My latest Acton commentary:
Do at-risk black males need to be emancipated en masse from America’s public school complex? A new study released about high school dropout and incarceration rates among blacks raises the question. Nearly 23 percent of all American black men ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of high school are in jail, prison, or a juvenile justice institution, according to a new report from the Center for Labor Markets at Northeastern University, “Consequences of Dropping Out of High School.”
High school dropouts cost the nation severely. Not only are American taxpayers getting no return on the $8,701 we spend on average per student, each dropout costs us $292,000 over their lifetime in lost earnings, lower taxes paid, and higher spending for social programs like incarceration, health care, and welfare.
Given the many social pathologies plaguing black males in low-income and fatherless households, the best place for at-risk black males is not the dominant failed public school paradigm. Since public schools are forbidden to teach virtue and often reduce children to receptacles of information, expanding private and faith-based options to black parents is the only compelling solution.
The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), England’s chief education inspection agency, recently released a report lauding the attributes of faith schools. The report, “Independent Faith Schools,” examined the quality of formation provided by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu religious schools. The inspectors found “pupils demonstrating an excellent understanding of spiritual and moral attributes.” In all the schools visited, “pupils gained a strong sense of identity and of belonging to their faith, their school and to Britain.” In other words, faith-based schools, by simply teaching about religion, are forming their students to be virtuous citizens.
Has America given up on making virtuous citizens out of black males? In England’s faith schools, “good citizenship was considered by all the schools visited to be the duty of a good believer because this honoured the faith,” the report says. In contrast, American public schools have become prisoner factories for at-risk black males. Because producing educated, virtuous citizens is unrelated to funding, the problem cannot be addressed by the simplistic expedient of increasing government allocations to education. The deeper problem is that the American education system seems no longer to value what faith schools in England are recognized for: producing students with good “spiritual, moral, social and cultural understanding.”
Even in the public sector, blacks are realizing that the current model fails black males. Kentucky State University President Mary Sias says the university is trying to find funding to open a boarding school for black male youth to get them into college. The Eagle Academy for Young Men, a charter school in the Bronx, is the first all-male public school in New York City in 30 years. Eagle Academy has a high school graduation rate of 82 percent, compared with approximately 51.4 percent of black and 48.7 percent of Hispanic students graduating from high schools citywide. This may explain why Eagle Academy had 1,200 applications for this year’s ninth-grade class of 80 students.
Why do the education elites want to keep at-risk black males in schools that dump them in the streets or jail? Why is America content with the lie that funding is the problem? The District of Columbia spends $12,979 per student and has a black male graduation rate of 55 percent compared to 84 percent for whites. Illinois spends over $8,000 per students with a black male graduation rate of 41 percent compared to 82 percent for whites. When are black parents going to be emancipated from the government telling them what to do with their children?
Americans cannot afford, financially or morally, to trap black males in criminal cultivators masquerading as schools. Even though charter schools, vouchers, and tax-credit programs reflect some progress, black parents need radical new options that empower them with absolute freedom to choose the best schools. While every at-risk black male does not have access to good faith-based opportunities, the only hope for liberating young black males to actualize their potential to be productive participants in a global economy and virtuous citizens of a healthy nation is to free black parents from the tyranny of government bureaucrats. Black America needs a “Freedom of Choice” movement.