The anti-achievement ethic

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The Economics of ‘Acting White’

“Of all the obstacles to success that inner city youth face, the most
surprising—and discouraging—may be those erected by their own peers… Many
teenagers have come to equate black identity with alienation and
indi.erence. “I use to go home and cry,” says Tachelle Ross, 18, a senior at
Oberlin High School in Ohio. “They called me white. I don’t know why. ‘I’d
say, I am as black as you are.” Promising black students are ridiculed for
speaking standard English, showing an interest in ballet or theater, having
white friends, or joining activities other than sports…

Honor students may be rebuked for even showing up for class on time. The
pattern of abuse is
a distinctive variation on the nerd bashing that almost all bright,
ambitious students—no matter the color—face at some point in their lives.
The anti-achievement ethic championed by some black youngsters declares
formal education useless; those who disagree and study hard face isolation,
scorn and violence. While educators have recognized the existence of an
anti-achievement culture for at least a decade, it has only recently emerged
as a dominant theme among the troubles facing urban schools…

Social success depends partly on academic failure; safety and acceptance lie
in rejecting the
traditional paths to self-improvement.”

–— “The Hidden Hurdle,” Time, March 16, 1992