Joseph C. Phillips

These are not students failing because they do not have access to the internet or don’t have Olympic sized swimming pools. The sad fact is that the report demonstrates that middle-class black boys are scoring about as well as poor white boys. These are students who are not proficient in the basics of math and English.

The social cost of this failure is not to be underestimated.

Half of these students will drop out of high school; lacking a high school diploma and being functionally illiterate will qualify them for manual labor, which is steadily in the decline. They will join the ranks of the chronically unemployed; many of these men will make a life hustling on the streets and eventually become involved in the criminal justice system. Criminal records will make these men more unemployable, which will make it even more unlikely that they will have the financial means to support the children they father. It is a hellish cycle that will repeat generation after generation.

Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, says, “There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten.” Ferguson gives voice to something that many of us have long suspected: how well children perform in school depends, to a great extent, on the kind of training they receive in the home.

Battling the dark forces aligned against our children may necessitate the asking of some uncomfortable questions. For instance, is the continued academic under-performance of black boys the result of a failure of the educational system? Or, is the issue rooted in black culture?

Of course, we can always avoid the discomfort of those questions and continue to rely on the original thinking of our best and brightest. In response to the chilling figures presented in the report, the authors have come up with the original idea of urging Congress to “appropriate more money for schools.”

Joseph C. Phillips

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.