Dear Dr. Z,
- First, readers interested in negative news about specific HBCUs can satisfy their curiosity by reading the mainstream media that never misses an opportunity to remind us of HBCU failures: so the Gateway and its blog focus on HBCU success stories and on strategies for achieving more HBCU success;
- Second, too many (but by no means all) black Americans do not perceive critical comments, however constructive, as challenges to be met, as illuminations of flaws to be eliminated. Too many black Americans tend to greet critical comments with defensiveness, with denial, and with aggressive reprisals against the critics, i.e., by "killing the messenger." As a black man, I still see vestiges of this defensive/denial reflex in myself, but a long time ago I accepted the very inconvenient truth that I usually can't solve problems if I deny that they exist.
- Conclusion #1. A disproportionately large number of black students are underperforming at all levels of the U.S system of education because today's teaching methods aren't powerful enough to move most black students from where they are to where they need to be. We need to develop far more powerful teaching tools that will enable the vast majority of black students to deserve passing grades. (Note: some of these tools must be designed to intensify black students' motivation to study harder.)
- Conclusion #2. More powerful teaching tools won't be developed as collateral benefits of something else, e.g. they won't be discovered if the "something else" is a research program designed to improve the teaching techniques employed by elite colleges for the benefit of their highly prepared students ... as in the research programs that will be conducted on the edX MOOC platform that that will develop tools that will help M.I.T. and Harvard improve their on-campus classes ... I think it's highly unlikely that the M.I.T/Harvard tools will meet the very different needs of most non-elite black students. The only institutions we can depend on to develop the powerful tools that most black students really need are HBCUs.
- Conclusion #3. Only a few HBCUs can become creative players in these developments, but a large percentage should become discerning consumers, actively deploying the most promising tools as they emerge from these research efforts
- Conclusion #4. The powerful new tools will be based on creative applications of information technology, the same technology that has produced exciting, mind-boggling breakthroughs in so many other important sectors of our economy.