Boys' Education as a Civil Rights Issue

(, April, 02, 2007)

A powerful op-ed from Phillip Jackson, Executive Director of the Black Star Project, does an excellent job of explaining why changing the education culture for African-American boys is vitally important to reversing some of the disturbing social trends that affect the African-American community and particularly African-American men. From the article:

"Most young black men in the United States don’t graduate from high school. Only 35% of black male students graduated from high school in Chicago and only 26% in New York City, according to a 2006 report by The Schott Foundation for Public Education. Only a few black boys who finish high school actually attend college, and of those few black boys who enter college, nationally, only 22% of them finish college. Young black male students have the worst grades, the lowest test scores, and the highest dropout rates of all students in the country. When these young black men don’t succeed in school, they are much more likely to succeed in the nation’s criminal justice and penitentiary system. And it was discovered recently that even when a young black man graduates from a U.S. college, there is a good chance that he is from Africa, the Caribbean or Europe, and not the United States."

And Mr. Jackson is correct to focus his attention on boys, as the gap between black males and females in academic achievement is severe. Nearly two African-American women graduate from college for every one African-American man. Many of Mr. Jackson’s solutions, both long and short-term, fit in with the recommendations of Boys and Schools, especially his concentration on improving education (with a concentration on literacy skills), the importance of fathers and role models, and creating a positive and motivating culture of high expectations when it comes to education.

The consequences of ignoring this problem is the creation of a generation of under-educated and under-achieving boys, shut out from society’s benefits and success and contributing to a permanent class of the dissatisfied and disappointed. Not only is this a vital issue for the African-American community, but it is also crucial to the strength and success of our nation as a whole. This is why changing the way that we approach the education of boys is one of the most important civil rights issues we face today.