The New Politics of Race and Gender: The 1992 Yearbook of the Politics of Education Association

By Catherine Marshall | Go to book overview
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Community politics and the education of African American males: Whose life is it anyway?

Kal Alston

School restructuring and reform is always undertaken with implicit and explicit values guiding the formation of questions, problems, and policy. In the case of the various articulations of policies regarding the schooling of African American males, illuminating these values is important in assessing the success of the programs’ consequences—intended and unintended. This chapter sketches the possibilities and problematics of separate schooling experiences for African American males in the contexts of individual, community, and State interests and power. 1

In the aftermath of proposals for all-male African American academies in cities such as New York, Detroit and Milwaukee, among others, many voices immediately expressed grave reservations. The NAACP and the Urban League as well as feminist analysts were concerned that the proposals represented an abandonment of hope in a changing society (Ascher 1991:14). They also feared that there would be legal ramifications on both racial and gender lines, namely the potential violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX, both of which curtail the rights of public institutions to provide differential resource allocation on the basis of race or gender. Further, there was concern that the proposals could be used to reinforce the de facto segregation of African American children in general (and boys in particular) already resulting in injurious differential treatment of those students in school. This chapter will be an attempt to contextualize those concerns as salvos in ongoing battles over the ownership and leadership of various communities. A look at the Milwaukee public schools’ plan and programs in other parts of the country suggests that the disagreements that separate the sides on the issue of such academies have legal, educational, and social bases as well as consequences.


Is there life after desegregation?

In her 1985 monograph Thirty Years After Brown, Jennifer Hochschild paints a not-altogether-positive picture of the programmatic and systematic changes resulting from the 1954 Brown decision. There are changes to be sure: In 1968, 77 percent of black students attended schools with more than 50 percent black enrollment and 67 percent attended schools with 90 to 100 percent black enrollment. By 1980, 63 percent of blacks were in schools above 50 percent, but only 33 percent attended 90 to 100 percent black-enrolled schools. The national figures mask many things, however. Most of the changes took place in the South, and almost all court-ordered desegregation took place between 1968 and 1976. The five largest cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Houston) have no mandatory desegregation plans, and only one out of the ten largest cities has more than 33 percent white public school enrollment. In the last decade, support for mandatory desegregation plans has eroded for many reasons: among them the growing significance of Latino interests, and the erosion of black support for

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