Secretary Duncan Seeks Youth Input During ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ Listening Session

Data shows that some Americans have fewer opportunities available to them and continue to face roadblocks to success. One of these groups is boys and young men of color — regardless of where they come from.

This is why President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach aims to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of all youth, including boys and young men of color.

On May 12, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will host a Youth Listening Session in partnership with the My Brother’s Keeper Taskforce to get input from various youth-serving organizations, youth stakeholders, youth leaders and other young adults.

  • What: My Brother’s Keeper Taskforce Youth Listening Session hosted by Secretary Arne Duncan
  • When: 3:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Monday, May 12
  • Where: Policy Listening Session Webinar

Those unable to participate in the listening sessions should feel free to leave their feedback on the following questions in the comment section on this blog post.

On Track to College and Career

1)         The quality of education is critical for all students, but we know that too many youth, including many boys and young men of color, attend schools that are underperforming.  What would you suggest be the first issue addressed by the MBK Task Force related to improving school and educational quality?

a.         Engaging curriculum tied to real-world problem solving
b.         Professional development to improve teacher quality
c.         Access and support for students to enroll in college-level course work
d.         Increased collaboration between schools, families, and host communities
e.         New school designs such as early college high schools or career academies connected to industry partners
f)         other

Ladders to Jobs-Higher Education

2)         What do you think needs to change in order to increase the rate at which all citizens, including young men of color, persist in and graduate from postsecondary education and training?

a.         Increased levels of college and career readiness
b.         Lower college costs
c.         More financial aid
d.         Clearer guidance on applying to and selecting a college
e.         A culturally relevant educational environment
f.          Clearer, shorter pathways to a high wage career
g.         Other /Not listed

Mentoring and Support Networks

3) What do you think is most valued in a mentoring program by young people, including boys and young men of color?

Criminal Justice/Violent Crime Interaction

4)  What do you think is the predominate factor contributing to disproportionate rates of juvenile/criminal justice system involvement by

boys and young men of color?

a.         Exposure to violence
b.         Violent crime in the community
c.         Lack of exposure to and understanding of potential to obtain success
d.         Lack of education and job skill
e.         Lack of treatment services
f.          Biased law enforcement; and,
g.         Other/Not listed

Ladders to Opportunity – Jobs for Opportunity Youth

5)  Anyone who wants a job should be able to get a job that allows them to support themselves and their families.What do you think is the most important reason that some young people, including young men of color, have challenges in the job market?
a.         Insufficient education
b.         Insufficient skills for jobs in demand
c.         Inadequate connections or networks
d.         Employer stereotypes
e.         Other/Not listed

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education


  1. Great discussions. May I suggest some space for more faith-based initiatives…fathers and sons going to Church on Sunday…pick your faith. The Boomers have pushed us a long way from the values that made America great, including our practice of faith.

    See you on Sunday.

  2. College, College, College!!! Does anyone realize not everyone wants to or is capable to do serious college work? (By serious I mean course which have not been dumbed down.)

    And how many college grads is necessary or available in the whole labor market? The country could use a lot more highly skilled and well paid technicians of various types, like auto repair, building trades, or computer related. How about programmers?

    How about work that requires working with one’s hands instead of words????

    Until this is addressed, this whole program will most likely help few and therefore is bogus. Also, if a person learns a non-college skill, one can always go to college knowing they have something to fall back on. Out of work college educated only people are stuck in a hole.

  3. More culturally related studies, much like the Tucson experience that has high graduation rates. Furthermore, the U.S. as described by historian Christopher Lasch in the book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, that the United States is a culture-less society where anything goes, no sense of decorum, tolerate scatology and most of all substandard work. Moreover, mainstream institutions are geared to a WASP over-arching hegemonic a-historical model. The historical education of culture and connection to Asian, Latino, African America, Irish, Welsh, and many other cultures provides need historical connections to family and community. Otherwise, education in the United States is void of substances and most definitely without culture and most importantly language. Monolingual/mono-cultural United States is making us more and more anti-intellectual.

  4. I could respond to all of the questions, but for the purpose of emphasis I will focus my remarks on one issue.

    We do a terrible job of teaching children to read in this country. Like other failures, the poor and disadvantaged pay a higher price for that failure. More fortunate children arrive at school with larger vocabularies and families able to pick up the slack when schools stumble, but the children targeted by MBK cannot. They feel the full weight of our failure. When their teacher doesn’t have the skills to teach reading effectively, that child has no other options. Their educational road most often ends there, almost before it begins. Without the ability to read, they have little hope of accessing richer educational opportunities in the years to come.

    And we must not be shy about the main reason for this problem: Teachers have been poorly prepared to teach reading. Work by the National Council on Teacher Quality as well as other groups, and research by Joshi, Moats and others show that our Colleges and Universities have failed to teach the teachers. Dedicated men and women are committing their lives to teaching, only to be sold half an education that doesn’t include vital skills and knowledge, and is often packed with mythology and outright misinformation about how reading works and how it is best taught.

    There are many things that must be done to improve the future of the children targeted by MBK. No one thing will solve the problem. But, nothing else will help much if don’t do one thing: teach these children to read with far greater success than we currently achieve. The unstated assumption of every other plan to improve education and make it more relevant is that these children can read. It lies at the foundation of everything else.

    I urge you to contact Louisa Moats and R. Malatesha Joshi to discuss the issue of how teachers are trained, or more accurately, how they are left untrained to teach reading. I believe the research and data will shock you.

    In 2008 I met candidate Obama during a campaign stop. He asked to meet me after I made a small (52 cent) but significant donation to this campaign. At the end of our conversation I urged him to ask a lot from us when he became President. He responded that it was “the key to everything.” I still believe that. I think we need to expect more from ourselves in how we train our teachers and teach our students.

    A generation of teaches were never trained to meet the vast challenge of teaching children to read. Until we fix that, nothing else matters very much.

  5. Well I am glad that the questions have the “blame whitey” answer in all of them.
    How will anyone improve their lives when they can always blame some “ghost” for all their problems?
    Truth be told, nothing will ever change until the blacks take responsibility for their actions in all aspects of life.
    I believe Abraham Lincoln said it best when he said it would be unfair to try to make blacks conform to white laws and white civilization. He wanted to repatriate all the blacks to Africa which they could live with their laws and governance.
    Unfortunately he was assassinated before his dream could be initiated.
    Genetics can answer why there are vast differences between the races, if the truth were allowed to be told. Unfortunately the truth will be squelched, and the same problems will keep appearing every few years, and billions will be thrown at it with the same outcome. Trillions of dollars have been squandered on many different programs meant to uplift and support, yet the same conclusion is always achieved.
    The truth needs to be told before anything will ever change. Of course it will never happen because its somehow racist.

    We could of used that money to put men on Mars. Instead we threw it all away with 0 return. That is the true tragedy of the United States.

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