#2 The African-American family is defined as networks of households related by blood, marriage, or function that provide basic instrumental and expressive functions of the family to the members of those networks (Hill, 1999). It is one of the strongest institutions throughout history, and still today. Family strengths are considered to be cultural assets that are transmitted through socialization from generation to generation and not merely adaptations or coping responses to contemporary racial or economic oppression (McDaniel 1994; Hill 1999). This definition is contrary to the belief that the Black family is an adaptation to harsh conditions, instead of an ongoing establishment. Hill (1999) discusses some of the qualities as effective for the survival of black families: strong achievement and work orientation, flexible family roles and strong kinship bonds, and strong religious orientation. These strengths, along with others can be emphasized in schools and used to motivate African-American students to succeed.
Contrary to what many people may believe, African-Americans have a strong motivation towards achieving. From the parents to the children, there is a strong orientation for wanting to learn and get ahead. Research has shown that black children have educational and occupational aspirations that are often equal to, and sometimes higher, than white children (Stevenson et al. 1990; Winfield 1991 b; Hill 1999). African-American parents and students need help in turning this motivation into a reality.
Teachers can take the aspirations of many black students and prompt them to better by having high expectations, regardless of race and class. Building upon not only the intellectual achievement, but also the self-esteem of black students can also help strengthen their achievement. Many studies have revealed that high self-esteem is strongly correlated with subsequent achievement orientation and upward mobility (Hill, 1999). The attitude of significant others (parents, peers, and teachers) toward a child is an important source of self-esteem among black children (Taylor 1976; Gibbs 195; Hill 1999). In school, teachers can encourage interaction between themselves and the students, as well as the students among each other. The flexibility of family roles is important in African-American culture because it contributes to the stability and advancement of numerous black families (Hill, 1999).
This ability to adapt to many roles may lead to equality between husband and wife or whoever the caretakers in the home. Sex-specific socialization patterns are dominant in the Euro-American culture and lead to a mostly inferior attitude by white females. In the African-American family, even though there are many egalitarian patterns, the black mother is a lot of times the strongest figure. They are equal to their husbands in that they share work responsibilities inside and outside the home.
In the classroom, these strengths can be used to motivate the equal learning of all students. Male and female students should be held to the same standards and expectations. The tradition of flexible family roles should make the students feel like they can aspire to whatever they want, regardless of gender expectations. Strong kinship bonds throughout the make-up of the African-American family make it possible for these family roles to be carried out. Strong religious orientation has been a factor in African-American culture for many centuries. The Black Church formed schools for free blacks, as well as for slaves; created institutions, such as banks, hospitals, and homes; and established many of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities of today (Hill, 1999).
Black people see church and religion as bringing a positive outcome to their lives. Researchers have found that church attendance was the most important factor for helping young black males to "escape" from inner-city poverty and to achieve positive outcomes (Freeman and Holzer 1986; Hill 1999). Religion is not a part of public schools, however the strength and cultural bonds that come out of black churches can be emphasized in schools. Students with strong religious convictions can be encouraged to use that to motivate them to succeed.
The extended ness, role flexibility, , collectivism, and spirituality (Harrison et al. 1990; Hill 1999) of African-American families have contributed to the survival of the family and the culture. They cannot be taught in school, but teachers can capitalize on the presence of them to stimulate the intellectual growth of their students. Works Cited Hill, Robert. The Strengths of African American Families. University Press, 1999..