Dumb as a Doorknob: Academic Performance of Blacks Continues to Decline

It appears that over the past decades, from as far back as slavery and Jim Crow and right up until the civil rights and black power movements, the esteem in which education is held in the African American community diminished significantly. It was Malcolm X who said, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

In general terms, academic prowess and proficiency is on the decline for America regardless of ethnic persuasion, with the exception of Asian Americans.  In fact we may be producing the stupidest generation in American history and present statistics suggest that U.S. high school students are basically incompetent in the areas of math, science, history, economics and geography.

According to a survey conducted by the National Geographic Society, only 37 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 can find Iraq on a world map and 50 percent of Americans cannot locate the state of New York on a map.  Moreover, only 43 percent of all U.S. high school students knew that the Civil War was fought sometime between 1850 and 1900. Today, American 15-year-olds do not even rank in the top half of all advanced nations when it comes to math or science literacy based on a report published by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Although the aforementioned is for all Americans, statistics for African Americans is even worse. A new study released by Seattle Public Schools revealed that African American students whose primary language is English, perform significantly worse in math and reading than black African immigrant students who speak another language at home. Findings of the Seattle study indicate that only 36 percent of black students who speak English at home passed their grade’s math test, while 47 percent of Somali-speaking students passed. Other black ethnic groups did even better. In reading, 56 percent of black students who speak English passed, while 67 percent of Somali-speaking students passed with other black ethnic groups scoring higher again. However, still in concert black students scored lower than the district average of 78 percent for reading.

As it stands presently, the African American community is moving farther and further away from the traditions and values that maintained our collective integrity — specifically the value and importance we attributed to reading and education.  Today about 41 percent of African American males graduate from high school in the United States according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education and just 22  percent of African American males who began at a four-year college graduated within six years according to the National Student Clearinghouse/Study by Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.

Maybe this is why 69 percent of African American children in America cannot read at grade level in the 4th grade, compared with 29 percent among White children. Up until Brown vs. Board of Education, it was discriminatory practices like segregation that kept Africa Americans poorly educated, now it is ourselves. Until we realize that more education is part of the answer, we will always be confronted with social and economic inequity. -torrance stephens

  1. These statistics in this blog are not presented in a way that conveys an appropriate meaning. While the Schott Foundation stats have always caused alarm, they are not the best data however, nor can we generalize about African American educational outcomes from those of Seattle children. One only has to look to the 2010 census figures to get a better understanding. Census figures show that since 2000 the percentage of blacks with a bachelors degree or higher increased from 14.3 to 18%; the number that had advanced degrees increased from 953,798 to 1.5 million – nearly at 60% increase; and, the number enrolled in college increased from 2.2 to 2.9 million. These increases exceed growth in the proportion of African Americans in the nation from 2000 to 2010, suggesting that population growth does not account for these differences. While there is some evidence that there has been an increase in the dropout rate, the percentage of blacks with diplomas has not changed from 2000 to 2010 – it has remained steady at around 82.3%; perhaps because more African Americans are receiving GEDs. Since this is my area of research, I would be more than happy to share sources/articles to further this discussion.  Google Odis Johnson Jr., PhD., University of Maryland for contact information.

    1. Having seen the numbers cited in the article before, I was wondering if there were more recent, and, more accurate stats, so, thanks for the update. Your doing a piece on this subject would be (in my opinion) informative and helpful to those of us who ponder this stuff looking for answers.

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