“It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges.” Booker T. Washington, 1856 – 1915
How do we lift up the black underclass, the school dropouts, gang members, and drug dealers who become criminals and spend their lives as a drag on society? The Wall Street Journal’s (black) editorial writer, Jason Riley, addresses this question in today’s paper, “How Not to Help Black Americans”. As he says “Upward mobility depends on work and family. Government policies which undermine the work ethic – open-ended welfare benefits, for example – help keep poor people poor. Why study hard in school if you will be held to a lower academic standard? Why change antisocial behavior when people are willing to reward it or make excuses for it?”
A few days ago, Robert Balfanz, the Director of the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, wrote in the New York Times, “Stop Holding Us Back”, that even though 80% of Americans now graduate from high school, 33% of the nation’s African-American and Latino young men will not graduate. Half of these non-graduates go to a total of just 660 high schools out of a total of 12,600 high schools in the country. He suggests the following:
- Refocus such high-poverty high schools in order to identify by the middle of ninth grade the students most likely to drop out.
- Set up early warning systems so that adults can step in at the first sign that a student is in trouble.
- Employ additional adults to support students who need daily nagging to succeed, especially during the key transitional years in sixth and ninth grade.
Such a plan has been instituted in the Chicago Public Schools as described in “Preventable Failure”. As the above chart shows, it has led to dramatic improvement in the on-track rate of at-risk ninth graders in CPS.
These two school programs, in Baltimore and Chicago, represent what we should be doing to help all minorities, especially blacks, succeed in life. Resources provided for such programs will do much more to eliminate poverty than expanding conventional welfare.