Last week, the Schott Foundation released a startling report, which revealed that nearly 50 percent of African-American males in the nation’s public schools in 2008 didn’t graduate. Dr. John Jackson, president and CEO of the Foundation, concluded that “without targeted investments to provide the core, research-proven resources to help Black male students succeed in public education, they are being set up to fail.”
The report identified Baltimore as one of the 10 worst performing cities in America for Black males in the public school system. Tragically, this designation doesn’t come as a shock to anybody paying attention in Baltimore. Our educational woes have regularly been placed in the national spotlight. Despite all of the roundtable discussions, seminars on student improvement, special reports from the state department of education, changes in personnel, promises by politicians, and even rallies by activists; the truth is staring us in the face: the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) has been failing Black children for a long time.
The student body of the BCPSS is nearly 90 percent African American, and according to their data, for the past two school years 40 percent of seniors did not graduate. Since 2006, nearly 9,000 students have dropped out. This is no new trend. It’s past time to take drastic action, which does not involve reforming a corroded system. Personalities aside, the current system is a failure and attempts to re-form a failed system are a waste of time and resources.
As the majority demographic in this city and the school system, it’s time for African Americans to assert themselves and snatch control of the sinking ship of public education in Baltimore. Despite brown faces in high places, the Black community does not control the school system – the minority White community does. An educational system created by the values, beliefs, historical perspective and cultural mores of the European American community will never produce African Americans who are culturally aware, holistically developed, and expertly equipped to engage the priorities of their own people. This is like asking a fox to teach chickens how to be chickens! It doesn’t work and other ethnic and religious groups in Baltimore know this.
The Jews have their own schools in Baltimore to teach their children how to be good Jews. The Catholics have their own schools in Baltimore to teach their students how to be good Catholics. The Quakers have their own schools in Baltimore to instill in their students the values of Quakers.
Where are the schools in Baltimore controlled by proud Black people that teach Black children how to be honorable Africans in America?
We are the majority in this city and we shouldn’t be begging to have a say in the education of our own children!
Instead of being tethered to the state and a slave of the governor and his political puppets in the city; the Black community should demand ultimate authority in regard to curriculum, staffing, finances, physical planning, athletic programs, and any other area of the educational system of our children.
If the political structure isn’t agreeable to this demand, it’s time for the Black community to pull our children out of their school system en masse and create our own.
The Rev. Heber Brown III is the pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in North Baltimore and Vice President of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance