W.E.B Dubois proclaimed, “The greatest problem of the 20th century is that of the color line”. I believe that the greatest problem of our century is the role of fathers in the African American community. During my internship year of my Masters program, I can count the number of fathers that attended Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meetings. The IEP team meets with parents before, during, and after the special education eligibility process. The majority of my caseload was fatherless, African American boys, being tested for Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Emotional Disturbances. I personally observed the overrepresentation of young black boys, either in special education or being referred to special education, and the reoccurring theme was the absence of fathers in most of these boys’ lives.
Research shows that on average, African American fatherless children go to jail more often, perform poorly in academics, have more babies out of wedlock, suffer physical and mental abuse more frequently, and have more dilemmas in establishing stable families in adulthood. Multiple researchers found that academically, when African American males are compared to other students by race, they consistently rank lowest in academic achievement (Ogbu, 2003), have the worst attendance records (Mincy, 2006), are suspended and expelled the most (Raffaele Mendez, 2003), are most likely to drop out of school, and most often fail to graduate from high school or even earn a GED (Pinkney, 2000; Roderick, 2003).
Fligher Education community, the time is NOW, it is imperative that change starts immediately so that we can teach these young boys to become men. The only problem is that the men in these boys lives are not available, so who’s going to teach these boys how to become men? Who is going to teach these young black boys to take care of their responsibilities and how to provide for their families, because in my observations, most African American fathers are not readily available?