Tavis Smiley Reports Preview

Tavis previews next week’s primetime special: Tavis Smiley Reports, “Too Important to Fail.”

Across the U.S., less than 50% of young Black males will graduate from high school. This is only one of the disturbing statistics of the education crisis facing America today. In the fifth episode of Tavis Smiley Reports—"Too Important to Fail," premiering next Wednesday, September 13—Tavis investigates the root causes of this calamity, as well as what can be done and is being done to reverse this. He traveled the country, speaking to education experts and boys themselves about the challenges they face and how education can be redirected to address their needs.


Tavis: I hope you’ll join us in primetime on Tuesday, September 13th, for the next installment of our series, “Tavis Smiley Reports.” In the next edition we’ll explore the crisis in education and in particular the plight of African American boys.

In some states, less than half of all Black teenage boys graduate from high school, a staggering statistic that impacts all Americans.

Here now, a quick preview of “Too Important to Fail: Saving America’s Boys.”

[Begin video clip.]

“William Wade:” We form major relationships with our young people.

“Tavis:” Principal William Wade is one of Philadelphia’s top educators.

“William Wade:” The focus on each individual child is different than what you see across the country.

“Tavis:” Let me cut in. Where Black boys are concerned specifically, what are the signs for you as a leader, as an educator, as a principal, that teacher X, Y or Z isn’t really ready to deal with this particular contingent?

“William Wade:” Well, the early warning indicators for me, first of all, African American males are very intimidating to some people. Because of the baggage that they bring through the front door, it causes them to act out in classes when they are falling behind academically.

The easiest thing to do is to run a young man out of your classroom or run him out of your school, but the true work, the true gist of our work as educators, how can we work with this young person to improve their learning, which I challenge all my teachers to do.

But some teachers held grudges with these young men because of some baggage that they brought in. They’re victims. They were victims of society and you have to recognize that as an educator and remove those obstacles. Talk to them, build relationships, build trust, offer your assistance, and at the same time, educate them.

“Tavis:” I’ve never heard of students, Black males or others, referred to as victims. I get the point you’re making, but what do you mean by that?

“William Wade:” Well, they’re victims of several things that plague our urban areas. The high crime rate, things that they have witnessed, single parent homes, because of fathers or mothers being incarcerated.

They’re victims of some things that they should not be exposed to, some things that they didn’t have control of. So they are victims of society because they didn’t write it this way.

[End video clip.]

Tavis: So please join us on most of these PBS stations Tuesday, September 13th, at 8:00 p.m., for our look at education in America, “Too Important to Fail.” It’s part of the American graduate initiative from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

You can also visit our website at PBS.org for more information about our companion eBook and DVD.

[Walmart – Save money. Live better.]

“Announcer:” Nationwide Insurance supports Tavis Smiley. With every question and every answer, Nationwide Insurance is proud to join Tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. Nationwide is on your side.

At Toyota, we celebrate differences and the people who make them. Toyota – proud supporter of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

  • Linda Kennedy

    I am very interested in your project and would like to help. I, too, believe no group should be left out. Please contact me so that I may explain how I can be of service to you.

  • Gabby

    Excellent show!
    Once again you have an excellent interview format on content that is really important and you are compassionate!

    Thank you, truth teller!

  • Taisia Grissom

    As teh mother of a smart 6 year old boy I really apprciated this story. I am inspired to make a difference in teh education of our young black men.

  • David


    Thank you for a great, and yet very sobering documentary. I am very aware of the staggering statistics that were mentioned in the show, but I struggled when the one young man who is facing another two years in prison stated that where he is from guys talk about going to jail like other people talk about going to college. That statement spoke volumes and depicts the magnitude of the problem we are really facing with our African-American men and other minorities.

    So, what to do? How do we create a real solution to a very real problem? I think the first step is to acquire whatever funding and support is needed, and begin replicating successful education models like Urban Prep’s and Promise Academy’s in every major city in America. Schedule a meeting with Oprah, Cornell West, and other black leaders and intellectuals to seriously address these issues and present an impactful and actionable solution. You have that ability Tavis! Anyone that cares and is capable for that matter. After all, it is too important for us to fail! Feel free to contact me as well. I will definitely support any initiative to develop a sound plan for combating these issues!

    God Bless,


  • Fred

    If black boys fail because they come from poor families, why is the success rate better for black girls from the same families? If you follow the logic of poverty, students of every race should experience a high failure rate if they come from poor famiiles.

    This is specious. It has more to do with the black culture, lack of fathers in the home and absence of role models. Let’s put the blame where it should be and not just easily dismiss it because of poverty. Poverty is a vicious cycle. Education can break it.

  • Theresa berry

    It is a provent fact, black girls mature faster than black boys. Proverty does not have anything to do with it.
    It is a fact that proverty has a lot to do with success; yet, it has been proven for years; a person can be successful after they have experienced living under proverty conditions. Also a childs up bringing; the nuturig; the motivation, selesteem has to be displayed, and given to the child. This will enable the child male/ female, to believe “the skys’ the limit.”
    THeresa Berry

  • Jim


    The one element that was left out (or at least I didn’t hear it) was the parental part in all of this. I pretty much understand the generational issues that play into the lack of ecpectations and that it is a chicken/egg issue. However, I do believe both issues have to be addressed simultaneously.

    One other comment that I have and I have been saying this to everyone that would listen for years. When I was a kid in small town Arizona, when the local policeman found you with beer or some other illicit product, he/she would take you to your parents for discipline. It is the failure of the parental/law enforcement relationaship that is at the base of this response by law enforcement of putting the youngster in the Juvenile Justice System. The officers have no confidience in the parental discipline response. This has develped from solely a city problem to a small town problem as well as most officers transfer around in that profession. They carry that response with them.

    Other than that, great show and I can agree with a great deal of your premise.

Last modified: September 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm