New Tavis Smiley Special on Education to Air on PBS Next Week

Tavis Smiley has a new PBS primetime special airing next Tuesday night, focusing on the extremely high dropout rate of young black males in the American education system. Smiley’s reporting took him to the school districts of Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and, of course, his home town of Los Angeles. In conjunction with the piece, Smiley is also holding a series of parental education summits, to help encourage and teach them to become more engaged in their children’s education. The first summit will take place in LA on October, 29.

On top of all that, Smiley has put together a companion e-book called Too Important to Fail: Saving America’s Boys to accompany the piece.

Smiley’s been a busy man. It’s nice to see advocacy journalism isn’t dead.

Press release after the jump:

TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS “TOO IMPORTANT TO FAIL” Premieres this Tuesday, September 13 at 8pm on PBS

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As the school year gets underway, broadcaster Tavis Smiley tackles the subject of education with a new PBS primetime special, an interactive website, and a companion e-book that will examine an undeclared crisis in America—the staggering dropout rate among young black males. Smiley’s yearlong initiative kicks off with the premiere of the fifth episode of TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS, titled “Too Important to Fail,” on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 8:00-9:00 p.m. (EDT) on PBS (check local listings). This report investigates the root cause of this calamity and what can be done to reverse it.

Smiley’s candid conversations in TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Oakland. These critical conversations with frontline experts and educators, detention center administrators and, most importantly, the boys themselves urge viewers to ponder the societal and economic cost of losing another generation of uneducated young black males to lifetimes of prison, drugs, and poverty.

The experts featured in the special include:

* Dr. Alfred Tatum, who heads a literacy program in Chicago and is one of many educators grappling with how to reverse the alarming dropout rate.
* Noted author and educational expert Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, who believes the country’s response would be more immediate if this were a crisis involving white boys.
* Dr. Arlene Ackerman, former superintendent of Philadelphia public schools, who says “we can’t leave our young black males behind.”

The yearlong education initiative also will include: parent summits; a companion e-book, Too Important to Fail: Saving America’s Boys, available on and on September 13, that lists 130 organizations committed to solving this monumental challenge; a reading mobile truck tour; and an online public forum where thousands of Americans can share ideas that reflect the critical role of teachers, parents, community, and government. The online site,, that will also launch September 13, was developed in partnership with Microsoft and Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

Recognizing the extraordinary impact parents can have on the development of their children with regard to learning, the Tavis Smiley Foundation will spearhead a series of parent educational summits aimed at informing parents how to be partners and advocates for education. The first seminar is slated for Oct. 29 in Los Angeles. Details, dates, and cities for future summits will be announced later this year.

Publish date: September 9, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT