9 Biggest Lies About Black Males and Academic Success

The 2014 Education Summit at Morehouse College looked at ways to improve outcomes for black males, but first exposed the myths and flaws in the system.


2014 Black Male Summit at Morehouse College


Editor's note: This weekend, Morehouse College hosted the inaugural summit in a White House-sponsored series of events aimed at addressing educational outcomes for African-American students. The Morehouse event, called the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans: Addressing the Socio-Cultural Factors Impacting the Academic Achievement and Development of African American Males, focused on the future of African-American men.

One of the featured speakers was Ivory Toldson, who is deputy director of White House Initiatives on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as a frequent contributor to The Root.

His Saturday speech to the conference, “The State of African American Education Today,” is reprinted here.

The state: Why can’t you be more like private schools?

Public school: What do you mean?

The state: I mean their kids are learning, well-behaved and go on to do great things when they finish school. Your kids don’t seem to be learning anything.

Public school: OK, I’ll see what I can do.

(After studying private schools) Public school: I got it! We will extend the lunch period and enhance physical education. We believe that happy learners are the best learners. We will de-emphasize learning drills and focus on activities that enrich our students’ learning experience. We will have them maintain gardens, engage in creative writing and participate in exercises that spur critical-thinking skills and instill a sense of agency. 

Teachers will be encouraged to meet students where they are, but also set high expectations. Their first priority will be to set an atmosphere of care and respect. We will also locate every alumnus who has done anything positive with their lives and have them speak to our students.

We are also going to stop teaching to the test. We will work with scholars in our network to develop our own diagnostics, but we will essentially ignore the results of any state assessment. And we will never reveal any assessment scores to our students, because that leaves them vulnerable to low self-esteem. We will use the scores for internal purposes, only to enhance our curriculum—the scores of our tests, that is, not the ones that you’ve developed. No offense.