Power of Story Send a Tweet        

Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 1 (1 Shares)  

Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites (# of views)   1 comment
OpEdNews Op Eds

Post-Obama World: Can America Close the Achievement Gap?

By       Message Dinesh Sharma       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags  Add to My Group(s)

Must Read 1   Well Said 1   Interesting 1  
View Ratings | Rate It


Author 17607
- Advertisement -

Barack Obama represents a paradigm shift in American culture.  From this point forward we will measure social progress in terms of the pre-Obama and post-Obama world.  As the first African-American presidential candidate of a major political party, he has challenged the myth of the minority "achievement gap"- and turned the meaning of "acting White"- on its head.

John Ogbu, the Nigerian-born Berkeley anthropologist, based his life's work on the cultural theory that the achievement gap between "voluntary"- and "involuntary"- minorities compared to the majority population forms the basis of a caste-like system in American society.

Involuntary minorities consist of African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and American-Indians, the traditional ethnic groups who by default do not have an alternative homeland to go back to.  Voluntary minorities, on the other hand, consist of the new immigrants, such as, the Chinese- Americans, Russian-Americans and other ethnic groups who have voluntarily adopted America as their homeland.

Involuntary minorities tend to perform poorly on achievement tests compared to the majority population (NCES, 2008).  Due to their "histories of self-perception"- involuntary minorities interpret barriers to advancement as "institutionalized discrimination"-.  In some parts of the country, the well performing minority students may even carry the stigma of "acting White."-  Voluntary minorities on the other hand view challenges in this society as opportunities to be overcome.

- Advertisement -


Obama has confounded these cultural theories and stereotypes by transcending the race barriers that many African Americans feel still exist in this society, undoubtedly in part due to his biracial background and White working-class roots.

However, Obama also represents a growing number of African immigrants, about 1 million strong in the major U.S. metro areas.  Part and parcel of the demographic transition sweeping America, these new Africans are not descendants of slaves even though they are often lumped with the African-American population.

- Advertisement -

According to Benjamin Akande, the Dean of the Webster School of Business, some of the notable personalities of the Obama generation include several prominent Africans in America: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe in academia; Hakeem Olajuwon and Joseph Addai in sports; and Gbenga Akinnagbe and singer Akon in entertainment.

As an American of Kenyan descent, Obama's story validates Ogbu's theory that the caste-like pathologies that plague some segments of the American population can be a social barrier, not evident among the new African immigrants.  If race may not be a real or perceived barrier, then we would have already been there and done that!  We would have already narrowed the achievement gap.  An African-American president may have already been anointed, not just on West Wing or in Hollywood movies.

So, many questions persist.  In the post-Obama world, can Americans close the achievement gap and regain the competitive edge in the world?  With help of a transformational leader like Obama, can we uplift what Ogbu calls involuntary minorities across the promise land and shore up our human capital?  In this election, these are just some of the tough questions voters must ask on the issue of education.


- Advertisement -

Must Read 1   Well Said 1   Interesting 1  
View Ratings | Rate It


Dinesh Sharma is a marketing science consultant with a Doctorate in Psychology from Harvard. He is a senior fellow at Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Research, St Francis College, NYC, and a regular columnist for Asia Times Online. (more...)

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon Share Author on Social Media   Go To Commenting

The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

From Kunta Kinte to Barack Obama: What's in a Name, Anyway?

Obama's Satyagraha: Or, Did Obama Swallow the Mahatma?

American Osiris Rising: Obama's Symbols of Transformation

"Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia" at Educator's Week at B&N, Edison, NJ, Tues, Oct 18, 6PM

What do Barack Obama and Slumdog Millionaire have in common?

India's Renewed Tryst with Destiny