African-American children are only 17 percent of the total school population in America, yet they represent more than 41 percent of students in special education, of which 80 percent are Black males. Eighty percent of all students referred to special education are below grade level in reading and writing. In contrast, Black students are only six percent of gifted classes.
These facts were brought crashing into my consciousness while interacting with a member of the staff of a local Chicago Public School a few days ago. A large part of the work we have been engaged in is youth development. Our program includes workshops and lectures centered around our innovative life skills curriculum, mentoring, one-on-one coaching and counseling, and other key modalities. We provide in-school programming that is integrated into the regular academic schedule of ‘high-risk’ and ‘at-risk’ youth.
This means we have the opportunity to interact with the day-to-day in-school climate. This interaction is very revealing about the many factors contributing to the academic isolation, apathy and failures of the young Black men Dr. Kunjufu has crusaded about for at least the last 30 years.
There are a couple of facts I regularly observe that must be changed immediately if Black males are ever going to capable of reversing the damage that most of America’s education and social institutions have done. 1) Strong, positive, morally upright Black men are extremely absent from public education. 2) Black women must encourage themselves to develop proper understanding of their role in perpetuating fact number one. 3) Too many so-called educators and administrators are pre-occupied with credential recognition, when the objective should be combating a system at war for the minds of Black people. 4) The few culturally conscious Black men in position of authority within education system are often undermined by arrogant, egotistical and emotionally imbalanced Black women.
Now this may offend a few people, but we observe the facts of the above-mentioned behaviors often. These operational under-tones and organizational dysfunction are often the subtle currents that counter the efforts of progressive in-school policy. Often they bubble to the surface in the face of students who see the hypocrisy, the lack of respect and gender gang-banging of so-called ‘educated’ people.
The question that all adults and especially parents must ask is: are you guilty of what I have tried to describe above – in your house?
The hardest thing in the world to do, is to try and instill a positive sense of self in young Black men, when they don’t see anyone (especially other Black women and men) respecting adult Black men – even when they are in the position of authority.
There are certain key human qualities that only a few people are capable of teaching, and fewer are able to exemplify. With the ArchAngel Human Developemnt Institute, we are trying to teach adults how to develop these critical qualities to aid the success of our community. Unfortunately, too many of us really think we know – when it’s blatantly obvious MOST of us never, had them, have not paid attention when we experience them in others and are not even looking for them. These high qualities of which we speak are not conferred by money, good looks, academic credentialing or organizational status.The number one ingredient we are missing is true spiritual development.
Min. Michel Muhammad