Over time there has been considerable controversy about what exactly defines human intelligence and how can we measure it. Standardized tests used to measure intelligence have been found to be inconclusive when measuring African American inner city students. The factors which influence the outcome of students’ test scores are environmental, family, race, gender, and nutritional factors. Students who live in impoverished circumstances may suffer from lack of nutrition which affects concentration; they may live in less than ideal circumstances where learning is difficult due to family problems. Or they may be too stressed with everyday survival to learn effectively. Some educators call the expectation of impoverished children to have difficulty in school, a self fulfilling prophecy.
A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when a person forms expectations of another person which affects interaction with that person. This, consequently, creates the anticipated results. When the students evaluate themselves and set their own positive goals, they are setting their own positive expectations if they have positive self esteem. A student’s behavior is determined by his or her core beliefs about him or herself. The student’s behavior usually reflects his or her personal and family beliefs.
An inner-city school environment has to provide positive reinforcement for positive ideals the students have. The school must create an intervention program for students who do not have positive self-esteem and personal goals to help them attain positive ideals.
Cynthia Wooding, an educator from Yale University, created a curriculum aimed at African American students who were expected to fail. She developed a unit focusing on the achievement of minorities and African Americans. The curriculum introduces the students to African Americans achievers who have successfully contributed to their own culture and to society as a whole. The intent of the curriculum was to build positive self-image and hope regarding intelligence in different races, genders, and socio-economic groups.
Her intent was to prove several facts learned about expectations in the African American community.She tested several important educational theories:
- Students tend to live up to expectations they are given.
- By introducing her students to high achieving African Americans, she gave them hope to succeed despite their economic and social handicaps.
- Positive reinforcement is effective at eliciting desired behavior from students.
The subjects of the study are fifth graders who are at a crucial point in developing their identity as a world citizen.
It is believed that students from lower income households were less likely to:
- Take the most difficult and challenging classes
- Believe the amount of work they do now is important to success later in life.
- Believe that it is important that they do the best in all their classes
- Agree that doing homework is important
Prominent African Americans such as Dr. Ben Carson, who is an accomplished heart surgeon despite poverty, have proved that disadvantage and poverty do not necessarily predict failure. The focus on successful achievers was meant to change misguided ideas the children were fostering about the importance of education. In some impoverished communities, it is not uncommon for children to be ridiculed for academic achievement. Ms. Wooding’s theories have proven out and have been reinforced over times.
- Wooding, Cynthia, Self Fulfilling prophecy in African American Students: Exploring African American Achievers.
- Lynn, R. “Direct evidence for genetic basis for black-white difference in IQ.” American Psychologist. 1997. 52(1), 73-74.