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Dolly Downgraded to Tropical Storm; Obama in the Middle East, McCain on the Attack; Black in America; Pay to Learn

Aired July 23, 2008 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Anderson Cooper.
In the hour ahead, a full discussion as well as a look ahead to tomorrow's installment of "Black in America." But first, today's top stories.

Barack Obama in the Holy Land weighing in on Iranian nukes and fighting terror; a new day beginning there; Senator Obama, visiting Jerusalem's Wailing Wall. We've got the "Raw Politics" on his trip.

And here at home John McCain trying to take the spotlight off Obama, we'll show you how.

We begin though, with "Breaking News" potentially life changing news for people living along the south Gulf Coast of Texas. Dolly just moments ago downgraded to a tropical storm on shore and making buckets rain -- a lot of buckets.

Most of the damage here on South Padre Island where the storm came ashore as a Category 2, roofs torn away, power lines down, streets flooded. Massive rainfall but so far it appears the mainland has dodged a bullet.

The Rio Grand levee system avoiding a direct hit may appear to be holding. Here's the radar loop shows Dolly weakening. Maximum winds now below 75 miles an hour; the storm moving north-northwest at about 10 miles an hour.

Still, expect it to linger and with it no small amount of misery. Texas Governor Rick Perry has declared a state of emergency in 14 counties including the one encompassing South Padre Island where "360's" Gary Tuchman is standing by -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's still rainy but not nearly as hard as it was throughout the day. Right now, this town of South Padre Island, Texas is in utter darkness. All of the power is out. There's a curfew in effect because most of the businesses and this condo behind me, many of the homes are damaged. Many of them are seriously damaged.

The situation here today for about 12 hours; we either had tropical storm force winds or hurricane force winds for about four hours, sustained winds of 100 miles per hour. Now casualties -- the good news so far, nobody has been killed in this town. However, one person, a 17-year-old boy seriously injured when a balcony he was on collapsed during the hurricane. But it's fair to say that people here are very surprised about how ferocious this was.


TUCHMAN: Dolly was far more fierce than her name suggests. The hurricane made landfall on South Padre Island which is the coastal area on the southernmost point of Texas. Most of the streets were flooded from the torrential rain and hail that went on all day.

South Padre Island, the barrier island in the southernmost part of Texas is getting ravaged. This behind me, just a few hours ago with grass, with land; now you can see the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay have made it like the raging rapids. The billboard was on land. We're standing right now on the causeway, in front of me is the bridge that links South Padre Island in to the mainland.

This is the barrier island, 34 miles long. Normally, it's about 2,000 people live here. But it's summer weekend where up to 200,000 people are here. Most people have evacuated but there are a lot of people still here.

We have seen -- we have seen roofs collapsed. We have seen signs go down. Firefighters are all over helping people evacuate -- they just started now to evacuate.

But you can see, this is a Category 2 hurricane and it's incredibly treacherous. Most people are surprised by how strong it is.

Even before the strongest hurricane force winds arrived, the roof on this townhouse started collapsing. Many people hadn't evacuated. Firefighters demanded that residents get out immediately. They didn't see this man until after we did.

Why are you staying up there?


TUCHMAN: Your roof is collapsing.


TUCHMAN: Yes, look.


TUCHMAN: It's not okay, you got to get out of there. You're kidding yourself man, your building could collapse, you got to get out of there.


TUCHMAN: Yes, for real.

He ended up leaving before the complex became more decimated. When the worst of the winds were over, much of South Padre was underwater. Damage was wide spread and substantial, Dolly packed a wallop to an area that hadn't been hit directly by a hurricane in almost three decades.


TUCHMAN: Much of this city is flooded; it is very treacherous to drive. At some point the water is three to four deep on the street. It's not clear how long the power will be out. We're hearing until Monday maybe. But at this point, we're not exactly sure how long it will be out.

Nevertheless, people here are very surprised when it happens in their town. There's one bridge that goes to and from this barrier island. This barrier island is half a mile wide, four miles from the Mexican border. It's a two and half mile long bridge. Right now, the bridge has been open to leave but it's still closed to come here.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Gary, how long have you been up for? I think we lost --

TUCHMAN: I've been up for about 24 hours right now.

When it started, Anderson -- when this rain started early in the morning, it woke me up. I've been up a long time. And it's really been a quite a day here -- hasn't been a hurricane that's wholly hit this town for 28 years.

COOPER: Yes, you've been doing a great job, Gary, thanks.

To politics now, Barack Obama's whirlwind tour to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and tomorrow Germany. His mission - to look presidential as they say and narrow the experience gap or the perception of it which are on McCain. So how is he doing?

Candy Crowley has the "Raw Politics."


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yet another picture postcard home, Barack Obama in front of the remnants of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel navigating the land mines of Middle East diplomacy by saying as little as possible.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: America must always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself.

CROWLEY: But it begs the question of whether the U.S. would back an Israeli attack on Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon; Obama side steps.

OBAMA: I will take no options off the table in dealing with this potential Iranian threat.

CROWLEY: A nuclear Iran is a top concern for Israeli officials and political leaders. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, LIKUD PARTY CHAIRMAN: The main focal point of our conversation, the need to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

CROWLEY: Like some American Jewish voters, Israelis were uneasy a year ago when they heard this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to meet separately without precondition during the first year of your administration in Washington or anywhere else with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?


OBAMA: I would.

CROWLEY: There were no caveats to that statement and Obama has been trying to finesse it every since.

OBAMA: But I think that what I've said in response -- was that I would, at my time and choosing, be willing to meet with any leading if I thought it would promote the national security interest of the United States of America.

CROWLEY: Obama's picturesque news conference was part of a jam-packed day intermingling photo-ops with private meetings; which often took on the feel of virtual reality, a kind of almost-state meeting, a man who wants to be U.S. president meeting with a string of Prime Minister wannabes in Israel.

Obama's itinerary also took him past the security check point in to the West Bank City of Ramallah for a meeting with an obviously pleased Palestinian, President Mahmoud Abass.

Four months ago when John McCain passed through Israel, there was no visit with Palestinian leaders, a point Obama is happy to make with another picture postcard.

More picture postcards Thursday, when Obama move to the European continent and an open air speech in Berlin. They expect this to be the highlight of this particular trip, although they say, it is not a campaign event. Nonetheless, they are talking about thousands of people they expect to show up to hear this speech. We are told it is about Trans-Atlantic relationships.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Jerusalem.


COOPER: A lot more politics ahead tonight.

You can join the conversation that's happening now on our Website, I'll join in during commercial breaks.

Up next, how John McCain is trying to get his message out with so much attention on Barack Obama. And later, two brothers, one is a noted scholar, the other is a murderer serving a life sentence. What these two share and how they differ, a chapter tonight of "Black in America."

That and more ahead on "360."


COOPER: John McCain on the trail with a tough job of getting his message across when so much of the machinery for doing it, the press corps, is on the other side of the Atlantic, covering Barack Obama.

New polling shows the economy and gasoline prices both eclipsing Iraq as the issue the voters care most about; so today, Senator McCain tried to focus on that. We have more from CNN's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Call this counter-programming.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We know that -- that Americans are sitting around in the kitchen table tonight figuring out whether they can keep their home or not.

BASH: While Barack Obama is overseas, John McCain is trying to convince voters back home he's working to ease their pain. He staged a photo-op, food shopping with a Pennsylvania family, going out of his way to show and tell he gets it.

MCCAIN: The price of a gallon of milk just went over $4 a gallon when they said that -- that was the highest that she had ever seen it.

BASH: At a Town Hall, he even suggested the price of oil is down because of a controversial White House decision he supported; lifting the federal ban on offshore drilling.

MCCAIN: The President of the United States announced that we would be -- a week or so ago that we would be lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling. The price of oil dropped $10. We need to drill offshore.

BASH: Now even the White House would go that far.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't predict what would happen to the market. We can't really tell.

BASH: For McCain, talking pocketbook politics is only half of the double barrel strategy while Obama is abroad.

MCCAIN: Apparently, Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign.

BASH: The other, trying to keep Obama from bolstering his foreign policy credentials this week by pounding away on his Iraq plans.

MCCAIN: He is in favor of an unconditional withdrawal. An unconditional withdrawal, my friends, without paying attention to the facts on the ground could lead to our failure.

BASH: Republicans frustrated with Obama's overseas spotlight are trying to be clever in getting their message out. The Republican National Committee will run these radio ads in Berlin while Obama is there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When our military needed necessary resources, Barack Obama failed to stand up.

BASH: But not that Berlin, the towns of Berlin in three battleground states in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania and the McCain campaign is resorting to sarcasm to get attention handing out fake French press passes.

Dubbing the McCain media the "JV Squad: Left behind to report in America."

Now another way McCain advisors know they'll get attention is to tease the media on McCain's search for a running mate. The plan was to do that by going to New Orleans to meet with someone on the VP buzz list; Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, but it didn't happen. The trip was cancelled because of bad weather.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: And about the Governor Jindal, the 37-year-old tells FOX News quote, "I am not going to be the vice presidential nominee or vice president." He says he's got the job that he wants right now.

We'll talk about Obama and McCain with our political panel next, David Gergen, Joe Klein and Tara Wall.

Then, "Black in America" -- the controversial use of education dollars -- paying kids to learn. Is that actually working?

Details ahead tonight on "360."


COOPER: "Digging Deeper" now on the McCain/Obama war of words over Iraq. John McCain statement that Obama would rather win the election than the war, domestic politics and more.

Joining us for that CNN's senior political analyst, David Gergen; Joe Klein of "Time" magazine and author of "Politics Lost" and "Washington Times" columnist, Tara Wall, she's a conservative political analyst.

Joe, McCain said again today that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign. It's a line he used yesterday. He clearly is kind of holding on this line. Do you think that crosses a line?

JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Oh yes, well, I said yesterday on this program that I thought it was one of the most scurrilous thing I've heard a presidential candidate say in the nine elections that I've covered. Usually they have aides says scurrilous things like that.

And you know I think that in many ways McCain doubled down on stupid decisions that he made yesterday. Not only with that, but he's also continuing to insist that the Anbar awakening in Iraq was part of the surge when it clearly wasn't.

Now I have no idea why he's doing this. There's a real clear path of action that McCain could be taking. He could be saying you know Barack Obama is over there talking to all of these foreign leaders when we've got plenty of problems back home.

Now that would be a reversal of a previous decision he took. But I think that the American people really are far more concerned about the economy than about these intricacies of Iraq that John McCain keeps on hitting.

COOPER: Tara, Joe Klein is referring to your comment that John McCain made today saying that the counterinsurgency that this McFarland was instituting in al Anbar was actually part of the surge.

TARA WALL, WASHINGTON TIMES COLUMNIST: Right. And you know it was a misstatement of sorts. And I think though, I think what he is saying and what he has said about Barack Obama rather winning the elections than winning the war, actually I think those were very well chosen words and I think that it was correct.

That you know McCain has long said you know I'd rather lose an election and win the war. And I think that puts the focus on wild back on why we're there. We are there to win, we are there to have victory, we are there until the job is done and it's complete.

And I think that's point he's making, it's a good point to make. Obviously, he's working because he's continuing to use it over and over again. But I think he has to keep the focus on some of the real policy issues that are at stake here in Iraq, in Iran, and in Israel and going forward and Europe as well. And that's what he's trying to do.

COOPER: David Gergen is this just the give and take of the campaign or is this moving beyond the pale?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It moves well beyond the established lines of American politics. But listen John --

COOPER: Really, really? Do you think it moves well beyond the established lines of American politics?


GERGEN: Yes, for this early in a campaign, for a nominee of a party, they'll accuse the other nominee of the rival party of essentially being almost traitorous and unpatriotic to throw away a war in order to advance his personal ambitions. Yes, I think that crosses the line.

WALL: Yes, I think that -- GERGEN: Listen, I think John McCain, when he says he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war, I think that's absolutely honest and correct. I think he's extremely courageous; he has been courageous about the surge.

But when he turns around and accuses Obama because Obama holds a different position of essentially, you know, trying to intentionally lose the war so we can advance -- you know being willing to lose the war so we can advance his personal ambitions, that crosses the line.

WALL: Well, I think he use --

COOPER: Can I just, Tara, finish with him?

WALL: Yes, if you want to complete the thought, go ahead.

COOPER: Thank Tara, David go ahead finish your thought.

WALL: Well, I thought you know I think that he's trying to make a point here that what is the bottom line? What are we trying to gain out of this? And Barack Obama has -- he said -- you know has not said is winning the solution -- is winning what we want to do here? Is winning the goal? What is the goal other than pulling the troops out?

COOPER: Do you believe that Barack Obama would rather win the election and lose the war?

WALL: It's irrespective of whether I believe that or not. It's not whether I believe that or not or whether it's up to Americans if they believe that's the case. But the point is what is the end goal here? And I think that's the point that John McCain is trying to make.


KLEIN: This is a stupid, extreme formulation on McCain's part. He keeps on -- has been talking for years about victory and surrender, winning, losing Iraq. At this point and for the last few years, it's been up to the Iraqis. It's been out of our hands.

At this point, things seem to be going pretty well and the only person who seems to be talking about losing this war is John McCain. You know? He -- and he's standing alone. Even President Bush is now talking about what he calls time horizons.

WALL: So why are things going well now?

KLEIN: I think that what everybody, including the military -- he's all alone because everybody including the military understands that we're going to be down to 30,000 to 50,000 troops by the end of 2011, maybe; might be a year longer than Obama wants; a year longer than the Iraqis want.

But it's going to be an orderly withdrawal.

Tara, could I finish what I'm saying? I actually talked to military sources. I don't know if you do. And I can tell you that there is an orderly withdrawal that is being planned. It's going to resume in September.

We'll probably be down to 13 combat brigades by the end of the year. And the military including general Petraeus now wants to pivot our attention to the very serious situation on in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

COOPER: I just want to bring David Gergen a final thought. And then Tara a final thought. David?

GERGEN: I think what's really happening. I thought the Obama trip -- I thought he -- I think he had one of the best days of his trip. He walked through the mine fields of Middle East politics, Israelis and Palestinians with poise, with dignity, and a lot of thoughtfulness.

And it's that that I think has put John McCain in this unfortunately very defensive and frustrated position. I understand why he's frustrated. But when he lashes out, I think he does himself no good.

WALL: Can I -- I think that well, the reason -- the reason we're talking about what's wrong and the reason we're talking about being safer and the reason we're talking about the ability to do all these things is because of the surge, because the surge is working which is once again something that Barack Obama has yet to even acknowledge at any point.

GERGEN: That's not true. That's just not true.

WALL: So and I think it's not true that with --

COOPER: He has said -- I mean Barack Obama just actually speaking has said it's gotten better, the troops have done a great job. And there's been other things as well.

WALL: I give him that. He has said that it is safer; he acknowledge that, he is looking much more presidential right now than John McCain. And John McCain is frustrated.

But let's give due diligence where diligence is due. And the fact that the surge has worked, the reason Barack Obama is able to be there in the first place is because it is working.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there, Tara Wall, David Gergen, Joe Klein; I appreciate all your perspectives, thank you.

President Bush caught on tape bashing "Wall Street" for its role on the mortgage meltdown in kind of a way you probably haven't heard before from the president. Coming up, what he said when he thought the cameras were off.

Plus, almost half a million gallons of fuel spilled in the Mississippi River. How it happened - a "360 Bulletin".

And being black and male in America; two brothers grew up in the same family. One became a professor, the other serving a life sentence for murder. How did that happen? Part of CNN's year long "Black in America" investigation. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Today, we're "Digging Deeper" on some of the stories from CNN's "Black in America" investigations.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien joins us ahead.

But first Erica Hill joins us for the "360's New and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in New Orleans, a massive oil spill in the Mississippi River. More than 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the river after an oil barge and a tanker crashed splitting the barge in half. The Coast Guard has closed nearly 60 miles rather of the Mississippi while the cleanup takes place.

A massive mortgage rescue bill one step closer to law tonight; House lawmakers passed the $300 billion measure today. The final bill now goes back to the Senate.

And we now know what President Bush really thinks about Wall Street's role in the mortgage meltdown. He was caught on tape at a Houston fundraiser where he thought all of the cameras in the room were off. Clearly, though, they were not since this clip ended up on YouTube.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wall Street got drunk. It's one of the reasons I asked you to turnoff your TV cameras. It got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is, how long will it sober up?


HILL: Those are the blunt remarks, a sharp departure from what President Bush has said publicly about the mortgage crisis -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right do you think presidents would have learned by now about audio-recordings.

Erica, up next the story of two brothers living in two different black Americas; one a Reverend and college professor, the other serving a life sentence for murder. They grew up together. So what happened? Could the answer be as simple as the shades of their skin?

One of the brothers will join us next on "360."


COOPER: The statistic is as alarming as it is complex. Tomorrow, part two of CNN's year-long investigation of "Black in America" will focus on the experiences of black men looking beyond the statistics to find the whole story.

Here's a preview of what we'll you'll see from Soledad O'Brien; two brothers whose lives could not have turned out more differently.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: A Sunday service in Detroit; the doctor of religion begins to preach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not a metaphysical projection. It shows up when folks won't let you have a job you know you should have. It shows up when people won't give you acknowledgment for who you are. It shows up when you work twice as hard to get twice as far behind and still keep going. Evil is real.

O'BRIEN: When Reverend-Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is speaking he gives voice to an epic American struggle. He's become a preacher and a teacher and a controversial social critic.

REV. MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: The people that we had now have spoken back to us and we don't like what we hear.

O'BRIEN: Leaving his neighborhood in impoverished Detroit to earn a PhD from Princeton.

REV. DYSON: Vines don't bleed red blood, they bleed thoughts of depression and self-hatred.

O'BRIEN: He's come with a lot to say.

When you lived in this house, what did you think you would become?

REV. DYSON: Well this is the house where I began to speak in public at the age of 11 and a lot of opportunity was offered me. And I had dreams and aspirations of being a writer. My nickname as a youth was the professor.

O'BRIEN: In black America -- one man makes it, too many don't; often in the very same family. This is Michael Eric Dyson's younger brother, Everett. He's serving a life sentence for murder.

Two brothers, your average person will say, ok, for the most part, they were given similar opportunities. They were raised in the same house. They had a mother who loved them. They had a father who was tough.

REV. DYSON: Right.

O'BRIEN: A little abusive but he also loved you both. How did you end up one here and one here?

EVERETT DYSON, REV. DYSON'S BROTHER: Choices. We make them every single day. I've not always made the best choices and therefore I must struggle the results thereof. I've learned that.

REV. DYSON: I did make some better choices but I was allowed to make those better choices. I was encouraged to make the better choices because I was given a vocabulary to express those choices on the way. O'BRIEN: What ever led these brothers down different paths, Everett Dyson will spend the rest of his life in this maximum security penitentiary.

What do you think when you look over at your brother? You're in a jump suit and he's in a jacket. He's a college professor and you've served 19 years on a sentence for murder.

E. DYSON: Whenever I see Michael, it becomes a testament to the fact that I could have done this, that, or the other.

O'BRIEN: So why is one a prisoner and one a Princeton grad? The answer might be staring us in the face.

REV. DYSON: I saw how the differential treatment was accorded me -- curly top, yellow negro child -- I'm not dissing any yellow negro children -- that's who I am. I'm saying being a dark skinned black man has a kind of incriminating effect to many people.

I'm not even getting to white brothers and sister yet. I'm talking about within black America. And I'm saying to you many darker skinned black children don't get the opportunity.

O'BRIEN: Plenty of dark skinned black children are very successful.

REV. DYSON: Of course, I understand that.

E. DYSON: It takes a keen eye to look beneath the rough exterior of a person and see the beauty that's within.


COOPER: Michael Eric Dyson joins me now. He's a sociology professor at Georgetown University and the author of "April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America" among other books.

Also with us, CNN's Soledad O'Brien.

Michael, you talk about the way you were perceived because of your skin color compared to your brother within the black community as well as within the white community.

REV. DYSON: Certainly, and again I'm not suggesting, Anderson, that this entire and complex problem can be reduced to skin shading. That would be ludicrous.

COOPER: Of course.

REV. DYSON: I'm suggesting it is a factor however, in the perception of people. Darker black men are considered to be more dangerous, more threatening especially a big black man. So I don't think we have to search hard to see how that stereotype plays out.

COOPER: How do you think it plays out in the black community as opposed to within a white community? REV. DYSON: Well, within African-American communities, those who got into certain sororities and fraternities, those who were privileged to be accepted at certain schools. Those who are seen as the upper crust of African-American culture and those quite frankly who might have in the minds of some people mimic the ideals of white beauty more elegantly than others were considered to be more attractive, more vivacious were spotted earlier on possessing a certain set of gifts perhaps than others.

And again, I'm not suggesting that the contrary is not true; that African-American people who are dark, you saw Reverend T.D. Jakes on the show before, don't get accepted and acknowledged but there's a hierarchy that has been persistent in African-American culture that at least has to be accounted for.

COOPER: Soledad, I guess colorism, some people call it, how much did you hear about that in the year that you were researching?

O'BRIEN: Absolutely a lot. Interestingly, some people saying that is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. And some people saying, oh, I'm so glad you finally confronted an issue in the black community that people don't talk about, an issue that also exists really outside of the black community too.

Sometimes we would show clips of the documentary in the last few months and there would be shouting matches over the issue and people saying, that is ridiculous to suggest that dark skinned black men are somehow discriminated against because of the color of the skin. And just by those fights, you could tell that you had really touched a nerve.

COOPER: Dr. Dyson to what extent do you think Hollywood -- the media propagates this notion, of this difference?

REV. DYSON: You know, it's huge but it's not only within Hollywood, it's also in the videos of rap stars and other musicians who seemed to favor nondark-skinned black women at some points and then in some instances, dark black men going south.

So it depends upon what the flavor of the month, so to speak is. But when you look at the long history in evolution, colorism and African- American culture, there's no question that there's a kind deference to those who are lighter, brighter, and whiter and what that meant in terms of the collective psyche of the dominant culture that associated that lighter skin with higher intelligence and therefore more desirable traits that could be seen in black culture.

COOPER: Dr. Dyson's story is going to be on tomorrow on "Black in America;" the complete story. It's fascinating.

Dr. Dyson, I appreciate you being on tonight to preview it with us. And Soledad will be back with more "Black in America."

Our coverage continues next with a controversial plan to help black kids do better in school by paying them to learn. Does it work?

Harvard economist Roland Fryar says, yes. He'll join us after this short break.


COOPER: You can see that about one out of every two African-American students in the U.S. gets a high school diploma; a pretty sobering number. Disparities in educational achievements between blacks and whites is just one of the many topics Soledad O'Brien tackles tomorrow night when "Black in America" continues with a look at the black male.

Earlier tonight, Soledad examined a crisis in American education and the unusual approached one Harvard economist is using to try and fix it.


ROLAND FRYAR, HARVARD ECONOMIST: What I'm always so struck with is when you look into a fourth grader's eyes, and these are 9 or 10- years-old, you're going to see nothing but opportunity. And the question is how do we take further advantage?

I've got a game we can play today. Do you want to play a game?


O'BRIEN: Harvard economist Roland Fryar is convinced he can help close the achievement gap between black and white kids.

FRYAR: What math do you learn in school?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Multiplication, subtraction, addition --

O'BRIEN: By paying them to learn.

He introduces us to some Brooklyn fourth graders who are earning money for their progress on a series of ten assessment tests.

O'BRIEN: I need help. Who's going to be my helper? Come with me. Come on. We'll be Team O'Brien. Come on.

Exams they took this year.

Oh, team -- wins it, hello. Good job. Good job.

FRYAR: They can get up to $25 on each test. That's $250 for perfect scores all the way through. Go ask the kids, I think they'll tell you that they like taking tests now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think it makes us want to learn more.

O'BRIEN: Jason Doughley, Eric Kennedy, Chelsea Gardner are all fourth grader who are earning by learning.

Do you know how much money is in your bank account right now?


O'BRIEN: $65.75. What are you going to do with $65.75 that's in your account?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I would like to save it for college and if I get a scholarship, I could use it to buy a house.

O'BRIEN: Principal Marian Brown says she's seen real progress with Fryar's experiment.


I think in a sense it's important because we spend a great deal of time holding children accountable for the negative things they do. It's important for us to focus on the positive.

We're glad you are a part of our class. Congratulations.

O'BRIEN: Today, over 5,000 students in the New York City public school system are participating in this privately-funded program. Similar incentive programs are under way in Atlanta, Dallas, and Baltimore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always said the most important ingredient in every school is the teacher.

O'BRIEN: there are critics. Pedro Nugueda (ph) is a professor at New York University.

PEDRO NUGUEDA, PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I think it's based on a false assumption that just a little bit of money might get kids to work harder, try harder, ignoring the fact that some of those kids are not being taught by well-experienced or well-trained teachers. Some of them are in schools that are overcrowded and dysfunctional.

O'BRIEN: Do you think that by getting paid for your test, ruining your love for learning?


O'BRIEN: Wow that was a resounding no, my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just encouraging us to do more work. It's not ruining our chances of getting good grades, it's actually highering it.

O'BRIEN: Eric's father, Eric Kennedy Senior, could not be more pleased with the results.

ERIC KENNEDY SR.: He wants THE money in the bank. He's trying to get the best school as he can so he can get the top dollar.

O'BRIEN: But for 10-year-old Eric Jr., the money he makes will also help his family.

ERIC, JR.: Half the money I would give to my dad to pay some of the bills off.

ERIC, SR.: He sees how hard I struggle, he wants to make things a little bit better. I always tell him that good grades will get you that job that you can make everything better for everybody.


COOPER: The man advocating pay-to-learn also has another program that's unconventional, giving students free cell phones as rewards for academic performance. Listen --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The million public school students in New York City will each receive a "Million," a cell phone reinvented as a free education tool. During school hours, in schools in-mode, distractive call and text functions are disabled and the "Million" becomes a student-mobile computer equipped with educational web access and practical classroom tools.

Teachers can also use the "Million" to deliver assignments and tests. Out of school when school's out-mode the "Million" switches back to a fully functioning cell phone.


COOPER: Joining me now, Harvard economist, Roland Fryar as well as CNN's Soledad O'Brien. Does this work? The pay-to-learn, the cell phone?

FRYAR: We don't know yet. We're going to measure it, we're going to be very careful and scientific about it. And I hope to report to you in a few months what the preliminary results look like.

COOPER: You had concerns that I read that it might send a message to these kids that the pay-to-learn, that learning is not its own reward.

FRYAR: Those are not my concerns. My biggest concern is we don't do anything. Look at Eric Kennedy. There are lots of Eric Kennedys in the world.

The thing that hurts me so bad, Anderson, is that when we look into his eyes, very few people have the heart to tell him that in ten years, one in three of the Eric Kennedys out there will be in prison.

COOPER: That's the little boy you were speaking about.

FRYAR: Absolutely. Where the program is hiring, if we're right? Exactly. The thing is we have to do something. This is one start. And we're going to measure it. If it works, we'll scale it up. If it doesn't work, I'll be the first to say let's shut it down and let's try something different.

COOPER: That little boy is a star. That kid is so great --

O'BRIEN: He's so great. He's in fourth grade. We'll be following the documentary. You follow the families' travails.

He was with his dad and his sister. Their home, their apartment was being converted to a single apartment. They got kicked out. They tried to appeal and it didn't work. In three weeks he will be homeless. They'll move back in to a shelter if they can't find an apartment. So far, they've had no luck.

If you take that further then you say a little smart boy like Eric Kennedy not lowering my learning -- it's highering my interest in learning. How do you learn in a homeless shelter, realistically?

And at what point -- by the time he's in the seventh grade, is Eric Kennedy just going to have lost any interest in education? Because right now, he's got it, you see the light in his eyes.

COOPER: You see the excitement about education.

O'BRIEN: So at some point soon, though, you can understand how that gets lost. And that's what really it's all about.

COOPER: What's the idea behind the cell phones?

FRYAR: The idea about the cell phones is to engage kids. All these ideas are focusing on what I call -- I'm an economist -- the demand side of education. A lot of people focus on the supply side -- getting better teachers and those things are absolutely important. I agree Pedro Nugueda, it's absolutely important.

But let's not neglect the demand side and that is motivating kids to take their own education to their own hands. And so cell phones, financial rewards for kids, we're meeting kids where they are and giving them rewards to do the things that we want them to do.

COOPER: It's remarkable what you're and we'll continue to follow real hard.

Appreciate you being with us. We'll have more on "Black in America" tomorrow night. Soledad O'Brien will also stick around for the rest of this hour.

Up next, black, successful, and single. Why more black women are choosing to be alone.

Tomorrow night, Soledad looks at the state of black men in America; that's starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern followed by another special edition of "360" at 11:00.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: The number of black women in the U.S. who have never married has doubled in the past 50 years. Tomorrow, be sure to tune in to see more of Soledad O'Brien's "Black in America" special, the focus black men.

Earlier tonight Soledad introduced us to some very successful black women and looked at why some of them never marry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've had some major discussions with people that say your lifestyle is intimidating. But if it's between living the life that I want to live and getting married, I don't know.

O'BRIEN: She's educated, financially independent, black and single.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There certainly is this concern that I've done all these things. I've checked off all the boxes and, you know, where's my partner?


COOPER: Joining me again, conservative political analyst and deputy editorial page Editor for "The Washington Times" Tara Wall and Soledad O'Brien.

It is fascinating Tara that if you are a successful educated black woman living in America today, your chances of finding a mate actually decrease. How can that be?

WALL: Hear, hear.

COOPER: Hear, hear?

WALL: You know, because I think it's a challenge on both ends. I mean, you are single, you're independent, you know you can make it on your own, so to speak. So you want someone that is, as was pointed out by Chris in the piece, it's going to, at the very least, meet you at your level.

And when you see some of the statistics that we've seen with black men in the black community, I don't think that's the majority by any stretch. Of course, I still think that there are good men, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, out there. But I think that the level of expectation rises when black women are doing better.

And at the same time, you know, because they're doing so well, they feel like, well, I don't necessarily have to get married. I'm happy, I'm doing well. There was a time where you got married so you could be stable and everyone could, you know, work together as a family union and earn more.

If you're single and doing well and you own your own home and you have your own car and you're doing your own thing, it's not that you don't -- people say I don't need a man. You have choices, you have options. And I think that that's what you're starting to see.

And you have far more black women who are -- have higher levels of education, who are graduating from college at a higher rate than black men.

One of the women you profiled, Soledad, said that Chris Rock said to her, you know, why don't you date white guys?

O'BRIEN: Do what black men do. Exercise your options. COOPER: But that -- I mean, it's a controversial issue. It's a stupid cliche term to say "controversial," but it is an issue for some people.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I think a lot of single women talked about in the piece, too, for some women, it was a very difficult decision. Other women said hey, there's "X" number of people to date, I'm going to open up my options.

But I think for some black women we interviewed, it felt like no, I really want to be part of a black family. I want a black husband and black kids and that's exactly what I want in my life and that's how I see my life going so I'm going to wait to find the right man.

COOPER: Tara, you say that intimidation is a big issue for successful women. How so?

WALL: I've heard that in my own personal experiences out there, unfortunately I don't want to necessarily --

O'BRIEN: She's never been there.

WALL: I've heard from black men that, you know, there is this intimidation factor. They are intimidated, you're intimidating. What would I possibly have to offer you? You know, or they're just intimidated by the fact that maybe she earns a little bit more than me and I'm not secure in me.

I just say step up to the plate. Be secure. Let's move it up a level. Let's have more black men committed to marriage and family and oneness and wholeness and not necessarily taking a pass or not criticizing, but almost accepting, you know, the fact that there's so many single black mothers.

I mean, we say this is statistics over and over again, but it's just tragic that 66 percent of black kids, almost 70 percent of black kids are in single-family homes who are born to black mothers, single mothers.

COOPER: You also say 42 percent of black women are not married or may never get married. There are broader implications for that.

O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely. That is a big problem. You're talking about bringing children into the world because that can be, if you can provide for yourself and you have a job and you feel you've got everything but the man, you can have the kid and not necessarily have the man.

And that has implications, as we've seen in those numbers are staggering and people who have children and are heads of single households, they're more likely to be impoverished children, kids are more likely to get pregnant. It's the general bad list, all those things are on it.

Would you date outside your race? Put you on the spot?

COOPER: I wasn't going to ask that question.

O'BRIEN: I can adlib.

WALL: I have no problem with it. We all essentially come from mixed families in a way. We go back far enough -- you know, my father is of mixed race. It's not an issue in my family. It hasn't been an issue for at least my immediate relatives in the past.

Listen, that's what we call affirmative action, right? Equal opportunity, equal access. I think that applies to dating.

COOPER: The whole notion of what race is, of what black is, is changing and in generations will be so different than what we think of now. The whole -- there's just such an evolution of who we are as a people moving forward, which I think is interesting.

O'BRIEN: I think some people like to talk about, well, we're moving toward a colorless society, but I don't know that -- I'm not sure that's a goal. And I don't know that that -- a goal to aim for, and I'm not sure that we really are.

I think some of these conversations about race, at least in our interviews, are very deep and intense and confusing. You know, if you are biracial, as I am, and you marry a white guy, as I have done, and you have children, some of whom look black, some of whom look white.

WALL: So what would your children be considered?

O'BRIEN: They are people of color. It becomes a very complicated question. As generations go on, you have to sort of figure out this conversation. I think people want to talk about it.

WALL: And we won't necessarily -- this idea of color-blindness, you can't be blind to color, but I think the point is that we stop making such an issue of color or issue about color and race.

COOPER: The conversation is going to continue tomorrow night with part two of "Black in America."

Coming up at the top of the hour, "CNN Presents Black in America: The Black Woman and Family."

And a program note tomorrow CNN's Soledad O'Brien looks at the state of black men in America; part two of her report as I said. That starts again at 9:00 p.m.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: That does it for this edition of "360." Thanks for watching.

Now, Soledad O'Brien and CNN Presents "Black in America: The Black Woman and Family."

We'll see you tomorrow.