The Black Male Research Agenda

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The Black Male Research Agenda: Scholars say research studying Black males is lagging in analysis, proposed solutions

If a wide-ranging research enterprise can be said to exist around defining and proposing solutions for the social dilemmas of African American males, a number of prominent Black scholars and academic administrators can take credit for getting it off the ground.

Experts say the study of Black males has attracted a critical mass of scholars and academic administrators who are getting some attention and support to examine Black male issues.

Nonetheless, the efforts toward studying Black males are believed to be lagging in analysis and proposed solutions.

"We need more research," says Dr. Lee Jones, associate dean of academic affairs and instruction at Florida State University.

One advocate of Black male research is a widely known senior statesman in the academy. As one of the founders and the first research director of the Head Start program, Dr. Edmund Gordon has long recognized the need for a research agenda to be developed around African American males.

At a time when most scholars would have already enjoyed retirement for at least a decade, Gordon, 79, remains heavily engaged in developmental psychology work. This past academic year, the senior scholar whose academic career spans six decades, has had to balance research with administrative duties as the interim dean of Columbia University's Teachers College. Yet despite dean duties cutting into his research time, Gordon has stayed focused on work that broadly examines the intellectual development of minority children.

The plight of African American males inspires the most fervent energy and sense of urgency in Gordon given that he has been urging scholars and government officials to devote resources to the subject for more than a decade. Gordon is not satisfied that enough research is getting past the mere documentation of social problems affecting Black males.

"Most of (the research) is descriptive and not analytical of the causes (of social problems)," Gordon says. Gordon has taken the lead in rallying scholars around a research agenda that focuses broadly on African American males.

Establishing and building support for academic conferences and symposiums on Black males resulted largely in the 1990s due to the advocacy of individuals such as Gordon.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement sponsored a symposium that examined African American males and education. Gordon, who sat on an education department research advisory committee, says he and a colleague had urged the department to facilitate the conference partly to send a signal to the American academic community that African American males are worthy of serious attention. …