They Call It "Implicit Bias" . . . I Call It "Explicit Racism"

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

Black children need help countering the discrimination in education opportunities and excessive discipline they endure in public schools...

Black boys in particular and highly gifted children in general are the most underserved and intellectually neglected students in public schools. Speaking from painful experience, my son - who participated in William & Mary's gifted program beginning at age 4 - was never allowed any appropriately advanced lessons or class placement in public school.

In 1st grade, he had been reading books in English and Spanish since age 2, was reading magazines and newspapers at home, and was also trying to repeat the science experiments he saw on Mr. Wizard's World weekday mornings. Do you think there was any chance he could pretend to pay attention in class with children who were learning 3- and 4-letter words on flash cards? Of course not!

But his white elementary school teachers punished him on a daily basis for not paying attention to lessons he had mastered years earlier; his white principals (we tried two schools) refused to skip him to a grade where the lessons would interest and challenge him. The white Gifted Coordinator resisted even identifying him as gifted, though she had seen his William & Mary records. His schools insisted his inattention was an ADHD problem; his first school even suggested that he needed Special Education!

It seemed his public schools would have liked nothing better than to throw him away in Special Ed. They simply did not want to allow this gifted Black child to excel. But he had already done that - they just didn't want to acknowledge it. This was not implicit bias - they were very conscious of what they were doing. Documentation of all of this is in my book, Beyond Mis-Education.

For 6½ years we alternated between public school and homeschool. I was trying to keep him in school so he, an only child, could be around other children. My son started wanting to drop out literally in 2nd grade (being least 5 or 6 years ahead of his age-appropriate class placement, he meant that just as much as any fed-up 7th, 8th, or higher-grade student could mean it). Early during Fall of 5th grade, his teacher tried to assure me that he would "break" my son. He said my son was under-achieving, when in fact public school was forcing him to NON-achieve. He had already mastered much more than public school expected him to know in 1st grade, and that continued throughout his public school experience. Sadly, that 5th grade teacher was a young Black man. I had thought I could trust him with my son, but after that "Don't worry, I will break him" comment, I withdrew him and we homeschooled the rest of 5th grade.

His 6th grade class was crowded and noisy and my son hated it, so we homeschooled. Finally, after a dismal Fall semester of 7th grade, I told him he would never have to attend public school again. Homeschool freed him to test into Cal State L.A.'s early college program at 14, and he eventually earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, graduating Magna Cum Laude. So much for severe ADHD and needing Special Ed.

I shared my son's story to make the point that Black parents really need to be much more involved with their children's education, especially in elementary school where the foundation is laid for whether your child will value school or hate it, and whether he'll do well or get lost in the school-to-prison pipeline. Public schools tried hard to stultify and crush my Black son despite knowing beyond any doubt how very advanced he was and that he needed and deserved an out-of-the-box approach to his education. They did everything to hold him back despite my being involved from day one politely advocating, so how easy is it for public schools to destroy Black children who have no one that cares to be involved and advocate for them? Statistics don't lie - it's aparently very easy.

Black parents need to visit classes and observe what goes and how the teacher interacts with your children. You need to know what your child really can or cannot do before the school tries to tell you about limitations your child may or may not actually have. If your child hates school or is angry or upset about school all the time, you need to find out the real reasons for this in order to be able to stand up for your child. You have to stand between your child and the school-to-prison pipeline. Take the time to be involved while they're in school, or after public school gets through with them, you might wind up having to take the time to visit them in prison later.

For the children

Donna Shannon


14 views0 comments