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Tavis Smiley confronts the miseducation of Black boys


LOS ANGELES, Calif.–As the school year gets underway, broadcaster Tavis Smiley tackles the subject of education with a new PBS primetime special, an interactive website, and a companion e-book that will examine an undeclared crisis in America–the staggering dropout rate among young Black males. Smiley’s yearlong initiative kicks off with the premiere of the fifth episode of Tavis Smiley Reports, titled “Too Important to Fail,” on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, on PBS (check local listings). This report investigates the root cause of this calamity and what can be done to reverse it.

Smiley’s candid conversations in Too Important to Fail, took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Oakland. These critical conversations with frontline experts and educators, detention center administrators and, most importantly, the boys themselves urge viewers to ponder the societal and economic cost of losing another generation of uneducated young Black males to lifetimes of prison, drugs, and poverty.

The experts featured in the special include:
Dr. Alfred Tatum, who heads a literacy program in Chicago and is one of many educators grappling with how to reverse the alarming dropout rate.

Noted author and educational expert Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, who believes the country’s response would be more immediate if this were a crisis involving White boys.

Dr. Arlene Ackerman, former superintendent of Philadelphia public schools, who says “we can’t leave our young Black males behind.”

The yearlong education initiative also will include: parent summits; a companion e-book, Too Important to Fail: Saving America’s Boys, available on and on September 13, that lists 130 organizations committed to solving this monumental challenge; a reading mobile truck tour; and an online public forum where thousands of Americans can share ideas that reflect the critical role of teachers, parents, community, and government. The online site,, that will also launch September 13, was developed in partnership with Microsoft and Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

Recognizing the extraordinary impact parents can have on the development of their children with regard to learning, the Tavis Smiley Foundation will spearhead a series of parent educational summits aimed at informing parents how to be partners and advocates for education. The first seminar is slated for Oct. 29 in Los Angeles. Details, dates, and cities for future summits will be announced soon.

Tavis Smiley Foundation “Too Important to Fail” is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis.

“CPB, through the ‘American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen’ initiative, is proud to support ‘Too Important to Fail’,” said Patricia Harrison, CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
“This is programming unique to public media, and it has the potential to inspire us to help keep youth on the path to a high school diploma. Through the American Graduate initiative, public media stations, locally owned and operated, will be convening partnerships of parents, teachers, business leaders, students, and nonprofit organizations to address the dropout challenge in their specific communities and help identify and share solutions that will keep students on track to earn a diploma.”

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