Educating young boys has become a major concern for our nation’s parents, guardians, public education systems, and communities. With the education system imperiled by fear, crime, and the poor grades that accompany these atrocious conditions, the likelihood of educating America’s youth becomes an uphill climb while expectations dim. At the heart of this crisis is the education (or the lack of education) of young black men, who are struggling to make up for ground lost already to lives of hardship, frustration, and inequity.
“Most young black men in the United States don’t graduate from high school,” says Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project in Chicago. A 2006 study by The Schott Foundation for Public Education reported that “only 35 percent of black male students graduated high school in Chicago, and 26 percent in New York City.” Moreover, the report continued, “only a few black boys who finish high school actually attend college, and of those few black boys who enter college, nationally, only 22 percent of them finish college.”
That leads us to ask, who are the young black men who finish college? What hurdles do they face—and overcome? How many positive portrayals do we see of young black men versus the negative? The answers to these questions may help explain the lack of academic success among young black men, but it doesn’t reveal the entire picture. Such an issue is made up of many pieces, not all of them apparent. However, the one thing that we have come to know all too well is that the lack of success by young black men is continuing to increase.
From the worst of grades in school, the challenged communities, and lack of role models, young black men are at a disadvantage academically, but African-Americans must rise to the occasion. Undoubtedly, resources and politics may dominate some aspects of this conversation and the resolution of the social ills that cause this problem, but without the fight, progress will remain unseen.