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School District of Philadelphia headquarters at 440 N. Broad Street.


Last week, while the “woke” generation was involved in the absolute banality that is parsing the differences between the reaction of law enforcement to Black social justice “warriors” and white Super Bowl revelers, those who were congratulating themselves for identifying a disparity in existence since slave ships began crossing the Atlantic in the 15th century either ignored or don’t care enough about the role the School District of Philadelphia is playing in what is just shy of modern genocide.

In a peculiar celebration at the Potter-Thomas Promise Academy late last month that left some reporters shaking their heads, the district threw itself a mini celebration announcing the release of the School Progress Report for 2016-17 that showed the district was up two points from last year to 34 percent (on a scale of 100).

Numbers can be manipulated in a lot of ways to tell stories from different perspectives. However, in the case of the School Progress Report, this is tantamount to putting lipstick on a pig.

A staggering 79 percent of last year’s seniors were not considered college or career ready, based on SAT or ACT standardized testing benchmarks. That’s down from the 88 percent in 2013-14. Eighty-one percent of the students were not proficient in mathematics, which is an improvement from the 82 percent the previous year.

Know how this translates? Suppose Philly is lucky enough to be selected as the hub for Amazon’s next headquarters. The overwhelming prime opportunities to fill the multitude of six-figure-salary jobs will go to students not produced in the district. Many of them will come from other countries. We’ll witness a steady procession of people filling these jobs and moving into the gentrifying neighborhoods that were once ours and bemoan our circumstances.

We’ll pass it off via the myriad conspiracy theories African Americans traffic in like nobody else. You know them well: “The Man has done it to us again” or “The Asians get the loans to start their businesses” and anything else we can use to anesthetize us from the malfeasance we allow to thrive unchecked in communities and don’t demand our Black-elected officials work night and day to put an end to.

Many of them are aware of this, of course, because the overwhelming majority of their children get their kids into the Masterman and Central high schools of their areas so as to shield their children from the failing schools that their less-fortunate constituents’ children must attend.

Know what kind of people develop from having ill-equipped skills to lead productive lives in an increasingly competitive society that draws its workforce not just from a local talent pool but now globally become? Hopeless. They disproportionately overburden the judicial system. This allows state and local governments to justify the continued construction of privatized, state-of-the art penitentiaries to warehouse Black and Brown boys and men rather than building state-of-the art schools with computer labs.

They become overrepresented in the prison pipeline. They become the barbarians that prey on older Black women on fixed incomes going to and from the supermarket. These women are already overburdened by having to take care of grandchildren and great-grandchildren given up on by parents who stopped raising them for whatever excuse they can think of.

They become the savages who shot and killed four Black men over the weekend, homicides that are almost 100 percent guaranteed to have been committed by other Black men.

This is the result of a toxic mix of underfunded schools and overworked and underpaid educators, but the reality is that the most Black school districts are the festering carcasses along the side of the road that mass produce ill-prepared children.

It s a slow walk to the negative side of the ledger. Think 12 years a slave. Twelve years in a school district and 79 percent are not ready for college and unprepared to go to work and do the bare minimum that basic survival requires.

So yeah, Black folks fighting for basic civil rights are treated differently than the white kids climbing a poll or bouncing up and down like monkeys on the awning of a hotel they can’t afford to stay in while celebrating a football game.

But a bigger crime is watching your Black children, in your predominantly Black city, in a school district seemingly always presided over by other Black folks and in a city flush with Black-elected officials either unwilling or incapable of fixing this public crisis, warehoused in schools that can’t even see the bar they are supposed to be clearing.

John N. Mitchell has worked as a journalist for more than a quarter century. He can be reached at jmitchell@phillytrib.com and Tweet at @freejohnmitchel

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