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Congrats to the Class of 2020 for reaching a critical stage of their academic career — whether it be graduation from high school, college, or whatever else — during what’s been one of the most uncertain times in recent history. Unfortunately for those at the high school level who’ve long waited for this moment, the coronavirus pandemic, and the abrupt halt to economic and social activity that happened as a result, has shattered any hopes of a proper celebration like what graduates of yesteryear have experienced.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, the writer of this piece argues that forgoing a night of dancing at prom, that oh-so coveted walk across the stage, and the bevy of cookouts this summer should count among the very least of 2020 graduates’ problems. If anything, some celebrants should be very concerned about entering society without a concrete plan, and the critical thinking skills needed at a time when the job market has become increasingly volatile, but favorable to those who are innovative and mindful of how to capitalize off of these changes.

It’s not even these young people’s fault that they’ve reached this far in their life without the proper tools to do for self. Indeed, the blame lies at the feet of the schools and teachers who have — with the support of their unsuspecting parents and guardians — fostered a culture of low expectations from the very moment these young people entered the school building. Even as the signs of an impending global crisis smacked them in their faces, via the election of Donald J. Trump during their freshman year, teachers and administrators, some of whom voted for the overtly racist reality television star, continued to coddle them with credit recovery, social promotion, and the like as part of an effort to satiate public and public charter schools’ needs to look good on paper.

The race among these fradulent institutions for recognition, or to at least stay afloat in a system of no benefit to African children, has watered down the quality of education to the point that a significant portion of young people who will attain their high school diplomas won’t be able to put together a properly-written paragraph, let alone a well-researched essay, about the implications of the coronavirus pandemic and other catastrophic events preceding it.

Even worse, very few, if any, people have taken the time to help students understand the value and practical use of the core subjects they are learning. In compartmentalizing their education, the traditional school systems have fallen short in helping students explore career options that would be of great benefit to, not just themselves, but their communities and the global African nation.

As many people are finally coming around to understand and acknowledge, college isn’t for everyone — and that’s not necessarily bad. Every child serves a purpose, and facilitating the unity of the African nation, in part, means helping each child find their special place within it as a provider of key services, whether it be in education, infrastructure, industry and commerce, and whatever else a nation needs to function.

Within various school systems in the colonial society that’s the United States, there’s little room for developing the African consciousness that would undergird the attainment of tangible and transferable skills, even with the sluggish embrace of Black studies departments and career academies appearing in public and public charter schools surrounded by rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.

Perhaps that’s because the goal wasn’t to prepare young African people to take on a world that doesn’t love them. As had been the case for several decades, some of the focus for administrators had been on sports programming and extracurriculars that, for the least academically inclined, provide a pathway to the once high-paying jobs in the sports and entertainment industry that COVID-19 has since deemed unessential.

Even more unfortunate, some students armored with Individualized Education Programs, also known as IEPs, and 504 plans, have long been overindulged by social workers, therapists, and other parties hellbent on making billable hours and keeping alive a multi-million dollar nonprofit industrial complex. From a very young age, students deemed special needs learn how to game the system, because they, more so than their peers, have embraced the labels and lowered expectations imposed on them by the system, their overworked and frustrated teachers, and so-called health providers.

If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the need for stronger homes in the African community, a job that no longer must be passed on to government entities. From the confines of their unstable homes, some of these 2020 graduates continue to devour one-size-fits-all work packets while enduring the stress of online learning with instructors, some of whom, in the first time in their career, have to practice flexibility in the way that they provide academic material. The most valuable lesson that these young people have learned in the month or so since schools shuttered involves the reality that, by the end of the day, all a person has is themselves.

That’s why navigating the post-COVID-19 world — whether it be as a college freshman, an apprentice, an employee, or budding entrepreneur — will be an experiment in how self-sufficient and industrious one could be. It will also be a test of the level of patience the adults will have for the steep learning curve that’s ahead for recent high school graduates. With all that’s happening, no one should expect any 2020 graduate to immediately get it right.

However, people should come to the understanding that no longer can members of the fragmented, but global, African nation adopt soulless philosophies centered only on the attainment of capital and social standing. Instead, young people, particularly those wrapping up their academic careers in the coming month, should dig deep within themselves to find the hunger for knowledge and wisdom in all areas of life that their teachers failed to foster.

At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that will save them from drowning in a sea of self-doubt amid conditions that the Babylon school system successfully hid from them over the course of four years.