Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Transition into Adulthood: The Experience of a Rite-of-Passage Program at an African Centered High School

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Transition into Adulthood: The Experience of a Rite-of-Passage Program at an African Centered High School

Article excerpt

Abstract

A rite-of-pass age program as a course of action for successfully transitioning Black young people into adulthood and fostering positive outcomes in their lives is the focus of this study. The program draws upon African traditional culture to impart values, improve self-concept, and develop cultural awareness. Utilizing data from a larger study, the author conducted a qualitative study which examined the perceptions of former students who had experienced a rite-of-passage program while attending an African centered high school. Major themes that emerged included the structure of the program, readiness for the program, adulthood and adult responsibilities, and community importance. The findings suggest that the participants perceived the rite-of-passage as a community endeavor that facilitated their transition into adulthood.

Introduction

Ask Americans to describe the purpose of education and the responses would vary widely. Historically, Americans have maintained several fundamental beliefs about education. Most Americans believe that public education should (a) provide students with the opportunity for intellectual acquisition of knowledge, (b) transmit the social and moral values for the perpetuation of American society, and (c) prepare a labor force for that society (Ballantine, 1997; Mulkey, 1993; Ornstein & Levine, 2006). That is, Americans perceive schools as mediums for social and cultural development, and utilize these institutions for the perpetuation of the American ethos. Within the last 20 years, a reflection of this ideology has become increasingly evident within the Black community; however Blacks have ventured to take it one step further. In response to concerns afflicting the fabric of the Black community, a culturally specific "rite-of-passage" has emerged within Black communities around the nation. That rite-of-passage program is employed by school and community members primarily, to assist young people in transitioning into adulthood. Stakeholders incorporate this program as a method to inculcate social, cultural, and political values that will ensure the positive development of Black young adults within the Black community as well as the American society (Warfield-Coppock, 1992).

Blacks have been marginalized by Whites. This marginalization is well documented from the enslavement of Black people for free labor (as cited in Sawh & Scales, 2006), through the Jim Crow period of the early 1900s, until Black protests encompassed in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s (Asante, 1995; Boyd, 2000; Frederickson, 1971). Despite the enormous constraints, Blacks have made major societal, economic, and political gains. There is a higher percentage of Blacks with high school diplomas. In fact, by 1995, Black adults' (18 to 24 year olds) high school completion rates had increased 12%, from 64.8% in 1975 to 76.9% (Garibaldi, 1997). In 1999, the median family income for Blacks was $33,255, while in 2003, it had increased to $34,369 (Voydanoff, 2007). Also, in their study of Blacks who run for Governor and the U.S. Senate, Jeffries and Jones (2006) showed that Edward Brook, Carol Moseley Braun, and Barack Obama were elected to U.S. Senate seats and that Douglas Wilder and Deval Patrick were elected as governors. These are clear indicators that many members of the Black community, despite a history of struggle in this nation, have made positive steps towards the actualization of the American dream secured by the 14th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution (Amendment 14 - Citizenship Rights, 1868).

However, despite this assessment of the societal, economic, and political gains, Blacks continue to be plagued with ongoing social ills within their communities. According to the most recent national data, Black students' educational achievement levels are lower then expected (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002a). The high school drop-out rate for Black males is 17. …

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