In September 2012 I wrote an article entitled "Racially Based High School Entrance Exams?" I was not in agreement with the lawsuit being filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Latino Justice PRLDEF and The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College against my alma mater, one of the "elite" schools in NYC, Stuyvesant High School. I did not buy in to the concept that a standardized entrance exam could be racially biased. After all, I took the exam and passed. I went to Stuyvesant and graduated in 1975. How could things be worse now than they were close to forty years ago.
I was so wrong.
The year that I graduated was the high water mark for Black and Latino student enrollment at Stuyvesant. Since then it's been a downward spiral.
In a March 2012 Huffington Post Blog Stuyvesant alumni Richard Buery writes:
In a few weeks we will be celebrating the first anniversary of the Marketplace. As I reflect on our first year I am humbled by the outpouring of support, encouragement, and kind words that we have received. I thank you for this and am looking forward to your continued support in the future.
I'll cut to the chase, I'm asking you for money.
In launching the Marketplace my original intent was to leverage various forms of social media to entice our followers to engage in meaningful dialogue and discuss some of the major issues facing us today. I quickly realized while facebook, twitter, and all of the other social networking sites are good vehicles to promote social awareness and social responsibility, they are passive at most. We can engage all we want but liking or sharing a post is not being socially responsible. To be socially responsible you have to act, you have to do something.
In an earlier post I referenced the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation's statement that:
"....individual social responsibility includes the engagement of each person towards the community where he lives, which can be expressed as an interest towards what’s happening in the community, as well as in the active participation in the solving of some of the local problems......and everyone of us could take part in that development in different ways, for example by taking part in cleaning of the street on which he lives, by taking part in organization of an event, connected with the history of the town or the village or by rendering social services to children without parents or elderly people. The individual social responsibility also could be expressed in making donations for significant for the society causes – social, cultural or ecological. There are many ways of donating, as for example donating of goods or donating money through a bank account or online".
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We’ve heard the stories and seen the statistics about inner-schools and students. Low test scores, low graduation rate, high crime rate, and so on. There has been many ideas suggested and many solutions proposed to addressed these issues. In my opinion the issue has been analyzed to the point of analysis paralysis.
What if the answer is hidden in plain sight? What if the answer is to present positive opportunities to our youth? What if the answer is to provide programs that will allow them to strive and thrive? What if we help them build a positive self-esteem.
Brooklyn Castle is an inspiring and heartwarming film that clearly depicts what can happen when we show our youth that we care.
A coalition of educational and civil rights groups filed a federal complaint on Thursday saying that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately excluded from New York City’s most selective high schools because of a single-test admittance policy they say is racially discriminatory.
I have a problem with this. I am a graduate of Peter Stuyvesant High School (class of 1975), one of the "elite" schools named in the lawsuit. I went to one of the worst Junior High Schools in Queens, NY. My teachers saw that myself and a few other students had potential and asked us if we ever considered going to a specialized HS. At the time I didn't even know about Stuyvesant. They helped us prepare for the exam. Every day after school we spent hours studying for the exam. We read dictionaries and we took practice exams. Our teachers did everything that they could to make sure that we were ready. They were there for us as long as we put in the work.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the You Too Can Go To College Fair. This event was the brainchild of the brothers of MALIK Fraternity Inc. I must say that the fair was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. To see so many eager young men and women with a sincere interest in going to college was a heartwarming experience. Representatives from over seventy colleges and universities came to PS 46 in Harlem, NY to participate.
Why are events such as this one important? Why must there be more of them? Here are the statistics for young men and women in 2011:
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.