PBS: "Too Important To Fail" Video

My school principal just sent a link to this amazing video, Too Important To Fail, to our school staff.   The video is powerful. It is a MUST watch if you work in an urban school. 

You can watch the video below or on the PBS website.  There are also related clips and web extras

                                                     Watch the full episode. See more Tavis Smiley.

Too Important to Fail is about how schools are failing African American males and students of color and how schools can help them succeed.  

Tavis Smiley interviews children, teens, teachers and other individuals in education about what can make a difference for African American males and students of color. 

When talking to one of the teens, Smiley asks what kind of guys he hangs out with. The teen responds that he hangs out with other students who plan to go to college.  Smiley states,"The only way to get somewhere is to hang with people who are going somewhere." 

Something that really hit home for me was when teens in a juvenile probation were talking about traumatic experiences they faced at a young age such as parents being arrested, siblings or other family members being killed, and witnessing shootings. Too Important to Fail shows the importance of facilitating groups on topics related to grief and loss and incarceration.

Too Important to Fail has helped me realize how the groups and lessons that I facilitate can help empower and support African American males. Even our Career Café program supports these efforts by helping students see a connection between school and career. This video has also reaffirmed my desire to start a mentoring program at our school.

Too Important To Fail: Saving America's Boys is also available in an eBook format. It is $2.99 in the Kindle Store. I just purchased it and it is great to have all of the statistics and information in print! I can't wait to share information from this book with other educators I work with.

What ideas did you gain from this video about how you could empower and support African American males at your school? Comment below, tweet, or contact Danielle, share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!

Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Connect with Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, add her on LinkedIn or Google+, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.


  1. Awesome video. So so many things hit home for me, coming from a high poverty, 98% African American building in an urban setting. The issue of reading deficits and literacy, challenges outside of the classroom affecting work inside it, African American boys being victims and educators not understanding that... etc etc.

    Role models are a huge issue in my building. Aside from the staff being predominantly white females, our students lack worthwhile male role models at home. So many come from broken homes, live with grandma or auntie, and have fathers and uncles who are incarcerated. We try really hard in my building to not only give the students access to male role models, but also to African American role models. We have two excellent counselors who are male, and just hired two new black male teachers in our junior high. We also provide opportunities for enrichment to push our boys to connect to other pursuits. We've taken them on field trips to local colleges, taken them to see speakers (The Three Doctors were fantastic: http://threedoctors.com/), and have had our city mayor in to speak, who is African American. We're hoping for more enrichment activities this year.

    Ultimately, I think reaching African American boys, and other at-risk youth, simply starts with a connection. Knowing that they are valued, valuable, and respected is the biggest thing a student can ask for sometimes.

  2. Great video. My last school district was very diverse and had a high rate of Latino/a students who face similar challenges as do African American students. My current school district is 98% Caucasian. And I preferred working in the diverse school. While there were many challenges, individual and group work allowed me to literally see the students change and grow before my eyes.

    One thing that stood out for me was when one of the students said that the principals and teachers and counselors listened to him, where as in his old school they always took the side of the staff. I think that listening to and empowering students is the simplest, and biggest change we can make in schools. Maybe all schools need to hire a mediator that is as objective as possible and sits in meetings with students and staff and helps staff to hear the students and helps students advocate for themselves. Until a position is created for this, maybe counselors can add this to their list of responsibilities.


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