It works! Giving a post a controversial title with a racist or paternalistic twist will cause that post to gain traction. Alright, now let’s talk about something we didn’t know, or could more easily resist, an actual critique of why this piece should get Forbes less of our dollars.
In some ways, I can actually say, “I’d agree.” Okay. I’d agree that a guy that looks to be a forty-something-ish, admittedly middle class, with enough career attention to get an article in the Forbes probably would believe that he’d do all of what he said he’d do, if he were a Black child in the urban community. If I were-given all of what I know now-a child in the urban Black community, I would want to do much of what Gene Marks illustrated in the piece. Of course, I’m not a Black child in poor urban USA, and obviously, Marks is not one either. He is also a few universes away from the problems that beset the average Black child growing up poor.
In St. Louis, that means being limited to a school system that causes many of its teachers to have to deal with overcrowded classrooms as the city closes down schools for sports venues. It also means that even if you are able to take advantage of programming classes, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to utilize those skills at a university level given present day college costs. It also should be noted that what defines ‘poverty’ on a socio-economic level often are conditions completely destructive to an education. Has Marks considered the intensity of pressure placed on these young people walking home through gang neighborhoods, and what amounts to outdoor drug testing centers? Further, has Marks considered the enormity of brain drain in impoverished communities that creates a vacuity of teachers capable of training students at a competitive level?
Marks’ grand assumption reflects not only his sheer disrespectful paternalist attitudes toward Blacks, but it is an indication of the ignorance that much of White USA harbors. The implication that inner city schools are being funded to the degree of being able to afford a class that could prepare a child for say, Harvard or Stanford’s freshman computer engineering class is the height of naivete. For a middle aged man, it would seem like a simple manner of focus to handle the task of seeking out the lessons that ones teachers don’t provide them, but how many of us actually did that as children without parental nudging? If I could go back knowing what I know with the level of emotional maturity I possess now, sure, I’d probably have a phd before my pre-teens. The reality isn’t so bright for a child making decisions in these environments however. And that isn’t even a glance at the money of the home the child lives in.
Marks makes the awfully shortsighted assumption that many of the homes we define as below the poverty line would have computers in them. Now, we are talking training a child that will for the most part be training them Selves online. Given an aptitude for technology, it still takes a pretty excessive amount of time to learn how to code. This means that the child is going to have to have their own computer. It also could mean the child needing to have their own space, i.e. a room of their own. For many children growing up in poverty, such is simply not the case. And it is really appalling that an economic advisory magazine such as Forbes has a columnist that doesn’t understand these objective factors.
I agree that a 40 year old mind and maturity level would probably do well in the body of a 12 year old Black child in the urban jungle. Unfortunately, as survival conscious as many of the youth of the cities are, not many have the experiences or maturity of a 40 year old White male that never dealt with poverty or a life without white privilege. Even if we were discussing my Self, sure, I would probably do considerably better with navigating those waters with my present state of actualization than I fared last time around. We all would be geniuses if we could just go back, correct? The real world scenario tends to be a bit more bleak, and the solutions a lot less textbook. I applaud the internal fortitude and Marks’ planet sized testicles that have allowed him to believe that he could even remotely get this one right. A White middle aged, middle class guy offering advice to Black children in the hood…the things the internet provides for…geez.