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Rich, Black, Flunking

Cal Professor John Ogbu thinks he knows why rich black kids are failing in school. Nobody wants to hear it.

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Obgu's theory did find some support among black parents. Although they are in the minority, these parents believe he's pointed out a painful but powerful truth, and are happy to see it aired. "I already held his position before he did his research," says Nancy Jones, who has one child in the district and two who have graduated. "You can't get African-American parents to get involved and stay involved."

Jones says she is sick of the finger-pointing and blaming in her community, and was thrilled to see Ogbu highlight why this is detrimental. "We come from this point of view of slavery and victimhood and every problem is due to racist white people," she says. "That victim mentality is perpetrated by parents and they're doing their kids a disservice. ... My primary objective is not to hold someone accountable but to close the achievement gap."

Other parents also agree with Ogbu, Jones says, and will admit it privately, but publicly, it's too politically charged. "When you're in a public setting people are less apt to speak their mind if they think it's politically incorrect."

Sadly, Jones says, harsh criticism of Ogbu's Shaker Heights work has made any positive change nearly impossible. "Experts are telling the parents, 'The research wasn't good,' and, 'Disregard him,'" she says. "Besides, the parents' gut instinct tells them the district is at fault. When you have that many academics trashing him, it's easy to write off his conclusions. I'm having my doubts his work is going to motivate African-American parents and kids."

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