Beyond Insanity: Creating All Male Classrooms and Schools as a Policy Option in the Portfolio of Local School Districts

By Goff, Wilhelmina D.; Johnson, Norman J. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Beyond Insanity: Creating All Male Classrooms and Schools as a Policy Option in the Portfolio of Local School Districts


Goff, Wilhelmina D., Johnson, Norman J., Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


I. Introduction

A. The Issue

Albert Einstein observed that it is insanity to believe that you can travel the same path and get a different result. The simple truth is that American public schools work less well for males in general and are an abysmal disaster for young men of color (YMC). (1) Consider these observations drawn from U.S. National data:

* Black children, especially males, are consistently less involved in home literacy activities.

* One out of three Black males will go to jail by the time they are thirty-five.

* Three out of four Black children grow up in single parent, principally female-headed households.

* In 2000, seven out of ten Black and Latino students attended predominately minority schools.

* More than six out of ten Black and Hispanic students attend predominately low-income schools.

* Three out of four Black males do not read on grade level in grade four.

* In 1980, one out of four the American population, under the age of 20, was children of color. In 2006, America's population of children of color under 20 was more than four out of ten.

The last bullet is instructive. With the size of the population that public schools have failed to develop rising (Jonathan Tilove, "America's Conflicted About Diversity's Value", Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 8, 2007, p B-3) and likely to continue rising in the future, why would we want to continue the schooling insanity of doing what we have been doing given the outcomes. Thomas Friedman (See Box 1) (May 23, 2007) describes the upstream outcomes that result from the downstream dithering.

Box 1

As the first Rensselaer graduates came to the stage, all of them
doctoral students in biotechnology, computing, physics,
engineering, and chemistry, it seemed as though they were all going
to be foreign born. The last one called saved the day. If we cannot
produce enough of our own children to compete at this level, we
need to make sure we can import someone else's. Otherwise, we will
not maintain our standing in the world nor our standard of living
at home. Further, in an age when everyone increasingly has the same

innovation tools, the key differentiator is human talent.

There is a huge disconnect, as Friedman, Bill Gates and others see it, between what is being produced and what is needed. Hence Friedman argues we should get talent from wherever we can if we cannot produce it.

At the state and local level where education is delivered the consternation mirrors Friedman's. The state and local financial investment in educational opportunity is huge.

In Georgia for example, HOPE Scholarship retention, especially for males, is a disaster (3). This represents loss opportunities; opportunities needed to unravel the Box 1 story. In Prince George's (PG) County Schools in Maryland, another example, the anomaly is confounding. Prince George's is a principally Black and an economically prosperous county much like its neighbor Montgomery County. Its educational performance though is more akin to the performance of the Baltimore City schools instead of the performance of neighboring Montgomery County Schools. Peeling the onion for a more focused looks at Prince George's yields the following information (4):

* In 2005, only 1,299 males from a pool of 32,000 eligible in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades sat for advanced placement examinations.

* Black males garnered six out of ten suspensions in school year 2004-05.

* African American males were more likely than other population segments to be placed in special education.

* African American males made up only 8.5% (8,523) of Maryland's college population in 2004-05.

* Of this number, only one-third (2,812) ultimately graduated college.

The upstream impact on schooling performance in PG County and the subsequent college going behavior of Black males across Maryland is likely traceable to the downstream results especially the 4th grade reading results.

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