Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Revising Curriculum to Mentor Young Black Men

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Revising Curriculum to Mentor Young Black Men

Article excerpt


At various points along the educational journey a sense of being lost, misguided, excluded, and even diverted from the school environment by the curriculum has been expressed by many Black males (Howard, 2013; Zimmerman, 2004). As mentors in organizations, we (the authors) have often felt overwhelmed in the challenge to reduce the barriers we read, study, and hear about through firsthand accounts of struggles faced by many Black males. According to Rashid (2009), risks to the education of Black males begin at an earlier age than most presume as part of a "preschool to prison pipeline" (p. 347). The widely consistent problem is that Black males continue to academically underperform within the current education system, as they are disproportionately left out of the more challenging curriculum options and disciplined in epic proportions compared to their racial majority peers. Our aim is to contribute to the story of struggle against a system failing for such a large segment of Black males.

The Schott Foundation for Public Education has been delivering a biennial report since 2004 that highlights the gross disparity in graduation rates for Black males. Data from the 2012 report showed Black males had the lowest number of high school graduates in 38 states across the country; the national average for high school graduation was 52% for Black males and 78% for White males. Typically, graduation rates are defined according to students' completion of secondary school within four years after starting ninth grade. However, students who have had a different path, such as home schooling, GED, or alternative education programs, are not included in these statistics. Even so, the troubling reality of the disparity between the average graduation rates for Black and White males raises questions about the stunted educational opportunities and associated outcomes such as low wage employment, limited housing options, incarceration, and criminal activity (Jenkins, 2006).

A programming intervention that has been considered to positively impact youth from backgrounds of all types is mentoring (DuBois, Portillo, Rhodes, Silverthorn, & Valentine, 2011; National Dropout Prevention Center, 1991). Mentoring relationships can occur in any environment where knowledge, skills, and information are shared. Such relationships may be formal and include a contractual agreement specifying the length, number of meetings, and topics to be discussed. Mentoring relationships can also be informal or hybrid (with formal and informal interactions). Each type can be provided according to need as well as the availability of resources (i.e., time, objectives, and personal commitment) and their consistency, or lack thereof. Additionally, there are Black males who do well in school without ever having a formal or informal mentor relationship prior to college.

In this article, we focus on a curriculum guide that was used from the 1990s until 2014 in a mentoring program offered by the community-based organization, We Mentor to Achieve, Inc. (WM2A: a pseudonym) (1). We focused the research question on the curriculum orientation(s) embedded in the guide and its contribution to mentors' and mentees' understanding of the barriers facing Black males in schools today. Our analysis is primarily guided by the Black curriculum orientations identified by Watkins (1993) and by literature on mentoring programs, namely how they promote academic persistence among Black males. We discuss the findings and provide recommendations for revising the curriculum guide and those like it. Identifying the curriculum components of a mentoring program that aims to improve academic persistence among Black males can contribute to school-based efforts with the same purpose.


Carter G. Woodson challenged the status quo mentality and delivery of education in his seminal work The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933/1946). …

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