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As discussed this week on the Dropout Nation Podcast, it will take grassroots efforts by folks outside of American public education’s status quo to lead the revolution needed to foster cultures of genius for our kids. This is especially true in our black communities, where the ravages of the nation’s dropout crisis are creating lost generations of men and women unable to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

In this Voices of the Dropout Nation, Phillip Jackson of the Black Star Project reminds us that the world is moving forward — and so must we. Reforming American public education is critical to improving the prospects of future generations of young black men and women. And it will take a men of iron and women of steel working block by block to make it happen.

What will America do with 36 million African-Americans now that there is no more cotton to pick?  The answer to this question is why we must make educating our young children the most-important priority for ensuring brighter futures.

Black people were brought to America as¬†slaves¬†to pick cotton, tobacco and sugar cane.¬† Today, as America moves into a more-global economy, we have lost generations of black men and women who are¬† uneducated.¬†¬† As the world¬†moves towards science, technology, engineering,¬†math and medicine (STEMM), fewer than fifty percent of black boys¬†graduate from high school in the United States.¬† Many of those who¬†graduate are given diplomas that qualify them for low-wage jobs or no jobs at all, street-corner hustling, incarceration and violent death.¬† At best, the majority of black students in America get an education that prepares them to only pick cotton — if there were cotton for them to pick.

According to an October 2010 Research Update to The Crisis Deepens 2009, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development, the black male (ages 16 to 64) joblessness rate (53.3%) is the highest ever recorded among working-age black males in Milwaukee Рthe second highest American city jobless rate after Detroit (59.5%).  Other metropolitan cities at incomprehensible levels include Buffalo, 52.3%; Cleveland, 52.3%; Chicago, 50.3% and Pittsburgh, 50.3%.  Additionally, a December 2010 policy brief, Unemployment in New York City During the Recession and Early Recovery: Young Black Men Hit the Hardest by Community Service Society of New York shows only 25% of young black men in New York City between 16 and 24 years of age have a job.

While Black America laments the disastrously low employment rate of black males, hundreds of thousands of foreign H-1B Visa workers (primarily but not exclusively in the high-tech industry) are imported to the U.S. to take jobs paying $100,000 a year and more.  At the same time, many black males in America who want to work will not be able to get jobs sweeping streets, cleaning toilets or picking cotton. It is tragedy, travesty and Armageddon for our race.

If Black America is to survive (and there is no assurance), these are the five keys to fixing our economic and social problems:

1) Rebuild the black family.  Every major problem in the Black community, including poor education, massive unemployment, senseless violence, hyper-incarceration, lost spirituality, low-quality housing options and high mortality rates, can be traced to the disintegration of the Black family.

2) Provide Black boys with strong, positive black men as mentors, role models and, particularly, a connection to their fathers.  Black boys, like any other children, will imitate and become what they see.  It is critical that black children see strong, positive black men.

3) Control the negative peer culture and electronic media that mold many black boys and men into violent, irresponsible and uncaring human beings.  Either black people will control the media that we consume or the media will control us.

4) Understand that for the rest of our existence, black people will live in a “STEMM” world, a world based on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine (STEMM).¬† If we are to survive, it will be because we understand and master “STEMM.” We must teach black children accordingly.

5) Control our economic fate by mastering the principles of entrepreneurship, business, management, finance, accounting, manufacturing, saving, investing, banking and tithing, and by teaching these principles to our children.

This is the way, and the only way, to solve the problems of black people in America.¬† We must realize that we live in an “Educate or Die” society and an “Educate or Die” world!¬† There is no middle ground.¬† There is no more cotton to pick!