Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Leaving Our Black Boys Behind

Education has long been the hallmark of making it in America. Lack of education allowed chattel slavery to run undisturbed for 400 years. The presence of it has allowed all racial groups, majority and minority to prosper from it's influence by simply knowing to be better. But for all the positive attributes having an education has, a piece to the academic puzzle is missing. Black men.

A report from the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School for Education seeks to find a way to increase the success for Black men in higher education. To do so it first addresses the dismal statistics surrounding Black men in education before suggesting solutions to the problem.


First the Problem:

  • Only 47% of Black male students graduated on time from U.S. high schools in 2008, compared to 78% of White male students
  • Black male students are often comparatively less prepared than others for the rigors of college-level academic work
  • In 2002, Black men comprised only 4.3% of students enrolled at institutions of higher education, the exact same percentage as in 1976
  • Black men are overrepresented on revenue-generating intercollegiate sports teams. In 2009, they were only 3.6% of undergraduate students, but 55.3% of football and basketball players at public NCAA Division 1 Institutions
  • Black male college completion rates are lowest among both sexes and racial/ethnic groups in U.S. higher education
  • Across four cohorts of undergraduates, the six-year graduation rate for Black male students attending public colleges and universities was 33.3% compared to 48.1% for students overall
  • Black men's degree attainment across all levels of postsecondary education is alarmingly low, especially in comparison to their same-race female counterparts
  • Black men's representation in graduate and professional schools lags behind that of their Latino and Asian American male counterparts. For instance, during a 30 year period (1977-2007), Black men experience a 109% increase in post-baccaulaureate degree attainment, compared to 242% for Latino men and 425% for Asian American men, the comparative rate of increase for Black women was 253%
  • Black undergraduate men, like some other racial minority students at predominantly white institutions, routinely encounter racist stereotypes and racial microaggressions that undermine their achievement and sense of belonging
  • In comparison to their same-race female counterparts, Black men take fewer notes in class, spend less time writing papers and completing class assignments, participate less frequently in campus activities, hold fewer leadership positions, and report lower grades
In a nutshell, Black men who do go to college most often play sports. Those that don't most likely don't finish.

So what is the solution?

According to the report it is having Black men who were able to navigate through college successfully talk to young Black men about how to do the same. Points that should be discussed include:

  • Getting to College (How is it done)
  • Choosing Colleges (Picking the best fit)
  • Paying for College (How to do it without massive debt)
  • Transitioning to College (Putting yourself in the collegiate mindset and leaving the BS behind)
  • Matters of Engagement (Becoming Active on Campus)
  • Responding Productively to Racism (Don't fight first)
With five men on the Urban Politico staff, I'm sure they could all speak easily on the pitfalls and the triumphs of their collegiate experience. But to some in this world The Janitor, The Fed, Old Guru, Shady Grady and Godson are the exceptions not the rule.

Imparting education on Black men is not difficult. Getting them to see that college may be one of the only ways left to advance in the world is not difficult. The difficulty in my opinion is to provide them the hope and optimism as well as the opportunity that they need to get the job done even when it is more difficult.

What this report did not consider is how often Black men are labeled before they even realize there is anything wrong with their behavior. Carrying a BD, ADD or ADHD label as a child prepares you for a lifetime of educational wrongs committed against you as a teen and then again as an adult.

For example, my nephew is five. He is hyper, hyper-opinionated, extremely talkative, and quick to defend himself. These traits depending on which one he's displaying at any given time may have some teachers wanting to label him quickly. Yet if you ever have a conversation with him while he's doing his homework you'll understand the boy doesn't need a label. He may carry on five different conversations about a guitar, a Wii, and why he needs and iPhone, but the homework will be done, directions understood and the problems solved.

In our prescription obsessed world children need to be left alone to be children. Our black boys need to be allowed the freedom to express themselves so that as men they are comfortable with going after what they want and need starting with a college education.

College may not be for every man, woman and child on this earth but higher education hurts no one. At a time when statisticians find racial education gaps narrowing while income based ones widening it is important to note Black men are at the ends of both of those gaps.

Getting to college is not the first step to solving the laundry list of aforementioned problems. Letting our Black men know from infancy education is their future is. That mantra needs to be instilled into Black boys and the Black community in general until we bleed it. Otherwise a new decade will roll around and we will find the prison industrial complex worse than it is now, racial profiling at an all time high, three strike laws narrowed down to one, and the presence of Black men on college campuses a rarity and male to female ratios at 31 to 1.

But I'm just a woman. Let the men weigh in on the issue.

Questions:

1. How did you make it to and through college?
2. What is the biggest problem you faced going through the steps?
3. If you could do it over what if anything would you do differently?
4. What do you know now that you wish you'd known then?
5. What other insight on the issue do you have?
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