For the last several years there has been an endless stream of negative reporting about the growing and persistent problems of the terrible rate of high school dropout rates for Black American students across the United States.
For the last several years there has been an endless stream of negative reporting about the growing and persistent problems of the terrible rate of high school dropout rates for Black American students across the United States. Of course, it is always important to focus on the most critical problems that beset the quality of life of the African American community. Certainly, there is no greater challenge than encouraging our young sisters and brothers to stay in school to complete their high school education, and to prepare for their life careers by going on to finish college and graduate school or to enroll in some type of hands-on career training or to start their own businesses that may require special entrepreneurial internship and mentorship.
But, to just keep describing and analyzing the “problems” of Black American high school dropouts or pointing the fingers at the internal and external forces or contradictions that plague the African American community will do very little to change this situation. It is not a hopeless state of being that cannot be changed. There are solutions to this problem. Brother Malcolm X reminded all of us that in life you are either going to be part of the problem or part of the solution to the problems that confront the daily life circumstances of Black people in America and throughout the world.
Recently, there was a related article in the Economist magazine that typically described the problem of the direct causative relationship between the high rate of Black unemployment and the high rate of Black high school dropouts. Among African Americans, 70% of those who have dropped out of high school are also devastatingly unemployed. But, the article in the Economist offered no solutions. It painted, what may appear to most of its readers, a hopeless situation for Black high school dropouts.
During my 50 years or more in the Civil Rights Movement, we were always confronted with sometimes life-threatening problems and challenges. But, we never let fear or hopelessness determine our strategies for progress and success in the very face all those forces of oppression and repression. We kept our faith in God and in our own abilities to participate in the development and implementation of “movement for change” organizing, mobilizing, and in the institutional-building process so necessary to move our race and community forward. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) along with countless Black churches and other grassroots organizations, including organized labor, helped to build and sustain a movement that irreversibly changed America for the better.
Now today in 2011, we must address today’s educational problems and challenges with that same kind of fortitude, alternative institutional-building, and resilience. The education of our children and young adults, and in particular the millions who have dropped out of high school during the last 10 to 20 years, is of paramount concern. During the last couple of years I have been blessed to work directly with innovation in the educational system. The rise of online education from K-12 to post-secondary undergraduate to graduate school has seen to many new and effective educational alternatives that have emerged in the United States as well as internationally. Education Online Services Corporation has gain invaluable experience in helping Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) enter successfully onto the online degree program global marketplace. The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) continues to lead the way to encourage Black parents and students to explore and select the best educational options available today to give students from our communities the best quality education inclusive of considering charter schools and other innovative educational models that have proven to be effective in 2011.
Thus, today through the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), America’s Black Press, I am announcing a unique solution and my personal contribution to make this solution available as an option for those who may have dropped out of high school, for whatever reason, to be able to return to high school and to complete their high school education online and receive an accredited high school diploma together with career training, job placement, and college entrance incentives built into this “High School Re-engagement Program.” That’s right, I am going establish and run a national online high school expressly to reclaim, redeem, and encourage the re-engagement of Blacks and Latinos, in particular, back to high school with the mission of high school completion together with career training, job placement, and a direct access to a high quality college education. We will announce the name of this special and focused online high school in the very near future. But, I wanted to let our readers know now that we are serious about providing and participating in the “solution” process concerning this issue. We are serious about institutional building and capacity-building for the future. Education is the key to liberation and economic empowerment.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of Education Online Services Corporation.