TIME TO ANSWER THE QUESTION A few months back, a Central Indiana African American school administrator by the name of Eugene White, held a convocation involving ONLY the young, Black, high school aged males in his school district. As only a brother could do with a group of younger brothers, he laid out the truth concerning poor academic performance, sagging test scores, and a general lack of concern about their educations. The convocation--better called a declaration of a war on deliberate ignorance--made the pages of the local paper. White kept the meeting hush-hush, so as not to call attention to the situation, nor his comments, nor his students. The results came back not too long ago. The grades went up, the test scores among these young brothers went up, and access to tutoring, mentors, and academic help also increased. All due to ONE Black man’s challenge to a group of young brothers. Recently, the story went from local to national exposure. Not because of the success, but because there are some who were critical of Dr. White’s tactics, caring more that Black males should be made to ‘boost’ their self-esteem, rather than ‘boost’ their academic achievement. Some of White’s critics were white educators…but there were a few Black critics ‘sprinkled in’ for good measure both at the local and national level. I applaud White’s methods and courage. Not only because I know the man, and know some of his educational background--including his stint as an Assistant Superintendent for the largest school district in the state of Indiana. I applaud him because he answered a central question that many seem to have forgotten when it comes to young Black men. When ARE some of them going to step up to the plate and focus on their futures, instead of wallowing in the excuse pile, the materialism pile, and the immorality pile? SURVIVAL VS. SELF ESTEEM: Now, I can talk about the education structure and the classroom from two solid vantage points. One, as a former teacher. Two, as a former college instructor. If you have read my columns over any particular length of time, you’ve heard some of my war stories about some of our younger brothers who viewed school as a ‘social’ event, rather than preparation for real life. I could share a few more…but I digress. I would URGE that Black parents--single or married--get back to the basics and get into their son’s backsides if they are NOT working up to their full potential. There is NO mandate that your son HAS to fail in school. Parent--YOU are raising someone’s future husband. Or, stated another way (to those with daughters) would YOU let your daughter ‘hang out’ with a ‘drop out?’ However, let me throw this in as well…and it is going to take us through the remainder of this month’s column and is AIMED at our YOUNG BLACK men: WHEN are more of you going to WAKE UP? You see--while many of the young brothers have been napping, blunting, and/or Rapping--a few ‘little’ things have happened on the national landscape: 1. This nation has entered into a recession. Thus, those WITH an education and a clear criminal background are the ones who are going to be able to find jobs! Employers are cutting back across the board. The ones who get hired are going to have to have the ‘good paper’, meaning a high school diploma AND a college degree. 2. The rules have been changed--albeit quietly--concerning school disciplinary policies. If you are a known troublemaker in school, you will eventually be ‘kicked out’ without a way to get back in, if you are 16 or older. 3. Lastly, and this ties in with number two, the GED requirements have been changed! It used to be that one could be as young as 15 and go into GED programs to take the test. Not anymore. The TEST and the RULES have changed! As of January 1, 2002, one must be AT LEAST 17 before they can even take the Pre-GED test. Based upon that assessment of where you are in your education, those who hold GED classes--if you are under 18--will require that you have an exit letter and your past school records to see IF you will be allowed to enter the programs needed to pass the test. Now, folk can talk all day about ‘self-esteem’. The reality--among Black folk--is another ‘S’ word: That word is called SURVIVAL. A young Black man without an education is NOT going to survive in the working world because they don’t have the credentials to compete. He will quickly become another ‘S’ word WITHOUT an education: a STATISTIC. There IS no such thing as ‘free money’. You have to work for it. Prisons are full of those who took the ‘easy’ way out! PLENTY OF NAYSAYERS: I can already hear the critics and what they are saying. Let me sum it up for you, my young brothers. The critics--be they Black or white--will point to a ‘few’ people who have NOT graduated from high school and say that an education is not all that important. In fact, some critics will even say that it may ‘stunt’ your growth as a young Black man to tell you the truth about the need for YOU to take responsibility for your education and academic process. Let me spell out a few things about critics: *Their kids are getting their education. If they can get you to THROW your education away, that means less competition for their kids in the job market. *Most critics already HAVE their education--and are working on MORE. If YOU don’t show up on a college or university campus, you won’t be able to compete with them as well. I mentioned this point earlier in my column--some of Dr. White’s critics were BLACK. This should underscore the point even harder. There is not only competition OUTSIDE of our community for employment; there is competition INSIDE of our community as well. THE WORLD OF WORK: If I may get biblical for a moment, the scriptures hold this principle: “If one won’t work, they should not eat!” Thus, my young brother, if your education is lacking, don’t count on your ‘roadies’ to be paying your bills. That is YOUR responsibility. Hanging out at home with your mother and father is not the place for a grown man for too long a period of time. Brother, you should be working--not sponging, watching Rap videos, or playing around with your video games. Can I get an AMEN from the RBSWs...the Righteous Black Single Women in the house? Another interesting thing about the workplace. Education IS an ongoing thing! In many jobs, there are requirements for continuing education. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, employment directors, probation officers--even restaurant managers have to continue to go to either the company’s school, or to college or university campus, to keep up their certifications and/or stay up-to-date with advances in their profession. Even police officers have to head to the pistol range a few times a year, or to advance training so they can keep their jobs! IF YOU DOUBT ME… Now, if you think that I’m just ‘blowing you a breeze’ with this column, here is a simple test: talk with any jail or prison administrator in your area and ask them about education programs behind bars. If they are honest, they will tell you the following: Education programs are full…and have a long list of inmates waiting to get in! They will also tell you that the amount of state funding for such programs has been cut--further making it harder for those who missed out, dropped out, or ‘blunted’ their way out--to get an education. Bottom line my young brother--your grades are your paycheck each and every time your report card comes out. Colleges and universities will offer scholarships to those who have the BEST grades. Competition is tough--even at HBCUs! Grades and green money will get you into college. You may be 14, 15, or 16 now…but 21, 25, and 30 have a way of ‘sneaking up’ on you--real quick! Sure, you may laugh at those young brothers who are going to class, doing their homework, and getting good grades. However, those same brothers you ARE laughing at now eventually will become managers, employers, and raking in the rewards of investing in themselves by their education. Plus, WHEN those brothers you laughed at, mocked, and ridiculed find the woman of their dreams and are walking down the isle, THAT brother will be an asset to the marriage, instead of a liability. Who will be laughing then? In the words of one well known commercial, which I will adjust to close out our time together: “Can you hear what us Old Schoolers are saying--NOW?” Right on Dr. White! May MORE Black administrators follow your lead! MIKE RAMEY is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE. A monthly, syndicated column, written for men, from a biblical, business, and common sense perspective. Emails welcomed to [email protected]. © 2003 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International (16).