Tag Archives: education

Being Black, Male and Educated in Today’s World

By James Ewers

There are far too many black males being portrayed as useless citizens in our society.  We see pictures of us being sent to jail or being expelled from school.  Some of us still turn a blind eye to what is going on around us.  The CNN Special, “Black in America” pointed out that African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, yet we commit 49 percent of the homicides.  That statistic should send a sobering message to all of us, black and white, who see ourselves as difference-makers. 

 

 

Obviously, we as African Americans have come a long way since the days of segregation.  While our gains educationally have been significant, we still have a very long way to go.  The achievement gap, according to some, has increased between black children and white children.  Some of this achievement gap data is being played out every day.  Recently, I went to the public library to check out some books and made a casual observation about who was in the library.  While some may disagree, there is more value in some African American homes placed on an Xbox and a Nintendo Wii than getting a library card and using it.  It doesn’t matter how proficient your child is on either game as the more compelling question is, can they pass the third grade proficiency test?  I don’t have anything against these games. However they can’t be put ahead of education.

 

 

We can’t undo the past yet we can be better forecasters about the future of our young African American boys if we become more proactive.  Educating African American boys might arguably be the single greatest priority in our communities. The biggest piece in this educational equation is that education must be viewed as invaluable in our quest for success.  It can’t be seem as a maybe but should be seen as a must!  National statistics show that young black boys are more likely to be suspended or expelled before completing high school than any other group. 

 

 

There are some factors that have led to this statistic being what it is.  First, a dearth of successful African American role models has contributed to young male students not seeing enough of us and they therefore think dreaming big dreams is out of the question. Therefore invariably when you ask a young African American boy what he wants to do, he will give you the name of a sports star or a music star.  As a product of the legitimate old school, I knew as much about Dr. King, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Whitney Young as I did Jim Brown, Willie Mays and Jessie Owens.  Maybe we need to invest in copies of Jet, Essence and Ebony so that our boys can see successful African American males in business, the military, education, law and medicine. 

 

 

Behavior has also contributed to this dilemma. Fighting and destroying school property only creates a negative opinion about young black males. Simply put, knowing how to comport yourself will put you in a favorable position with the education community. Another factor is the lack of diversity training in many of our school systems. There are teachers who are simply ill-equipped to interact successfully with young black males. It is my thinking that diversity training should be mandated for every school system.

 

 

Valuing education means talking about it in our homes, then our boys will have an increased chance to become an educated black male. Of course being black, male and educated brings on increased responsibility and opportunity. If you have these three characteristics, you have a chance to be a change agent each day. For those of us who are blessed to have a college degree it means that we must do more. Here are two ways of thinking about being black, male and educated. I believe the vast majority of people will give us the respect that we have earned. I would like to believe that our opinions about matters of the day are valued and valuable. On the other side are those who fear us because of our color, our maleness and our education. We become instant threats to some who are unwilling to accept us because we bring new ideas and inclusion to the process. Maybe in the end that is the dual role for those of us who are black, male and educated; that is, we are both respected and feared. 

 

Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AAUW’s Recent Report, Where the Girls Are: The Facts about Gender Equity in Education Sparking a National Debate

By Dr. James Moore, III

In recent popular publications, such as Newsweek and New Republic, the gender equity discourse has changed focused. In these magazines, the authors suggest that girls are no longer educationally disadvantaged, due to their academic successes throughout the educational pipeline. These publications further suggest that boys are now the disadvantaged group, due to their declining academic performance. After reading these publications, one may leave thinking that decades of efforts to improve school outcomes for girls have come at the expense of boys.

Recently, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) unveiled a landmark report entitled, Where the Girls Are: The Facts about Gender Equity in Education Sparking a National Debate. It uses national data (i.e., NAEP scores, SAT scores, ACT scores, and high school grade point averages) to highlight girls’ educational outcomes in the last 35 years. In this report, its authors (Christianne Corbette, Catherine Hill and Andresse St. Rose) focus on the relationships between girls’ and boys’ academic progress. The authors use national data to examine educational trends for these two groups in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary settings.

After reading Where the Girls Are, it is clear that AAUW produced this report to shatter the notion that boys are disadvantaged educationally, because of girls. The report reveals that girls in general have made significant educational gains, as well as boys. There was not any significant differences between the two groups’ education progress, when you examined within group data. However, the report did reveal clear differences based on race/ethnicity and family income. For example, African American and Hispanic students – both girls and boys – scored significantly lower than their White and Asian American counterparts.

Based on these findings, both race and class have once again emerged as salient variables. Like many other studies, I was disappointed that the report did not develop this part of the document. To me, the authors missed an opportunity to expand the discourse beyond issues of girls. How might we expand this discourse to capture the authentic voices of people of color (boys and girls) and low-income populations? How can organizations, such as AAUW, help facilitate this dialogue among educators, researchers, and policy makers? If the report focused only on women and the different ethnic groups in America, what story would the same data tell? And, how would the narrators (or authors) tell the story?

In my opinion, racism and classism are alive and well in American society. I see them play out a lot in the lives of so many. This is clear, based on my research (see my website: http://www/education.osu.edu/jmoore).  I look forward to engaging you in civil dialogue on the aforementioned questions.

 Dr. James Moore, III is director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male at The Ohio State University.

 

 

 

In Memory of One Black Male Educator

Hello. My name is Emmett L. Gill, Jr., and I am an assistant professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. I might be what you consider a non-traditional academic – I study the intersection between sports and society, I am relatively young (below 40 in dog years), and I am a black male. I hope this mix of variables will make for some interesting blogging as I attempt to stimulate your intellectual juices with a few appetizers on academics and athletics in higher education.

However, before I delve into academics and athletics please bear with me while I share with you my memories of a black male educator – Emmett L. Gill, Sr. –my Dad! Senior was in the field of education for 36 years – rising from the ranks of a middle school English teacher to assistant principal of one of the largest, most challenging city high schools in North Carolina. In other words, my father was getting his Joe Clark on well before Lean on Me hit the big screen. Labeled as a gentle giant my father was 6’4”, 300-plus, but his students and colleagues viewed him as gentle because of his soft voice and uncanny ability to bring peace to almost any situation.

One of my fathers’ “people tools” was his desire to teach young men and women how to use sport to obtain an education. My father accepted a basketball scholarship to Winston Salem Teachers College to play basketball for the legendary Clarence “Big House” Gaines – while also lettering in football and golf. As a teacher and administrator he used his experiences to motivate at-risk males to obtain their high school education and for marginal student-athletes to use their athletic prowess to obtain a functional degree. I did not understand it when I was younger, but my father had a vested interest, I mean a passion, for influencing students’ lives. I cannot make a trip home without one of his former students stopping me and expressing to me how my father influenced their life. It’s funny how social learning and modeling works because I am driven by a similar purpose.

On Tuesday, April 29, 2008, at the age of 69 my father was called home by his lord and savior. I will miss him dearly as will my mother, sister, and the scores of students he schooled. My father raised an educator and scores of teachers, librarians, mental health workers, accountants, contractors, bankers and yes professional athletes – I hope that I can influence my students the way Mr. Gill influenced his “Gillites”.

While I have shed many tears I must get back to work in memory of one of the greatest black male educators we will ever see – my Dad – Senior – Mr. G!

Dr. Gill is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Rutgers University.

African American teacher numbers need improvement

By James Ewers

 

How do you become what you want to be?  When you ask children what they want their life’s work to be, you will hear a variety of answers.  They gain their perspectives obviously from a lot of sources.  Parents, grandparents, other love providers, coaches and teachers are just a few of the resources that kids use as a basis for their responses.  If a young child is around a person with a certain skill set then their first inclination is to say that I want to be like that particular person. 

 

My own career in education probably started with my high school history teacher, Mr. William Earl.  He made learning fun at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem, N.C. so I believe the teaching seed was planted by him.  Mr. Earl was a confident and well-educated black man who set high standards for his students.  So I think that our communities need more teachers who look like Mr. Earl, which may result in more black kids choosing careers in education.  There is no lack of reports and stories about the low number of African American teachers in this country. 

 

It also raises several questions for your review and consideration.  I will pose four that come jumping off the chalkboard at me.  First, is there a correlation between the number of African American teachers and the number of African American children, especially boys that are suspended and expelled from school?  Second, why don’t school districts develop partnerships with historically black colleges and universities where many black students major in teacher education?  Third, why aren’t there incentive packages that will help to recruit African American teachers and fourth, once here, are there opportunities for advancement? 

 

Because I have some opinions and attitudes about each of these questions, I will share them with you.  I don’t expect wholesale agreement but I do hope that it will begin a serious discussion about the dearth of African American teachers and how to increase that number.  I do believe there are some linkages between the lack of black teachers and black children being suspended and expelled.  Unfortunately, there is a cultural divide in some communities whether spoken or un-spoken and therefore stereotypes on both sides are played out on a daily basis.  When a black or white child can say that they have never had an African American teacher in 12 years of schooling even when the school district is diverse then, there is a problem.  Even communities that have no black students in their schools aren’t excused from having black and other teachers of color.  That is an easy out to simply say that because we don’t have black kids, we don’t have black teachers.  Education is about learning and providing new vistas of information.  In addition it is also about breaking down barriers and giving voice to the voiceless. 

 

Racial diversity is just not good for people of color it is good for white people, too.  I have never quite understood why diversity has to be a black thing.  This is about celebrating our differences and understanding one another better, which then leads to a better America.  Black and white kids need to see black educators.  You can’t have a healthy appreciation for the abilities of black teachers if you never see them in schools.  Both black and white kids are at a disadvantage socially when they are not exposed to different people and cultures.  I would opine that school districts in particular that have significant numbers of students of color will see a decrease in suspensions and expulsions when there is more of an African American teacher presence in their schools. 

 

There are over 100 historically black colleges and universities in the United States of America.  Going to colleges that have all white students as education majors and then saying you’re trying to increase diversity is shallow.  You have got to go where there are African American education majors.  And then if and when you go, you can’t take an all white recruiting team and then expect results.  African American teachers are in high demand so school districts that are serious about recruiting them need to have serious plans.  Just saying what some people want to hear without any implementation plan will soon go by the wayside.  I would suggest there are retired African American teachers who can provide valuable wisdom on this issue. 

 

While it can be justified to talk about the low numbers of African American teachers in the nation the question is what are school systems going to do about it?  Recruiting of any kind can be both challenging and rewarding.  More specifically, recruiting African American teachers is difficult because the competition for them is so keen.  School districts as I said some years ago must partner with businesses, banks, car dealerships and real estate companies in order to attract new teachers.  In some ways recruiting African American teachers is no different than recruiting national merit scholars or top notch business people.  There has to be some incentive to attract African American teachers to this city.  Traditional ways of attracting African American teachers will no longer work.   New paradigms to attract African American teachers must be employed sooner rather than later.  Colleges usually hold graduation in May so it begs the question what are we doing now? 

 

Attracting and retaining African American teachers are two different things.  Many of us think that there must be some pathway of promotion for schools to keep them.  Black teachers, too, want to be valued and feel valuable. 

 

As the year unfolds let those of us black and white who understand that the lack of racial diversity hurts our children join together to be part of the solution.

 

Dr. James Ewers is associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown.