Time to refocus
ago, there was less concern about students who did not graduate from
high school. Then there were numerous semi-skilled jobs for high school
dropouts that paid enough to enable them to support a family. Since
then, factories have closed and those jobs have gone overseas. Today’s
job market requires workers to possess the skills necessary to operate
in a technological environment.
A study released
earlier this month by the Editorial Projects in Education Research
Center asserts that the dropout rate in urban high schools has reached
a crisis level. According to the study, conventional wisdom in the past
placed the graduation rate from high school around 85 percent. However,
the Center’s research established that a more accurate rate is 69.9
An analysis of the graduation rate by race is even more disturbing. The
graduation rate for whites is 76.2 percent, but is only 53.4 percent
for blacks. The study determined these rates by calculating the number
of students in the ninth grade divided into the number of students in
the tenth grade, and so on for every year. In this way they determined
the dropout rate for every year of high school, and not just the
seniors who did not graduate.
It is clear, therefore, that almost half of black high school students
do not graduate. The percentage is even higher when considering only
urban students. With few jobs available for black high school dropouts,
the life of crime becomes an attractive alternative to abject poverty.
African Americans cannot become a powerful ethnic group unless this
statistic is reversed. It can happen. Asians have a graduation rate of
80.2 percent, four percentage points higher than whites. Unfortunately,
black leaders prefer to chase the ghosts of the civil rights era,
rather than focus on the education crisis that threatens to destroy the
progress of African Americans today.
his forthcoming book, “Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black
America,” Lee Daniels has set forth, with the consummate skill of a
seasoned journalist, the epochal journey of African Americans toward
Many black youngsters have
little understanding of African American history and the restrictions
imposed by the nation’s embrace of racial differences. “Last Chance”
will bring them up to speed on the major points.
However, the more interesting analysis occurs when Daniels begins his
discourse on how the migration from the South “… bespoke a
psychological act, a rebellion and casting off of the limitations on
thought and ambition that the stultifying conventions of American
The well-researched account of the role of blacks in modern
presidential politics shows how the Republicans lost black support.
This saga presents a dismal vision of the longed-for “promised land.”
The essentially powerless emerging black middle class must struggle to
secure its economic gains with every economic downturn. And those whose
incomes fall below the poverty line are unable to acquire the
educational skills necessary for a better life.
Daniels cites as the fault for these circumstances the failure of the
leadership to adjust to the new demands of the times: “The black
American narrative lies, not in tatters but in pieces, like a shelved,
unfinished manuscript because its primary guardians let go of their
stewardship and their responsibility as leaders.” According to Daniels,
the major error is the failure to develop an effective communications
voice in this the age of communication.
Such salient arguments make “Last Chance” an important book for all blacks concerned with public affairs.
“We better stop worrying about what the white man is doing and keep our kids in school.”