Steer children toward academics


Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.

As a student at the University of Florida, you can always expect to be asked three main questions: name, major and hometown.

Whenever I express that this, Gainesville, is where I was born and raised, I always seem to get shocked looks followed by explanations that I am the only person they have met from the black community at UF who is a local, or ACR (Alachua County resident), as we are known around campus.

Initially, I thought nothing of it, but as my interest in minority education grows, I cannot help but wonder why we do not have many local African-Americans attending UF starting their freshmen year.

As I looked back through my school career — elementary, middle and high school — I realized something at each level. The number of African-American students in the higher level classes decreased so dramatically, from the entire class in elementary school to me being the lone black girl by senior year attending Advanced Placement classes.

Now this is not to say that my friends and African-American peers are not attending universities and colleges throughout the country. On the contrary, most of them are. However, I do believe that the school system in Gainesville is adding to the achievement gap that has long haunted black people.

Students are put on a certain track as young as elementary school and we unconsciously judge their entire education career on such things as race and income. For example, those AP English classes required college essays from UF or Florida State University as a backup, even if no one planned on attending, gearing up the students, who were majority white, middle and upper class, to attend UF.

For those students who are not AP, they must attend sessions to apply to Santa Fe College. Why do we not raise the bar and encourage our African-American youth to attend UF? If test scores are the problem, the university has many programs, such as AIM and OASIS, that can help students to "catch up" so to speak.

It shouldn't just start with applying to colleges. Parents and peers should push their children and friends to take those harder classes and become more involved in academics.

A lot of my friends were turned off by honors and AP classes due to the fact that they did not feel comfortable in a class where they would be the minority. Since the initial ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education, our schools and classrooms are becoming more segregated by choice, leading to an inequality in adequate resources, worthy teachers and academic aspiration.

In my opinion, integration is the key to the start of minimizing the achievement gap. By evening the playing field, say in elementary school, we allow our children the chance to choose their own path, rather than being steered there and forced into contributing to the dreaded ongoing gap.

Brionca Taylor,

Gainesville

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