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 I would argue that the reason the Sudbury alumni “in general” have “an incredible

sense of who they are and how they work, and confidence in their abilities” is because,

in general, they are the children in that top performing ten percent who would

have had these traits developed initially by their parents regardless

of attending public school or an alternative school.



Books by C. Liegh McInnis


Scripts:  Sketches and Tales of Urban Mississippi  /  Da Black Book of Linguistic Liberation / Confessions: Brainstormin' from Midnite 'til Dawn  


  Matters of reality: Body, mind & soul / Prose: Essays and Personal Letters  /  Searchin' for Psychedelica


The Lyrics of Prince:  A Literary Look at a Creative, Musical Poet, Philosopher, and Storyteller


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Unschooler Education Celebrated by CNN

A Response‏ by C. Liegh McInnis


The following comments are my response to the article, “Unschoolers Learn What They Want, When They Want,” which was sent to me a couple of days ago.

Mostly, I am not against alternative types of schooling, whether it is homeschooling or any other program that a parent thinks will induce the best from their child. And I also realize that many children do learn many different ways, so I am not quick to minimize any form of learning. However, what often bothers me when alternative forms of schooling, such as homeschooling or charter schools, are presented or celebrated is how very basic facts are omitted for the sake of showing the alternative form in a better light.

For instance, “Approximately 90% of Sudbury Valley’s graduates go on to college (compared with 69% of graduates from the public education system).” The problem with this statistic is that it does not consider two variables. One, parents who tend to opt for alternative schooling, such as homeschooling, charter, and private schools, tend to be more affluent with a higher level of education, which translates to their children being exposed to a more constructive or positive atmosphere regarding education as well as having a solid academic foundation developed in the home. (And this is true of most of my friends whose children attend African-centered schools also.)

Two, the top ten percent of public school graduates tend to perform at or equal to the same level as the top ten percent of alternative schooling graduates, and the common link is that these two groups have parents who invest the proper amount of time and effort. In contrast, then, what lowers the percentage of college enrollment for public school graduates is not the curriculum or the teaching but two very simple facts/variables.

One, public schools must admit students with all types of learning and behavioral disorders whereas private and charter schools tend to have a very low number of students with learning and behavioral disorders unless they specialize in this area, and, two, public schools have a higher percentage of parents who, for whatever reason, do not invest the same time and effort with their children as the parents whose children perform in that aforementioned top ten percent. So, if we consider all factors/variables, it seems that the success of alternative schooling is not based on the curriculum or the teachers but on the types of parents who are able to enroll their children in various types of alternative schooling.

A second fallacy presented is that public school “ . . . keeps trying to do what it can’t do, which is make every child learn everything in the whole wide world. It’s like heading toward a cliff.” Maybe I have not attended the same type of public school, but I have never experienced this. If by saying “learn everything in the whole wide world,” one means public school is designed, ideally and for the most part, to make a child a well-rounded being, then, yes, an effective education exposes a child to various aspects of life, working to show the common links in those various aspects, teaching the child how to find “hidden likenesses,” to use a Jacob Bronowski term, in seemingly unlike things, which enhances the child’s critical thinking ability.

So world history should coalesce with world literature or algebraic reading problems should coalesce with basic grammar, syntax, and semantic development. Again, my issue is not to minimize alternative schooling but to show the flaw in the premise that public schooling tends to expose children to needless information that they will never apply. The problem or hurdle for public school is that the focus on “high stakes” testing limits if not impairs the development of critical thinking because the emphasis is often on the answer and not how one arrives at the answer.

So many students graduate high school with some facts but limited knowledge, and knowledge is understanding how to use facts to improve one’s condition or situation. Yet this emphasis on “high stakes” testing is not something that grew organically from public education but more so is a reactionary, political element that serves mostly to widen the gap between rich and poor students.

Third, I return to the notion that education must be seen as a joint effort between parents and teachers. “They have, and I think this is true of [Sudbury] alumni in general, an incredible sense of who they are and how they work, and confidence in their abilities,” Sadofsky said. “Not that they know everything, but they know how to find what they need.” It seems that Sadofsky does not realize that this “sense” of knowing oneself and having “confidence” in one’s “abilities” is a trait that is planted and nurtured at home first and then affirmed through organized activities in the school.

Therefore, I would argue that the reason the Sudbury alumni “in general” have “an incredible sense of who they are and how they work, and confidence in their abilities” is because, in general, they are the children in that top performing ten percent who would have had these traits developed initially by their parents regardless of attending public school or an alternative school. Accordingly, the second part of Sadofsky’s statement, “they know how to find what they need” is a trait/skill mostly developed by schooling, but teachers can only be effective in developing this trait or skill if the student has a constructive attitude, focus, and understanding of the academic process, which must be developed by the parent.

So, again, this “incredible sense of who they are and how they work, and confidence in their abilities” is not unique to alternative schooling but is a trait that most students develop if they have parents who make the proper time and effort investment, which allows the teachers to develop and teach the child how to use those personal characteristics in developing academic and professional characteristics.

Let me be clear. Parents have a role, and teachers have a role in the effective development of a child’s academic being. However, the academic institution is being asked to fulfill the role of parent and teacher, which puts more responsibility and weight on the academic institution than it was designed to carry. Or, let me put it another way. In many inner-city, high poverty areas, dilapidated housing exists for three reasons. One, the houses are old. Two, the people living in those houses are unable to afford proper maintenance. Three, which relates to this discussion, often there are more people living in the houses than the houses were designed to accommodate. A three-bedroom house is not designed to accommodate seven to ten people. Those extra bodies are asking that house to do something it was not designed to do.

This is the primary issue with our public schools. Yes, they are severely underfunded. I would argue that they are purposefully underfunded, but the main problem is that society is asking underpaid and overworked teachers to be parents as well. No matter how much of a great role model our favorite teacher was, that teacher was mostly affirming the values and sensibilities that the student was bringing to the classroom. If the student is not bringing certain values and sensibilities to the classroom, then the teacher is forced to spend valuable time teaching these values and sensibilities, which limits the amount of time spent exposing the student to the academics.

Finally, the four major issues for public schools are low-teacher wages (which keep the schools from attracting highly qualified and invested teachers), not enough funding to decrease the classroom size as well as to add an assistant teacher to each classroom, poor funding and management of special education services for both special needs and gifted children, and an increasing number of uninvolved and un-invested parents that have negative attitudes (for various reasons) toward education, which is passed to the children, creating an adversarial relationship between parent and teacher as well as parent and child and is made worse by the employment of underpaid, overworked teachers.

Even in a situation where a charter or private school states, “Give us your worst performing students from your worst areas,” often three of the four variables or hurdles facing public schools are removed. Again, because private and charter schools only admit a small percentage of the students that public schools must admit, there is a smaller classroom size, which provides more effective services to identify and service gifted and special needs students. Secondly, the teachers are less stressed, which creates improved morale in the classroom and between parent and teacher.

Yet, where charter schools are concerned, this is done with public funds. Oh yeah, they don’t just want your children; they want your tax dollars also. However, if one checks the statistics, one will realize that most charter schools do not achieve greater success than public schools, especially as it relates to the top ten percent of the public school students. So rather than creating these voucher systems for private and charter schools that only serve a select few students, how about cutting funding to prisons, defense, law enforcement, and the expense accounts of our elected officials and invest that money in education because every study proves that proper education not prisons decreases the crime rate.

I don’t want every child properly educated because I love young people. I want every child properly educated because each child properly educated is one less person likely to rob me.

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C. Liegh McInnis is an instructor of English at Jackson State University, the publisher and editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal, and the author of seven books, including four collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction (Scripts:  Sketches and Tales of Urban Mississippi), and one work of literary criticism (The Lyrics of Prince:  A Literary Look at a Creative, Musical Poet, Philosopher, and Storyteller).  He has presented papers at national conferences, such as College Language Association and the Neo-Griot Conference, and his work has appeared in Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Sable, New Delta Review, The Black World Today, In Motion Magazine, MultiCultural Review, A Deeper Shade, New Laurel Review, ChickenBones, and the Oxford American

In January of 2009, C. Liegh, along with eight other poets, was invited to read poetry in Washington, DC by the NAACP for their Inaugural Poetry Reading celebrating the election of President Barack Obama.  He has also been invited by colleges and libraries all over the country to read his poetry and fiction and to lecture on various topics, such creative writing and various aspects of African American literature, music, and history.  McInnis is editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal.—PsychedelicLiterature

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8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed  Youth Resistance

What to Do about Declining Student Empathy  / Education and the Structural Crisis of Capital

Unconscious Plagiarism  / The Myth of Charter Schools (Diane Ravitch)

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Black Education

A Transformative Research and Action Agenda

for the New Century

Edited by Joyce E. King

  Afterword   Ten Vital Principles for Black Education 

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A People’s History of the United States

By Howard Zinn

Consistently lauded for its lively, readable prose, this revised and updated edition of A People’s History of the United States turns traditional textbook history on its head. Howard Zinn infuses the often-submerged voices of blacks, women, American Indians, war resisters, and poor laborers of all nationalities into this thorough narrative that spans American history from Christopher Columbus's arrival to an afterword on the Clinton presidency. Addressing his trademark reversals of perspective, Zinn—a teacher, historian, and social activist for more than 20 years—explains, "My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. . . ."

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind.

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian

Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 5 August 2011




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Related files:     Blues as Secularized Spirituals  War Poems  Quilting the Black Eyed Pea   Who or What Does "The Help" Help   Prince's The Rainbow Children   

 Unschooler Education Celebrated: A Response   Charles Tisdale: Newspaper Man  Gabby Douglas and Black Self-Hatred  Witches, Bitches, and Niggers  

Jimi Hendrix—"Like A Rolling Stone”  (kalamu)