Saturday, June 25, 2005

Stray Pigeons Who Can't Hike a Football, Chew Gum and Plow Fields Without Flying into Each Other?

Come August 1st J. Douglas Allen-Taylor will need a permit for his metaphor mixer:

Mr. Larrick has let fly a number of stray pigeons out of this bush, in all directions at once. Let us pick them off quickly, one by one, before they get too far away.

The first stray pigeon is the inference that African Americans suffer from the “Gerald Ford Syndrome,” taken from the remark by President Lyndon Johnson that because Mr. Ford had played too much football without a helmet, he could not both walk and chew gum at the same time. The apparent contention by Mr. Larrick is that African Americans cannot explore the historical causes of our present problems while simultaneously working to solve those problems, but, like Sam told his son, “You can either plow this field lengthways, or you can plow it wideways, but if you try to do it both at once, you’re gonna end up on the highways.”

But that first stray pigeon is actually knocked down by Mr. Larrick’s own second....

But Mr. Larrick has set forth a third stray pigeon—the implication that a prolonged discussion of American slavery is unproductive in and of itself—which has flown far and fast, and we must hurry to catch it.

The question arises, to what cause can we attribute what Mr. Larrick identifies as the “lag of black performance”?

In his commentary, Mr. Larrick cites, as one example of that “lag,” the work of Dr. John Ogbu, who “found that the very same problems plagued both Oakland and the affluent black suburb of Cleveland, Shaker Heights. Black students were absent more often, did less homework, watched more television and had less involved parents. They did not value education … [Dr. Ogbu] found that the students own attitudes hindered their academic achievement.” Dr. Obgu’s study, Mr. Larrick continues, “raises some uncomfortable questions about race, opportunity and responsibility.”

Yes, but what are the answers?

The FLUBA Committee on Buckling Your Chinstrap Before Play Commences guesses wildly: Going to class more often, doing more homework, watching less television, having more involved parents, valuing education, and changing attitudes.

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