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Monday, May 21, 2007

Solving the Crisis of the Black Boy: Part II

Baby Moses Project: Solving the Crisis of the Black Boy
Part II – Reading the Questions

Monday, May 21, 2007

Frame the question in the direction of a solution, not toward a scapegoat. The questions below seem to sincerely seek an answer to the crisis among young black boys. It is important to look at the situation through the eyes of the one who asks the questions. Sometimes there are subtle implied assumptions that may or may not be true.

Martha King:
Can you compare the success of African American boys with that of Latino boys and Asian American boys? Key differences, similarities.

Henry M. Levin:
Asian boys do better than Latino or African American boys on all educational measures. Latino boys show higher dropout rates than African American boys, the exact numbers depending on which of the many competing measures of dropouts are used. The consequences of dropping out are greater for black males in terms of the probability of being employed, annual earnings, and crime. For example, only about half of black males who are high school dropouts are employed compared to about 70 percent of the other dropout groups (white, Latino, Asian). Partially, as a consequence, African American male dropouts receive only about $13,500 in average annual earnings compared to about $ 22,000 for the other male dropout groups.

Eddie Griffin commentary:
Notice there are “many competing measures of dropouts”… The issue of defining the problem of Drop-Outs is nobody really knows when a black boy drops out of school. At what point, do we say, this child has completely withdrawn from school, and why are so many GEDs showing up after drop-out? Is it 50% absences?

Fact is: Dropouts slip away, as if through our fingers. The Big Question is: Why didn’t we see them slipping away from us?

This past winter I appeared on a panel at Tarrant County College with the Fort Worth ISD new head of the Dropout Prevention specialist, Dr. Danna Dia Joseph. The panel was shared with the three high school dropouts. The 21-year old young (white) man described how he “just slipped away”, out of the school system, as if nobody cared.

I have seen dropping out in process, myself. I have seen elementary school (black) boys riding their bicycles in front of the schoolhouse when they should be inside. They were truant, and there were no truant officers to rein them in. Whose neglect? And, why can’t we arrive at a common measure for “dropout”.

In the work world we can track workers in and out of industry by a time clock. Ringing bells are for cattle. Time clocks are for measuring productivity. Dropping out should be defined as a loss of measurable productivity. We can know a dropout by the number of man-hours (or lack thereof) that they put into school. But man-hours alone do not measure productivity. And, hour units of productivity can be transferred and shouldered by other education or training institutes, such as dual enrollment.

“African-American male dropouts” (now an average of 50%) will earn only about $13,500 in annual earnings”… At current minimum wage, working day labor, he would earn roughly $10,000 before taxes.

Even dropouts become fathers. How can they bear fatherly responsibilities on this kind of earnings? Even the currently proposed minimum wage hike would raise him up to about $14,000 a year, at max.

The solution is high paying jobs for highly trained dropouts. But poring in quality resources to train and empower, post-dropout programs channel youth to the lowest end of the wage scale. A retrained, reeducated, re-socialized African-American child can reinvest their time best by trying to get ahead in the job market and through certified trades and entrepreneurship.


  1. Like I said by e-mail, they WANT Black kids to drop out, so they erect as many barriers as they can and they reduce, to the degree possible, the incentives. (harder to get into college, less loans, less affirmative action, more discrimination.) Drop-out isn't a problem society is trying to solve; it's a trend society is endeavoring to augment.

  2. Schools do nothing to encourage kids - to the contrary, they seem oppressive and discouraging to many students. My brother is dyslexic (a real medical condition) but all through school he was called lazy. He was an outstanding soccer player, could very well have gotten a college scholarship with it. When his high school GPA slipped down below a certain point, the school didn't try to help him. Instead they banned him from sports until his next report card. They took away his one and only motivation for going to school. When my brother's grades still weren't good enough at his next report card and he saw he would have to wait another 3 months and through the summer to play, he had all he could take and dropped out. Such a waste.

    I graduated and have some college, but I have always hated the way schools are run. I've seen so much wrongdoing and stupidity, and I'm really angry about it. Much of what I know, I learned on my own after I left school, but many people don't have the drive to take it upon themselves to learn. None of it matters on a job application anyway unless you have that little piece of paper from a school.

    Out of my older son's 7 (K - 6th grade) elementary school teachers, I would call only ONE great, and one adequate. I hated all the rest. My younger son has had ONE great teacher and two bad ones so far, so I'm afraid he's already filled his quota for great teachers. I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but the only two great teachers were also their only two African-American teachers.

  3. Anne, Thank you for that personal story. Regardless of the motive of educators, it is incumbent upon us to find the solutions for our kids. Return to the survey and you will find where Education Week and Teacher Magazine are soliciting essays on education "best practices" and other related commentaries.

  4. Sorry, I didn't make my point very clearly, did I? That wasn't meant to be a personal story just for the sake of telling a story. I am trying to illustrate specific problems and help find solutions, as you say.
    As far as public schools go, they have to stop trying to punish the kids into submission. That never worked and it never will.
    Administrators also need to stop protecting uncaring teachers and pay more attention to parents' requests.

  5. I agree with you Anne on every single point you have made. It is the point of view that American educators have not heard. You just don't realize how close you and I are on thinking and in observation of the crisis of black male youth. Thank you for following this discussion with such interest.