Since my hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, doesn’t have a dog in the Pulitzer-bait fight between the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times over which newspaper can blather more about–and ruin more effectively–a highly successful and legal U.S. government program to monitor money-laundering and terrorism-financing banking transactions–the Post has been angling for a Pulitzer in its own way: a nearly endless front-page series (with more installments still in the works) on black men.

Frankly, I’ve found most of the series pretty much a yawner, largely because it ignores the elephant in the African-American living room: the virtual absence of biological fathers in the home for most boys, especially in the underclass, where father-headed families are almost non-existent. The collapse of the black family has translated into a lack of role models, effective and consistent discipline, and the tough love that boys respond to and yearn for, and it’s probably responsible for most of the other social problems of the young black underclass, from crime to unemployment to teen pregnancy to low academic achievement to dropping out of school. But it’s politically incorrect these days to point out that a father is different from a mother, and that parents who take their obligations to their offspring seriously ought to get married and stay married under all but the most dire circumstances.

Then, I read this beautiful installment in the Post series about two 18-year-old African-Americans, Jachin Leatherman and Wayne Nesbit, best friends who just graduated at the top of their classes (valedictorian and salutorian respectively) and are headed for college, despite the fact that their high school has a reputation as one of the worst and most dangerous in the District of Columbia. It’s the kind of place where only 9 percent of the students are proficient at the 10th-grade level in math, and a football teammate of the pair got shot and killed a few months ago. It’s also the kind of place where–usually–the handful of achieving students are almost invariably girls, because it’s not cool to do well in school if you’re a black teen-age male in the underclass. Jachin and Wayne changed that. They became the role models that adolescent boys crave–so popular, so well-respected that here’s what happened:

“In AP literature, teacher Carol Robinson said this year’s class of 13 students was the most she’d ever had. Typically, she has eight students, two of them male; this year, six of the 13 were male — and five were on the football team.

“In AP calculus, ‘I’ve been teaching this class 10 years, and this is the first time I’ve had more males [six] than females [three],’ Joanne Nelson said. More unusual, she added of the males: ‘They’re basically football players.’

“In class after class, teacher after teacher agreed that Jachin and Wayne had indeed made a difference. Students did, too, such as Thor Ford-Toomer, a football player who was making C’s and D’s when Wayne and Jachin befriended him in 10th grade. Over the next two years, he spent so much time at Wayne’s house that he began calling Wayne’s father ‘Daddy,’ and as he finished 12th grade he was an honor roll student who had earned a scholarship to a university in North Carolina.”

Two things to note here. One is that both Wayne and Jachin live with their biological fathers (Jachin’s father teaches at the high school), and those fathers were dedicated to forming the character of their sons. The second is–and I can’t say it enough–male humans need other male humans to look up to. I know I”m not supposed to say this–I’m supposed to pretend that males and females are exactly alike, and that Wayne and Jachin would have had the same effect on the boys at their school had their names been Wayna and Jachina. The Washington Post can’t voice this politically incorrect truth. But it’s there, staring at us in the face in this inspiring story of two young men that’s really a story of two fathers’ dedication beyond all odds.