|“I told you that you couldn’t get a job if you dropped out of school.”
The most important rite of passage for an adolescent is high school graduation. But as important as a high school diploma is for success in today’s job market, almost 30 percent of the class of 2008 nationally will not graduate with their peers, according to a recent Education Week report funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The record is even worse for African Americans; the report predicts that about 45 percent will not graduate on time.
Often failure does not occur until the senior year. There are presently 1,984 black students enrolled in the 12th grade of the Boston Public Schools; however, only 1,525 are expected to graduate this month. That is a loss of 23 percent. Fortunately, many of the problems may be remedied within a reasonable time to enable many of those who do not graduate in June to receive their diplomas later.
Education experts have developed numerous theories about why some students do not succeed in high school. One problem is very simple. Too many students do not try hard enough to excel.
Two unfortunate concepts in the black community impair motivation for academic achievement. People believe that youngsters are entitled to quality public education, but there seems to be diminished awareness of how hard students must study once it is offered. Despite the facile notion that school should be fun, the best students work long hours and study late into the night to remain at the top. They understand that once education is provided, it must be firmly embraced.
The other concept that seems to linger is that racial discrimination will prevent achievement in the world of work. This view underestimates the importance of academic excellence. Past generations of blacks absolutely believed in the importance of education for success in the adult world, and they progressed beyond all expectations.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau corroborates the wisdom of the elders. A man with only a high school education but no diploma earned an average of only $24,499 in 2007. A high school diploma boosted that income up to an average of $37,356. An associate’s degree added another jump to $47,575. With a bachelor’s degree, income rose to $69,818.
Too few young African Americans have figured out that there’s gold in those schoolbooks. However, youngsters coming from foreign countries understand the value of an education. That is why a disproportionate number of foreign-born students have become the valedictorians of Boston’s high schools.
Responsible adults must do whatever is necessary to re-establish academic achievement and the hard work it requires as major values of the community.
Requiescat in pace
In every profession, there are a few practitioners whose extraordinary level of performance establishes an even higher standard of excellence. Informative, accurate and timely reports on political elections are essential for the effective operation of American democracy. With scholarship and consummate communication skills, Tim Russert became the nation’s supreme political reporter. He has established a legacy of excellence for others to emulate.