“Look for people to blame for your failure is an indication that you will fail,” is what I want them to realize before they accept a name that’s not theirs. Remember as Madea told a young girl, “it not what people call you that’s important, it’s what you answer to.”
A few days ago, I was talking to a man who’s given me sage advice for years. I’ve known Big Daddy for 35 years. He’s been a counselor, surrogate father, an icon that’s inspiring. I told him what my plan was for our sons in case I survived their mom, and he told me that Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world said. He was leaving his children ten million dollars, and if that wasn’t enough for them to get their act together, he wouldn’t feel responsible. You see, we have got to stop the bailout mentality. Welfare starts with us bailing out kids out. Welfare stops when we teach them they are capable to achieve their own success.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you have had,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in “The Great Gatsby.” This often happens when we look for outside sources to blame for failure we feel doesn’t belong to us.
Our education system is in the toilet, but it’s the only one we got right now, and I remember a father telling me that his only responsibility was to make sure his kids had an education. He made sure each went to college, but then he was finished. He can’t wipe their butts forever. Education is truly the key. It once was a commodity we worked hard to earn, and strove harder to pass on the next generation. It used to be a time-honored belief that with an education you could do anything, and become anybody. The poorest of the poor believed that in America, education made them something and would unlock any previously locked door. But somewhere along that path to greatest, the door got locked; the key thrown away, especially if you happened to be male and especially a male of color.
You see it on the news, statistical charts. Test scores have declined as prison populations have increased. The numbers tell us we spend more money to build prisons, than to build schools. Imagine that? We spend more money to house thugs, rapists, and petty thieves than to educate tomorrow’s children. As we get overwhelmed by a society that stereotypes, denigrates and marginalizes minorities, many of those who are in the minority have forgotten what they were expected to do with the advantages their ancestors gave them. We see this in the paradoxical face of the largest graduation class in our country’s history, facing one of the largest unemployment rates in decades.
Four years ago, I went to a conference that focused on educating black children, specifically black males and heard Dr. Lucian Yates from Kentucky State University tell the group that in 10 years, we will need 2 million new teachers. That was four years ago. Are any of you reading this interested in becoming a teacher? There once was a time when teachers were revered, but the profession itself has taken a back seat to many. But who spends more time with our children today, than teachers? And when you look at the mix of teachers and the mix of our growing diverse population, we should become alarmed at the advantages many of us had, our kids no longer see. We should also become alarm when we realize that male teachers are at a 40 year low.
When a child can go through 12 years of school and never see someone who looks like him in charge of a classroom, something is wrong with that picture. When a student can graduate from any public or private school of higher learning and never be taught by a person who walked even a yard in their shoes, something is wrong with that picture. When we in America cannot see what our public school system is becoming as it continues to plummet when compared to the rest of the world, that picture of having an advantage is eroding with every book that’s not read, every paper not written or every grade not completed and every child, black or white, male or female who doesn’t graduate. It’s late, and we don’t have a curfew anymore. It’s as if we don’t care.
Since Supreme Court mandated desegregation with Brown vs. Board of Education. 90% of the teachers are white, 75% are women. African American, Latinos, Asians and Native American only make up 9 – 14% of all teachers in this country, and various research organizations expect this to drop to about five percent, as the minority population grows. And for those of you men who aspire to teach. Go for it! In 1980, 17% of elementary school teacher were male. Today that number has gone down to 14%. You want a young boy to aspire to be a teacher? Then give him a model in the classroom rather than in court. Currently only 1.7% of K – 12 teachers are African-American males, it was 2.4% two years ago, and most of these are in the secondary schools.
With the IPOD, twitter, and now that rap seems to be wavering, the new millennium continues to move forward. But are they learning anything about overcoming the perceptions of being disadvantaged? when parents refuse to acknowledge that black men can teach, and teach well, we are still disadvantaged. When parents refuse to encourage their sons or daughters to become teachers, we are still disadvantaged. And when parents refuse to instill in our children the principle that ‘education is something no one can take away from you,’ we still will be disadvantaged, and we will never overcome until we realize as Horace Mann said, “Education is the great equalizer.”
Education is the key. Don’t think I’m saying we should be turning out more teachers of color? NO. I’m saying we should look at how to overcome the disadvantages in front of ourselves.; understand that some of us perhaps need to be criticized, because we have too much, and realize our complacency makes us disadvantaged. We need to work harder to be smarter and help our children to take care of themselves and teach others to do the same, particularly our men as they work hard to be fathers our children need to become advantaged through the benefits education offers forever.
By Archie Wortham