Here is something to ponder: What do you do about the fact that, in Palm Beach County, for example, only 22 percent of black males graduate from high school and that, at the national level, 72 percent of black females who give birth do so out of wedlock?
Startling statistics, indeed, yet they found little place in the recent bitter, divisive and ultimately meaningless political campaign but for millions of young African Americans today and those unborn, they are matters of success or failure in life, of being condemned to a life of poverty or being equipped to overcome life’s challenges.
The dismal dropout statistic came in a report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education. It also found that the black male graduation rate for Miami-Dade is a startling 27 percent and, for Broward County, only somewhat better, at 39 percent. The national average is 47 percent.
The report spurred the Palm Beach school district to create an African American Male Task Force to address the issue. Really? It really took a national survey to make Palm Beach County aware that its education system is failing to motivate black males even to stay in school? But at least something is being done.
The 72 percent out-of-wedlock birth rate figure comes from an Associated Press report which goes on to note, “Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults and have their own children out of wedlock.”
There is little doubt that such seemingly intractable problems cannot be easily addressed but they can be. The first step is to realize that there is a spiritual dearth, especially among the young, that must be filled through comprehensive education that reinforces their self-worth at an early enough age, forming a background that will inform their behavior all their lives. If there is no moral grounding, then life cannot be lived to its full potential.
It is also important for the young to be taught, unequivocally, that there is right and there is wrong in this world and they must be able to differentiate between the two and pick right over wrong.
Children must be convinced to stay in school because it is the right thing to do, that getting an education is not something they have to do but that it is the early socialization process intended to equip them to be successful in life.
Such socialization will make them aware that giving birth as single mothers or becoming pregnant at an early age will weigh just as heavily on their chances of a good life as dropping out of school does.
The national obsession with taking prayer and the bible out of schools has yielded youth whose spiritual grounding was never formed. Yes this is a family’s responsibility but that has not meant much. Too many children are left without an appropriate sense of self-worth, of what is right and wrong, and the value and need to love others and the knowledge that each of us must answer to an authority greater than ourselves.
It is time for a new approach, a new construct for the education of black youth. Whether we choose public, charter or private schools, a spiritual
foundation is imperative.