Why All African American Males Should Go to College, But Probably Won’t

By Bryant T. Marks, Ph.D. | 3/27/2014, 4:54 p.m.

There seems to be a passive acceptance of African-American males pursuing alternatives to college in comparison to other racial/gender groups. If not, where is the outrage at black males representing 12 percent of the male population, but 40 percent of American prisoners, records with the Bureau of Justice Statistics show? Where is the legislation to address only 10 percent of African-American male eighth graders being proficient in math compared to 44 percent of white students, according to a national education study by the Council of Great City Schools?

Much of life comes down to options and choices, choices and options. I’m sure that most African-American males would choose a six-figure job over one at the poverty or working class level. I also believe they would prefer a college degree to dropping out in 10th grade.

“Real talk” as some of my young African-American brothers would say, we have an adult problem when it comes to choice, or lack thereof. Black boys don’t create or allow for the existence of an entire neighborhood or district of failing elementary, middle, and high schools, adults do. Black boys don’t run from extending the school day or school year for fear of not being re-elected or falling out of favor with teachers’ unions, adults do.

Black boys don’t prevent promising charter schools (often led by lack people) from being approved or renewed due politics, prejudice, or financial gain, adults do. The bottom line is that parents and African-American boys need quality educational options from which to choose prior to the college stage. Choosing from several low performing K-12 schools is the illusion of choice. Whether you choose to eat a rotten egg, rotten meat, or rotten cheese, you will still end up sick.

And now to the title of this op-ed. Although I believe all African-American males should go to college due to the significant increase in the number of options it will afford them, most of them will not, at least not anytime soon. Unless something changes, the actions and self-interests of the adults in the educational mix will continue to limit the perceived options of many African-American males to trades, sports, entertainment, and crime.

On the upside, I do believe that a slow but steady wave of concern is growing among parents, education reformers, scholars, philanthropists and other stakeholders. The recent uptick in support for K-12 education reform and innovation by federal, state, and philanthropic sources suggests that African-American males are receiving well-deserved attention and investment. To this end, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and Morehouse College are hosting a Black Male Summit at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center (Morehouse College) from March 28-29th, 2014. Various education stakeholders will provide solutions to the challenges that undermine the academic achievement of many African-American males from kindergarten through college. There will also be a question and answer period at the end of each session. Please attend and offer your voice.