While reading an issue of Essence recently, I was touched by an interview the magazine did with its former editor Susan L. Taylor. The topic of the interview was mentoring and why the former editor had become so passionate about the activity. One of the things that stuck out to me was when Taylor stated, “Enough is enough” after revealing that 58 percent of Black fourth graders are functionally illiterate.
I had to do a double take on that particular passage, because I couldn’t believe that the percentage was so high, but then I realized that it was probably true.
I immediately took to my Twitter and Facebook to alert all of my followers and friends about this grim statistic which, I like Susan L. Taylor, saw as a call to action. I later used the percentage to create a topic on a message board which led me to the finding that the statistic was potentially worse than what was cited by Taylor.
According to data by the National Kids Count Program 85 percent of Black fourth graders scored below proficient reading levels in 2009 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). I am mindful of the fact that statistics can be shaped, but I find these numbers very troubling.
When Taylor said “enough is enough” those words resonated with me. As a history education student, I plan on doing my part to change those percentages but I cannot do it alone. Others in the Black community and, in particular, Black college students must also declare that “enough is enough.”
Jawanza Kunjufu, Ph.D., believes that all Black baccalaureates should dedicate a year to teaching, and I fully agree. It’s also time that Black men step up to the plate and enter the education field in droves. We simply cannot have another generation of Black students, who do not see Black men in their classrooms.
Black men make up less than 1 percent of educators in this country, and that simply has to change. Many education programs at colleges around the country are offering Black men full scholarships to major in education, and Black men it is time to take up these offers. Our students need us and especially our young Black males.
I hope that the reality that between 58 and 85 percent of Black fourth graders are functionally illiterate stirs the Black community to action. I hope that such a reality encourages more Black college graduates to want to go into the classroom, if only for a year ; and that Black men across the country consider education a worthwhile career. As Susan L. Taylor stated, “enough is enough.”
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