Did anyone catch Soledad O’Brien’s special on CNN, “Black in America,” these past two evenings?
I watched it in a room full of academics, which probably explains why I was part of an audience that spent most of the night collectively (and very vocally) appalled by just about every single decision that the producers made: the spoken-word segues out of every single commercial break (delivered, it seems, from an indoor basketball court, no less); the under-reliance on black female talking heads as authoritative voices on the African-American experience; the too-easy partitioning of purportedly black men’s and black women’s social issues into separate broadcast nights.
Just to be fair, I should make sure to watch the entire broadcast again, but my initial expectations might have been too high, too unrealistic.
Did anyone else see it? If so, what did other folks think?
During the first night’s broadcast, Harvard economist Roland Fryer explained his oft-cited and controversial effort to incentivize academic achievement among young black kids by paying them cash to do their school work. The children and parents profiled in the piece touted the experiment’s positive impact on student performance. They believe that it has already begun to reap real benefits.
Detractors maintain that there is something short-sighted about reducing intellectual productivity to immediate monetary gain. What about teaching young people the benefits of deferred gratification? Might commoditizing test scores represent the ultimate vulgarization of public education? Do we really want an educational system that unabashedly promotes the entrenched legitimacy of materialism as a kind of normative good?
I have to admit that I find these critiques pretty compelling, even as I remember my stepfather’s monetary deal with me: a dollar bill for every 100 percent test score that I brought home from elementary school. Was that the reason why I made it out of the projects in Brooklyn and into the Ivy League? I don’t think so, but Fryer wants to prove me wrong.Return to Top