The challenges facing African-American boys in the public education system are astounding. 48-percent of Black males drop out of high school, and in many states, fewer than 50-percent even walk across the graduation stage. While the country seeks to reform our public schools through initiatives like President Obama’s Race to the Top, many young people–especially Black boys–are left behind.

Aside from being victims of generational poverty, many African-American boys are disproportionately placed in Special Education and/or expelled from school, making their access to education even more difficult.

Tomorrow night, PBS will premiere a documentary that takes a look at the educational crisis for young, Black men. In the expose “Too Important to Fail,” Tavis Smiley crisscrossed the country speaking to students and education experts to find out what’s really going on in schools.

In the documentary, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, an educational consultant, said the country’s reponse to the educational crisis facing Black boys would be handled much differently if the kids in question were white.

Dr. Kunjufu asserts:

“…if 53% was the dropout for white males, it would be unacceptable; if 41% of their children were being placed in special education, that would be a major crisis,” says Dr. Kunjufu. “If only 20% of their boys were proficient in reading in eighth grade, that would be a crisis. If only 2.5% of white males ever earned a college degree, that would be a major crisis in America.”

Watch the full episode. See more Tavis Smiley.

As a teacher in an urban public school, I agree with Dr. Kunjufu’s assessment. Although the overwhelming majority of educators do what we can, each year we are asked to do even more with fewer resources, less support, and overcrowded classrooms. I’ve personally witnessed the inequalities in the schools in my district. While many schools in middle class neighborhoods have laptops and pristine textbooks for each student, my school stuggles to prepare nearly 2000 teens for the 21st Century using outdated IBM computers and graffiti-riddled books. If the school looks rundown and abandoned by the higher ups, how can we expect the kids to care?

Our communities–and by extension our nation–will continue to decline if we cannot provide a quality education for our kids.

Tavis Smiley’s “Too Important to Fail” airs Tuesday night on PBS. Check your local listings.

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  • julia

    you can’t expect america to save you when they don’t even like you… save yourselves and forget america

  • Laina

    Too much like right. How about all the Black ministers spend less time on their anti-gay crusade, talking about other churches and religions and get together and form a school system for Black boys. Their is a Catholic school system in this country because back in the day Catholics wanted their children to have certain religious values. Asians in this country have Saturday classes to teach their respective culture and language. The current system is not working for Black boys. It is not limited to inner city schools. The salvation for single Black mothers with Black boys should not be the Catholic school with white priests or the charter school run but neo-cons or liberals that want to save us.

  • BigRJ

    @JustSayin – You’re irrelevant to this conversation. All you’re doing is echoing Rush Limbaugh talking points and can’t even come up with you own thoughts. I hate when white people come online and comment on something they know nothing of.

    Anyways, as a 40yo Black male and someone who can relate to young men growing up in poor communities and coming from single parent homes, I get the struggle because I was there once. Thankfully, the military and GI bill saved me. (one of the few government legislation that have actually helped Blacks). In a perfect world, we would all live in the suburbs, in a two parent home, a family SUV in the drive way, and a dog name spot. But we don’t live in a perfect world.

    For those of you who actually watched the documentary in its entirety, the point was not to debate whether parents are not doing enough – the point was to address the tens of thousands (if not millions) of black boys who are failing miserably. The bottom line is that we need to support and fund programs that will help these boys. I’m for government funded charter schools, trade schools and study centers. The only thing we need to ask in return is that these boys and their mothers demonstrate a commitment to wanting to improve their lives.

    And as far as racist individuals such as the one I addressed in this post, we need to ignore people like this and continue to seek ways to improve our peoples lives. As Kat Williams says “The haters will always be there”

    If you haven’t actually watched the documentary, I recommend that you do. Tavis does a good job.

    • grandgryph

      rational people assume that anyone spewing one-dimensional, hateful nonsense about a group thinks – or hopes – that the spewer is not from that group. “race” has nothing to do with it.

    • grandgryph

      actually, instead of trying `race’ and `gender’-bait, why not actually address bigrj’s ideas about trade schools etc? you did say that the school system needs some fixes. might those work?