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Episode Overview

“Too Important to Fail” examines one of the most disturbing aspects of the education crisis facing America today — the increased dropout rate among teenagers, specifically among Black teenage males. In the fifth installment of Tavis Smiley Reports, Tavis investigates the root causes of this calamity, as well as what can be done and is being done to reverse this. Behind every catch phrase and every statistic is a young person whose future will be lost if something is not done immediately to change this reality.

In many states, fewer than 50% of young Black males graduate from high school. Low graduation rates combined with high rates of placement in special education classes and disproportionate use of suspension and expulsion add up to a crisis point for young Black males on the brink of adulthood.

“As we saw recently in the U.K., an entire society suffers when one part of a population is ignored,” Tavis says. “A new focus on our Black boys is a renewed focus on America.”

Many experts point to generational poverty, the pressure on single parent households, continued unemployment, the lack of positive male role models in schools, crime, drugs, gangs and the condition of many urban schools that aid in this alarming dropout rate. Research also supports that in too many traditional classrooms, particularly where teachers are asked to handle large classes, active boys are seen as disciplinary problems and treated accordingly. And teacher expectations are often lower for boys who seem less focused. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that boys will fail when teachers expect them to do so.

In “Too Important to Fail,” Tavis travels across the country, speaking to education experts, as well as to the boys themselves about the challenges they face and how education can be redirected to address their needs. He profiles individuals who are making a difference in the lives of young Black males and looks at the schools that are best serving them.

For example, Tavis talks with Dr. Alfred Tatum who heads up a literacy program in Chicago and is one of many educators grappling with how to reverse the alarming dropout rate. He also sits down with noted author and educational consultant Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu who shares how the country’s response would be more immediate had this been a crisis involving white boys.

“…if 53% was the dropout for white males, it would be unacceptable; if 41% of their children were being placed in special education, that would be a major crisis,” says Dr. Kunjufu. “If only 20% of their boys were proficient in reading in eighth grade, that would be a crisis. If only 2.5% of white males ever earned a college degree, that would be a major crisis in America.”

  • Karen

    Wow. I have three and one daughter. I left a city I loved and grew up in and moved to the suburbs so that my children would have success while growing up. Not have to worry about the conditions that plague the inner city. One of my sons went on to receive an athletic scholarship to a prestigious college and my daughter is in her second year at an ivy league university. I’m a single black mother and have a 10 year old son at home. I so wish I could bring him back to the city to grow up but the same reasons I left 18yrs ago have only multiplied. I’ll be sure to tune in.

  • Lyndera Wiliams

    Glad this issue is being addressed on a larger platform and there are solutions being implemented to help our black young boys. We are soon to launch a program in the Chicago-Roseland area to help our black males succeed as well. Keep us in your prayers as we assist our boys…

  • Todney Harris

    In order for student achievement to function at the optimal level, parental involvement must take place! Students across America perform at their highest level when parents offer their encouragement, love and support for any and all educational activities that students of the modern world will encounter. Let me be clear: all parents must be involved in the educational careers of their children. I will state specific ways in which parents must be involved in order to ensure success:

    A) Parents need to know how to support their children’s learning. In order to learn their children’s learning styles, parents must make school personnel partners instead of adversaries.

    B) Parents must ensure that the skills learned in a classroom setting are practices and mastered in the home.
    C) Parents must ensure that all assignments and projects are completed.

    D) Parents must provide any and all educational materials that are necessary for the success of a child.

    Skills that are a requirement of the modern world aren’t going to just magically materialize. If parents do not take a personal stake in what is occurring educationally, how can parents expect to achieve results?

  • Doreen Lewis

    As a veteran teacher and a parent I would like to say make the school and teachers your friends and work with them but in some cases you are going to become adversaries if you truly want to improve your child’s chances at success. Some principals will not be moved, they have adopted a stance that suits them and not the children they serve .They are faithful to the programs being pushed by the education board and they will not be losing their jobs over children.Teachers will tell you the same.Veteran teachers will insist that they would not bring their dogs to the school where they teach ,but they will allow nothing to interfere with their pension.

  • Deborah J. Steele

    Greetings: To My Dearest Tavis,

    “Thanks” for sharing this information with us, and for bringing this “very important” issue to our attention! … … I will be sure to watch this program presentation, and I will also, forward my comments as well! … Blessings Always, “Your Watchful & Listening Angel in Atlanta” – Ms. Deborah J. Steele – 9/07/11 – AM

  • Sonya Porter

    LUSU – Let Us Save Us!!! The calvary is not coming black people. When are we going to be outraged that our young men are on a path to nowhere? When are we going to be sick and tired about what is not getting done and start doing something? When are we going to be downright disgusted that not only our black males, but our black children, male and female are graduating high school with 8th grade skill levels. When are we as a people going to do something about what is going on within our communities and schools, other than complaining. How many welfare, yes I said it, welfare mothers are in the schools at least weekly checking on their child’s education? If you’re not working how about spending a little time in your child’s school helping out. I’m not just getting on the welfare mothers, but since they are not working, they may have more time to help out. All of us working or non-working parents need to be way more involved in our children’s education. How can we think that someone else is going to see to it that our children are going to get what they need, if we are not there demanding it. How many even know their child’s teacher’s name, not to mention the principal’s or lets go a little farther the superintendent’s name? We need to be the change that we want to see. Let’s not wait for the calvary. Because I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but the calvary, it ain’t comin! Let Us Save Us. We can do this.

  • Garry T Garvin

    I’m and educator and I sick of what is going on now so I put myself on hold to become involve in the children education in America I’m from Philadelphia, Pa went to College on a Basketball Scholarship but give it up because I transfer to another University to get a better education at that school this was done in the early seventy there where know jobs doing that time so I join he United States Army done thirty Years and have no regrets at all. Marry to and Educated Wife with Three degrees and have two children who finish College and move on with there lives, my parents where not rich but I did have a mother and father figure there to help, neither one of them were high school graduate until my Dad complete his GED and went on to College back in the sixties. Both my parents are gone now but when I see my city of Botherly Love make so many mistake of our children I cry, so now its my time to do my part I’m not rich but I have made it my worth while to live comfortable the rest of my life and then some. My kids will be well off when I die, so before that I will make sure that the kids I help get a full eduaction ride before I die. Life is good and I been all over the world its nice and beauitful when you want R&R, but the real world is here in America we are faling has human bring and worry about nothing we need to stop making excuses and work has a team I’m there for the kids and make sure it happen not just my home town all over America I will be traveling just like Tavis Smiley doing and helping out.My expertise is Math, Science and History, Business, my Wife is English, History,Economics

    Thank You
    Garry T. Garvin

  • DAVID SMITH

    As a father of three sons and the grandfather on one grandson I find this story SAD because my daughter is a teacher and I think see would agree with this story.I think the school system in AMERICA can’t do to much with the number of our BLACK BOYS dropping out of school if the PARENTS don’t start teaching their kids at home before the kids start school.I think if the teacher and parents should work together to let the child know that he will do better in school by doing his home work,coming to school on time and have RESPECT for the parents,teachers and people in the community make sure they respect the law of the land, we in the BLACK community can slow down the number of BLACK BOYS that dropout of school and make it a lie what some people in the white community believe that BLACK BOYS can’t be productive in the world we live in today.

  • David Walker

    How can I get involved and help out with this crisis, what can I do as a single black man.

  • hilda

    It’s very sad and very true. It affects many minority children. I live in the suburbs and my son attended public school. He was first sent to the alternative school in seventh grade for an altercation durind lunch. The alternative school introduced my son to older kids and kids that were also treated like bad boys. My son identified with them because I was a singlemom as well. At some point nothing I said or did matter. The kids start listening to eachother instead of their parents. Results are sad.

  • Jack Zittere

    Dear Tavis:: Being part black and german i have rode the fence all my life..Playing basketball into the collegate level made me more aware of the issue. Our culture does not revere education,more the bling,rap and hip hop..Gill Scott Heron had a message to the messengers.., to help the culture…no answer…The pain when he died alone on drugs… All the replys above ring the same tone..Sonya,Gary and Karen speak to self reliance…Doreen,Todney and David embrace parent involvement with teacher support.! The HOME. My parents loved art,science,math, nature and thier elders…To children…..the answer is a parent.

  • Laar Delano Coleman

    The schools are merely part of the problem, and a small part. The person, the home, the family, the peers, the neighborhood, the church (probably the lack thereof), the television, video, radio, movies, magazines, newspapers, and the school are factors. Principally, it is the loss of values is pervasive. Knowledge to the peoplw, love for the people, faith in the people are the only cures.

  • Phil Andrews

    Growing up in the inner city was just as tough during my youth, many of my friends I grew up with turned to a life of crime and dropped out of school. I was lucky to have some great individuals in my life during my youth. There values were more influential than the street. We need more adults to step up to plate and give their time and guidance as mentors. Particularly men of African American descent, many of us have risen from similar circumstances and should understand the plight and do something about the situation. Look at the success and duplicate them, it is not enough to look at the failures. I once heard a speaker say that “we should mentor one youth outside of our own family”, and that is a positive start when we look at the number of individuals in our community not engaged in some form of mentoring. That is why I love the mantra of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. “What they see is what they”ll be”!

  • Joy Pleasant

    This article is alarming and should not be taken lightly…..it is a crisis today. I applaud Todney Harris address on student achievement = parent involvement as the best approach. I’m also glad that as a community there’s efforts being taken to help. I’m not going to say that we’re glad someones starting to do something about this because we are the community, the parent’s. and the leader’s in our children’s eye’s, future’s, and education.

  • MTYRUCK

    40 yhears ago I was an educational administrator. I left that position and the entire educational business because I was overwhelmed and extremely tired of fighting the Black Power Movement. BLACK PRIDE is what I was pusihing and what I demanded we be all about. The militants massacred me and I moved on. We lost our since of direction and our condtrol when we succumbed to a lot of misguided young people who are now in condtrol and look where it has placed us. The young Hip-Hop culture has become our identity. The entertainment and atheletics cultures are our most visible and successful mainstays and what poor examples they are with all the vulgarlity and violence they exhibit. We who set at the lunch counters and marched in the parades, the ones who opened up the doors have now been displaced by kour children who are something like the something they ain’t suppose to be. Our children who don’t know and could care less have become the benefactors of all that came before and when the doors of exclusion were finally broken down and look what they had to offer.

  • Danielle

    I am not challenging what is being said. I am just curious as to where I can find these actual statistics. I am an African American teacher. I know that male students from our race can find these statisitcs discourgaging. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the dropout rate has improved tremendously for African American males has improved. The drop out rate in 2009 was 10.6% for African American males. Is this not comparable? Somebody please help me understand.

  • Tamika Thompson

    Thank you for your inquiry, Danielle. Please be sure to read our fact sheet — http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/too-important-to-fail/fact-sheet-outcomes-for-young-black-men/ — that corresponds to the “Too Important to Fail” episode, which airs tomorrow night. Below the summary of statistics on the page, you will find a list of sources as well as clickable reports and documents for further reading.

    ~”Tavis Smiley” staff

  • umbrarchist

    So how is it that we can’t create something as simple as a National Recommended Reading List? We cannot control what kind of teachers individual kids get. They are all assured of getting mediocre or bad teachers some times. It is just the luck of the draw. But why can’t we compile a list of excellent books classified by age and subject so kids don’t have to wade through the majority of junk.

    I could have read this in high school but I never heard of it until last year.

    The Tyranny of Words (1938) by Stuart Chase
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9H1StY1nU8

    Double-entry accounting is 700 years old. Why isn’t it mandatory in all of our schools?

    The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh From the Lemonade Stand
    http://www.fool.com/personal-finance/general/2006/10/18/foolish-book-review-quotthe-accounting-gamequot.aspx

    And then there is more stuff available and some of it free:

    Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics, by Stan Gibilisco
    http://www.mhprofessional.com/product.php?isbn=0071459332

    Solve Elec: draw and analyze electrical circuits
    http://www.physicsbox.com/indexsolveelec2en.html

    Celestia: space simulation of the universe in 3D
    http://www.shatters.net/celestia/

    Black Man’s Burden by Mack Reynolds
    http://www.feedbooks.com/book/4826/black-man-s-burden

    All Day September by Roger Kuykendall
    http://www.feedbooks.com/book/2295/all-day-september

    There Will Be School Tomorrow, by V. E. Thiessen
    http://www.feedbooks.com/userbook/11643.pdf

  • Marianne

    Hello,

    I am a teacher at a large urban school. If you know any teenagers, please pay attention to them. Please listen to them. Most importantly, please help them find a way to conntect to their future so they can see a reason to be at school and be successful at what they do. Teenagers need our help. I think that maybe the population ignores them too much.

  • Sean Traba

    Perhaps it’s because our country spends all it’s time and money on war and and completely ignores improving our health care and educational systems. Thanks oil, defense and financial industries for destroying America! You guys rock!

  • andre

    i got the entire family together to watch too important to fail with my four boys
    and it wasnt airing in tampa via brighthouse cable programming
    highly dissappointed . where can i few??

  • sabjai

    This was a powerful presentation. I am writing my dissertation right now on this topic, speaking with fathers and mentors of Black boys on America’s educational system. Like Dr. Tatum, I’m choosing to be involved and do my part with this population in a proactive way. I teach reading in elementary school and the majority of my students are Black boys. Once they understand that they are important and they have something to offer, they WANT to learn! The key is having high expectations in the beginning and not accepting mediocracy in any form. They are not mediocre and their work must not be mediocre. I have been teaching for almost 20 years and theyhave never failed to live up to those expectations.

  • Keith Johnson

    I think Tavis did a wonderful job in giving this subject the national attention that it deserves. One point that I would like to address is that the “labeling” of our Black boys is not an urban only phenomenon.
    My wife and I raised my son in the suburbs of Philadelphia,(Cherry Hill, NJ) and the Black boys there are all treated the same way. They are either labled, “slow learners” or said to have “disciplinary” problems. This leads to either special education classes or alternative schools for problem kids. Many African American parents either accepted that treatment or just did not know how the game was being played!
    This is an epidemic in the suburbs of America, specifically those suburbs that have only a few African American residents.
    My wife and I chose to fight the school system,the Principal, and the Superintendent. We stayed involved and soon were on a first name basis with the Superintendent.
    We, as parents, must be vigilant and participate in the PTA and other school organizations and tell the authorities what is happening.
    I would like Tavis to do an expose on the trials and tribulations of Black boys in the suburbs as well. They are under attack across the country!
    One last comment, Our community must start to value EDUCATION over sports and entertainment. We spend too much time and energy trying to be the next “Super star athlete” or “Rap Star”!

  • Rhea Jackson

    Education always starts at home, sadly, many have not been afforded in their homes to have this baton passed down to them for several reasons, parents who weren’t educated, or survivors of addiction, Vietnam war after affects etc, so it takes caring individuals from all walks of life and races to mend the low self -esteem and discouragement so many of our children suffer from. You can’t excel in education if you feel you lack equal intelligence to accomplish what other peers have. Men and Women in the African American american community must learn to look beyond their level of class, economic, and educational differences and realize that if we are not building up the fragile lives before us, then we have truly missed the mark of the high calling which is truly called in ChristJesus. In my life I have dedicated 20 years to both male and female juvenile offenders to help empower them personally. It was a sacrifice, but in the end it was worth it, it motivated my daughter to volunteer in her life. Love is a verb and how sad that so many of us miss that. Anyone can complain; until you reach inside of yourselves to extend what God has granted you, for those who have not been as fortunate, then you will never really fulfill the mission with your brothers and your sisters. The next time you meet a young beautiful black individual who shares their dreams, remember to encourage them, share information with them so they can excel.

  • Annie Webb

    I just watched my upteenth program on problems with our public education. I’m a former educator and retired military officer. There are no simple solutions to the current education system, but relying on parents to solve the problem tells me that there are people who are not the product of many poor urban areas. Often, there are no parents or they are addicted to various substances. I’m the product of that type of home environment during my early school years. What saved me? A great elementary school with teachers who built all of our self-esteem. When I moved to NYC, I was blessed to find the same type teachers. With that foundation and access to CUNY scholarship, I couldn’t fail. Give our children excellent, caring teachers and schools that are well equipped, will overcome a great deal of the failures that now exist.

  • Julie V.

    I was very interested in the episode. I work for a large educational publishing company that sells a variety of products to schools and districts (including reading/writing program from Dr. Tatum) and am familiar with much of what was presented in the program. Intervention of the struggling students is key and help is needed to create a positive home and school connection. Mentors also play a critical role. Thank you for this fine report and for all the educators that dedicate themselves to students!

  • Chris

    I have made the same comment in different forums and will continue to say the same thing until somebody opens their eyes and dares to be honest.

    There are many issues that plague the Black community and they are all inextricably bound: a plantation mentality, dishonesty about issues that destroy us, low standards or expectations, dysfunctional families, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, poor education, poverty, a lack of reverence for our history, poor relationships, a lack of respect for each other, economic enslavement, jealousy of those who seem to be successful, a lack of trust, racism, sexism, and yes, a sense of entitlement.

    Allow me to touch upon just a few of these issues. I work in a school and there is no place where the plantation mentality is more evident. I am sick and tired of parents leaving the education of their children in the hands of those who think they are inferior. Our children are too often exposed to teachers and administrators who are certified, but not qualified. There are too many teachers and administrators who will not even say “Good morning” to a Black person but will have the audacity to walk into a classroom and “teach” Black and Latino children. Most parents in my school will believe and accept anything a Caucasian person says about their child. If they grin in your face and tell you that your child belongs in Special Education, no problem! (I work in Special Education and about 80% of those children don’t belong there!) If there are no Black authors on the required reading list, no problem! Not one parent will question it. If the principal is Caucasian, the vice principal is Caucasian, the office manager is Caucasian, the nurse is Caucasian, and most of the teachers are Caucasian, no problem! Not one parent will demand better for their children. Make no mistake about it, lack of role models affects self-esteem, self worth, and academic achievement. We need to get our heads out of the sand and stop pretending that race doesn’t matter and that racism no longer exists. With respect to academic achievement, we always want to talk about poverty because it is a word that people are more comfortable with.

    Many public schools today are cesspools of mediocrity, plagued with indifference and complacency.
    Notice I used the word “today”. I am over forty and when I attended public schools in the Bronx, I understood that education was extremely important. Parents were involved, teachers did not play, and administrators understood that children were our future. I was also blessed to be raised at time when people understood the importance of community. If you were playing outside after school, a neighbor would ask you if your homework was finished. Even the crossing guards were concerned about your welfare.

    Today, you have to put out an APB to get some of these parents involved in the school! They are too busy trying to acquire the latest gadget, too busy getting their hair done, too busy getting their nails done, too busy being obsessed with the latest fashions, and too busy flipping through the 400 channels they now have available.

    Just for the record, I have worked with every type of child out there, i.e., deaf, hearing, half blind, crippled, children with ADD, Down’s Syndrome, Usher Syndrome, Charge Syndrome, children who are autistic, you name it. There is no child that is unteachable and I have high expectations of everyone who crosses my path.

    Last year I worked one-on-one with a student who was repeating the third grade and could not read, write, or do math! This child was not even familiar with basic letter sounds. There was nothing wrong with this child except for the fact that he had been neglected for years and passed through a school system that does not care whether an African-American child can read. I worked with this child for one school year in the Department of Special Education. This child can now read, write, do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and fractions. What were all these people doing before I got to him? Why is he repeating the third grade if he can’t read? Where was dad, mom, auntie, cousin, Big Momma, neighbor, concerned citizen, teacher, librarian, and administrator? This is nothing less than criminal!

    Education starts at home NOT in the classroom. It is the responsibility of Black people not only to educate but be advocates for their children. I’m seeing too many children who are not even familiar with phonetics in the third grade! That means they can’t read or write. I’m sorry but there IS no excuse. Education should be taken seriously at the pre-school level. Turn off the television, stop allowing your kids to play video games all day long, make sure they have good nutrution and adequate rest, stop thinking it’s cute for your child to be disrespectful and disruptive in school, stop teaching your child that it is O.K. to be late for school everyday because they will carry that nonsense into adulthood, make sure they are READING everyday without fail, make sure homework is being done before they are rewarded with leisure time, learn something about the relationship between artistic endeavors, brain development, and academic achievement, stop blaming others for what you are not doing at home, learn about birth control and stop having three, four, five babies when you knew you couldn’t afford or couldn’t parent the first one! In short, raise your standards.

    ABUSE: The Black community will continue to be dysfunctional if we are not honest about how we treat our children and each other. Discipline does not mean beating your child with anything you can find, using them as a punching bag, or degrading them verbally. I’m not saying let your child get away with murder or allow them to do whatever they want. You can punish your child without abusing them or making them feel worthless. Abused children gravitate toward poor choices and abusive relationships.

    HISTORY: Don’t wait until February to teach your child something about their history. Knowledge of history is also tied to self-esteem, self worth, and academic achievement. Parents need to know what is being taught in school about Black people. (And Martin Luther King is not the only Black person that ever lived!) Your child should know something about Black scientists, doctors, mathematicians, artists, writers, people who fought for the many privileges they have today, the motherland, etc.

    PLEASE NOTE: Finally, I must mention something that most parents are not aware of. The public school system is playing musical chairs with our children and treating them like cattle. If the administrators and teachers don’t feel that a child can pass the standardized tests, their parents are being encouraged to move on to another school. It’s no longer about the child’s welfare. It’s all about passing the test. Since their jobs now depend on performance with respect to standardized tests, administrators will do anything to come out smelling like a rose. Children are even being given waivers so they don’t have to take these standardized tests! In other words, cheating is not only legal, it is the norm rather than the exception. Even worse, the employees who dare to say something about it are being harassed, transferred, or fired.

  • Adrienne

    I truly believe that if these children have a parent who is more interested in school work than a welfare check, they would, at the very least, graduate high school. Being an educator myself, I see many parents who will move there children to whatever state has a biggest welfare check . I see parents of children, not only “African American” but a lot of West Indian, let their children be the head of their household because they cannot be bothered “keeping tabs” on them. They claim to be busy with their other five children. My question is to them is “Why did you have five children?” And every now and then I get an answer like “Well after five kids the state gives me a house.” I am at a loss for words. The only way we will be able to get through to this other 46% is to have one adult for every five students. And even that may not work.

  • MTG

    I thought that the report itself about the state of our black youth was disturbing, but apparently there are more disturbing issues like the grammar and spelling of most of these comments on these blogs – absolutely atrocious! Some people writing them even claim to be educators or school officials themselves!

    Regarding the report, Doreen Lewis brought up one understated issue contributing to the education crisis among our black youth; the politics and business of education. Education is not about education at all particularly in predominantly underprivileged minority schools. Its about money. It about pensions. If even a few of our educators only care about their retirement, then you can be damn sure this problem will thrive. Teachers and counselors who stick to board curriculum guidelines, but send their kids to the best public or private schools. Similarly, the problem of jealousy among school officials. Shamefully, some black school officials whose sole purpose in life is to sabotage gifted black achievers for their own personal gain or satisfaction. The mindset being “if I didn’t make it, then you won’t either.” There are so many other understated issues I will discuss. To be continued……

  • Katherine

    WOW yet another important area we need to be addressing and we are so busy with the lives of people who want to live public, reality TV, help us God be better stewards of what you have intrusted to us. The children, thank you, thank you, thank you for helping the people to wake up brother Tavis. I direct my energy to the rappers of our time who have no need to rap about this weak area in the inner city with the poor and oppressed. Why not sing about the conditions of the school system appose to the nakedness of our minds. Sex sells yes I know but what about the children?? Oh God, when will we realize the universe is conspiring for our good. when ??

  • Kathy

    Excellent program! I hope it will soon be available by streaming video and be widely marketed. In our area it didn’t start until 11PM, and frankly, I think a lot of people would not be able to watch it that late or even know it was on. I hope it gets shown often and at varying times. I was very impressed with the young men who were interviewed and I hope they all realize their dreams. To all of the role models, helpers and professionals who are educating and encouraging young people, please know that you are admired and appreciated.

  • Sanford Jeames

    I watched the program last evening about the plight of young black boys and it reminded me of an alarming statistic about the educational system we now have in America. It would appear that this program highlighted the true benefits of young black males needed to be exposed to more positive role models and black men who are in positions of power. It dawned on me that perhaps the most effective environment for our young black males would be one of segregated atmospheres. In my graduate thesis, I did an analysis of the plight of HBCUs and it is quite apparent that integration has significantly affected the education of young black males due to assimilation. I liked the program and was pleased to see the attention paid to this topic. One thing that was missing however, is an overview of the plight of young black males in RURAL environment. The program did a great job of highlighting these urban youth with many more resources, but what about the rural black males? I grew up in a rural town in Alabama and there was very few resources such as the Urban Academy and even the Oakland School. Rural blacks are in dire situations and something needs to be done here as well.

  • purpledot

    As a retired school principal from very diverse communities, thank you for presenting this series to the American public from the views of students, teachers, parents and their administrators. Your interviews were masterful as, I believe, you asked and received honest and insightful questions and answers. Young men and boys of color struggle in disproportionate waves only because many schools are not paying attention to the educational research of what works for them. The work can be exhausting, but when, in neighborhood public schools, change is led with urgency, young men are successful in ways that last. Observing and experiencing justice and fairness on a consistent basis in their classroom and school is very powerful. Academic and social determination grows quickly when adults (faculty and mentors) nurture learning every hour of every school day with very high expectations. I have been fortunate to witness this kind of “turnaround” on behalf of many young, black men. Your series reflects and symbolizes the efforts at work in many classrooms. As citizens, we must pay deep and abiding attention to our black young men and boys in “disproportionate ways!.”

    Thank you so much for your hard work on this issue. It is very much appreciated.

  • Tamika Thompson

    Thank you for your inquiry, Andre. The entire episode is now available online – http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/too-important-to-fail/ – and the DVD is available for purchase at shopPBS.org – http://www.shoppbs.org/family/index.jsp?categoryId=10896028.

    ~”Tavis Smiley” staff

  • Renee Miller

    I hear everyone saying how it starts with parents. I agree, but we must also consider that parents today are not the parents of the 50′s and 60′s where mom stayed at home and dad brought home the bacon. Today parents are having to work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet; which is leaving children alone to fiqure life/school out for themselves or parents have real struggles as RHEA JACKSON pointed out in earlier comments. My challenge to society as a whole is: TO NOT IGNORE A CHILD OR LABEL THEM JUST BECAUSE THEY DIDNT GET WHAT THEY NEEDED AT HOME….CAN WE PLEASE SHOW THESE KIDS SOME LOVE AND DO OUR PART TO ENHANCE THEIR LIVES….It seems our educators throw kids away because they didnt have a educational environment at home. The schools CATER more to the highest achieving students and find reasons to get rid of underachieving students…I HAVE ALWAYS HAD THE PHILOSOPHY THAT IF YOU WANT TO EXAMINE HOW GREAT AN EDUCATOR YOU ARE; then grab a child who doesnt see their worth and mentor them. If you can reach that child then YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO TEACH AND TEACHING SHOULD REACH FAR BEYOND THE CLASSROOM. I truly believe that you must be called to teach because teaching is more that going to college and saying that you want to be a teacher. Teaching is a gift given by God for those who care more about others than they do about themself. Great job Tavis. I wish you would come to our school in Albion, Michigan a small town of about (8,000 population) where there use to be several schools but because of budget cuts we are down from a class B high school to a class C/D and most of the black males have either dropped out or cant finish because they cant pass the standardized test. ALBION IS LISTED AS ONE OF THE TOP FAILING SCHOOLS IN MICHIGAN AND IS BEING THREATENED TO BE TAKEN OVER BY THE STATE….SAD…SAD …SAD

  • Karen E. Dabney

    I agree, Renee. TEACHING IS AN ART!

  • Robert Abbott

    I am a white forty-something year old man and I am a mentor to several inner-city boys (young men) in Norfolk. I have been doing this for years. The school system here is so out of touch with the reality of how to best reach boys. I know several in high school who cannot read. All of the boys are from single parent homes, public housing, high crime neighborhoods and have witnessed things no child shoud ever see. One person should never mentor to so many kids at once. It is overwhelming, financially, emotionally and physically. But I was tired of everyone (including myself) just talking about the problems. Your show gives me hope. I hope that the graduates of those charter schools will pay it forward and purhaps this cycle will be broken. It is critical for the whole country, all of us.

  • lin

    Hello Mr Tavis Thank you so much for having a show on this topic!!! Coming from one school district in the pittsburgh, pa area, we were blessed, there werethree of us, I had a brother that could look at the african american male teachers and could see possibilites out there. Also my brother and I at our high school level we also had an african american male history teacher! I am writing to say your program did strike this type of a conversation in our home about having an african american man role to look for my now two sons.
    Conversations within the family started after the program closed, my husband or children did not have 1 african american male teacher in their school years!!! Also,to hear the young men in the program say that some teachers implied that they will never be accomplished or be anything. I have heard that from a number of african american people that I have spoken with when talking about school years. For some it fueled and some was lead by that word spoken over them.
    In additon, I salute the schools, the african american males that have implemented in their lives that the challenge of seeking and mentoring your black african american men is number one in their lives. I hope others who are thinking that teaching is what they are contemplating will take the challenge and be fulfilled with teaching and the rewards will be seeing young males pushed themselves because they had someone to talk to and be encouraged by. I pray one day the pay will match what a resposiblity it is to want to have a potential for a teacher or a leader in the communites. Thank you for your time!!1

    Thank you for your prgramming awareness for necessary issues in our lives!!!

Last modified: August 25, 2011 at 12:23 am
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