some of us are brave
Like most people I tend to privilege my own learning style in my communication of ideas.
As a result, I rarely have cool pictures or video for my ideas. I am an aural learner and a verbal thinker. I listen, read, and write to process information. I don’t know nuthin’ bout no multimedia.
That’s fine except my learning style is in the minority. So, sometimes my ideas get lost in a sea of words. That is what I am afraid happens when I try to accurately convey the massive shift in how and where POC are now being educated in this country. Despite my statistic about the University of Phoenix being the number one producer of black bachelor’s degree holders or my 1 in 10 of all black college students being enrolled in a for-profit, nothing hits home like a nice graphic.
That’s the population we’re talking about. Although still under-represented African Americans have made great strides in college participation, suggesting what many of us have long known: we value education and have high college aspirations.
It gets a little murky, however, when we examine where our aspirations land us:
Black enrollment in for-profit colleges is up over 200% in four years.
Yet, that is exactly what researchers, journalists, and policy analysts never talk about.
It has been suggested to me by scholars I talk to that they aren’t the ones who can say that; I am. I accept that but not entirely. As researchers our responsibility should, theoretically, be to the truth and not to socio-cultural politics. I know that is unrealistic but we should at least attempt the unattainable, not abscond.
And too many researchers have absconded.
They do not want to talk about race for many reasons. One, there’s the line about class mattering more than race. Class does, indeed, matter. But, until a researcher can show me consistent empirical evidence of the absence of a larger racial effect in any study of class I will continue to say that race matters.
Two, there’s the fear some white scholars have of saying the word “black” (and to a lesser degree, latino and hispanic). The idea seems to be that they will invite extra scrutiny, some of it from black peers who are sensitive to any white scholar drawing conclusions about black lives. That’s real.
Deal with it.
If I have to deal with my integrity and rigor being questioned because I am a black scholar studying an issue that talks about black people, I think my peers can deal with a little extra scrutiny of their bona fides.
If they can’t? That’s fine, too. But then stop doing the work. Obscuring the importance of race in the data on stratification and mobility and equity in today’s higher education landscape is to obscure any meaningful conclusions. Either do it or do not, there is no try (sorry Yoda!).
The institutional rationalization that says it is normal and rational for black students to choose for-profit colleges hides systematic racism in its faux meritocracy.
Where did these millions of black for-profit college students attend K-12? Did they take algebra? French III? Pre-calculus? Did the schools they attend even offer them the option? If not, were they ever really eligible for traditional college admissions?
Where do these students live? Do they see more ads for Westwood College than they do State U? When they call Westwood for more information because they do not have access to the Internet does a human answer their questions? Is the same true of State U?
Can students pay their application fee in cash at the Community College without too much hassle like they can at ITT Tech? Or, do they need a bank card or credit card? Do they have access to banking or credit programs?
Do these students care for children? Does State U allow them to care for their baby and attend class?
If we are not asking these questions, if we’re not interrogating where over a million black aspirational college students suddenly came from to be enrolled by for-profit colleges, if we’re not engaging the why and the how then we’re all just producing “work” that gets us published but that fails to move the ball forward in any meaningful way. That would make academics qualitatively different from for-profit corporations how, exactly?
Look at the pictures.
They don’t lie.