Public Schools Flunk the Test on Black Males

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.

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  • Cheryl Dickow

    This is very interesting and seems to give support something I recently heard in regards to the democrats claim of being “for” the underpriviledged and minorities when, in reality, their programs have sustained and ultimately added to the deplorable ways in which black and other minorities experience education and American life. So when democrats herald themselves as “caring” about at-risk students as witnessed by the pouring in of tax dollars to institutions which are completely failing these kids — we ought to be better able to see this falsehood as it really is and pursue the real answers as suggested in this article (expanding private and faith-based options).

  • Joe DeVet

    There remains a question from the last statistics he quoted. In the same set of institutions, the white graduation rate is about twice that of the black. Seems that there might be some cultural factors that should be addressed besides the question of faith-based schools.

    This, however, does not change the bigger issue–that public schools are prevented from teaching virtues. For this reason primarily, and because of the “self-esteem” movement also, the public school system is broken, and serves no one well. Even the ones who graduate are stunted in character development and often can’t truly read, write, or do math very well.

    It wasn’t always this way. When I attended public high school in the late 1950’s public education was still good in most places. This was because there was cultural agreement on most of what it meant to be virtuous, mannerly, well-educated, and a good citizen–and these things were still universally valued. Thus the schools could still teach at least civic virtue, and did, and we all benefited from that. Now, there is no cultural consensus on what virtue is and even if it is a positive thing! Public education can do nothing but fail in this context.

  • noelfitz

    This is a very thought provoking article.

    The message that I get is that faith-based schools are most successful for satudents from minority backgrounds. Is the Catholic Church doing enough for these students?

    I read “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.”

    As, in general, blacks are not Catholi, while Hispanics are, and will play a more dominant part in the US Catholic Church in the future, should the Church concentrate to a greater extent on the education of young Hispanics?

    I read your contributions with interest. I note that you, moderator of the forum “Faith & Life” have never contributed there. Would you like to contribute? Your views may not find universal agreement there, but they would enliven our discussions.

  • Cheryl Dickow


    The way I am reading your comment, it appears that you think I am the moderator at Faith and Life forum which I am not.

    Of course I am intrigued by your comment that my views may not find universal agreement and wonder what particular views you are referring to and hope I haven’t gone and offended someone…

  • noelfitz


    many thanks for your immediate reply.

    Sorry for the mix-up. I thought you were the moderator of the forum “Faith and Life” as in it I read:

    “About the Catholic Exchange forum…

    Forum Stats:

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    In the Forum we seem to disagree on most topics, but always within the Catholic Church and we discuss are differences with courtesy, respect and charity. Thus we have lively friendly exchanges, which, I hope, builds all of us up in the faith.

    I do not think you have offended anyone, as (I consider) you express your views robustly and with clarity. I would imagine people in the F&L forum would be offended only with views which are personal, hurtful or against the Church.

    Once again I regret if I was confused.

    Can I get in touch with you by email?

  • Cheryl Dickow


    I have no clue why I’m listed as the moderatorof that forum! Hmmm…I’ll have to contact someone at CE.

    Sure, feel free to email me.