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'Short, balding and mediocre' white man educates black kids on success Add to ...

Well, if Forbes columnist Gene Marks was hoping for close to half a million page views and thousands of comments – and slams – this was one way to do it.

In a post titled “ If I was a poor black kid," the self-described “short, balding and mediocre public accountant” (who is also white) opined on how disadvantaged inner-city black kids in his hometown, Philadelphia, might turn their luck around.

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In addition to getting the best grades possible and learning to “be able to read sufficiently,” Mr. Marks said he would “use the technology available to me as a student.” He wrote that he knows “a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays.”

Then, he said he’d use the free technology available to study: “I’d become expert at Google Scholar. I’d visit study sites like SparkNotes and CliffsNotes to help me understand books. I’d watch relevant teachings on Academic Earth, TED and the Khan Academy.”

The goal? To nab a spot at an elite magnet school or private school – whose admissions staff have scholarships to hand out – and to eventually learn how to write software, thus acing the world of technology.

But by this point, Mr. Marks had lost most readers.

Baratunde Thurston, a comedian and director of digital for The Onion who has written the book “How To Be Black,” couldn’t resist joining a number of other critics in writing back to Mr. Marks. His retort is in the voice of a “poor black kid.”

“Thank you Mr. Marks. You have changed everything about my life. Thanks to your article, I worked to make sure I got the best grades, made reading my number one priority and created better paths for myself. If only someone had suggested this earlier,” he wrote.

“I took more of your advice. I got ‘technical.’ I had no idea I could get technical. I learned software!”

Aside from Mr. Mark’s ham-fisted attempts to dole out advice, is there an argument to be made that more underprivileged kids should have access to computers and wireless internet connections? Or is Mr. Mark's focus on technology missing the point?

Follow on Twitter: @traleepearce

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