FAILING BLACK STUDENTS:
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? ~ WHO CAN HELP?
This article addresses the topic of the high failure rate of Black students and explores possible causes and solutions. I like this one because I wrote it as a “short story” while still managing to stay “on-topic”. It was a real “skill-tester” for me, and I’m pretty proud of the end result. Interesting read, I hope you enjoy it.
I could still feel the palpitation of my heart quickening, as the glare from the red and blue sirens blinded me the closer I got. No matter how hard I tried, I failed to poison myself with enough shots of Jack to delete the horrific images that torment and haunt me every night in my sleep. Chalklines bordered the yellow tape that was strung like a ribbon at the finish line of a 100 yard dash. Despite the gruesome episode unraveling before me, one thing was becoming more and more evident. . .There was definitely more than one culprit; clues were everywhere. The trail left behind was a dead giveaway, this was the work of the same group from before, but still, I had to connect the evidence to the perpetrators, and so I meticulously continued canvas-sing the crime scene of my third investigation this month—Another dilapidated school.
Hundreds of textbooks were so out-dated that the once, crispy white pages had faded tar-yellow, and now littered the corridors like confetti in the streets of Times Square on New Year’s Day. Many of the classroom windows were raised halfway, and a couple even had fans wedged in place; I suppose the mid-July heat and humidity could be harsh on summer school students imprisoned with no air conditioning. But what about winter? Could that old, rusted out, nearly historic furnace in the boiler room really supply adequate heat throughout the school? I wasn’t throwing all my chips in on that one, even a blind man could see that was a losing bet. My stomach began curling at the endless walls bearing chipping, lead paint as I trekked through the asbestos-laced facility en-route to the principal’s office, where I made several startling discoveries after examining employee records.
One after another, teacher after teacher; not only were they under paid, but none of them possessed a formal education in the field of Education—including the principal. They weren’t qualified to teach at all! Amazing! The janitor is the only staff member with a college degree. Now I had the evidence to charge my first suspect; old books, faulty equipment, under paid and inexperienced staff, unhealthy facilities; what more do I need? Let the record state, the first culprit for depriving our kids of a proper education, learning facility, and environment is identified as The Board of Education for each and every state in the U.S.
The bent-in, dented up, squeaking and rattling, smoke-colored lockers didn’t leave much to the imagination; each one was an entirely new crime scene within itself. Sometimes I wish I had chosen another occupation, but someone had to bear witness and put these despicable acts on exhibit for the nation to see. This is what I encounter everyday; so-called “family” photos that only consisted of a single parent, usually a mother, with a host of kids, a large enough arsenal of guns and knives to wage a small-scale war, and finally. . .Suicide letters. I found enough pregnancy test packages to start a daycare or abortion clinic, whichever was in demand. It was so many syringes, crackpipes, bongs, and drugs from Ecstasy to Crack, I could’ve retired and made a lucrative living going into business for myself. I involuntarily caved to my knees; what was going on in the homes? I felt like a priest in the confession booth as I read word after word, page after page; countless letters to God simply asking, why?
Why didn’t their families care about them? Why were they fatherless? Confined to a vicious, crime-infested neighborhood? Why were they chosen to suffer? Why were they mentally, physically, verbally, and sexually abused? Why were they bullied, ridiculed, criticized, and laughed at by peers and even family for wanting to participate at school and actually learn? Tears fell as I read the stories of dreams broken by dysfunctional homes; dreams like becoming writers, artist, designers, computer programmers, engineers; these dreams were all shattered by negative influences and surroundings. So many letters asked God; what did they do to deserve this? But what frightened me most were the letters begging God to end their suffering and let them die. I’ve found the co-conspirators. Let the record state that these individuals are identified as society and neglectful and abusive parents.
My convictions made front page headlines, and thrust me into the spotlight like everyone peering into the nocturnal skies to catch Haley’s Comet zipping across the horizon before it disappears for another three quarters of a century. As I pecked away at my seemingly antique typewriter, preparing my statement for an upcoming press conference, I thought it would be a good idea to support my convictions with statistical evidence as well. A 2009 study concluded that due to negative environments; such as violent home and neighborhood surroundings; black males are more prone to aggressive, violent behavior at school. Young, black males rank lower in academic achievement and attendance, but high in dropouts and suspension rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 24% of adolescents attending predominantly black schools represented the highest percentage of poverty-stricken households. The Education Trust stated that 61% of black students performed below basic levels and by the time they graduated high school, their reading and math skills are equivalent to a white eight grader. In 2001, there was a 55% graduation rate for black students—only a 2% increase since 1988.
Who can help these students? I found several promising organizations dedicated to this task. The Afrikan Student Alliance (ASA) serves as a resource to the social, political, cultural and intellectual development of black students at the University of California Riverside (UCR). African-Americans United in Science (AAUS) was founded in 1999, and was established to provide a variety of educational programs, support opportunities, and resources for black students in the sciences and other majors as well. Opportunities include; physician shadowing, mentoring, community outreach, and partnerships with various support groups.
E.M.E.R.G.E is a non-profit organization that produces future leaders to challenge injustice and sociopolitical awareness in both local and global communities. The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) was founded in 1975 and has grown to become the largest student-managed organizations in the world. As of 2009, their membership was well over 20,000 members. NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.” In 2009, the organization had over 2000 elected leadership positions, 12 regional conferences and an unparalleled annual convention, NSBE provides opportunities for success that remain unmatched by any other organization. NSBE is open to collegiate, alumni, and technical professionals.
Finally, the day arrived. I stepped onto the makeshift stage decorated with only a podium, and several folding tables in a single-file line to the right of the podium. The cameras flashed, and microphones from first row reporters were lifted and aimed towards me, as if the microphone at the podium wasn’t operational, and the hungry hive of journalists wouldn’t stop calling my name. I raised and outstretched my arms, motioning for them to settle, and began with a simple, modest, “Hello.” The press conference went much better than I anticipated, and stained the words; “We have the means Black America, definitely the need, so lets do something to help our sons and daughters, grandsons and grand-daughters, nieces and nephew, cousins, sisters and brothers, godsons and god-daughters, students, and ourselves,” in the minds of my audience. “Thank you.”