What Black Athletes Owe the Kids

Hey NFL kneelers. So you are upset that far too many poor black and brown kids are getting screwed by “the system”? Me too. Although I am a person of pallor, in my business travels I’ve been to some of the toughest neighborhoods in this country. I’ve seen the reality these kids face. Far too many are literally screwed from the womb and other than a minuscule chance of making it to pro sports like you all have, the opportunity of a quality education is their one and only hope.

Yet the schools they are forced to attend are a national and moral disgrace. Their young lives are being destroyed before they even have a chance. What future awaits a 12-year-old who has terrible reading, writing, math, and language skills? These kids aren’t stupid; they know and they act accordingly.

If you want to end “police brutality” and various criminal system problems that plague young black men, end the driver of these behaviors, which is rooted in this obscene failure of public K-12 education.

Do you know the average black kid graduates high school with what is in effect an 8th grade education? Only 1 in 20 black students -- that is, 5% -- were rated college-ready in the four areas of English, reading, mathematics, and science. Do you think all of this this might affect their lives in a negative fashion? Do you think this might only reinforce racist beliefs?

Talk to one of your fellow superstar athletics, four-time Olympic gold medal winner and the star who almost singlehandedly made the new WNBA, Lisa Leslie. She was the most heavily college recruited woman of all time. She tells a heartbreaking story of her ordeal in passing college entrance exams. She was one of the top students in her high school class, yet she initially failed these exams. As she notes, she’s not stupid, it’s just that she was never even exposed to the words and thoughts on these tests.

She also notes how annoyed she was when this happened, as she discovered just how badly the school system had failed her and thousands like her. I’d guess many of you have had similar experiences. This is called “the bigotry of low expectations” and it too helps damage far too many young lives.

Imagine what would have happened if, a hundred years ago it was decided that those Irish or Italians or whatever were just too dang stupid to learn proper English, so they were taught a “dumbed down” version. Do you think this might have impacted their ability to advance in society? If this had happened, it would have guaranteed they and their offspring would still be occupying the lowest economic and social rung.

Yet how many of you can have a future in broadcasting and communication, or do your poor language and speaking skills take you out of the running, regardless of what intelligence and insights you might bring to the table? The schools failed you and as you live every day, the damage goes on for a lifetime.

School choice is the only solution to it all. The way to end unwanted police attention is to end the sad state of black criminal activities and the way to end many of those is by giving these kids a chance at a better life through a quality education.

Few parents would voluntarily send their children to these schools if they had other options. If parents were given control of all the money spent to educate their kids -- in some sort of state-regulated environment, of course -- it would be a game changer. And since the schools in the hood almost always spend far more than average -- almost $30,000 per pupil in DC -- for the first time in history, poor parents would actually have more money to control than their rich suburban neighbors.

Think of it: you could be the catalyst to make this happen. Your actions could forever change the trajectory of young black and brown lives in this country. You could take your place among the greatest Americans of all time.

Rather than taking a knee, how about raising your voices for school choice to at least give these kids a chance at a better life?

John Conlin is an expert in organizational design and change. He is the founder and President of E.I.C. Enterprises, www.eicenterprises.org, a USA-based 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to spreading the truth here and around the world, primarily through K-12 education.

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