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Geoffrey Canada offers his thoughts on Middle School

Recently a three day symposium Middle School Matters for Young Black Males sponsored by ETS and the Children's Defense Fund was held in Cincinatti Ohio. In general the speakers were academics from the college level and while their comments and presentations were excellent, they were more more theoretical than practical.

One of the panelists, Geoffrey Canada, Head of the Harlem Children's Zone, however, provided more hands on responses to some of the moderator's questions.

Canada feels that we address the needs of young Black children, and particularly those of high school age Black Males where all the dire statistics appear, but we do little to address middle school issues. 

This unfortunate because this is where kids are molded into the adults they’ll be, and often where they fall off the cliff.

Canada continues that Black kids are perceived as out of control and hence need to be reined in. He admits a small portion of these kids are truly troublesome, but the whole population of Black middle school kids are responded to as if it were.

As an example Canada offers this: Black kids get supended for the same act for which White kids get help. The latter is sent to a counselor and parents are called in for a conference. For the white kid people see it as an aberration, while for the Black kid it's business as usual. 

He makes the point that when there's a tragedy at a suburban school there is an announcement that counselors are being brought in to help the kids with their grief. "Did you ever here of such an invasion of support personnel  into an urban school?" he asks. No! Kids in those schools are supposed to be used to such things and should just carry on.

Canada wants Black middle school boys to be treated as what they are, kids. Treat them as such and provide them with support, help, and guidance.

His strongest assertion was that there is no one to forgive urban Black kids when they make a mistake. They are labelled and are stuck with it. At a time in their life when all kids are trying to figure out who thay are, many will do stupid things. This should not define them. 

We need to find people who will forgive them and provide them with a chance for redemption.

Canada’s remarks along with those of Dr. Ronald Mason, President of the Southern University System, and of the Reverend Dr. Robert Franlin, President of Morehouse College can be found on videos from the symposium.