Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males

Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males

Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males

Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males


Today, young Black men are more likely to be killed or sent to prison than to graduate from college. Yet, despite all the obstacles, some are achieving at the highest academic and professional levels. Beating the Odds tells their remarkable stories and shows us what African American families have done to raise academically successful sons, sons who are among the top two percent of African American males in terms of SAT scores and grades. The result of extensive and innovative research, Beating the Odds goes beyond mere analysis--and beyond the relentlessly negative media images--to show us precisely how young Black men can succeed despite the roadblocks of racism, the temptations of crime and drugs, and a popular culture that values being "cool" over being educated. By interviewing parents and children from a range of economic and educational backgrounds and from both single and two-parent homes, the authors identify those constants that contribute to academic achievement and offer step-by-step guidance on six essential strategies for effective parenting: child-focused love; strong limit-setting and discipline; continually high expectations; open, consistent, and strong communication; positive racial identity and positive male identity; and full use of community resources. The proof of the effectiveness of such strategies is in the sons themselves, who speak eloquently in these pages about their struggles and successes in both the classroom and the often hostile world that surrounds it. Essential reading for parents, teachers, and school administrators, Beating the Odds offers insight, guidance, and hope for anyone concerned about the plight of young African American men and the society they live in.


Well, I guess I beat the odds. My parents didn't even read or mite. They were sharecroppers. My mother would try to instill in me the importance of school, even though she couldn't help me with my homework. But I beat the odds.

Parent of young Black male

In our work, we often hear African American parents expressing the hope and desire that their children will achieve at the highest levels academically. What we also hear from these parents, though, is that one rarely sees in the media examples of young Black males who are achieving academically, being rewarded for those achievements, and feeling good about being smart. Even among advantaged African American families, we find that young males are heavily influenced by the popular culture that discourages pride in high academic achievement, demands that young Black males present a hard veneer to the world, and provides numerous opportunities for these young males to become involved in a world of crime and drugs. In fact, the idea for this book originated from our concern about the frightening status of young African American males and the need to find effective, family-based, educational solutions to enhance their futures. The book examines what families are doing to raise academically successful African American males.

Moreover, race now is a hot topic--one of those topics we have difficulty discussing and which quickly leads to tension and feelings of discomfort. Unfortunately, most of the discussion on race focuses on the problems minorities are experiencing; these groups, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, are too often seen as a burden to society because of what they cost taxpayers, rather than as groups that add to the economy and the social and cultural fabric of our society.

We are fortunate in finding one source for our answers in our own backyard, the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, created in 1988 at the Uni versity of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) . . .

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