NEW YORK - African-American parents have a fundamental right to decide the best options for the highest quality education for our children. We must not be silent or indifferent when it comes to the educational advancement of children in our communities.
We need innovative models of "excellence" in education that work for our children. We need a new paradigm. Without trying to play on words, I call what we need a "New Ark" for the educational uplift of our children. It is a new bridge from failing schools to high-performance quality and excellence in public and private education models. I keep using the phrase "our children" deliberately to reawaken the consciousness of Black people about the fact that the first responsibility to demand, ensure, and fulfill the educational needs of our children is in the hands of Black parents.
If we allow people who do not have the educational interests of our children to make the major decisions that determine and control the institutional functionality and quality of the education of our children, then we will permit our children to be vulnerable to "menticide," that is the genocide of the minds of our children. I have to use this strong and unambiguous language to wake us up.
Failing schools and failing systems of education in 2010 across America are sentencing millions of our children, from K through 12, to systematic mis-education genocide.
We get fired up when there are acts of racially motivated police brutality, as we should. We get angry, as we should, when something happens that exposes the racist intent of those that have or will do African Americans physical, political or economic harm and injury. But, today we appear to be too comfortable and too accommodating to those who are permanently harming the academic and intellectual development of our children.
That is why I salute Oprah Winfrey, Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and N.J. Governor Chris Christie (R) for focusing national attention, once again, on the need for school reform throughout the United States, and in particular in Newark, N.J. The fact that Zuckerberg, at the young age of 26, is a billionaire and a major philanthropist, who recently announced on Oprah's TV show that he is giving $100 million to Newark, N.J., are all very noteworthy points.
The question now is how will this $100 million be used to build and sustain educational options, like high-quality performing charter schools, that provide effective pathways to educational excellence? According to Zuckerberg, the money was given to the Startup: Education Foundation that will focus on schools in Newark. Zuckerberg stated, "The city has a good foundation already and there are structural reasons why the city is good for this, but really this is more an investment in them." Mayor Booker emphasized, "Nobody gets a pass. We need to take leadership from parents, from teachers and from students themselves."
Charter school success models in Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Ohio, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and in New York City, should give Mayor Booker and the parents in Newark real time and real life options to help to substantially reform the schools in Newark. Black parents in Newark need to demand a "New Ark" of educational excellence for their children.
Black parents in every city and town need to be fired up about this issue and not be comfortable with anything less than changing education in our communities from the current state of dysfunction into the high-quality results-oriented state that we all should desire and demand. Nothing is more important today than providing our children with the best choices and options to do their best in school.
— Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and president of Education Online Services Corporation.