Now available in paperback and as a Kindle book on this website or at Amazon.com.
The premise of this book is that the failure of our systems of education is placing our nation at risk in the international marketplace. The book suggests that the problems with our systems of education are twofold.
The first is that a growing population of children arrive for their first day of school with precious little preparation, little or no motivation to learn, and that the parents of these children do not accept responsibility for or actively participate in the education of their children. We suggest that a child’s motivation to learn is a function of the belief in the importance of education on the part of the child’s parents and the willingness of those parents to be full partners in the educational process with their children’s teachers and principals.
The second problem results from the fact that our systems of education are focused on failure, rather than success. In addition to the disparity in the level of preparation of children as they arrive on their first day of school, we attempt to move them all down the same academic path, at the same speed. Rather than utilize their mistakes to help them learn material with which they are struggling, we tally up those mistakes and hold them against the child when we hand out grades. Children begin to experience failure when they are forced to move on to new material before they have mastered what came before. As their failures multiply, as they must inevitably do, learning ceases to be fun and whatever level of motivation to learn the child may have had at the outset begins to erode; eventually disappearing altogether.
In addition, our educational process is structured in such a way that it is difficult for teachers to engage both students and their parents. Part of the restructuring of the educational process that we offer includes creating an environment that fosters the engagement that almost all experts agree is critical to academic success.
Two strategies are then presented which are intended to turn our systems of education around and in the process transform American society. The first is to re-invent the educational process to one in which the focus is on success in an environment where every child is on a unique educational path based upon their individual needs. The strategy is intended to pull parents into the educational process so that they become full partners in the education of their children. Nineteen specific action strategies are presented to transform education in America.
The second strategy is, first, to understand why so many children fail and then to find a way to irrevocably alter that reality.
Our hypothesis is that our educators and policy makers misinterpret the reasons why children fail and, as a result, all of the reform initiatives of the last century have failed. These experts assert that the failure of our schools is the result of a combination of: poverty, racial discrimination, fractured families, bad schools and bad teachers. We suggest that the failure of our systems of education, poverty, racial discrimination, fractured families, bad schools and bad teachers are all symptoms of the same underlying pathology.
The underlying pathology is a blanket of hopelessness and powerlessness that has descended over a growing population of Americans. When these men and women reach a point where they no longer believe that they posses the power to control the outcomes in their lives, they become effectively disenfranchised. Finding a way to attack this hopelessness and powerlessness is, we proclaim, the categorical imperative of our time. We offer fourteen specific action strategies to resell the American dream and to re-engage the millions of disenfranchised men and women in the process of helping the U.S. compete successfully in the international market place.
It is suggested that if we fail to rise to this challenge, in fifty years China will begin looking to the United States for its cheap labor, and life in these United States will never, ever be the same.
Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream, by Mel Hawkins
Below are Reviews and selected excerpts from the book:
A Pre-publication Review, by Ron Flickinger
I just finished reading the current draft of Mr. Mel Hawkins book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for 21st Century America, and have decided that it is something, particularly Part I, that should be read by a wide variety of audiences. In general, on a scale of one to ten, I would consider American Education (not Public Education as Mr. Hawkins identifies it) to be no more than a two. If totally implemented, Mr. Hawkins recommendations would move it up to at least an “Eight”. . . . his well-researched suggestions would advance our culture by light years.
Chapter 6 entitled, “The Role of Culture” was one of the best, well-written/easily read overviews of the impact of the culture wars on the preparation of our young I have ever read. Not sure that there is anything new in this, but it is so comprehensive, yet so concise that the words literally jumped off the page at me.
This is the first author I think I have ever read who finally attacked the evil of compulsory education. His rationale for moving compulsory education to the age of 14 would, I think, be justification enough to get rid of it completely and put the choice of providing state-sponsored education fully in the hands of parents when their children reach whichever arbitrary age seems most appropriate. Compulsory education is a complete contradiction and it’s about time someone attacked it. We value the things we choose, not the things fostered upon us in an arbitrary and hap-hazard manner. Hats off to this author for so clearly bringing this out.
Every school staff should read chapter 1 and 2 and use them to evaluate their programs and attitudes toward young people and learning.
The other tremendous positive is Mr. Hawkins point-blank, simple attack on the ridiculous system of placing young people in grade levels based upon age. In my entire professional life, I have never found any study which supports this. Every learning theorist I ever read gives a wide variance in brain/social/background readiness for every academic objective in every grade level. If learning were the true goal of schools, common sense would tell us to evaluate current status and build from there. This book is extremely clear on this point and the very fact that few places do this, public or private, shows the resistance to reality American educators embrace.
I share this author’s vision that all work is honorable and all humans are uniquely designed to function in ways that benefit the entire society. The student who likes to tinker with machines and is not at all interested in literature should not be held in less esteem at school than the lit student. The larger social system will value some skills more than others and will obviously pay more for those skills, but the culture has to find a way to communicate to its young that the guy that gets your plumbing right enhances the quality of your life just as much as the mayor of your city.
Educators continue to embrace the elitist notion that academic success is the end-all, do-all for financial, social, and emotional success. Any reform of American education must include respect for all God’s children, not the 20 percent who happen to intuitively respond to academic activities.
Fort Wayne, IN
Ron Flickinger’s post publication comment:
In the past 40 years I’ve read countless books, articles, and studies on American education and was a bit reluctant to read Hawkins’ book—after all—“There’s nothing new under the sun” right? Well, yes there is and in terms of fresh ideas for American education, this book is it.
Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream, by Mel Hawkins
A Review, by Mary McArdle
Mr. Hawkins’ book, Reinventing Education, Hope and the American Dream: The Challenge for 21st Century America, looks at critical issues impacting American education today: standardized testing, student behavior, lack of support for education from a variety of sources, and other concerns. Mr. Hawkins’ work is based on extensive research and his experiences as a substitute teacher for the past 10 years. Vignettes included in the narrative bring schools and classrooms to life.
It is the motivation of students and the active support and participation of parents that are the difference makers in education, both public and private, according to Mr. Hawkins. He insists that students’ intrinsic motivation along with participation of supportive families is critical to the American dream of freedom and prosperity. Intrinsic motivation begins at home with families who value learning.
This book is a timely message about critical concerns in education. Ideas or suggestions for change are outlined as agenda items and have prompted discussions between my colleagues and me. Mr. Hawkins emphasizes community support, parent involvement and positive leadership as critical to the future of education. He suggests changing the way we teach and urges teachers to teach for mastery. He wonders about changing the rules for compulsory education and suggests that perhaps we look at it differently after the age of 14.
I enjoyed this book and the opportunity to discuss it with friends and colleagues who are also part of the school community. I appreciate the research reported and the examples provided as support. Reinventing Education, Hope and the American Dream conveys a strong message that needs to be heard and shared.
Mary McArdle, Assistant Principal
Anthis Career Center
Fort Wayne Community Schools
Fort Wayne, Indiana
5.0 out of 5 stars
An invaluable resource for anyone with an interest or passion in improving education., October 28, 2013
By Jay Mittener
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)
This book “Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America” is nothing short of brilliant. This book is exactly what everyone needs to read and understand about the state and future of our nation. Our standards of living, our income potential, our successes and ability to advance on life are all directly related to the education we received in this country.
It’s very eye opening and honestly very scary to see how little education is valued in today’s society and the reasons behind it. We are a nation who have slowly lost faith in our own systems and in our own ideals and truths. We are no longer seeing ourselves as a land of opportunity because we were not given, and we are not giving our children the educational tools needed to realize the American dream.
Hawkins is brilliant- He is saying the hard things, he is opening eyes and he is doing it in a way that is logical, easy to understand and will incite a passion in you to change the way we view education and it’s importance in this nation.
A must-read for parents, teachers and all those involved in improving the state of education, October 26, 2013
5 out of 5 stars
Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America, by Mel Hawkins, provides a critical look at the current state of education in America and follows through with innovative, inspired and crucial steps to reviving the standard of education in America and, thereby, reinvigorating the future of its workforce and the standard of living throughout the nation. Hawkins argues that the current state of matters must be tackled with `unprecedented urgency’, otherwise America’s very way of life will be jeopardized, with its stint as the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world likely to end.
Hawkins explains that education in America has lost its relevancy, with citizens no longer seeing it as `the ticket to the American Dream’. Therefore, education is no longer deemed as important as it once was and, because of this, many children are not infused with this knowledge by their parents, which has a roll-on effect to their levels of motivation and abilities to withstand peer pressures and, ultimately, their levels of academic success.
This is particularly concerning as, through research and data analysis, Hawkins shows us that motivation alone (or lack thereof) to learn is the predominant factor which influences the success of a child in reaching their full capabilities (not race, parental income levels, teacher skill or other such factors which are usually associated with variances in levels of academic success).
Therefore, Hawkins advises that the education system must be overhauled to create a reality where children are motivated to learn and every child ‘succeeds’ (because all success is relative). In order to do so, however, people must be challenged to change their basic assumptions about the way children are educated. They must recognize how kids learn (through encouragement) and do their utmost to both motivate and support them so that they are always working at the edge of their own capabilities. Of course, this entails changing the current class structures and increasing the teacher to student ratio, if students are to be working alongside one another at different levels, but Hawkins outlines smart and practical solutions to making this system workable.
What I like most about Hawkins approach (and what separates this from other educational reference texts) is that he recognizes that more qualified teachers, better facilities, better materials and better technology in classrooms are not the solution to what has become an entrenched and festering crisis. Educational performance can only be remarkably improved if the current widespread symptoms of hopelessness and powerlessness are counteracted with a surge in motivation for education, which can only be achieved by a joint effort between parents and teachers, administrators and principals, and government and public figures, to name a few.
The only thing missing for me were the graphs/figures which were not displayed in the kindle version (perhaps as I have an older kindle, images were replaced with an icon of a camera). However, the data I assume these figures displayed was adequately discussed and analysed in the text, therefore it did not really take away from the text, more that these may have added that something extra.
This handbook is particularly useful for parents, teachers, support staff and school administrators who work with American children. From a wider perspective, it is valuable in supporting children in general to become their best selves, hence this book is an invaluable source of information to all who play a role in children’s education.
5 out of 5 Stars
By Grady Harp, By Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States)
(TOP 50 REVIEWER) (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)
‘Our goal is to re-infuse faith and hope in the American Dream into the hearts and minds of every American parent and child.’, October 31, 2013
This review is from: Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America (Kindle Edition)
Mel Hawkins opens his impressive while staggeringly factual book REINVENTING EDUCATION, HOPE AND THE AMERICAN DREAM with the following words: ‘The world is in the midst of unprecedented economic, political, cultural, technological, sociological, and ecological changes that will forever transform human society. One of the drivers of American preeminence has been our systems of public education that gave the United States the most well-educated and productive workforce on the planet. As we enter the second decade of the Twenty-first Century, the U.S. is like a professional sports franchise that has seen the quality of its player development program languish over a period of years. That our competitors in the international arena are placing the education of their children at the top of their priority list while the American educational system remains a relic of times past has tragic consequences for Americans and our way of life.’ He quietly states facts, that millions of Americans have become disenfranchised and have lost hope in the American dream, given up on finding meaningful employment, accepted the fact that they and their children have little access to quality healthcare, and ‘they are chewed up and spit out by the American educational process’ – education becoming a ticket to nowhere.
The fortunate aspect of his observations is that Hawkins believes that since our educational system is the failing nidus of our current dismay, then addressing our educational system to correct the flaws provides a pathway for changing many of the frustrating, even terrifying aspects of our current status. A first objective is to alter our educational system to focus on success, on that prepares your youth for the unique challenges of living in the 21st century. Another pathway is to study and diagnose why our students are underperforming, and when that knowledge is available to us we must re-think our current status and use of system of education to unite Americans and re-infuse faith and hope in the American Dream. He is against compulsory education: our youths value the things they choose, not the things fostered upon them in an arbitrary and hap-hazard manner. If learning were the true goal of schools, common sense would tell us to evaluate current status and build from there. As one critic phrased it, ‘all work is honorable and all humans are uniquely designed to function in ways that benefit the entire society. The student who likes to tinker with machines and is not at all interested in literature should not be held in less esteem at school than the lit student. The larger social system will value some skills more than others and will obviously pay more for those skills, but the culture has to find a way to communicate to its young that the guy that gets your plumbing right enhances the quality of your life just as much as the mayor of your city.’ Hawkins mentions some of the ‘causes’ for our current failed educational system – poverty, bad teachers, outdated facilities and technology, curriculum, race and ethnicity, student behavior, fractured families – and lets us know that the facts that must be examined to change our current system are Compulsory education and the fact that unmotivated students are allowed to be a disruptive influence on students who want to learn and teachers who are striving to teach, Teacher accountability and the trust between teachers and parents, The way we structure our schools and group children in classrooms, together, The way we identify an educational path for our children and then direct them down that path, The way we utilize teachers and facilitate their ability to teach and interact with students and their parents, Our current educational system’s focus on failure, Protecting children from humiliation, Homework, practice, and the manner in which we deal with the mistakes our students make, The way we assess a student’s level of competency over the subject matter within the context of educational standards, The allocation of scarce resources to serve our mission to the optimal advantage, and The effectiveness with which we utilize the technology of the Twenty-first Century. ‘We must involve the entire community.’
This is one of the more important books to be released this year and certainly MUST be read by all who have fears of the current status of our educational system. This book is a brilliant achievement.
5 out of 5 Stars
By F. Stepnowski
Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge For Twenty-First Century America, Makes perfect sense…so it’ll never work; but it SHOULD., April 5, 2014
Tongue in cheekiness aside, Mel Hawkins has crafted an erudite, concise evaluation of our current educational conundrum. I’ll spare you any synopsis – whoever wrote the product description on this page did a pretty thorough job – and get right to it: This book is a satisfying blend of useful data (a rarity,) actual educational vignettes (a necessity,) and pragmatic action plans to rectify the many headed hydra that is our broken compulsory educational system.
The action plans are based on tough-to-swallow realities, such as: “the greatest problems with education in the U.S, is a growing cultural disdain for education manifested by minimal motivation to learn on the part of far too many children and a corresponding lack of commitment to the importance of education on the part of the parents of those children” (Hawkins 44). Bravo, sir; you can’t FIX it until you ACKNOWLEDGE it, and this is but a taste of a book filled with the all-too-rare delicious combination of insight into the problems and pragmatic solutions to fix them; (Hell, his summary of our educational process on pages 56-59 is worth the price of the book alone!)
Sadly, Mel’s solution are simple, practical, and community-oriented – words that are mocked and often die of loneliness in the corporate desert that our educational American Dream has become. I applaud his well researched, well documented, and heartfelt challenge to 21st century America; however, as someone who has, himself, written books (not as good as this one,) in that vein, I fear his clarion call will hurt the ears of the legions that want to perpetuate the ever widening fracture between what good educators WANT to do and what they are ALLOWED to do.
Selected passages from Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America
What we often ignore is that the most important advantage enjoyed by these special schools [touted in Waiting for Superman and other works], we believe, is that the student populations of these schools are made up almost entirely of children whose parents are fiercely determined to see that their sons and daughters will get the best possible education.
Whether they are black, white, rich, poor, come from intact or fractured families is inconsequential. These parents took extraordinary action to get their children into these special schools, sometimes agonizing through a lottery process before their children are even accepted, and they are fully on board as partners in the educational process. It is from this fierce passion on the part of parents that students derive a powerful motivation to learn. When motivated students are supported by a sustained and active partnership between parents and educators, truly remarkable things happen. P 20
The motivation of students and the active support and participation of parents are clearly the crucial difference makers in education, both public and private. The sooner we acknowledge this reality and begin to restructure our strategies accordingly, the sooner we will begin to see a transformation in the quality of American education for all students. Our second over-riding priority must be to challenge an educational process that seems to be both designed and focused on identifying and celebrating the accomplishments of a small percentage of elite students for whom academic success comes relatively easily, to the great disadvantage of the millions of other American children. P 23
The most glaring fact in all of public education is the performance gap between African-American and white students. It is a fact of which we all are aware but about which few will talk, candidly. For many experts, it is safer to cling to the idea that poverty is the culprit. Sadly, there are some Americans who are content to believe that the performance results of black children are the best that we can expect. Some actually believe that black children are predisposed to fail. That the majority of Americans are unwilling to talk about this issue openly and frankly contributes greatly to the persistence of such ignorance. P 29.
The “action focus” of Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream will be divided into two sections. Before we can challenge the American people to begin changing the cultures and subcultures of American society we must demonstrate that “we mean business.” It is not enough to make empty promises because empty promises are all many Americans believe they have heard, each and every day of their lives. We need to speak with our actions, demonstrating that we are making real and substantive changes in the way we will teach their children. We want parents to be able to look at the changes we have made so that they can truly believe that we will be giving their children the education they will need to make the American dream a reality. We want them to believe that this new educational process will truly empower their children to take control of their young lives and to seize an array of opportunities, from a huge and diverse menu, according to their unique talents, interests, and abilities. We want parents to want the best for their children even when they have given up hope for themselves. P 33
[The book lays out nineteen specific action strategies to transform the educational process from one that focuses on failure to one in which we teach children how to be successful.]
We can say that the problem is not that African-American students are unable to learn, the problem is that so very many of them do not. What distinguishes the black students who do pass the ISTEPS in Indiana from the black students that do not? Are students who fail blacker? Are they poorer? Are the students who fail more likely to come from fractured families where one or both parents are absent? We suggest that the answer to these questions is “no”. It is our assertion that the difference is the degree to which the parent or parents believe that an education can be a way out for their children. Those parents who believe in the importance of an education have expectations that their children will do their best at school and, irrespective of the economic challenges that they face, they communicate their expectations to their children relentlessly and tirelessly. Not a day goes by without the children of these mothers, fathers, and grandparents being reminded of the expectations that they will get an education.
Let’s cling to no illusions about the difficulties these parents face or that such parents are always successful. Sadly, many do fail in spite of the heroic efforts that are made. What matters, however, is that many do not fail and, as a result, their children enjoy some level of academic success.
. . . . So, once and for all, let’s dispense with even the faintest notion that there exists an entire race of human beings who are unable to learn; who are intellectually inferior. This is simply not true for African-Americans and we can apply the same logic to any other racial or ethnic group of children. There are no racial or ethnic groups whose children are predisposed to fail. Clearly, the problem is not race, ethnicity, nationality, or the color of one’s skin. P 197
Instead of blaming other people, [whitey], our government, or the world for our problems; it is only when we accept responsibility for those problems that we begin to acquire the power to solve them.
I understand how presumptuous it is for a white man to tell African-Americans how to solve their problems. Even though I have been playmates, classmates, teammates, and co-workers with African-Americans for my entire life and am now a grandparent, I cannot begin to understand what black people have endured for the past five hundred years. But this is not about the color of one’s skin, it is about the principles of problem-solving. It is about all people understanding that they must accept responsibility for the problems in their lives if they wish to solve them.
The performance gap between African-American children and their white classmates is indisputable. If we are content to believe that this is the best that black children can do, then we need not do anything. If, however, we believe that all children, whatever the color of their skin, are capable of learning and performing at a high level then the outcomes we are getting are unacceptable and demand action. To do nothing is irresponsible.
Neither white people nor government can turn back the clock and undue what has gone before and neither government nor white people can act like a parent who can kiss the injury to make the pain go away. Even to suggest such things is demeaning and condescending. The fact is that since the Emancipation Proclamation neither white people nor government have done anything for African-Americans.
The civil rights legislation from the fifties and sixties are the result of neither government nor white people acting proactively for the benefit of black people. Every one of those laws are the result of the blood, sweat, and tears of people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Ralph Abernathy, and literally hundreds of other heroes, both black and white, who risked everything to make the world a better place for their children and grandchildren. Men and women who, by the very force of their personality pushed the powers that be to act. Make no mistake, had these courageous men and women chosen to wait for the government to act of its own volition we would still be waiting for meaningful civil rights legislation.
The only thing that matters from this point forward is the acquisition of the power necessary to change the current reality and elevate the academic performance of all children and to bring all minorities into full partnership as American citizens. This requires that we elevate our expectations to the highest possible point and that we accept nothing less. Our expectations must be relentless.
We have acknowledged that the American educational process in existence today has abused children of all races with its focus on failure and we have created a blueprint to alter that reality. But that alone will be insufficient.
We have already rejected, categorically, any suggestion that there exists a genetic deficiency that limits the ability of black children to learn. There are too many exceptions that prove quite clearly to this author, and to any reasoning mind, that African-American children can perform at an exceptional level. Even in some of the most challenging schools in the nation, we have witnessed how a few individuals, almost always with the support of relentless parents, can rise above the crowd and excel. We have also seen exceptionally gifted teachers achieve extraordinary results. We assert, without reservation, that there are no limits to how much human beings can learn, irrespective of race or color.
Why is it, then, that so many African-American children perform so poorly in our schools? No one, we believe, has addressed this matter as eloquently and insightfully as John McWhorter, himself an African American, and in this section we will draw heavily from his writings. P 217-19
African-Americans as a group were influenced by the same cultural transformations that took place in the fifties and sixties that affected the American people as a whole and that continues to influence us. Who could have imagined the ensuing events when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus? Who could have predicted that the civil rights movement, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and so many of his contemporaries, would be so monumentally successful in challenging the very fabric of American society? Because their world was at the focal point of the cultural turmoil, African-Americans were affected most of all during these turbulent times. These were not just changes that were happening around them, these changes were happening to them.
It is our assertion that the civil rights movement, existing as it did within the context of several pivotal cultural transformations, took an unexpected detour down a path that would leave Dr. King and his colleagues mystified were they able to see how things have evolved to present day, in this second decade of the Twenty-first Century. While so many blacks have taken advantage of the opportunities of such changes and have produced extraordinary accomplishments, including the American Presidency, black neighborhoods in cities everywhere have regressed. P 221
While subbing in an alternative high school classroom (alternative school within the Fort Wayne Community Schools district is where middle and high school students are sent when they are suspended from their regular school), I had a conversation with a young African-American student. He would not work on the worksheet I had given to the class.
“You need to get busy on the assignment,” I said to him.
“I don’t do worksheets,” was his response.
“If you don’t understand the lesson, I’ll be happy to help you with it,” was my answer.
He looked at me and very calmly responded, “I didn’t say I don’t know how to do it, cuz. I said I don’t do worksheets.”
With full-fledged naiveté I asked, “You don’t think you need to learn this material?”
“It’s a complete waste of my time, cuz!” was his answer.
“You don’t think it’s necessary for you to read and write well? How will you get a job to support yourself?”
At no time did he show any emotion during this conversation.
“Cuz, you don’t know nothin’ about what I need to support myself in the hood. You need to back off, Cuz! I don’t need none of what you got!”
Notwithstanding his use of the English language, and the fact that he had been suspended from his high school, this was not a dumb kid. It reminded me of similar conversations with young black males when I was a juvenile probation officer in the early seventies. These kids were street smart and if you examine their behavior and thought processes in the context of the world in which they live, the intelligence and common sense become apparent. They simply do not value the same things middle class Americans value, one of the most obvious of which is education. As my young friend said, “I don’t need none of what you got!” P 228-29
Our Presidents, present and future, must initiate and sustain a movement to re-sanctify the American dream, calling on leaders at every level of governments and business, and men and women in every community to believe in the American dream with their words and deeds and to ask American parents to accept responsibility for the education of their children. Further that every mother and father work hand-in-hand with their children’s teachers as full partners in the educational process. P 245
Although they are encouraged to solicit the help of other community leaders, it is the superintendent and his or her principals who must lead the campaign, parlaying our President’s challenge that parents accept responsibility for the education of their children. They must hit the streets of their communities to sell their mission and vision to parents, churches, neighborhood associations, service clubs, service agencies, and local business leaders. African American superintendents and principals, of whom there are many, are in a unique position to carry the challenge into the black communities. Never has there been a better opportunity. If we can elect a black man as President of the United States, then anything is possible. P 249
An important part of our focus, here, will be on the African-American community because it is here where the greatest challenge resides. That being said, the community actions we recommend for the African-American community apply equally to all communities and can serve as a model, with a few adjustments for the unique characteristics of the various subcultures. We want to make it clear that; whichever racial, ethnic, or economic group; the involvement of the community is an indispensable component of successful public education.
Any effort to separate the educational system from the community it exists to serve is woefully misguided. Advocates of privatization and similar initiatives must be convinced to cease and desist.
Whatever the community targeted, such a campaign requires the support and commitment from all members of the community: educators, parents and extended families, the churches, community organizations, local employers, local government, and friends and neighbors. Public school superintendents and principles need to plunge deeply into the community to engage its leaders. We also urge successful black entrepreneurs, black managers and supervisors, black professionals, black artisans, black craftsmen and tradesmen, black entertainers, and black athletes to get involved in this process. P 259
Re-engineering a culture is not an easy thing to do. Neither is it easy to break the stranglehold that gangs and violence have placed on the young people of our urban communities. Some might say it is impossible to alter the current reality. We would suggest that, sixty years ago, an overwhelming percentage of Americans of all races, creeds, and colors would have said that it was impossible for the Civil Rights Movement to change the fundamental character of a nation.
The challenges facing the African-American community and culture today are of a similar size and scope as those facing civil rights leaders of a half-century ago but never has the time been riper than it is today. As we near the midpoint of the first decade of the Twenty-first century, our nation has a President of African descent. Who better to call out the African-American community than a sitting or former President of the United States?
What successful blacks must be asked to do is to stay linked to the African-American community, to be involved and connected so that their success does, indeed, serve as a model for children. We need a sense of community in which all members are perceived as sharing a common goal and as working together as a team to change the face of black America. We are not talking, here, about changing the color of the face of black America rather we are talking about changing the countenance of African-America.
One might wonder why the presence of so many professional black educators has not had more of an influence on young African-Americans. Successful black sports and entertainment figures are highly esteemed by blacks of all ages and backgrounds. Why is the same not true of black teachers, principals, and superintendents and of black people who enjoy success in whatever career they have chosen?
Being intelligent and well-read does not diminish one’s authenticity as an African-American. Being a hard worker who has created economic wealth for one’s family does not bleach out the color of one’s skin; it does not change one’s love of an artistic, musical, and literary heritage of a people; it does not alter a man or a woman’s soul.
African-Americans take great pride in the successes of black athletes, entertainers, and writers. Are these successful men and women any less black because of their accomplishments? These great athletes, entertainers, and writers worked hard to achieve their successes and many of them made great personal sacrifices to get where they are, today. Are these men and women any different than black entrepreneurs; black businessmen and women; than black attorneys; black physicians; black school superintendents; black principals and teachers; black professors; black politicians and government officials; black police officers and firefighters, black craftsmen; black journeymen; and, black supervisors and managers? The only things different about these successful African Americans are the venues in which they so successfully compete. Each venue has its own set of rules and demands, its own set of particular skills, and each provides a worthy model. P261-63
[John] McWhorter concurs that other American immigrant families provide a great example. Many immigrants, from virtually every corner of the world, have come to America to provide a better life for their children. They have worked as maids, and janitors, as cooks and busboys, as caregivers in hospitals and nursing homes, as laborers in factories and on construction sites, and even as counter clerks in fast-food restaurants; often for minimum wage. Why did these men and women work so hard for what many would call “chump change?” They did it so their children could have a better opportunity, so they could have good educations, and become Americans. They did it so their children could partake of the American dream. Somehow we must recreate an immigrant mentality.
We can talk about the fact that other immigrant groups came to the U.S., of their own free will, in search of opportunity while blacks were transported against their will. We can talk all we want about the fact that, for centuries, black men and women were denied access to the American dream; that it was, in fact, an illusion for so long. These things are historical facts and cannot be denied. We are also unable to deny that the civil rights leaders of the fifties and sixties risked everything to make the American dream a reality for future generations of African-Americans and that the overwhelming majority of African-American men and women have failed to seize it up. They have failed to take the baton and, in doing so, these men and women have done a terrible disservice to the memories and legacies of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and to the legions of men and women who risked so much for their children and grandchildren.
We must create a scenario in which the only thing that matters is the fact that a man or a woman is a winner. The African-American community must place the same value and accord the same esteem to any man or woman who works hard to support their families and who has proven him or herself to be winners, whatever the legal venue.
As we begin a new era of American history, now is the time for African-Americans to seize the American dream and breathe new life into it; to add new colors to the American economic panorama. It is time for black Americans to come together as a people, not in protest of a past about which they can do nothing, rather as a people linked by a common purpose and commitment. It is time for African-Americans to build a new future for their children and grandchildren; a future where there are no obstacles to stand in the way of an individual man or woman’s accomplishments other than the obstacles that they themselves create; a future in which any black child can grow up to be President of the United States. P 263-64
African-American mothers and fathers are challenged to remember that the mathematical and scientific laws of the universe care nothing about the color of a man or a woman’s skin. The only reason children of any racial or ethnic group are not masters of the sciences and mathematics is that their fathers and mothers do not insist that they learn these things. The only reason girls and boys, whatever their lineage, do not read and write proficiently is because their mothers and fathers do not insist that they become proficient.
The only time children of any cultural heritage do not become loving partners in the process of rearing their own children and teaching them these values is when we, as parents, do not teach them by our example. The only time any child grows up with an unhealthy self-esteem is when we do not teach him or her, each and every day of their lives, how very special they are; because we do not demand that they learn responsibility and self-discipline.
The only reason so many African-American men and women do not compete effectively in the economic marketplace is because they are not masters of the critical skills essential to success; because they cannot communicate effectively in the language of commerce! All African-Americans are challenged to set history aside, to relinquish their obsession with the role the white man has played in forming the path upon which black people have traveled. However horrible that history may be, we cannot go back and change these things but clinging to the anger and resentment over them can and do bind a people every bit as much as the chains of slavery.
The challenge for Twenty-first Century African-Americans is to focus, instead, on the potential for achievement and on the demonstrated accomplishment of those black men and women who lead the way down the path of economic competency and competitiveness and assume their rightful place as free and equal Americans. P 265-66
This new American adventure must begin in our schools, both public and private, and it must be joined by Americans of all colors and creeds. Right now, in the Peoples’ Republic of China, 1.3 billion people are working hard, both at school and on the job, to supplant Americans as the most industrious and prosperous people on Earth.
Think about the sacrifices the Chinese people are making in order to turn their nation around. Chinese workers live in barracks, away from their families and work long hours, six or seven days a week. Families are permitted to have only one child. However much we might question the morality or correctness of such a policy, or of the legitimacy of a government that would invoke it, we must acknowledge what it says about the determination and commitment of the Chinese, a people united by a common purpose. Unless we respond to this challenge, have no doubt that, in fifty years, China will have replaced the United States of America as the richest, most powerful nation in the world. P 266-67