We Must Educate All Our Young Men
America can't reclaim its standing as a global leader unless young men of color also get a shot at academic success.
Since this nation was founded more than two centuries ago, there has been nearly constant tension between tradition and evolution. Yet over the years, from the Civil War to the civil rights movement, the forces of progress have haltingly advanced, and continue to do so today. After all, just 50 years ago businesses still hung signs that screamed, "For Whites Only," universities openly discriminated and the government struggled mightily to suppress the memory of "separate but equal."
There's no doubt that our country has come a long way. But few would argue that our progress is complete, and it continues to mask a deeper dysfunction of the status quo.
There is an education crisis facing young men of color. It's not on the front page of the newspaper. People aren't organizing on Facebook or Twitter. But it's out there, and if we fail to address this crisis together, the education level of the entire American work force will decline for the first time in our history.
President Obama has challenged our nation to reclaim its position as the world leader in college degrees, and young men of color are the key to achieving this goal. In the past, when a president called on us to act for the sake of our shared future, we responded. We built warplanes and rocket ships. We invested in science and the arts. We achieved prosperity unparalleled in human history.
Today, young men of color face a challenge that lends itself much more toward apathy than activism. Many young men of color are not pushed to their limits by rigorous coursework in high school. Many find themselves adrift at large universities without organized support systems. And some are forced to choose between personal obligations and academic responsibilities.