A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

While watching CNN last week I viewed a segment on the derth of African American Teachers in our public  schools. The segment also featured a segment on how to educate African American Males.  Immediately the words of African American Intellectual W.E. B. Dubois came to mind regarding American’s question to its African American citizens, How does it feel to be a problem?

Make no mistake there is a problem. It just may not be strictly an African American one. The Schott Foundation data states that in Bumcombe, County 45.6% of African American males graduated high school in 2009-2010. Dismal. White males are having their problems too. White male high school graduation rates in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida ranged from 57-59%. Yet the Schott report states, “The American Educational System is failing Black Males”.

In 2007-2008, North Carolina’s graduation rate for African American males was just 46%. There was some progress in Hertford, Co. North Carolina where 47% of white males graduated and 64% of African American males did as well. In mostly white Swain County, 58% of white males graduated. State wide, 59.6% African American males graduated and 76.5% white males graduated in 2009-2010. In many North Carolina districts (ours included), barely half of African American males manage to graduate in 4 years. Some don’t even manage that.

The Schott report maintains that African American males do well in schools that provide the necessary resources and support, such as equitable resources, high quality teachers, small class size, early literacy tests, after school programs, and social and health services. What makes them any different than any other students? There is plenty of blame to go around. Societal racism, anti-intellectualism, low expectations from teachers, students, and families, etc. All a lethal combination when developing the life of the mind.

Yet Guildford County in Greensboro managed 69% of black males graduating in 2009-2010. Newark, New Jersey managed 76% for the same year.  Please, does anyone have their phone numbers?

Perhaps we need to re-read Carter G. Woodson’s, The Miseducation of the Negro, or remind ourselves of the United Negro College Funds mantra that a mind is indeed a terrible thing to waste. Yet when I hear this news, I cannot help but think of the words of Cassius from Shakespeare’s, Julius Ceasar. “The fault dear Brutus lies not in the stars, but in ourselves!”

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