Living in Franklin Square: an exploration of black cutture

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Since the late 1960's, there has been a growing body of research seeking to provide explanation for why blacks continue to be underrepresented in higher education enrollment; however, none of these studies provides a full explanation.

Ogbu (1969, 1978, 1985), who has given the fullest explanation of black underachievement for students at the primary and secondary levels, suggests that his caste system paradigm be used to explain black underrepresentation in higher education. This paradigm suggests that blacks are members of a caste because of a history of discrimination and exploitation. This past history led to a folk theory of unequal opportunity, which has affected the way that blacks perceive, interpret, and respond to educational barriers.

In this exploratory study, the researcher investigated a lower socioeconomic community in Baltimore, Maryland, which in many ways represents the general black population, to learn if Ogbu's caste paradigm explained black underrepresentation in higher education. It was learned that the caste system was in operation, and a very recent history of discrimination and exploitation existed. A folk theory of "unequal opportunity" and a collective identity that "blacks cannot compete with the white man," led to the use of oppositional/counter cultural strategies to "get ahead." Such strategies as pushing drugs, "beating the system" and stealing, coupled with high incidents of homicide, violence and teen pregnancy, impacted upon the ability of residents to graduate from high school and enroll in college. Furthermore, strategies used in the community were operational in the school, which served to detract from school learning.