Phi Delta Kappan - Educating Black Males; Closing the Gap: What Works, What Doesn't, February 2012, 93(5)

August 2012

This volume of the journal Phi Delta Kappan focused on the Black males and their education.  Each article discussed a component of education that could offset obstacles, empower learning, and assist in closing the achievement gap.  When I read this journal, I reflected back on the various Black, young men I taught in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Minnesota.  Many of them were bright, engaged, and enthusiastic.  Some of them were despondent, misbehaving, and full of rage.  All of them were loved by their parents, wanted to be recognized for who they were, and had creative minds that were not often tapped in my classroom.  After reading this journal, I wanted to revisit my fourth grade class in Raleigh, North Carolina so that I could try new strategies to assist Tavarus and Jared who were retained the year before and were very despondent; Carlos who cried when I gave him the school supply list; and Marcus who simply wanted to make me laugh, but was labeled a distraction.  They loved having a Black, male teacher and they would do anything to please me.  We persisted and they performed, but I often wondered if I could have done more for these boys.  This volume outlines practical ideas of what teachers and other school professionals can do to encourage, engage, educate and empower Black males.  I truly encourage each of you to read one of these articles and determine how you can incorporate its content into your teaching.  Below is a sample of some of the excellent articles featured in this volume.

Saving Black and Latino boys: What schools can do to make a difference – Pedro A. Noguera

This article captured some of the common rhetoric that is espoused about what is best for males of color.  Norguera reported that no research supports that separating young men is the best way to meet their academic needs.  The article also discussed the achievement gap; and the states that have the largest gaps for Black males are Nebraska (43%), New York (43%), Wisconsin (42%), Ohio (37%), and Illinois (36%) with a 31% average across the United States.  Norguera stated that the problem is not who we serve, but how well they are served.  He encouraged additional research and for educators to learn from the models that work which are reported in the article.

Yes, Black males are different, but different is not deficient – Christopher Emdin

Emdin says we need to stop pretending that all students are alike and that teaching to their difference will improve their chances for academic success.  He emphasized that different is not deficient and that teachers set low expectations for Black males due to their preconceived notions.  Emdin stated that there were five C’s to reality pedagogy.  The first was cogenerative dialogues in which the teacher talked to groups of males to find out how the students best learn and want to be treated in the classroom.  The second was co-teaching in which the teacher empowered the learner to showcase his knowledge through teaching others.  The teacher exchanged seats with the student and participated as a student, but engaged in redirection if content was inaccurate or key concepts were missed.  The third was cosmopolitanism which focused on the fact that all human beings feel an inherent need to be responsible for each other in some way.  To create a cosmopolitan classroom the teacher must 1) identify the roles and responsibilities that make the class run smoothly, 2) invite Black males to select roles they want to take on, 3) dedicate the first week of school to explicitly discussing the role of students, and 4) transition students from different roles in the classroom from organizing the environment to supporting academic achievement.  The fourth was context in which the teacher and students engaged in a set of practices to bring symbolic artifacts of significant Black males into the classroom.  The fifth was content which focused on what was taught and the extent of knowledge that the teacher brought to the classroom.  The teacher must recognize content limitations and gaps and work diligently to align the content to the lives of Black males.  The teacher opened the classroom for dialogue so that students could challenge inconsistencies.  Emdin concluded that the five C’s can become a blueprint for effectiveness for any teacher who was willing to invest in reality pedagogy.

Librarians form a bridge of books to advance literacy – Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Casey Rawson, Lisa McCracken, Mary Gray Leonard, Heather Cunningham, Katy J. Vance, and Jennifer Boone

This group of librarians from cities in North Carolina worked together to create a program that encouraged Black males to read for pleasure and self-knowledge.  They found that many of their Black, male students were turned off by reading because they could not find books that were empowering of their race and gender.  The authors used the term enabling texts to describe those books that showcased powerful testimonials of Black males. They stated that these types of books promoted a healthy psyche reflected an awareness of the real world, focused on the collective struggles of African Americans, and served as a road map for being, doing, serving, and acting.  The article provided copious examples of these types of texts and several strategies on how to use them.

Again, this is just a sample of the many rich articles in this volume.  Other gems are:

Why can’t Jamal read? Terry Husband

Touchdowns and honor societies – Jerome E. Morris and Adeoye O. Adeyemo

Life skills yield stronger academic performance – Tommie Lindsey, Jr. and Benjamin Mabie

Separating the boys from the girls – Gregory A. Patterson

The voices of young Black males – Tracey Sparrow and Abby Sparrow