Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Brothers in Excellence: An Empowerment Model for the Career Development of African American Boys

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Brothers in Excellence: An Empowerment Model for the Career Development of African American Boys

Article excerpt

The author describes Brothers in Excellence (BE), a conceptual model for understanding African American boys and helping them to be successful. BE addresses 3 domains of development proposed to be essential to the success of all African American boys: identity development, social development, and career development.

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Beginning in kindergarten, African American boys experience threats to their success even before they are developmentally able to perceive or counteract them. Although some children, regardless of ethnicity, could be retained, suspended, or expelled at some point from kindergarten through 12th grade, in public schools, African American boys experience these forms of punishment disproportionately (KewalRamani, Gilbertson, Fox, & Provasnik, 2007). Over the course of their primary through secondary education, 23% of African American boys have repeated a grade, 24% have been suspended, and 7% are expelled compared with 12%, 14.9%, and 2.9%, respectively, for the total male student population. These experiences often lead to school incompletion, unemployment, and low annual earnings prospects (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2004; U.S. Department of Education, 2005).

When intergenerational information is taken into account, the career development process, inclusive of educational preparation, can be understood to begin before birth and certainly well before kindergarten. At birth, the contextual stage of the individual is fairly set and includes socioeconomic status, family net worth, parental educational attainment, parental careers, neighborhood, and school system (Gottfredson, 1996; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2000). Children born to college-educated parents who have viable careers, with salaries that afford them the opportunity to live in a safe neighborhood with appropriately funded and supported schools, begin their lives rich in career development resources. Because children cannot determine their early career development circumstances, their initial success is clearly the responsibility and ethical obligation of the adults and professionals entrusted with their care, guidance, and education.

A strong academic foundation will enhance African American boys' opportunities for achievement and success in life (Bailey & Paisley, 2004; Perry, Steele, & Hillard, 2003). This principle is one of several forces driving considerable research on topics related to the achievement gap and similar race-structured educational issues (Davis, 2003). Although educational initiatives responsibly attend to discrepancies in achievement that are based on race, policy makers and educators are irresponsible in their incessant focus on the gap (Connolly, 2006). Excellence in achievement should be the ethical standard for students, rather than whether the academic performance of students of color matches that of their White American peers. Otherwise, students are forced to operate in an achievement gradient that makes students of color vulnerable to stereotype threat (Steele, 1997). Conversely, in the context of the achievement gap, White American and some Asian students are vulnerable to ideas of academic superiority and merited privilege, ideas that are enabled by a historically racist U.S. social system.

The purpose of this article is to describe Brothers in Excellence (BE), a conceptual model (see Figure 1) for understanding African American boys and helping them to be successful. It is distinctive in its attention and response to the unique social reality of African American males in the United States and the inherent challenges to success that membership in this social demographic group presents. Relevant literature supports BEs developmental and preventive conceptualization of the empowerment of African American boys.

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THE BE CONCEPTUAL MODEL

BE addresses three domains of development that are proposed to be essential to the success of all African American boys: identity development, social development, and career development. …

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