• You're Not A Poor Black Kid, Gene Marks.

    If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

    And I would use the technology available to me as a student. I know a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays. That because (and sadly) it’s oftentimes a necessary thing to keep their kids safe at home then on the streets. And libraries and schools have computers available too. Computers can be purchased cheaply at outlets like TigerDirect and Dell’s Outlet. Professional organizations like accountants and architects often offer used computers from their members, sometimes at no cost at all.

    If I was a poor black kid I’d use the free technology available to help me study. I’d become expert at Google Scholar. I’d visit study sites like SparkNotes and CliffsNotes to help me understand books. I’d watch relevant teachings on Academic Earth, TED and the Khan Academy. (I say relevant because some of these lectures may not be related to my work or too advanced for my age. But there are plenty of videos on these sites that are suitable to my studies and would help me stand out.) I would also, when possible, get my books for free at Project Gutenberg and learn how to do research at the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia to help me with my studies.

    I would use homework tools like Backpack, and Diigo to help me store and share my work with other classmates. I would use Skype to study with other students who also want to do well in my school. I would take advantage of study websites like Evernote, Study Rails, Flashcard Machine, Quizlet, and free online calculators.

    I wasn't raised a poor black kid. Perhaps a black kid who could have had a bit more than he was given from the start (don't we all?), but at no point did I feel or see myself as being poor. But when guys like these start assuming they can do what they believe ordinary black kids to somehow be incapable of doing, it fucking irks me. The smug, self-assured "oh I could have done that a lot better" attitude fucking irks me.

    Like I said, I wasn't raised poor, so I'll use quotes around that word to make an important distinction. Hopefully that won't detract from the following message too much.

    When I was a "poor" black kid, my parents made it my #1 priority to read, which in turn instilled a love of reading (and eventually, writing). Other kids didn't have that sort of parental motivation needed to push their kids to read better. It's a tall order to expect a struggling kid to get himself to read better when no one seems to want to help him.

    When I was a "poor" black kid, I was lucky to have parents who worked to give me access to libraries and computers, back when other poor families didn't even have cable, let alone Internet service. Many poor families still don't have Internet service. Many poor families are computer illiterate. Many don't have access to a library or a community center with computers.

    As a "poor" black kid, I had nary a clue about sources of information such as Cliff's Notes and Google Scholar. I had to be shown how to get to these resources by parents, relatives, teachers, etc. I wouldn't have been able to find them on my own except by sheer luck, never mind the nature of the Internet today.* To expect them to take advantage of these resources and deem them lazy and unmotivated when they can't take advantage of them reeks of intellectual dishonesty, to say the least.

    Besides, I wouldn't have been able to study or share homework with other students online. Most of us didn't have computers. Or Internet access. Or both. Or had any motivation to study after dealing with our home lives.

    Gene Marks, perhaps you shouldn't assume what you would do if you were this or that. Not even when you think you know the entire situation. Knowing the ins and outs about something doesn't give you permission to opine about what you'd do if you were in someone else's shoes. But plenty of people have already told you about that. So do us all a favor and knock it off.

    *I grew up during what could be considered the final transformation of the Internet (or World Wide Web, as it was called then) into the Internet we all know, love and occasionally bitch about today. That was around the mid to late 1990s, back when my household used AOL floppies (not CDs, floppies) as coasters, Netscape was The Shit™, 56k was as fast as most households could have hoped to go, and AOL and Compuserve were the two main ways people logged onto those series of tubes. Memes did not exist, neither did 4Chan or YouTube. Google? No, Yahoo, Altavista and Lycos were the top search engines of the day. Damn, I feel old.