The Village

  • Graduating From High School is Not an Option

    May 13, 2013. Written by George Cotton

    The other evening, while responding to a stack of graduation invitations, I noticed that there was not a card in the bunch from any males.

    Realizing that there was a possibility that I had only received cards from families with female children, I glanced at the names. I immediately recognized that many had brothers, and male cousins who certainly should have been among those soliciting gifts as acknowledgment of their rites of passage.

    When it comes to educational attainment and African-American males, the tardy bell continues to ring: African American males are failing to graduate in alarming numbers, and it does not appear to be getting any better. As a matter of fact, the University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Race and Equity reports that African-American males comprise only 4.3% of students enrolled at institutions of higher education. Sadly, the enrollment rate was exactly the same in 1976.

    Compounding the dilemma is the fact that, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s national report, the high school graduation rate for African-American males was 52% in 2010; compared to a rate of 78% for their White male counterparts. No group can function within society when its males experience such catastrophic failure.

    Tragically, while 66% of African-American females entering college leave with Bachelor’s Degrees, less than 35% of African-American males do the same. That statistic is both insane and inexcusable!

    While there is obviously no single answer or quick fix, there are family, community, and social norms which must change if we are to step back from an educational precipice that portends dire consequences for our community.

    We must first be willing to complete a self-introspection which asks tough questions about who we are, and what we care about. This might help us to accept the fact that, for whatever reason, not all among us value education. In so doing, we may also come to grips with the reality that, despite our best intentions, we really can’t save them all.

    Next, it is critical that we cease the fruitless debate as to the effects, or lack thereof, of the of thug-life and “gangsta” imagery on African-American males. We see the negative consequences every day as they are paraded in front of us by the media via the criminal justice system. At that point, the debate becomes a hollow conversation. If we are concerned at how society views our children, then it is prudent that we insist that they project excellence, self-respect, and common decency and lead by example.

    Finally, we must extol the value of education and the richness that accompanies the ability to communicate.

    The widely held myth that there are more black men in prison than in college has been widely debunked. According to research by CBCF’s Ivory Toldson, Ph. D, there are 1.2 million black men in college right now, and approximately 840,000 black men in prison. Though this is positive news, the fact is that our black males are graduating from high school and college at a much lower rate than their black female and white counterparts. We must continue to push our black males to achieve academically.

    There is simply no substitute for an educated populous. Strong societies require stable families and people focused on a vision. We owe it to our own existence to insist on recreating the African-American male in a positive and constructive image.