The really bad news is that those in power in government don’t truly want an educated, informed population. Educated, enlightened people are harder to control.
Interview: Professor Trevor Muhammad
BSN: Trevor Muhammad. I’d like to thank you for taking the time out to sit, and speak with us at Black Star News about the important issue of education. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became Professor of Mathematics at the historically Black Alabama State University.
Trevor Muhammad: I was born in and lived in New York until I was nearly nine years old. I moved to Alabama and completed grade school. I attended Auburn University at Montgomery and graduated cum laude with a B.S. degree in theoretical mathematics.
I later earned a Master of Education degree from Alabama State University. I taught five years of high and middle school at schools that had 99%-100% Black populations. I knew I had the rigorous background to teach college courses and was confident in myself, so I applied for a position at Alabama State University and got it. I have been teaching at ASU for 10 years. I am married and have four home-schooled children. I’m also the owner and director of a private, 10-year old tutoring company that employs several licensed teachers.
BSN: America ranks 17 in the world when it comes to academics. Why do you think this is so, and what steps do you think we can take to regain our position as a strong nation in terms of education?
TM: When I was in college, the U.S. was ranked near the top in worldwide academic standings, particularly in math and science. Now, so-called Third World countries have and are still surpassing our students in math, science, and computer programming.
Are the citizens of foreign countries genetically smarter than American citizens? No. These countries have surpassed the U.S. because their countries value technical math and science more. While our government is busy promoting “democracy” and “unfiltered Internet access” in other countries or trying to change the leadership in countries, foreign governments are surpassing us in science, medicine, and engineering. You can now travel to India for surgical procedures that we do not or cannot do here. The U.S. has to recruit foreign computer programmers because we do not produce enough at our universities.
Not to diminish the value of the arts and the social sciences which require disciplined hard work, but the mathematical scientific and technological areas of study require intense, disciplined, study of calculus, physics, chemistry, computer programming languages and other intensely technical subjects. Studying, you know, can conflict with a robust social life. Our students know about Basketball Wives, American Idol, Twitter trending hash tags, or sports statistics. There is an excessive emphasis on sports, entertainment, play, and social life but too little emphasis on disciplined mastery of a craft, a technical trade, or a career that requires a degree involving several courses in calculus, physics, and chemistry.
Our high school students are choosing easier subjects that usually require less disciplined study instead of taking calculus, physics, and advanced chemistry. Also, I have seen teachers ‘water down’ a pre-calculus class until it seemed like an algebra 2 course. Consequently, students are quite not ready for demanding college majors and need to take too many remedial or developmental courses just to survive in college.
I do not believe this trend will be reversed because it requires revamping the entire curriculum. Too many high school students graduate without the knowledge of how local and national governments function and without basic financial literacy. Students need to understand the reason for education. The primary purpose of education is not to get a job.
The really bad news is that those in power in government don’t truly want an educated, informed population. Educated, enlightened people are harder to control. You need facts and time to win over the minds of knowledgeable citizens. You only need a 30-second sound bite and some “experts” to go on a few talk shows to scare or mislead people and corral them like sheep into believing your lies or truths.
These scare tactics and lies are used nearly every time we have gone to war recently (Iraq, Libya, next Iran and Syria). ‘He is using weapons on his own people’ is the phrase our government likes. What would we expect Florida officials to do if armed citizens took to the streets and fired on police officers to demand justice for Trayvon Martin? We expect the police to shoot back at the citizens for breaking the law.
I believe there has been a dumbing down of the American population. Those in power don’t want us enlightened about what our government is doing overseas. Basically, they want to use media manipulation so they can have their way with us and keep us dumb and dependent on them for information.
BSN: Being Professor of Mathematics. How important would you say it is for Black students to major in Mathematics, and pursue careers in fields that center around Mathematics, being that this is one of the core skills of the 21st century?
TM: As a professor of math, I believe mathematics is critical to Black students’ survival as a people. A nation cannot build and advance without knowledge of mathematics. The pyramids in the ancient Black Egyptian civilization is not the result of some builders becoming lucky. That civilization had to have enough math, science, and advanced architecture for the calculations to build the pyramids with all the internal chambers. There had to be foremen, planners, surveyors, etcetera. A country of Black people without enough citizens knowledgeable of mathematics will always depend on another people for its advancement. A farmer cannot get the best yield of a crop without knowing how much crop to plant and how much fertilizer to use for a given amount of land. Either the farmer can calculate it or someone knowledgeable of math has to tell the farmer.
You can’t build high rise buildings without advanced engineering and architecture. It takes math, physics, and chemistry to calculate loads and strengths of buildings, roads, and bridges and other structures. Mathematics is even used in manufacturing to minimize costs of production and maximize profits given limited resources. So, we can see that as long as we are not producing enough students who have mastered math beyond balancing a checkbook, Black people will always depend on someone else to do for us what God gave us the ability to do for ourselves. Consequently, we can only be servants to others and not ourselves if we don’t master mathematics.
BSN: In 2012 reports showed that 1,236,443 Black men were enrolled in college versus the 841,000 serving time in prison. Can you talk to us about these figures? Why do you think so many Black men are making higher education a priority, and attending college?
TM: In this economy, many White people with Bachelor, Master and even Ph.D degrees are unemployed or grossly underemployed. How does a Black male with a high school diploma compete with unemployed people with degrees? He can’t. The Black man must educate himself and provide opportunities for himself. If the economy picks up, I expect Black males to be hired last in corporate America. That’s why the Black man must establish his own economy.
BSN: In terms of how Blacks are depicted in mass media. Would you say that these stereotypical images are true to who we are as a people?
TM: I would like to pose this question: Do we control most of the images we see of Blacks in the mass media, or does the mass media control the majority of the images we see of Blacks? “He who controls your self-image controls your self-esteem,” is a quote I read. I hope I have it 100% correct, from the Black writer and scholar Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu. Parents, grade school teachers, preachers, and other community leaders who interact with our youth have the ability to influence their self-image. However, the music industry executives, the T.V. and radio executives, and the print journalism executives also influence how we see ourselves.
For example, in April of this year, car maker Acura issued a public apology after it was leaked that they sought a Black person who was “Nice looking friendly. Not too dark.” The man was to play the role of a car dealer in Acura’s Superbowl ad. Additionally, we see magazine and other ads that feature dark-skinned to caramel-skinned Black males with white to caramel-skinned females. Also, the Black couples in these ads tend to have caramel-colored skinned children who appear to be of mixed heritage. The children’s hair is sandy light-brown. Their eyes are hazel or light brown. The next time you are in the bookstore or grocery store check out the magazines, particularly the mainstream magazines.
So, do we control the images we see in the media? In a way, yes and no. No because, we don’t own and control the final published product at major media outlets. We are not necessarily the ones over ad production in corporate America. Not many fortune 500 corporation owners are Black.
Yes, because too many of our rap entertainers promote and glamorize misogynistic, drug-addictive, lawless behaviors. If they know that many of the people listening to their music are under 18, then why promote using marijuana and other drugs? Why promote and encourage sex when you know these impressionable children will repeatedly sing these songs and incorporate these behaviors into their lifestyles? By the way, adult-themed rap songs are played on the radio at 6:00 p.m. and earlier in my city. Nearly every child is awake at those times. The same can be said about images in rap videos with regard to adult themes. Why do women have to wear bikinis or be nude in rap videos? Are these entertainers attempting to define manhood? Or are they exploiting a market at the expense of its consumers?
Another recurring negative theme is that of the Black male athlete. Where does this fascination with becoming a professional athlete come from? Parents, schools, and society are caught in the money and fame associated with sports. Blacks are more than sports stars and entertainers. Most Blacks are not professional athletes. We are shaped by media into believing that sports is our calling. The media promotion of sports is ensuring that there is a steady stock of children to be sold and traded by their owners just like during the days of slavery here in the U.S. Black males are seen as a commodity by controlling forces in power.
We were manipulated during slavery, and we are manipulated by images that promote us mainly as athletes and entertainers, not scientists, engineers, and medical doctors. But we occupy all of these professions and more. There are 40 to 50 million Blacks. There were a total of 13,400 athletes and sports competitors of all races. Assuming all of these are Black, then approximately 0.03% of the 40 to 50 million Blacks are athletes. So, why is sports promoted so heavily when less than 0.03% of our population will be professional athletes.
BSN: It is a known fact that rap music has a heavy influence on the minds of our young. What part can rap artists play in encouraging our youth to take education seriously?
TM: You cannot effectively advocate something you do not have or do not practice. If rappers are serious about education, then they would donate money and resources to trade schools, universities, and community programs that foster the development of communities through youth and adult training. You can’t do these positive things and simultaneously rap about shooting up people, moving cocaine through the community, using illegal drugs, staying high all day, and partying promiscuously all night with lots of women, and marrying no woman. The educational or community institution will likely refuse the rapper’s help because the music’s message is inconsistent with its core values and mission of improving society.
BSN: In closing can you speak to us on Government spending on education versus their spending on defense? It’s reported that for the 2012 fiscal year, $902 billion was spent on defense, and a meager $153 billion was spent on education. What are your thoughts on this crucial issue?
TM: All of the meddling we do in other countries costs money. I mentioned earlier that our government is busy promoting “democracy” and “freedom of Internet access” in other countries. The primary reason for meddling in the internal affairs of other nations is to bully the nations. Our government wants to change the leadership of other nations and establish elections so it can manipulate those elections with money and non governmental organizations, NGOs, to support the candidate who will support our country and our corporations. We also kill other leaders or support opposition groups with CIA or congressional backing.
When our government funds people who take up arms to overthrow their own government, we call the nation’s leader “illegitimate” and the lawless domestic anarchists “rebels” or “freedom fighters.” If America likes the leader, he “has a right to defend” his country against the lawless people. If America doesn’t like the leader, we fund his opposition and try to kill him or get him out of power. It’s that simple of an explanation. This intervening in the affairs of other countries costs billions of dollars.
While in college, I studied how the CIA operated in Zaire and how they used its leader Mobuto Sese Seko and then threw him away after they no longer needed him. Egypt’s former leader Hosni Mubarak was a faithful friend of the U.S. for decades until 2011.
The U.S. abandoned him when he was no longer useful and now have in Egypt agents and spies in the form of NGOs under the guise of helping create and monitor “democracy.” The NGOs are interested in controlling who gets elected. I believe I read that both the Democrats and the Republicans have their NGOs on the ground in Egypt.
Also, we have armies set up in other nations to ensure the flow of their resources to our country and to ensure our corporate interests are protected. All of this foreign activity required hundreds of billions of dollars of military might. A bully needs weapons, lots of expensive weapons if he is going to intimidate and brutally crush his opposition.
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