With the recent rough-and-tumble arrest of University of Virginia third-year honor student Martese Johnson, cynics in the black community might say if education didn't save Johnson from a bloody encounter with law enforcement, what good is an education?
That is a long-standing tired excuse for not trying.
In light of the racial chants of a fraternity comprised of potential bosses and co-workers, education obviously isn't a shield from racism. Instead, education is, and always has been, a vehicle that lifts individuals, families and communities out of poverty.
That is the thinking of three men who were products of single-parent homes, poverty and a high-crime neighborhood in Newark, N.J. Education saved them from financial instability.
Drs. Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins, better known as The Three Doctors, wrote an essay for the 39th edition of the State of Black America report, released on March 19, that implores black students to disregard the negativity in their environment and dream bigger.
Davis, an emergency room physician, Hunt, an internist, and Jenkins, a dentist, met and became friends in high school. Two of them would have run-ins with the law, but would decide to aim for something more.
His neighborhood taught him how to "steal a car" and how to "package drugs," Davis said during a symposium in 2006.
"We all knew we had bad situations," Davis continued. "But we all knew we had the ability. We developed our own blueprint."
The men often speak together, have authored books together and have started a foundation that is in its 15th year of supporting the dreams of young people who grew up like they did.
In their essay, "I Wanna Be Like ... Saving Our Communities Through Education, Pacts, and the Potential of Youth," for the National Urban League report, the doctors urged other youth to look to one another and to any willing adults for the support they may not be getting in their schools or their neighborhoods.
"The reality was that our friendship was the key that not only unlocked the doors to our potential, but that also gave us the strength we needed to walk through them," they wrote in the essay.
"Our promise to one another was iron-clad and stood as strong as any binding legal agreement," they wrote. "We wanted more than anything to survive the streets and rise above the lure of fast money, cars, (and) jewelry that had attracted and destroyed so many of the people we loved."
I'm a bit saddened by the need of three young boys to rely on each other rather than the adults around them. But their pact worked. They all became doctors. But where were we, the adults, the teachers, the mentors?
Has it now come down to our children relying more on themselves than the adults who are supposed to nurture them? Is that what the students at William Wells Brown Elementary School will have to do?
The 2015 State of Black America report focuses on education, jobs and justice. The belief is that lower-quality education and less exposure to opportunities feeds into community tensions, crime and hopelessness. The report lauds the highest high school graduation rates in history for minority students and the growing number of students of color in college.
That success, however, is tainted by numbers that indicate the unemployment rate for black college graduates is higher than for whites with the same degree.
Does that mean black students shouldn't bother going to college? Of course not.
"Without education today, a state of impoverishment is the most likely outcome," the doctors wrote. "We need to start glorifying people who have become successful through education just as we applaud and celebrate those who have become successful through athletic prowess and entertainment."
It takes hard work to succeed, whether it is at singing, throwing a ball or healing a body. Neither one will be easier than the other.
That's why we must instill a joy of learning in our impoverished young people both in the inner city and in the hollers of Eastern Kentucky. We need to stoke their desire to do something outside their fields of vision.
"With a campaign such as 'I Wanna Be Like...,'" the doctors wrote, "we can inspire our kids to dream beyond anything they've imagined."
The doctors said children need to see people they can emulate. They themselves were inspired by an intern during a dental visit, and a recruiter from Seton Hall University searching the inner city of Newark for biology and science students.
"Our children cannot aspire to be what they cannot see," they said in the essay.
I never considered a career in newspaper journalism because I didn't know black people could be reporters. A college professor changed that. How many of our young people are limiting themselves because no one opened their eyes?
Education has not protected me from racism. It has lifted me and those around me out of poverty so that I don't have to worry about equality and where my next meal is coming from at the same time. That alone makes it worth the hard work.