Parents in Shaker Heights began trying to explain the disquieting gap months before Ogbu arrived. A small group of black and white parents gathered in the mid-1990s to study the issue months before the student newspaper at Shaker Heights High School published its article. Their preliminary explanations were divided into four broad categories: the school system, the community, black parents, and black students. The group concluded that the academic gap was an "unusually complex subject, involving the internal and external synergistic dynamics not only of the school system, but also of the parents and of students, collectively and individually, as well as our community as a whole."
It was a diplomatic way of saying there was much blame to go around, some of it attributable to black parents or students. Although many black parents would later react negatively to Ogbu's work, this biracial group had in fact beaten him to some of his conclusions. "Ogbu didn't find anything new," recalls Reuben Harris, an African-American parent who served on the subcommittee. "It's just a community where you wouldn't think this kind of gap would occur."
Ogbu agreed. ...
The black individual lives in a society that needs his race for the good it wants to do more than it needs his individual self. His race makes him popular with white institutions and unifies him with blacks. But he is unsupported everywhere as an individual. Nothing in his society asks for or even allows his flowering as a full, free and responsible person.
It seems like Ogbu arrived at some of the same conclusions as Steele, but applied in the realm of education. Neither the parents nor students, according to Ogbu, took responsibility for their roles as individuals in an educational system - but instead deferred to the notion of the black community as a more important cultural force. And the black community, according to Ogbu, considered educational success a "white" thing.
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