Ed note: Today’s story is the second of two in which Brandale look at how the educational system is failing black students, which does not bode well for the younger generation’s future success. Part 1 examined the damage to income and homeownership for the Black middle class.
Based on recently released reports, there is a slim chance that many Black children will be able to join or increase the size of the Black Middle Class.
Becoming lower middle class is the bare minimum for the standard of life that anyone would wish for these children but it is a bar that can be set. The lowest level of income to be considered middle class is around $35,000. In many major cities an annual income of $35,000 per year is barely enough to make ends meet or to feed a family of four.
For a single person, it should be enough to maintain a certain level of self-sufficiency. This lower middle class threshold of $35,000 is a level of income that should be attainable through earning a college diploma. However, since most entry-level positions that pay a wage or a annual salary equivalent to $35,000 per year require at least a college degree, the focus must be placed on education.
Let look at how this develops through the grades…
Around fourth grade is when many students will begin to form the foundation of their education through reading and math. In these two areas, black children and particular black boys have fallen woefully behind. Based on the Call for Change Report, only 11 percent of Black boys in the fourth grade can read at or above grade level. In fact, the average reading test score was almost even to the scores of severely disabled white male children.
Hopefully over time, these children can catch up to their comparts but the mental scarring is occurring now. How can 89 percent of these boys be asked to compete when these scores and possibly their environment has painted them at 8 or 9 years old as dumbest of all of the kids? Will they even want to learn how to read? How many of the kids will be pressed to keep trying and how many will simple give up? In ten years what will this generation of kids be like?
In five years, the Black eight graders will be young adults. Sadly, according to the Call for Change report, only 8 percent of black males are reading at or above an eighth grade level. Eight grade black females scored much better than both black and Hispanic males but still below Hispanic females. Ninety-two percent of this generation is falling woefully behind. The mental scarring seems to be settling in when these children are around 14. In two more years, how many will drop out? How many will continue and push through?
16 Year Olds
However, education is not the only indicator for success. Early signs of work ethic can also be an indicator of success during adulthood.
Typically, many successful people began working and earning a wage around the age of 16. While many teenagers began working by getting jobs, during this past summer the unemployment rate among blacks aged 16 to 18 years old averaged 57 percent. Did many of these children even apply for jobs? Did they have to compete for jobs with their adult counterparts? Or more importantly, did these children even want to work?
Work ethic typically comes from what children are being shown at home. However, according to US Census report on poverty, 43 percent of black children live in homes where neither parent has a full time or year round place of employment.
Children imitate what they see. If the parents and adults in these households are struggling to find full time year round employment, what are they to perceive about their prospects for doing the same? The most recent unemployment rate for all blacks was 17.3 percent. That is, 17.3 percent of Blacks qualify for unemployment benefits, but one has to wonder how many blacks are not working and don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. Who will they want to grow up to be if very few people in their households are working?
It seems by 18, that many black children have made their choice. A few months ago the Schott Foundation released its report on the graduation rate for black boys and the news was almost too difficult to bear. According to the report, out of the 50 states Black boys are the least likely to graduate from high school in 33 of them. In states such as Ohio, D.C., Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida and New York, the high school graduation rate for black boys is less than 41 percent. How do close to 60 percent of these boys expect to gain any level of self-sufficiency without a high school diploma?
With the Black middle class shrinking and Black children failing in schools, if there is going to be an Black middle class in the future it will be a much smaller one. If fact, based on the statistics stated above it may not include but a few black men. But we must push our children to get their education but not just for the purpose of becoming middle class.
Blacks acquiring a decent education and earning a proper living wage should be the concern of all Americans. If American history has shown nothing else, it has shown vividly that as goes the prosperity of blacks, so goes the prosperity of the entire nation. If the core of the black middle class is dying and the prospect for its growth is slowly dying, what does that say about the prosperity of the county as a whole?
Can America survive without a black middle class? Better question, if the Black Middle Class disappears and we become the first race of haves and have nots, how would we sleep at night knowing that 85 percent of our children may be going to bed hungry?
Brandale Randolph is the author of ‘Me & My Broke Neighbor: The 7 things I Learned Just by Living Next to Him‘ available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.