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 Inspirational and thought-provoking messages informed by my faith, ministry in education and community development 


The Greatest Flaw of Urban Education Success

January 23, 2024
By Dr. Terry Flowers

Our society places a premium on the value of education and its capacity to uplift our children out of poverty into flourishing lives. This premium is appropriate. Next to God, an education is humanity's most critical pathway for a productive and sustainable future for humankind. In the words of St. Philip’s former trustee and dear friend, John Muse, “Education is the elixir of the soul.”

Without a doubt, high value should justifiably be placed on education. However, I believe a blaring caution is in order! A caution especially for urban educators and students. We must teach the value of education, yes, but our message needs to be, “Don’t allow your education to be a pathway of no return to the neighborhood you grew up in.”

We have had generations of urban youth who have navigated through urban school systems to go on to achieve exceptional accomplishments in every walk of business, science, the arts, and literary excellence. Unfortunately, urban schools and social constructs have created a quest to get out with a yearning to not return. The trend over multiple generations has not been one of turning success into significance within the community that produced people like me, a native of the southside of Chicago. 

Conversely, the pattern is one of forsaking the very communities which produced our success, the very shoulders that were stood upon to climb out of poverty. This climb to success has often been blurred by a vision of the American Dream. As one highly successful African American businessman put it, “Why should white guys have all the fun?” Our urban schools have produced legions of overcomers who have risen to prominent levels of power and influence. Despite the accomplishments of those who have defied the odds, our urban communities and now many suburban youth continue to struggle.

A clarion call is in order for a shift in the mission of academia. Ideally, that call would be for The Great Homecoming and a disruption of the mass exportation of the talents of our communities. The Great Homecoming would be evidenced by a return to live, serve, and invest back in the soils of origin. 

In the interim of this Great Homecoming, schools can take action. The Creed of St. Philip’s School and Community Center embodies the thrust of service, sacrifice and self-determination that results in community uplift. Here in Dallas, Jesuit College Preparatory School sends students across the metroplex to tutor and serve in our Aunt Bette’s Community Pantry. Jesuit tags its focus as “men for others”, a clear message for purpose and obligation to humanity.

As work continues to create “boutique” schools focused on career, entrepreneurship, leadership, and business, let’s address the flaw that has failed to compel our best talents to overwhelmingly return to uplift urban America. Our education should not become a pathway to no return.

Posted in WID-WID
Robert A. Carter says:
March 25, 2024 03:46 PM CST
)) I truely believe what you are saying is true, it has been my truest self to give back to the communities from which I come. From my very first summer ( in Dallas, working with the community Center for the Arts, housed at Warren United Methodist Church that Summer. The play the students perform was from Melvin Van Peebles>