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We all know the problems all too well for this nation—and especially for Black America.  We are all subject to the globalization that has advanced at a very rapid pace over the past two decades. This has occurred primarily due to technological advancement, which has driven immense global economic growth.

In an equal world, this would not be a problem; it would actually be fantastic news. In fact, it is fantastic news for those individuals and nations who are well-positioned to take advantage of that economic prosperity.

To take full advantage of this economic boom, both nations and individuals must be equipped with the knowledge, education, skills, experience, and creativity to leverage the opportunities that exist today and in the future.

Therein lies the problem for many U.S. citizens—especially Black Americans.

From an educational standpoint, it is well-documented that the U.S. is stuck in a state of educational stagnation and has been for quite some time.

According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment that measures students’ reading, mathematics and science literacy every three years from approximately 70 countries, American students have consistently placed squarely in the middle of the pack since 2003. The most recent assessment was administered in 2015.

The U.S. average scores measure the performance of all America’s students. The situation is much bleaker when looking at how African-American students stack up.

According to this assessment, nearly 29% of American students did not reach the baseline for math proficiency, whereas only 10% of students in Canada, Singapore, and Korea did not reach the proficient level. Comparatively, only 12% of U.S. Black students reached or exceeded the proficient level. U.S. reading performance scores were slightly higher, and science scores averaged about the same as math.

Why are these test scores important in economic terms?

These indicators are important because while American students have continued to score at the same levels for more than a decade, many developing nations have made significant advancements in educating their human capital. Education is more important than ever for individual success, collective prosperity, and innovation in the midst of knowledge-based economic globalization.

Global leadership and innovation are sustained when our youth are equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence and make sense of information. These are skills students learn by studying subjects collectively known as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

For Black America, this is especially troubling because poor educational performance will increase social inequality and restrict business and employment opportunities.

So, what is the solution?

While quality STEM education is the foundation for Black America and the entire nation to lead the world in economic opportunities for all of its citizenry and demonstrate innovative leadership, it is but one significant component of the answer. Active, engaged leadership is the holistic answer.

Activist leadership is defined when all leaders (at all levels) in STEM fields accept responsibility and take active roles to help create transformative economic mobility opportunities for Black students and professionals. Those leaders fully leverage their resources and power to influence policymakers, make a positive impact on the public education system, support non-profit organizations, create public/private partnerships and spend time mentoring others for empowerment outcomes. These are not just the right things to do; they are competitive imperatives.

Additionally, and even more importantly, the solution lies in instilling strong values and character building traits in our youth.

It is foundational and essential for successful life and job skill development. Collaboration with faith communities and organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and Character Plus will help instill those values and traits that will differentiate and enable our Black youth to reach their fullest potential. Without this, deterioration of our community will continue to persist.

Global Leadership Forum (GLF)

World Wide Technology and the Steward Family Foundation is actively engaged in providing and investing in strong leadership through organizations like the Global Leadership Forum (GLF), which is a convener and force multiplier of some of the best STEM-focused, not-for-profit organizations that are transforming lives in Black America and other diverse communities every day.

As we continue to forge ahead in this digital revolution, opportunity and access will be important to successfully support urban communities across the country. As we partner with organizations like the National Urban League, which stand at the forefront of this mission to drive economic empowerment, we will find new and innovative ways to reinforce our commitment to provide the leadership and resources necessary to protect the progress of the mission.

David L. Steward co-founded WWT with Jim Kavanaugh in 1990. Prior to starting WWT, he held various senior-level management positions with Wagner Electric, Missouri Pacific Railroad and Federal Express Corporation. Steward holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Central Missouri State University. At the 26th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards, Steward became the first non-engineer to be honored with the Black Engineer of the Year Award.

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