The Use of Educational Documentary in Urban Teacher Education: A Case Study of beyond the Bricks

Article excerpt

This article draws from a qualitative case study of 22 teachers of African American males who participated in a screening event of the documentary Beyond the Bricks as part of a community engagement project in three cities: New Orleans, New York, and Oakland Through the lenses of critical race theory and the Matrix Achievement Paradigms typology, this article highlights three major themes connected to teaching Black male students: (a) recognizing and removing the blind spot, (b) resisting the normalization of failure, and (c) fulfilling the need for (practicing) culturally responsive educators. This article seeks to contribute to the scholarly discussion on the use of film in urban teacher education, and puts forth Beyond the Bricks as a critical, solutions-oriented discussion tool that offers concrete ideas about what Black males need to achieve social and academic success in America's schools.

Keywords: Black males, documentary, film in teacher education, urban public schools

The film really reaffirms some of the views that I've already had and also some of the issues that I've already seen. It kind of lets me know that lam on a path thinking about how to solve those problems. It really just lets me know that I'm not the only one that 's thinking about this, and that I'm not crazy. And I'm not out of the box; it's something that has to be done. And it's just trying to figure out how to mobilize people to want to do it. And that's pretty much what the film has done for me. Namib, 9th'grade teacher, New Orleans (pseudonym)

INTRODUCTION

The tendency of the academic community to negatively frame the conversation about Black male achievement leads one to believe that all Black males are failing in school and in crisis. Certainly there is evidence of an access gap (Ladson-Billings, 2008) and achievement disparities between Black males and their peers (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2009). However, all is not bleak and hopeless for Black male youth in our schools. These competing perspectives make clear the conundrum: despite their brilliance, and academic gains in many subject areas (Bonner, 2000; see King, this issue Commentary), the educational state of African American males in the United States remains a cause for national alarm. According to the 2070 Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males (Holzman, 2010), fewer than one half (46%) of Black males who enter high school graduate in four years. Across the United States, schools serving Black males fall short in supporting, nurturing, and educating them; for decades their academic achievement has been gridlocked in a state of underperformance. Most of the research on Black males in urban public schools draw attention to how they are uniquely positioned in America's schools - they are the only group that is continually overrepresented in special education (Klingner et al., 2005; Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2002), and steadily under-represented in advanced placement, and gifted and talented classes (Noguera, 2003). These disparities have positioned them in a caste-like condition: inadequately prepared for school and standardized measures of achievement, and challenged to find employment that allows them to be independent, self-sustaining, and contributing citizens to American society.

Black male achievement is a topic of great interest to Black male students, parents, educators, researchers, administrators, policymakers, and even movie and documentary-makers. Historically, Black urban youth have been misunderstood and therefore misrepresented by me media (SealeyRuiz & Greene, 2010). Portrayal of urban pubUc schools and their students in the popular media of Hollywood movies, and particular educational documentaries further exacerbates these distortions.

In the past few years three documentaries about urban schools were released: The Cartel (2009), The Lottery (2009), and Waiting for Superman (2010). …

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