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Educating our Black boys

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 11/11/2013, 9:22 a.m.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass

The Dallas Examiner

Our public education system is failing our young Black boys.

What can we do to improve education of our Black boys? It is easy to blame the school system, the superintendent, the administrators and the teachers. However, we must look beyond the school system. Holding the public school system accountable is important, but what can we as individuals, churches and organizations do to improve the education of our young Black boys?

We know education is the key to success. Reading, writing and speaking – the ability to communicate – are pertinent for success.

But, many children can’t read, write or speak correctly.

At one time, when we didn’t have the freedom to read and increase our vocabulary, we fought for the right and gathered in groups to offer our children the same opportunities that White children had.

The Educational Testing Service Policy Information Center said, “America is failing its young Black boys. In metropolitan ghettos, rural villages and midsized townships across the country, schools have become holding tanks for populations of Black boys who have a statistically higher probability of walking the corridors of prison than the halls of college. Across America, the problem of Black male achievement seems intractable. We fail our Black sons more than any other racial or ethnic group.”

According to Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, “Children are suffering from a toxic cocktail of poverty, illiteracy, racial discrimination and massive incarceration that sentences poor boys to dead end and hopeless lives.”

She calls this a community and a national disaster.

One thing we can do in Dallas to improve the education of our Black boys is to become involved.

Let’s start at the beginning … with words. Words are important. They are valuable tools. How many words do Black boys know when they start kindergarten? Moreover, what can we do to increase the number of words they know when they start kindergarten?

Education experts say the number of words a Black child knows when they start kindergarten is approximately a third of the words a White child knows. This puts Black boys at a disadvantage from the beginning.

The achievement gap that exists between Black boys begins before they even start school.

The more words a child knows, the better his ability to communicate verbally will be. The more words a child knows, the better their comprehension is. More words offer children a better opportunity to express themselves and have their needs met. More words can give children better decision-making and problem-solving skills. More words allow children to be more creative and express creative ideas. Being able to express one’s self helps the child avoid frustration and embarrassment that may keep them from pursuing projects and activities that require good communication, allowing them to be more outgoing, which, in turn, could instill more confidence and pride.

It truly does take a village to raise a child, as the saying goes. Black churches, sororities, fraternities and professional associations may be the key to improving the education of Black boys. Members of these organizations are often professionals; i.e. administrators, teachers, social workers, lawyers, doctors, accounts. If these organized groups would come up with plans and programs to increase the number of words our children know when they enter kindergarten, this would be a good start.

The opportunities are endless. Educators and community leaders can work together to within the own groups or start a group that focuses on young Black children. Groups can start parenting classes to help new and expecting parents become aware of the value of helping their children get a strong and early start by teaching their tiny tots words and their meanings. Groups can start a tutorial group or an education-based club for small children. They can follow a format or think outside the box. There are many ways to help young Black children increase their vocabulary.

While it’s true that the public school system is responsible for teaching our children, in addition to holding them accountable, we should be proactive and do what we can as individuals and as members of organizations that care about our community.

Be part of the conversation, email your letters to letters@dallasexaminer.com.