Archive for Education

Dr. Boyce: President Obama Lacks the Moral Authority to Give His Lopsided Speech at Morehouse

Posted in African Americans, Barack Obama, Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America, President Barack Obama, Racism with tags , , , , on May 22, 2013 by Gary Johnson

By Dr. Boyce Watkin

Obama Morehouse

This week, President Barack Obama gave the commencement address to the young men at Morehouse College.  I was happy to see the president speak to these men, for I’m sure they were inspired by his presence.  The achievements of Barack Obama are nothing short of legendary and inspirational, he deserves to be recognized as such.  Morehouse College President John Wilson should also be commended for his extraordinary leadership.  Dr. Wilson was gracious enough to join the presidents of Spelman and Clark in co-signing the open letter on mass incarceration written by myself and Russell Simmons.

The president’s message consisted of the same themes that I recall hearing from my grandmother:  You have to work twice as hard to get half as much if you are black in America, and racism is no excuse for you to give up.  I agree with this message, and I share similar messages every single day of my life.

The president’s decision to speak in ways that he knew would resonate with Morehouse men and their older black parents was an intelligent political move, without question.   The president’s speeches tend to be more conservative when he speaks to African Americans (I even noticed his use of the word “Lordy” early in the speech), and this is a good fit, since black people are also very conservative. The truth is that many African Americans would be Republicans if the party would just stop being so blatantly racist.

Another thing about black people is that many of us suffer from the low self-esteem that tends to afflict oppressed individuals.  We’re not much different from the housewife who believes her husband wouldn’t have had to beat her if she had not burned the cookies.  When her husband is out with other women, she is simply thankful that he took the time to pay the rent.   She’s ecstatic about any form of acknowledgement from her husband whatsoever, and when he berates her, she knows that she deserves it.  To some extent, she comes to embrace her oppression as the natural order of things, and the tranquility of her marriage is built upon the idea that his views, needs and status are superior to her own.

When President Obama graces us with his presence, we are simply honored that he took the time to even acknowledge us.   Any symbolic gesture, no matter how scant and meaningless, becomes precious to us, because for some, there is no greater achievement that any black man could aspire to than to get validation from white people.  Had President Obama passed on the presidency and taken a position at an all-black school and educated thousands of black children, we would have considered it to be a wasted opportunity.  Why would such an important man spend his time with us?  The political harmony between black America and the Obama Administration is a carefully-designed relationship in which our job is to shut up and cheer for anything the administration chooses to do with our votes.

Part of this asymmetric partnership with the Obama Administration is that we are actually HAPPY when the president berates us.   We like being told that we don’t try hard enough and that the reason so many of us struggle is because we have come to embrace an inferior set of habits and cultural norms.   We ENJOY the abuse, because deep down, many of us have bought into the myth of white superiority as much as white people themselves.

So, when Obama comes to Morehouse and says, “Stop using racism as an excuse and start taking more responsibility,” we LOVE it.  We also nod our heads in agreement because for the educated elite, Obama isn’t talking about us.  He’s talking about “them.”  You know, those n*ggaz who keep getting sent to prison, who can’t get jobs, and who are killing each other in the street.   They deserve their plight because they don’t work as hard as the rest of us, at least that’s the logic. It’s easy to grab onto the simple answers:  Black men love their kids less than white men do, black women are only capable of raising incompetent children who eat Popeye’s chicken for breakfast, and black people are slightly less human than whites, thus prone to more criminal activity.

Morehouse Grads

Graduates react as President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., May 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Study: By Kindergarten 1 in 4 Black Boys Believes He Will Fail in School

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America, Guest Columnists with tags , , , , on December 6, 2012 by Gary Johnson

The statistics as they relate to black boys aren’t yet on par with excellence, but what seems most troubling now isn’t the circumstance which impact black boys, but what these boys believe about themselves.

A new report says, due to poverty and childhood trauma,  by kindergarten, 1 in 4 black boys believes he will fail in school. This sets the stage for a self-fulfilling prophecy, which includes high drop out rates and low test scores, according to a California  Assembly inquiry on the status of boys and men of color

The study also found that boys are increasingly adding to the economic budget crisis in California. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the conclusions were reached based on several community hearings, expert testimony and the input of hundreds of other stakeholders over 18 months.

The final report, set to be issued this week, will include a series of recommendations on how to address these issues.

Click here to read the entire article courtesy Your Black World Today.

One Dropout Every 26 Seconds Is A Ticking Time Bomb for Blacks

Posted in Black Interests, Black Men with tags , , , on April 11, 2011 by Gary Johnson

A whopping 40 percent of African-American students don’t graduate from high school. These dismal statistics are creating an underclass of African-Americans who have become unemployable, while also affecting the very fibers of the black family structure.

By Lawrence C. Ross (04/06/2011)

Between the trials and tribulations of the controversial No Child Left Behind law, the growing issue of bullying in schools, and the feeling that parents, teachers and administrators are all searching for a magic solution to the problem that is the American educational system, here comes more bad news.

Recently, President Barack Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan stated that every 26 seconds, a student drops out of high school. But things are even worse for black students; a whopping 40 percent of African-American students don’t graduate from high school. These dismal statistics are creating an underclass of African-Americans who have become unemployable, while also affecting the very fibers of the black family structure.

Marc Williams, a high school music theory teacher at Cesar Chavez Charter School in Washington DC, also works with the school’s retention program. He sees a number of different causes for black students not finishing high school.

“Our (African-American) students are dropping out of school for a number of reasons. Aside from the cookie-cutter answers that most folks give that speak to the lack of support from within the household, the fact that many of our students don’t have a ‘set’ of parents, and the obvious idea that many urban schools lack the fiscal resources that other schools have, there are some other things to consider here,” Williams said.

“We, as educators, are failing our students,” he added. “Independent and charter schools (in particular), in order to meet budgets, are spending less money for newer, inexperienced teachers that come fresh off the stage of graduation and into a situation that is a culture shock for them… It’s a set up for failure.”

When you dig deeper, you find that black boys in particular are in a crisis mode. According to the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation on Public Education, more than half — 53 percent — of black male students drop out of high school without a diploma, compared to 22 percent of white males.

And the problem even extends to elementary school, in one of the best charter school programs in the country. A new study by researchers at Western Michigan reports that 40 percent of 6th to 8th grade black boys in the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools (KIPP) drop out before completing the program.

It is already tough for high school graduates to compete economically with college graduates, with college graduates earning around $297,893 dollars more than a high school graduate during a lifetime. But without a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED), a student basically condemns themselves to underclass status. Individuals without a GED or high school diploma loses about $7,000 dollars per year in comparison to someone with a GED.

And in a modern military, where the ability to understand high tech systems is a premium, dropping out of high school and getting into the military is proving to be an obstacle. Even those with high school degrees are finding it difficult. Thirty nine percent of black applicants with a high school degree are rejected by the military. And those who do make it in are coming into the military with lower scores than white applicants, therefore putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to future advancement.

The real societal cost of a high drop out rate at the high school level is that it attacks the structure of the black family. Black high school drop outs feed a growing black underclass of economically disadvantaged families, making it more difficult to break the cycle of poverty. The state of New York is finding that having a GED helps prevent homelessness, and has created Back to School program in order to get individuals to complete their GED.

But the effects are also found in the college ranks. With black boys struggling to finish high school and go to college, some college systems are finding that when they exclude for college athletes, black male students are a scare commodity. In South Carolina, for example, only 3 percent of the student body at the University of South Carolina, Clemson and the College of Charleston, are black male students. This means that there’s a infinitesimal pool of eligible college educated black women looking for a relationships with men with similar educational backgrounds.

The high school drop out epidemic among African-Americans is not a ticking time bomb, it’s a tsunami that’s swamping the future of black America. State Farm Insurance is working with America’s Promise, the educational organization founded by former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, to fight high school drop outs through a new program called 26 seconds. But unless there are major changes to the current educational trends, look for the nation’s prisons to continue to be repositories for the black students left behind, as they grow more desperate to survive without educational skills.

Phillip Jackson is the Founder and Executive Director of The Black Star Project, based in Chicago.  Its mission is to improve the quality of life in black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.  You can e-mail Mr. Jackson at

New Study Reports Black Male Achievement In A “State of Crisis”

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Black Men with tags , , on November 16, 2010 by Gary Johnson

A new study by the Council of the Great City Schools reports that 12% of black male 4th graders nationally and 11 % of those living in large central cities performed at or above proficient levels in reading on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), compared with 38 % of white males in that grade nationwide.  The Council of the Great City Schools is a coalition of the nation’s urban school districts.

The council’s report digs into some of the factors that contribute to the lack of success this group of students shows, including higher infant mortality rates, more limited health care access, and a lower rate of participation in early-childhood education programs.

School-age black males are also more likely to be suspended, be held back a grade, and drop out of school than their white peers.

“At almost every juncture, the odds are stacked against these young men in ways that result in too much unfulfilled potential and too many fractured lives,” writes Michael Casserly, the council’s executive director.

The council’s report suggests that the underperformance of black male youths is nothing short of a national emergency, and it calls for the convening of a White House conference.

Click here to read or download the entire report or visit:

The Education Bandwagon: Are You On It?

Posted in Barack Obama, Black America, Black Interests, Gary A. Johnson with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by Gary Johnson

By Gary A. Johnson

September 27, 2010

“Waiting for ‘Superman,” a new documentary about America’s education system got a huge boost from an appearance on the Oprah show last week.   Director David Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” appeared on the Oprah show with some of the featured cast including controversial DC Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

“Waiting for ‘Superman’” takes a critical look at failures in the public school system and their effects on American schoolchildren and their families. The movie seems to have everybody talking.  TV and radio hosts across the country of every political persuasion are talking about this film.

Today, President Obama gave up 30-minutes of his time for an interview with the TODAY show’s Matt Lauer broadcast live from the Green Room of the White House.

President Obama said his daughters couldn’t get the same quality education at a Washington, D.C. public school that they currently get at their private school (Sidwell Friends).  The President further stated that DC public schools are “struggling,” though he said there have been some important steps made in the direction of reform.

Not everyone is singing the praises of “Waiting for ‘Superman.”  The film follows the stories of five children whose futures of getting into charter schools are set on the chances of winning a lottery.  Something is wrong with our American system of education when a child’s chances of getting a good education depends on the luck of a lottery ping-pong ball.  Why can’t we fix this as a nation?  This is beyond sad.  To tolerate this is a travesty.

“Waiting for Superman” also portrays teachers’ unions as a major blocks to the schools ability to teach our children.  This portrayal has not been received well by some teachers and educational groups.

Enter Michelle Rhee (again).  Thanks to “Waiting for Superman,” Rhee is seen by many as the face of inner-city and urban school reform.  Earlier this year, Rhee fired hundreds of teachers.  On Sunday’s, Meet The Press TV show, Rhee defended her decisions.  Rhee has consistently said that it is NOT acceptable for teachers who are ineffective to stay in the classroom.  Let me translate:  “It ain’t personal, it’s business!”

Where is our moral compass as a nation?  What’s wrong with removing ineffective teachers from the classroom?  Don’t our children deserve better?  A good education is the key that leads to a good life.  Investment in education pays every single time.  Not throwing money at the problem, but wise investment.  The United States used to be #1 in math and science around the world.  Now the U.S. ranks 21st in math and 25th in science.

Many on the side of the teachers argue that teachers are not evaluated fairly and that teachers need more time to get up to speed.  More time?  Our kids don’t have that kind of time.  I do believe that the teacher evaluation process is flawed.

I am a product of the DC Public School system.  My company has worked for DC Public School system for the past three years.  I volunteer my time working with youth in the most under-served Ward in the city.  I work with teachers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  “If you don’t fire poor performing teachers, good ones will leave.”

Say what you want about Michelle Rhee, but the data, which in to the only measure of success, but a crucial one, reflects improvement under her watch.  According to Rhee, “The data shows if [children] have three highly effective teachers in a row versus three ineffective teachers in a row, it can literally change their life trajectory.”  That is scary.  Scary because we have too many ineffective teachers whose heart is in the right place but simply aren’t getting the job done.  The nation’s school system also has too many bad teachers—bad attitudes and bad skills.

“Waiting For Superman,” points out that union-backed teachers are tenured after just two years in the classroom and are nearly impossible to fire – even if they are proven to be horrible at their job.  Does that make sense to you?  Rhee supports a new proposal that would allow DC teachers to choose to give up their tenure in exchange for double their salary—up to $140,000.  At the time, the union refused to put it to a vote.

Does any of this make sense to you?  It’s as if the adults have forgotten about serving the best interest of the children. This is a complicated problem.  Where do we start?

How can you defend a national system of education that has a one-third drop out rate? Approximately 2000 schools in our country are “drop out” factories where over 50% of the students drop out of high school.

The teachers and administrators that I know on a personal level are extraordinary.  They give up so much of the time and resources for their children.  They have to because of the lack of parental involvement in their child’s education.

I believe that there are more good teachers than bad teachers, but the bad one’s are probably really bad.  By now you have probably concluded that I don’t have the answers to solve this crisis.  I do know that throwing money at the problem is not the answer.

The young people that I deal with need your time.  Not all of it, but just a little bit each week.  Consistency pays huge dividends with children.  We can’t make educating our children the “flavor of the month.”

Former NFL great Alan Page spent fifteen years in the NFL.  While playing football, he became a full-time law student, earning his law degree in 1978.  in 1988, Page launched the Page Education Foundation.  From its inception, the Foundation has offered money and encouragement to students of color facing incredible barriers to attaining their educational dreams.  This is just one example of how one person can make a difference.

If we get on this bandwagon, we have to stay on it until the job is done.  The future of this nation depends on it.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.

Obama to Parents: Limit Kids’ TV Time

Posted in Black America, Black Interests with tags , , on February 22, 2010 by Gary Johnson

“There’s no doubt that Michelle and I have more resources and privileges compared with a lot of parents. We understand that, but I don’t care how poor you are – you can turn off the television set during the week.”

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama, who is spending billions of dollars to overhaul the U.S. public education system, says there’s one sure thing parents can do to help their kids learn, regardless of financial means: Forbid them from watching television on school nights.

Of his own daughters, Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, Obama told Essence magazine: “The girls don’t watch TV during the week. Period.”

The first thing they do after school is homework. If they haven’t finished by dinnertime, around 6:30 p.m., they pick up where they left off after the meal. And after that, they can read until they hit the sack. Malia’s bedtime is 9 p.m.; Sasha’s lights go out a half hour earlier, he said.

The president discussed his daughters in response to a question about what parents can do to help foster learning.

Obama, who said he hasn’t missed a parent-teacher conference since taking office, said parents can stay in touch with their children’s teachers.

“Very early on, we set expectations for Malia and Sasha in terms of them taking responsibility for their own education,” Obama said. They got alarm clocks at age 4 to begin waking themselves up, making their own beds and getting themselves ready to get to school on time.

“We monitor them. But they are expected to be prepared to learn when they go to school,” he said.

He and first lady Michelle Obama also began reading to their daughters when they were babies, and encouraged them to appreciate education.

“There’s no doubt that Michelle and I have more resources and privileges compared with a lot of parents. We understand that,” he said in the interview, appearing in the magazine’s March issue. “But I don’t care how poor you are – you can turn off the television set during the week.”

(From the Associated Press)

Those who want to educate their children rather than wait for others to educate their children should join The Black Star Project in this effort at 773.285.9600 or visit our educational programs at

Student Mentors Teach Game Design

Posted in Black Interests with tags , , , on June 27, 2009 by Gary Johnson

Tech Bus

In the “Be The Game” program, high school students mentor peers and use game design as a tool for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), and the program’s high tech bus travels to locations where tech facilities are not available.

Click on the link to see the video made by the George Lucas Educational Foundation Edutopia which shows a dramatic alternative to traditional education.

Tech Bus 2

Wii Sports on the Technology Motorcoach

For more information about the “Be The Game” Motorcoach contact Gary Johnson, Program Manager at

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