Making grade demands help

Children question, challenge and test everything with an unwavering sense of confidence. The syncopated sobs from infants eventually take shape in the forms of: “How does this work? Can I play?” “I can do it myself,” “Stop, that’s mine give it back!” and “I’m telling.”

As we grow older, we gradually begin to adapt to the status quo. This socialization process parallels the physical awkwardness of puberty because self-consciousness becomes a factor in decision-making. Fewer children ask questions for the fear of being ridiculed and fewer children ask for help for the fear of appearing incapable.

With the FCATs around the corner, schools are modifying curriculums to prepare students for this statewide exam, but is there a level playing field?

According to the Norm-Referenced Test (NRT) portion of the FCAT, over the past six years, the gap between white students who scored above grade level and black students is over 30 percent in some counties. Something is obviously wrong.

In this ever-widening generation gap, the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” has fallen on deaf ears. Countless times from my parents and other elders, the idea of a random neighbor casting punishment or assistance was not uncommon.

Nowadays, in the black community, there is less of that and more of “I got mine.” Although some might cast blame at misguided hip-hop artists, it is only a symptom, not the cause.

The aforementioned process of socialization has influenced blacks to align their creeds with “survival of the fittest” capitalistic ideals regurgitated in the west. The high black unemployment rate and low secondary school graduation rate is evidence that capitalism was not set up for blacks and in fact, directly contradicts the African value system former generations maintained.

The FCAT is nothing more than an extension of this system. Future opportunities are contingent on the multiple choices of a standardized test. Contrarily, the test does not seem to multiply choices for young black students, but divide them.

We have a responsibility to our children not to let a minuscule exam determine their futures, but to educate them about their inherent power to control their own destinies. It’s a journey the entire village must make collectively.

Russell Nichols is a junior magazine production student from Richmond, Calif. He is the deputy lifestyles editor. Contact him at