How Arguing While Black Can Put a Kid in the School-to-Prison Pipeline


MIDDLETOWN, NEW YORK, August 17, 2017—Marcus Carter is a tenth-grade honors student. But will he ever see the eleventh grade? When he confronts his chemistry teacher about her closed-minded, “comply or die” response to the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice at the hands of Cleveland police, a heated argument ensues. Cut to the next scene: Marcus stands accused of assaulting his teacher and is in danger of expulsion and criminal prosecution. Will he become one of the thousands of black boys and girls who are pushed out of school and onto the seemingly irreversible conveyor belt of the school-to-prison pipeline every day? That’s the premise of the new book Today’s Lesson: Black Lives Matter by Willie D. Jones.

How Jones describes the situation in America’s schools: “When you’re programmed to make cans, eventually you come to see everything as can-making material. The school-to-prison pipeline is a can-making enterprise that turns children into criminals, with black bodies being the most highly prized raw material.”

Jones, a technology writer and editor turned novelist, is currently involved in a complicated, high-stakes project: helping his twin sons obtain a solid basic education in an America that is turning public schools into the new recruiting ground for the prison industrial complex. In the decades since the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education supposedly swept away the separate-but-equal doctrine for U.S. public schools, the governing philosophy has morphed to “not separate but not equal.” Black children are nearly four times as likely as their white peers to be pushed out of school via suspension, expulsion, and/or arrest—and Jones says he’s “hotter than fish grease about it.” He plans to continue channeling his righteous anger over the means being used to “make America great again” into books like this one.

Today’s Lesson: Black Lives Matter, now available in paperback and e-book formats at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, is a must-read for every teen who has wrestled with the mental and emotional challenge of reconciling the insistence that America is a meritocracy with everyday evidence that its scales aren’t fairly weighted. It’s for every adult who has had to sit down with a black child they love and have “The Talk”—the heart-rending discussion about how to avoid being confronted by the police, how to survive the encounter if and when they do, and how they should conduct themselves at school to keep themselves from trading the schoolhouse door for prison gates. And it’s for everyone who recognizes that the school-to-prison pipeline is not “their problem.”

To learn more about Willie D. Jones, read some of his other work, and sign up to receive updates about upcoming projects, go to: www.willthewordsmith.com. For inquiries about media appearances, write to him at:

Will the Wordsmith Publications,
P.O. Box 46, Middletown, New York 10940,
(315) WORDS-4-U.