Opinion: ‘No child’s future should be determined by their color, economic status or zip code’

Brian L. Pauling is national president of 100 Black Men of America, Inc.

By Brian L. Pauling

I am saddened and frustrated every time I hear about the academic achievement gulf that exists between Black students and their White classmates in our nation’s public schools. Saddened because I know that, without a quality education, the future for these children is bleak; frustrated because, if we don’t do something now, we will continue to fail these children in a way that will cause irreparable harm to them, their families (both current and future), our communities and the world.

Volunteers from 100 Black Men of Atlanta have spent time in the schools including  B.E.S.T Academy (Business Engineering Science Technology). JOHNNY CRAWFORD / JCRAWFORD@AJC.COM

Volunteers from 100 Black Men of Atlanta have spent time in the schools including B.E.S.T Academy (Business Engineering Science Technology). JOHNNY CRAWFORD / JCRAWFORD@AJC.COM

That’s why 100 Black Men of America, Inc. (“The 100”) is issuing a clarion call to all Americans who share our concern about the fate of our children and communities and asking them to raise their voices with ours to bring attention to one of the most critical civil rights issues of our time: education equity.

The reason is as clear-cut as it is troubling: Far too many low-income and Black youth are languishing in failing schools. This places them at a severe disadvantage in achieving their full potential, becoming leaders in their communities and competing in a global economy.

No child’s future should be determined by their color, economic status or zip code. To The 100’s network of more than 100 chapters around the world, this is appalling and unacceptable! We need organizations and caring adults to join us in a collective effort for systemic and sustainable education reform.

The 100’s 50-year history of mentoring African-American youth has given us a unique perspective on what is and isn’t working in many of the nation’s public schools through the experiences of the young people we serve. Although the high school dropout rate is improving, it still is not where it should be.

It is also disturbing that, of those African-American youth who do successfully graduate high school, far too many are woefully unprepared for freshman-level college coursework. As a result, they are required to complete remedial classes as a prerequisite for acceptance into post-secondary institutions.

Some find themselves so far behind that it seems impossible to catch up. Not only does this situation shatter their self-esteem, but it also suffocates their desire to even try. Rather than face the humiliation of trying to catch up to their peers, some simply give up and drop out.

While there is no silver bullet or quick fix to these problems, we believe the journey toward solutions begins with creating high-performing schools. Schools, for example, that promote high student expectations and achievement, insist on teacher accountability through regular evaluations and encourage innovation among principals and other school leaders.

The 100 has been a longtime supporter of traditional public schools, where most of the youth we serve attend. While each of our chapters is deeply rooted and involved in their communities, true education reform requires a collective effort from like-minded organizations and individuals.

To that end, in October during The 100’s Education Summit in Washington, D.C., our members from across the country met with leaders from several nonprofit, education and civil rights organizations to explore ways to collaborate, mobilize and advocate for action that leads to positive, tangible and lasting change.

During our discussions, areas of agreement included advocating for public school education options for parents and their children. Our youth should not be doomed to 12 years – between kindergarten and senior year – of academic failure. We will remain committed to supporting those public schools that are high-performers and able to demonstrate exceptional and measurable academic outcomes for our children – or those that are executing a plan to successfully reach that goal.

When traditional public schools fail to perform at high levels, our organization supports educational alternatives, including successful nonprofit charter schools. We also need to encourage nonprofit public charters and traditional public schools to collaborate and share best practices that have proven to be successful in educating low-income and Black children.

No matter which type of schools parents and guardians ultimately decide are best for their children, all public schools – particularly those in African-American and economically disadvantaged communities – must be high-performing, evidence-based institutions of learning where children are prepared to advance successfully to the next grade level, graduate from high school and progress seamlessly into college and career.

The time is now – before another child’s future is lost – to raise our collective voices in advocacy and take action so that high-performing public schools in our communities become the norm rather than the exception.

While this task may seem daunting, our children’s futures, quality of life and, in some cases, their very lives are at stake. As we continue to mobilize and boldly declare that “Black Lives Matter,” I submit that we must also affirm through immediate community engagement that Black Minds Matter, too. Collectively, we can help ensure that our children get the education – and the future – they rightfully deserve.

 

 

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31 comments
Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Children's futures are determined, FIRST AND FOREMOST, by their parents.  By the way they observe their parents meeting challenges, taking responsibility, planning ahead, deferring gratification, and other behaviors that lead to success in our society as it now stands.

Dismuke
Dismuke

I weary of the poor, pitiful put-upon white man nonsense of of people like Lee CPA, but he's not wrong in pointing out a major fallacy in Mr. Paulding's argument:  there's more to it than these "failing" schools.  Put the same teachers in classrooms with upper middle class kids with college educated parents, and you'll have a completely different result.


Mr. Paulding's argument for school choice is deeply flawed; it ignores everything research tells us about "failing" schools and leaps to the unsupportable conclusion that school choice will fix everything.  It's yet another example of blaming schools and teachers for all of society's ills, and assuming that schools alone can fix everything.  Tiresome. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

I'm still waiting to hear what the president of the "100 White Men" have to say about the issue of white students being stuck in failing schools.

Oh.  Right.... Apparently, that would be "raayyycissst"

But, to Pauling's point, to fix "black" schools, you must fix "black" neighborhoods, which means you must fix "black" families.  The dysfunction of black families is widely known, from the high illegitimacy rates, high welfare consumption, high crime rates, etc, etc, etc.

Much easier to focus on the symptom of the disease rather than the cancer, eh?  That said, it is going to take "black" organizations such as the 100 Black Men to fix the dysfunction of "black America".  And by fixing, I don't mean going to the government demanding even more government hand outs.  They are going to have to fix a culture that says it is okay to have six kids by five different men and that it is okay to have multiple generations living off welfare.  That is what is missing from Brian Pauling's article.

RealLurker
RealLurker

@Lee_CPA2 I don't know what article you read.  This article seems to be making some suggestions, none of which are having everyone else pay more money to the failing schools.


I have only heard and read a little about 100 Black Men.  Their stated goals are to mentor black children and provide leadership to the black community to push positive changes.  I have read statements from members of 100 Black Men that stress individual responsibility and the need for successful black people to help raise the culture of poorer black people.  I have not seen statements from 100 Black Men that blame all problems on racists.  As a matter of fact, all of the statements I have seen from them seem to be attempting to address the very same issues that you say Pauling is ignoring.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@RealLurker @Lee_CPA2 

The 100 Black Men organization is an answer to white complaints that black people do little to help their own, though its members aren't concerned with white people much one way or the other. It's black adult males trying to help black children. How anyone could complain about it is beyond my understanding.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@OriginalProf

So, then, you are in support of organizations whose purpose and mission is to help only white students, correct?

Or other organizations who advocate for the advancement of white people, i.e., a NAAWP.

Or an organization that allows white members of Congress to advocate for whites, i.e., a White Congressional Caucus?

No?  That's what I thought....

RealLurker
RealLurker

@Lee_CPA2 100 Black Men focuses on communities that are mostly black.  I don't see anything in their documentation, and have not read anything written by their members that says they would ignore or deny help to children in those communities who are not black.


This is an organization that appears to be doing the exact things that you have been saying the black community should do.  They are successful people who go to the poorer communities to help.  They try to teach responsibility and morals to the poor children.  They try to be a fatherly influence on children who need that influence.


You might have political issues with the CBC and the NAACP.  Your insistence that this organization is another leech organization is absurd.  It appears that you are speaking about 100 Black Men as only a stereotype that you have for black people in general.  You should at least read enough to know what these people say and not base your posts on what you think someone of color would say.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Here is a good comment from the Facebook discussion on this essay:


Of course no child should have to stay in a "failing" school, but the real issue is what's being done to schools that are continually failing and school districts simply put band-aides to fix the problems. For example, starting more charter schools for kids in these schools does not fix the problem because you still have the failing school with kids in the schools that are trapped. Instead school districts should look for transformational leaders -- not people they've handpicked to do favors for, find teachers who are comfortable (and good) at teaching students that may (or may not) be at risk. Last but certainly not least, we need to stop over testing our children. Put more "hands on" learning ESPECIALLY for our young men!



AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared


‘No child’s future should be determined by their color, economic status or zip code’


Imagine a present in which health care for the elderly is provided by "neighborhood hospitals".

These hospitals are taxpayer-funded for the common good, because as a society we have agreed that healthcare

for the elderly is a priority.  However, the way this works is that in order to get subsidized healthcare, seniors 

must go to their neighborhood hospitals - the specific hospital that provides care for the area in which they reside.


In this scenario, we find that neighborhoods with lousy hospitals are economically depressed because people don't want to live there.  Neighborhoods with GOOD hospitals have become crazy expensive so that people compete by housing cost for premium healthcare.  People commit "hospital fraud", claiming to live somewhere that they do not, in order to get  into the good hospitals.  Perpetually bad hospitals prove to be immune to reform, despite the best efforts of many. Heck, there might even be random selection lotteries for some people to opt out of their neighborhood hospitals and gain access to the best care.


What a fiasco.  Fortunately, Medicare does not work this way.  THE MONEY FOLLOWS THE PATIENT.  Lousy hospitals shut down.Good ones prosper.  People choose in their best interests.


Gosh, is there some way this model could be applied to the education of children...?

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

I mean is there some way this could be applied other than at the college level where students already choose colleges without being confined to "neighborhood" colleges AND Pell Grants, Guaranteed Student Loans, etc are attached to the student and not his/her neighborhood school.


straker
straker

You can start by doing everything possible to keep Black students in school and stop the high dropout rate.


As for remedial courses, I am White, graduated high school in the 50's, and had to take those courses as well.



thenoticer
thenoticer

You know what would help this? Ability grouping! Students who are not too far damaged by their "families" should absolutely be able to go to school and learn. This would also cost no money. If these failing school start offering classes with real learning and no discipline problems, then I'm going to want my kids to go to that school too. Perhaps many families would do the same, then the school would not be a failing school anymore. Just a little stream of consciousness fantasizing this morning. Maybe other kids in the school would even get their acts together in order to earn their way in! Okay, back to reality.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@thenoticer By "ability" do you mean "achievement?"  There is a difference.  I'd like to see kids grouped by achievement, regardless of age or native ability.  Ability is so set in stone; achievement is what you DO with what you have got.  Some kids of average or above in pure ability do not do as well as they should; some with average ability do quite well because of motivation (both parental, and sometimes, personal).

giveitup
giveitup

@Wascatlady @thenoticer Both ability and achievement need to be factors in the hypothetical grouping of students.  If you group kids with high ability/lower achievement with students of lower ability/lower achievement, the kids with high ability will languish, and will be "left behind".

ATLPeach
ATLPeach

There are so many things keeping schools in poor African American communities from being successful.  These are tough schools to work in.  The lack of self-control and respect for authority makes it extremely difficult.  There are constant fights because they are taught to fight at home.  The schools are doing very little in controlling the behavior.  Administrators are not addressing the issues by creating or using programs already created to combat the issues that teachers face in these schools.  I don't think people really understand what goes on in these schools.  I teach in a school where kids come to us dirty, hungry, and very angry.  Some are homeless. Many are hopeless (in their minds).  They can't see past the community in which they live.  It's draining, yet I get up every morning hoping I can make a difference in just a few children's lives.  The reality is, until we address the real problems, change will not happen.  Top schools have fewer class disruptions.  They have better parent involvement.  Being poor, even being homeless, doesn't mean you don't support your children's education.  If anything, it should push you to do more so they will have a better future.  


The comment about absent fathers isn't completely true.  The truth is, many of the poor, young black mothers aren't married, however the fathers are involved.  That's not shown in any data.  The fathers are involved in many of their lives.  Mom and dad just aren't married. 


If 100 Black Men want to see a change, they will have to convince principals to stop being afraid of being labeled an unsafe school.  Tell them to do what is right for the children they serve.  Get parents involved.  Many didn't finish high school themselves.  Why not have GED training near the school?  We must be willing to think outside of the box.  

dg417s
dg417s

@ATLPeach I've lost count of how many times I've had students tell me "I don't say yes sir/yes ma'am/no sir/no ma'am" etc to my own parents, I sure as he** ain't saying it to you."  I don't know if it's true or not, but if the child doesn't respect the parents enough to show them the proper respect that they deserve as the adults and authority figures in their lives, then the children stand very little chance of being successful as adults themselves.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@dg417s @ATLPeach I never required a "ma'am" but insisted on a yes or no, not a yeah or nah.  They are likely to need those kinds of address in the workplace and on the street.


But you are right about parental respect.  When the child is used to running the show, and the parents are weak, it sets a bad pattern for life.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @dg417s @ATLPeach


"But you are right about parental respect.  When the child is used to running the show, and the parents are weak, it sets a bad pattern for life."


Couldn't agree more. The correct response in the Astropigpen was "yes sir or "yes ma'am" . We didn't let it slide and didn't allow them to get sloppy in that regard.The payoff comes later in life,but expecting respect is a baseline behavior expectation for your kids. 



Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@ATLPeach I worked for decades with poor white kids (a few middle class teachers' kids as well).  As the years went by (I started in 1973) the attitudes seemed to change.  There was more anger, more defensiveness.  There was more behavior that seemed to be modeled on Jerry Springer or Grand Theft Auto.  There were surely more families with divorced or never-married parents or step-parents involved.


The closest thing I found to the "old days" were the Latino students, who were almost without exception well-behaved, respectful, and willing to use their abilities.  Their parents are also, at least here, much more likely to be together, and anxious for their children to do well (and not bring dishonor to their parents) even when the parents have little education and little idea how to help.  A teacher can do a lot with a student like that, backed up with parents like that.  When I had reason to call those parents about a problem or concern, 90% of the time the problem was handled immediately!

5150POAD
5150POAD

Don't worry Common Core will Dumb Down all students so they will all need remedial coursework when they get to college. Well except for the Asian students or the kids that went to private school.

Astropig
Astropig

" We also need to encourage nonprofit public charters and traditional public schools to collaborate and share best practices that have proven to be successful in educating low-income and Black children."


Hot diggety dog! Fired UPPPPPP!!!!! He's right.


A coalition of all races and creeds are coming together to sweep away the sclerotic old system that we have (that was designed to educate a nation based on agriculture) and give kids a real future based on the economy of the 21st century.There will be some winners,there will be some losers...But the conversation has shifted so far from where we began that there is no doubt that we're heading in the right direction.Mr. Pauling is saying things here that wouldn't have been dreamed of not so long ago. 


Better days ahead, people.Better days ahead.



dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig I don't have a problem with non-profits.  What really worries me is that it won't be non-profits coming in to take neighborhood schools away from communities if the OSD bill passes.  It will be groups looking for a profit who don't care about the neighborhood that they're coming in to save.  I don't support the OSD, but I am a realist and I would like to see a guarantee that it won't be for-profit operators coming in.... but unfortunately, those are the people who paid huge donations to the governor's campaign and will get the contracts.

Rocky04
Rocky04

I agree- schools and colleges should do away with race based admissions, everyone should be based on their own individual merit:  white, black, brown, yellow, or other...

popacorn
popacorn

Blaming zip-code or color allows blame and responsibility to be deflected from where it belongs. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

Lots of talk about the SCHOOLS - but the REAL problem lies with the students themselves and their parents.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Hey Brian Pauling: No need to go so far afield! Raise a call within the black community, making sure no child goes through the most vulnerable period of life without a father in the home.

Absolutely nothing else you can do would make as much a difference in young lives.

EdUktr
EdUktr

And by the way, you either believe in education reform or you don't. Support giving parents real choices outside the failed public school machine—yes, tuition vouchers valid for whatever school, public or private, profit or non-profit, best meets their child's needs. 

Put Democrat Party and teachers' union politics aside for once.

class80olddog
class80olddog

‘No child’s future should be determined by their color, economic status or zip code’


No child's future is - it is decided by the attitude of the student and their parents.