It is a unique experience to have witnessed the inauguration of the first black president of the United States at a majority black school. Today, during our third period class, my high school showed students the inauguration, and it was exciting to see the look of pride on many of their faces during the event.
In the same day, though, occurred an event seemingly at odds with this inspiring event. today, as the first black president was taking his oath, another black student dropped out of high school. While one man was achieving a zenith opportunity, one boy was putting an end to many future opportunities.
I knew this boy fairly well. He was in one of the classes that I co-teach, and while he was sometimes considered the "terror of the school," he was quite intelligent. On his good days, he was a stand-out in the class, raising his hand astutely answering questions. On his bad days, it was all teachers and administrators could do to control him.I do not know for sure, but I have heard, and strongly suspect, that the student was "thuggin'" and had a gang affiliation. Several teachers, including myself, gave it a mighty effort but in the end, he couldn't be reached.
Some teachers may be glad to see this student go and, to be honest, there is a small part of me that saw the futility of forcing an education on a so-often unwilling, if not defiant, participant. There is another part of me that is just plain sick of seeing young people, especially black boys and girls, drop out of school. Some have been lost to pregnancy. Others have succumbed to the gang life. Some have dropped out for no apparent reason other than dislike for school minus parental pressures to get an education. However it happens, as a teacher, it is never a good feeling.
I can't help but see the irony in the fact that on the same day as a Harvard Law degreed black man takes the oath to the highest office in the land, another black boy resigns the chance of having a respectable future. I hope that Barack Obama might represent, to some other black students, the realm of possibilities for smart black youths. In his speech today, Barack Obama said:
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
My fear is that if too many more black students - students in general, really - forfeit the right of educaiton that was fought so hard for 60 years ago, the above vision may be more rhetoric than reality.