Black Men and Education Focus Of Urban League Report
By Marlon A. Walker
This year’s “The State of Black America” study by the National Urban League pays the most attention to Black males because they are further away from parity with their White counterparts in several significant categories.
Black men face the greatest battle to gain equality in society, and Urban League leaders say improving the educational outcomes of Black males is the best path for changing their plight.
Compared to White men, African-American men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed and earn, on average, 74 percent as much in income annually. Black men are seven times as likely as Whites to spend time in jail.
“Empowering Black men to reach their full potential is the most serious economic and civil rights challenge we face today,” says Urban League President Marc H. Morial. “Ensuring their future is critical, not just for the African-American community, but for the prosperity, health and well-being of the entire American family.”
It seems that Black children, especially Black boys, are losing out as early as elementary school in the process to maintain parity with Whites.
In writing proficiency tests, for example, Blacks score 13 percent lower than Whites, the study states. When they reach the final year in high school, Blacks only score at 74 percent of what White students score. Statistics like this are prompting recommendations on how to empower Blacks to edge closer to parity. Some suggestions presented by the Urban League include:
– Providing comprehensive early childhood education for all children
– Establishing more all-male schools with longer school days and more mentoring
– Creating more “second-chance” programs for high school dropouts and ex-offenders
– Restoring the federal Summer Jobs Program to its pre-2000 state
– Driving home the message to children that education pays dividends later in life
Dr. Edward F. Dragan, who spent more than 30 years in schools as a teacher, principal and superintendent, says the need for Black male elementary school teachers is more than obvious when statistics on convicted criminals are brought into play.
“When you’ve got such a high population of young Black men in jail and 90 percent of those individuals are people who have some type of learning disability or were never taught properly in school, that’s weird,” says Dragan, the founder and principle consultant of New Jersey-based Educational Management Consulting LLC. “I think help needs to start at the elementary school level. That’s not going to solve all the problems, but it’s one of the areas that I think needs to be focused on.”
Dragan says educators need to figure out what students are missing and provide it — regardless of monetary shortfalls.
“I think to any really good teacher interested in really doing something with kids, money is secondary,” he says.
Dr. Lenora Madison Poe, a licensed therapist from Berkeley, Calif., who deals with issues involving the family unit, says working with children while they are in elementary school is vital for their
“That’s where we begin to shape our children’s minds,” she says. “We are building into them trust and self-confidence, self-esteem and self-acceptance. We’re getting them into the early school programs — even preschool — so they can learn those early self-relational skills.”
Poe says many Blacks put themselves at a major disadvantage when they left the South in search of a better life.
“Many of our [Black] families migrated for better opportunities, and did not have that extended family relationship,” she says. “We need the home and the school and the churches working together again like we had with our foreparents.”
Poe says that without the entire community working to encourage progression, many of the sentiments that suggest going forward are being missed.
“We’ve got to bring the family back intact so we can have our support system, our role models, our care messages, our encouragements,” she says. “All those things [need to be brought] back into the home, which launches the person out into the greater society. We’re just not getting the motivational hook for them.
“As a result of that,” she continues, “our school system, the society, the family, we’re all failing the Black male.
Not that we don’t have the wherewithal to do what we can do in terms of achieving academically. We have those things, but we’ve got to bring it back into clear, consistent messages to our Black men so we can help them look at meaningful directions for their lives.”
–Marlon A. Walker
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