The Tale of Two Americas, By Anthony Hubbard
There’s no denying the fact that, when it comes to helping America’s children transition from childhood to adulthood, educators and social workers often see two tales. One story is built around abundant opportunities, good schooling, well equipped labs, excellent social programming and continuous community engagement. This is the tale that often has a happy ending.
But when it comes to the socio-emotional development of boys of color, be they African-American, Latino, Hispanic or Asian-American, the story is totally different. This story is beset by a lack of opportunities, mediocre schooling and next to no social programs worth the mention. This tale often does not end happily for its main characters,
boys of color.
More often than not, this second tale of America’s children is characterized by students failing to even graduate through high school, let alone make it to college. And sadly enough, the cast in this story have no recourse to drop out prevention programs, because not many exist that they might benefit from.
While the cast from our first tale go on to live rich and fulfilled lives, characters from the second America aren’t as fortunate. A product of a failed socio-economic network, including an underfunded and uneven education system, the citizens of our second America lack any of the prerequisite tools that could have helped them transition to high school/college and career. These young men are often at-risk of living in poverty, being unemployed or worse yet, have a high probability of being incarcerated.
But we cannot look at this second story in isolation to everything else that’s going on in our great nation. While there are 2 distinct tales here, there’s just one America. And unless we take immediate steps to redress the shortcomings in our second tale, the entire nation will have to pay a heavy price. That will mean that ultimately, we may end up with two tales with unhappy endings!
Why? The answer is: changing demographics. Minority populations, especially people of color, are a growing part of the American mosaic. That means boys of color will soon – within the next decade or so – become a predominant part of the country’s workforce. And unless educators and social planners strive hard to offer these unfortunate citizen’s extended learning opportunities, America is poised to lose something that has for ages differentiated its workforce – ingenuity and innovation.
But the achievement gap between the characters of tale one and tale two makes it harder for businesses and industries to build a workforce that can compete on a global level. And the longer that we ignore the underlying social and emotional factors that cause those gaps, the wider the gap gets. So if we are to have any hope of maintaining our happy ending for the first tale; and wish to create a happy ending for our second tale, we need to increase our level of engagement with boys of color immediately. That’s the only way that the two tales can end with one strong and prosperous nation!