(ThyBlackMan.com) I already realize that those who know me well will state that I am biased in regards to speaking about the enormous utility of education in on-going efforts to uplift African-American males out of what most would agree is a death spiral that has already extinguished too many bright futures and much-needed contributions to society. After all, I am an educator who has dedicated his entire career to being my brother’s keeper in a host of arenas.
The alluded to life-calling to work toward the uplifting of Black America via aiding young black males inside and outside of the classroom forces me to delve beyond a superficial examination of how we have arrived at a moment where it is far too common to see young black males not only disengaged, but also blatantly hostile to education and intellectual endeavors that have historically proved to be the path to uplift. The question of “Why are so many young black males hostile to education?” sits at the forefront of my mind most days. I am confident that you understand that this basic question is followed by a cascade of other questions that convolute the issue.
One thing is certain, African-American males are languishing in this nation’s schools. According to The Schott Foundation for Public
Although such figures are daunting, dizzying, and disappointing, such emotions do not solve the question of why are so many African-Americans languishing in the nation’s schools. New York City middle school teacher Damon Thomas related, “I am uncertain as to the genesis of the problem, however, by the time they reach me it is obvious that they have made a few unwise decisions regarding the utility of education. I term it a process of them barricading themselves off from intellectual pursuits and endeavors.” Numerous educators related similar frustrations regarding their dealings with their black male students.
Unfortunately for Black America, many black males appear to have adopted a crusade against formal education and intellectual endeavors. For those few, and trust me when I say that it is only a dwindling few, who make it into my classroom, it is obvious that they have been ‘dumbed down’ to a point that intellectualism is largely a non-consideration in what I term busy, yet ineffectual lives of nothingness.
A bit of clarity entered my mind while working on a long overdue article addressing the cavernous gap between the Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale created Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the New Black Panther Party. This epiphany resulted from me examining Point #5 of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s Ten Point Platform and Program that reads as follows.
We Want Education For Our People That Exposes The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society. We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History And Our Role In The Present-Day Society.
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.
The continuing relevance of this statement dictated by Huey P. Newton to Bobby Seale on October 15, 1966, raises an interesting query of “Is it possible that it is an educational curriculum that has no relevance to the voluminous issues facing black males that sits at the center of this troubled relationship?” My engagement with black males in my African-American Studies and U.S. History courses during the past two decades points me toward a belief that an irrelevant curriculum that has muted the black presence is crucial to understanding what most term black males’ hostility to the educational system.
The first rule of delivering a speech that will grasp the attention of your audience is most certainly the need to “know your audience.” Failure to tailor your presentation and its contents to your audience invariably lead to a marginal speech that fails to engage a fickle audience who will eventually tune you out, if not leave the venue in the middle of your presentation. Black males disinterest and disengagement with the American educational system curriculum is the equivalent of an audience that never engages a speaker who has unwisely failed to follow the first rule of delivering a quality speech, “know your audience.”
According to psychologist Dr. Derrick Wilson, “For many African-American children, the educational process is traumatic.” The trauma that Dr. Wilson references increases over time and develops a gulf between black males and a boring curriculum, unfortunately for black males, this gulf does not cease until they exit from the educational process. One needs to look no further than Detroit, a city with a black male graduation rate that hovers around 20%, or New York City, a metropolis where only 28% of black males graduated on time, for verification of the impact that a non-reflective educational process has on black males.
There is little room to debate the reality that a relevant education as discussed in the Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Platform and Program is a deciding factor between an individual who spends life aimlessly searching for where they fit in and a politicized individual who understands his indispensability to his community.
These matters extend the relevance of Malcolm X’s position that “only a fool would allow his enemy to educate his children.” Were I provided the opportunity, I would maintain the spirit of Malcolm’s observation while altering the wording to read, a wise man teaches his own children the historical past that has affected his people and the present dilemmas confronting his people in hopes of facilitating a better future.
Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III
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