The Nation's Pulse

Why Young Black Males Are Not Graduating High School

Judge Walker's "facts" are not holding up.

By 8.23.10

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A new report from the Schott Foundation reveals that only 47 percent of black male students earn a high school diploma on time. Ironically, this report came out shortly after Judge Vaughn Walker ruled regarding Proposition 8 in California. If the statements on which Judge Walker based his ruling are "facts," how do we explain what is happening educationally to boys in the black community where a large majority are growing up without fathers?

Nancy Pearcey, in an article on American Thinker, identified certain "facts that Judge Walker claims are now established by the 'evidence' presented in his courtroom." Those "facts" presumably will be deemed as "truth" far beyond the courtroom. Among those "facts," the following three are especially relevant for young black boys' futures:

• "Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage."

• "The gender of a child's parent is not a factor in a child's adjustment."

• "Having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted."

Those three general false principles that Judge Walker supposedly established in his arguments in favor of so-called "same-sex marriage" are equally faulty when applied to the more than 40 percent of today's children who are born to single mothers. They are doubly relevant when the majority of those children are black.

Here are some irrefutable facts that Judge Walker and his ilk need to ponder.

Poverty: When it comes to poverty, a contributing factor for dropping out of school, the majority are single parents -- 37 percent of single moms and 17.5 percent of single dads are in poverty, whereas only 6.7 percent of married couples are in poverty. Put in the simplest possible terms, the poverty rate of single mothers with children is five times higher than the rate for married couples with children, and the rate for single fathers is more than two-and-a-half times the married-couple rate. Even worse, now the poor children in single parent households constitute almost two-thirds of all poor children.

Our Beverly LaHaye Institute analysis of census data shows that if the family structure of the population had been the same in 2007 as it was in 1972, the poverty rate for all families would be lower today. Instead of increasing from 11.8 percent in 1972 to 15 percent in 2007, it would have been 10.7 in 2007. Thus, poverty and fatherless families are inextricably linked. So are certain other negative consequences for children -- we have forty years of social science data detailing the higher frequency of adverse child development outcomes for children raised in single-mother households.

Bad Schools: While plenty of poor children excel in school, other factors contribute to the poor educational outcomes for black boys, including bad schools in minority areas. The District of Columbia spends more per pupil than almost any other school district in the nation -- close to $25,000 per child -- on par with tuition at the exclusive Sidwell Friends private school the Obama girls attend. Yet, the D.C. schools consistently rank among the poorest in the nation, with run-down facilities and bloated central management. Both New York and New Jersey also spend huge sums on education -- $13,780 annually per pupil. A Fordham Foundation report found that only eight states had achieved "moderate" success in the past fifteen years in improving poor and minority students' scores on reading, mathematics, and science. Only seven to eight percent of black 9th graders are at or above the proficient level in science and math.

Family Breakdown: Yes, poverty and poor schools are partly to blame, but black children suffer disproportionately because of family breakdown. White and Asian parents are more likely than black or Hispanic parents to read to their children (white, 68 percent; Asian, 66 percent; black, 50 percent; and Hispanic, 45 percent). Again, it comes as no surprise that children are read to more often in two-parent families than in single-parent homes (62 percent in two-parent homes compared to 53 percent in single-parent homes).

At some point, we will have to come to grips with the fact that a very large percentage of our students fail because they lack a father and mother who value, encourage, support, and reinforced their efforts to learn. Common sense tells us that there is no surer recipe for the child to lag behind in learning than having to contend with the strain and disruption of a broken, dysfunctional family, where the parent or parents are so focused on themselves and their needs that they have little emotional energy to spare for the child's needs. Before we can address the problems of public education, we have to address the problems of marriage and family. Only then can we begin the massive overhaul of cultural values that will be necessary to close the educational gaps in America.

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About the Author

Janice Shaw Crouse, author of Children at Risk and Marriage Matters, is executive director and senior fellow at Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute. She received an “Abolitionist” award from the U.S. State Department and a Global Leadership Award for her work on international issues.