I saw the title “If I Was a Poor Black Kid” on my twitter timeline and knew, just knew this wasn’t going to be the type of reading I would enjoy. The “if” part of the clause already tells me that the writer is not any of the above, and is probably going to stick his or her foot into his or her mouth. Of course I was not disappointed.
I’m not sure if Gene Marks has ever met anyone poor, never mind a poor black person. If he had then he’d know that there is a great digital divide. He’d know that suggesting someone go find a cheap computer somewhere just sounds silly. He’d know that many poor kids don’t work so that they can buy some fresh new kicks. They work to keep their household lights on, to buy their own toiletries, and various and sundry household items. He might also know that yes, libraries do have computers, but most of the time you can only use them for an hour, and that so many of his privileged friends have cut funds to libraries that the computers are often sorely out of date and full of bugs from people downloading adult material. He’d also realize that many of the online resources he suggested are proprietary. They have fees. Where is a child or young adult getting a credit card to pay for fees?
Marks also says that students need to know their guidance counselor. That would be wonderful if counselors didn’t have 400-600 to 1 ratios when it comes to students. What would be even better, as Marks suggests, would really be if they, as children, were aware of all the ins and outs of the school system and knew how to apply to magnet schools and private schools.
Marks finally ends with: “Technology can help these kids. But only if the kids want to be helped.” The inherent cluelessness in Marks’ assessment makes me weep for our country if we truly believe that millions of people in poverty “don’t want to be helped,” and that they are just passing up educational opportunities. I’m glad that many cultural workers, educators, social workers and I hope legislators aren’t naive enough to sit back and just say that it’s the kid’s own fault for not succeeding when we as a society have left the playing field woefully uneven, and dare I even say aid in keeping it that way.
I was poor, and black, and female to boot, and yes I made it, but it took people who actually cared to show me how to take advantage of an education, and it took federal student loans to help me afford the opportunities when I later became a college student. Marks misses the point that all of the wonderful resources he cites are worthless if you don’t have access, and I hope our federal and state governments aren’t as short sighted.