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NCLB Outrages

Education of Black Males Is in Crisis and Must be Remedied

Ohanian Comment: Certainly the writer is well meaning, but what would having NCLB focusing on black males mean? Holding them back in school more times? Forcing them into scripted reading programs?

And the Texas graduation numbers he uses are skewed. The plight of black males is worse than he realizes.

In another life, I was a substitute teacher at one elementary school in the San Antonio School District. The most intriguing student I saw and taught was a boy I'll call Teddy who was known as a problem child from a troubled home.

Quick-tempered and always ready to fight, he could be disruptive in class, would sulk and sometimes talk back to teachers.

But not always. The rest of the time he would be considerate, respectful and generous. It was stunningly clear that Teddy was very intelligent. Although he didn't have the best grades or behavior, he was as gifted and talented, if not more so, than were the students in the gifted and talented program. (Question: If we call some children gifted and talented what are we telling the other children they are?)

After I stopped subbing I would wonder about Teddy and whether he would embrace his talent and his future or get dragged down by the problems around him.

I found out when, at the age of 15, he shot and killed another teenager and was convicted.

Teddy, a young black male, came to mind while reading the Schott Foundation for Public Education's new report, "Public Education and Black Male Students." This state report card found that, on average, 60 percent of black male students in the United States don't graduate from high school. In Texas, the percentage is 48 percent.

Other disturbing data shows that while black male students account for 36 percent of high school enrollment, their numbers are greater when it comes to expulsions and being labeled as mentally retarded and mentally disturbed.

For decades there have been concerns within the black community that black boys are quickly tracked into special education programs.

It's a concern borne out by the report's author who said of black male students once they reach kindergarten, "Soon after, they are tracked into special education programs and not longer after that, for many, their sad societal fate is sealed. It doesn't have to be this way."

One of the report's recommendations is for the Secretary of Education and Department of Education to recognize that the education of black male youths is at a crisis state and for the No Child Left Behind act "to more directly address improved achievement and graduation of black boys."

The act is flawed but well-intended, and President Bush is correct when he talks about "the soft bigotry of low expectations" regarding minority students. At no group is that bigotry more directed at than black male students.

As with most societal problems the reasons for their existence and the responsibility for their solutions are many.

Their families, their neighborhoods, churches and schools, have failed too many young black males. But it's these same institutions that must be part of their salvation.

In San Antonio there are rites-of-passage programs and organizations like 100 Black Men of San Antonio working hard to help young black males embrace their talents, their future, their obligation to be excellent and responsible and to never think of themselves as victims.

As with everyone else in our society, our future is inextricably linked with theirs. It's fitting that the Schott report quotes a line from the often prophetic James Baldwin, who wrote "These are all our children and we benefit or pay for what they become."

To leave a message for Cary Clack, call (210) 250-3546 or email at cclack@express-news.net.

— Cary Clack
San Antonio Express-News


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