Education has long been and remains the gateway to the middle class for many, if not most. After all, in an economy built on innovation, the most important skill you can sell is your knowledge. In most contexts, education is synonymous to schooling, and the two terms are used interchangeably. However, schooling is only one of many methods of education, and may not be the best option for a significant portion of black people in the United States.
Not only does discrimination in school systems deny black students the equal opportunity to succeed, but the model upon which schooling was founded is no longer relevant in a new economy that increasingly values creativity over conformity.
Alternative Education and Employment
Given the countless inequities, such as the racial achievement gap, the school-to-prison-pipeline, disparity in college graduation rates among whites and blacks, and the fact that black students continually attend the worst performing schools, it’s apparent that traditional schooling wasn’t intended to and isn’t educating millions of black students.
For many of the African Americans who do successfully go through the education system, the middle-class promise eludes them even after earning a college degree. Irrespective to the widely reported employer sentiment that schooling doesn’t adequately prepare students for the workforce, unemployment rate of college graduates who are black is almost twice that of college graduates overall.
Having said that, African Americans should consider alternative education methods. Thanks to tools and courses widely available online, there are tons of skills one can learn to compete or be desirable in the workplace x. The modern economy requires professionals to continuously educate themselves in order to capitalize on market demands x.
As the skills gap widens x, learning platforms like Code Academy and Udemy offer a wealth of semi-formal self-education options to build one’s skill set and prepare oneself for specific job opportunities x. It was forecasted last year that 2017 would be a disruptive year in the world of business, characterized by transformational shifts in how people learn new skills x. African Americans can be at the forefront of that transformation if alternative education is embraced.
Similarly, black Americans should consider alternative employment, such as freelancing and entrepreneurship, as opposed to traditional ones, where blacks don’t fare as well as their white counterparts. In today’s economy, more people are creating their own jobs than ever before.
The freelance workforce grew from 53 million in 2014 to 55 million in 2016 and currently represents 35% of the U.S. workforce. Moreover, freelance workers collectively earned an estimated $1 trillion this past year, representing a significant share of the U.S. economy. It’s even reported that self-employed individuals make at least double what their regularly employed friends make, on average.
What better way is there to respond to discriminatory hiring practices, than by creating your own job or starting your own business?
In sum, research suggests that while schooling and traditional jobs may work well for many, discrimination and outdated approaches render a sizeable fraction of black students on the marginalized in the education system and uncompetitive in the economy.
If you’re a parent, a guardian, or a black student who is of age, consider and explore alternative education that generate pertinent knowledge and skills. If you’re a black job seeker, or just another brother trying to supplement their income, consider freelancing, entrepreneurship, or some other alternative to traditional employment.