One of the biggest problems if not the greatest problem in the country confronting the Black community as a whole—but Black males in particular—is the extremely high rate of school dropouts.
An alarming number of Black males are dropping out of schools across the country, and if something is not done to head off this tragedy the Black community is in big trouble.
Dropping out of school is like putting a gun to one’s head and pulling the trigger. At least the gun is final, there’s the funeral and it’s over. But with the drop out, it’s a long slow process.
Kids who drop out generally end up in the legal system as criminals and victims. Most of the crimes in the Black community are commited by dropouts. These kids end up in the juvenile system, then graduate to the adult criminal systems. Most people working in the criminal court and penal systems say they see the same kids at facilities like the Shuman Center, they see in the county jail and the prisons.
What can we do to save our young boys?
Three areas we need to concentrate. The Home, the Community, and the Schools.
The Home. Many of us believe that we are better educated today than in the past, but are we really? In many cases of the drop out child, parents were dropouts. And for some strange reason dropouts, generally have two or more children and in many cases the fathers are not in the homes.
So where does the child get guidance when the father is a drop out and the mother as well, and the parents see education as a “White man thang” and when the parents see the Street Life as the way a brotha or sista should live, pants hanging down nearly around their knees with either their butts showing or their dirty underwear? Even if they wanted to help the child they could no more help than the parents in the old days that could not read or write, because most dropouts can’t. But the difference was that even though the parents couldn’t read or write in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s they knew how important education and work were. Today neither is important in far too many of our homes.
The Community. In the old days or the past the entire community understood the importance of work and education. They knew that Blacks were never going to advance without an education. They knew that you had to work for everything you got, that no one was going to give you anything. The mentality has changed today. Far too many kids are looking for something for nothing, and far too many are quitters. Yes, that’s what dropping out of school is, a quitter.
Despite all the racism and doors slammed in their faces the Blacks of the past didn’t quit, they found a way out of no way to feed their family, and keep a roof over their heads. We could have so easily quit because we couldn’t go to most White colleges, schools were segregated, most of the good paying jobs were closed to us, yet we continued to fight for our communities or families and continued to achieve and move forward. We didn’t quit when it was so easy to use the very real blockades put in front of us to quit, such as the many college grads working as janitors because there were no jobs for “Colored folks” in that professional world. But we didn’t quit.
The School. Many of us older folk who grew up in the South or read history, remember the one-room schools where one or two teachers taught the first grade through the 12th. There was no pre-school, no kindergarten. We either walked long distances or were bussed past very nice White schools to these one-room schools, which in most cases were the community church. This was before integration.
Today there’s pre-school, kindergarten, and every grade has its own teacher with several teachers, yet the results in the Black communities throughout this country appears to be getting worse. The difference was that even though the school system didn’t care about Blacks, the teachers who were Black, and the parents did. Today it appears the system—parents, teachers, and community—either doesn’t care or don’t know how to fix the problem.
If we don’t instill anything else in our kids we must instill perseverance. Meaning we don’t quit. There will always be many obstacles in our way but…we don’t give up. We don’t dropout. We find solutions.
What if our ancestors had quit? We would still be slaves or living in the Jim Crow system. Because once you quit, (drop out), there is little to no hope.
Next week I will deal the importance of curriculum.
(Ulish Carter is managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)