Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

In Spite of Racism, Inequality, and School Failure: Defining Hope with Achieving Black Children

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

In Spite of Racism, Inequality, and School Failure: Defining Hope with Achieving Black Children

Article excerpt

Original narratives from six high-achieving African American junior high school students discussing their goal-setting and goal-pursuit processes in light of being Black youth in America are presented. The study purpose was to begin the work of identifying the substance of productive behaviors among the most frequently noted population of contemporary school underachievers in order to develop an accurate hope theory for them, which the author calls African hope theory. Common threads among the participants indicate focus on racial/ethnic identity and values that lead to functional behavior. To the contrary, extant hope literature finds importance in specific goal-setting and cognitive road-mapping (planning) for achievement. The combination of productive action within a self-cultural frame is theorized to be hopefulness within the Black community.

Keywords: Black youth, goal setting, achievement, hope theory, self-knowledge

What we know about Black children's schooling experiences in America, according to empirical and theoretical studies published by a large cadre of scholars, is that Black children have historically received poor quality instructional materials, limited resources, and pedagogical and curricular methods that are incongruent with their culture and learning styles (Hurley, Boykin, & Allen, 2005; Kunjufu, 2006; Marable, 2005). Kozol (2005) found that 35 out of 48 states spend less money per student in school districts with higher numbers of Black (and increasingly Latino) children, very often running disparities in the thousands of dollars all the way down to spending less than half the amount per student than districts having predominantly White students. In Texas, it is typical for a low income class of students to be receiving $23,000 less than their more socially supported peers, and furthermore, very often "the funding gap for children of color is a great deal larger than the gap for children of low income" (Kozol, 2005, p. 246). It is also known that, beginning shortly after racial desegregation of the nation's public schools, teachers, support staff, and administrators have been increasingly White (Kunjufu, 2006; Tatum, 1997). Accordingly, and naturally, the personnel bring with them their particular cultural beliefs, experiences, and teaching styles.

Yet, Jawanza Kunjufu (2005) found through years of educational consultant experiences and scholarship in sociology and educational policy that ethnic identity and pedagogy exercising Black children's innate cognitive processes and talents are two of the most important factors leading to their scholastic achievement. Kunjufu is not the first educator to insist on the importance of healthy ethnic identity and culturally responsive pedagogy. Sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois asserted the same in 1903, as did historian Carter G. Woodson in 1936, educators Gloria Ladson-Billings in 1994 and Beverly D. Tatum in 1997, psychologists Na'im Akbar in 2003, Diane Hughes in 2003, Wade W. Nobles in 2006, Biko M. Sankofa, Eric A. Hurley, Brenda A. Allen, and A. Wade Boykin in 2005, and Afrocentrists Molefi K. Asante and Ama Mazama in 2005, to name a few (Akbar, 2003; Asante & Mazama, 2005; Du Bois, 2003; Hughes, 2003; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Nobles, 2006; Sankofa et al., 2005; Tatum, 1997; Woodson ,1968). It has been said that Black children who are able to answer the questions of, "Who am I?" "Who am I ethnically or racially" and "Who can 1 become?" are better adjusted and typically higher achieving than Black children who are repressed from this identity exploration (Stinson, 2011; Tatum, 1997). Black adolescents and young adults who have a sense that their race and ethnicity are central to their lives have been found to have fewer psychological stress and behavioral difficulties, even when confronted with obvious stressors such as racial discrimination (Sellers et al, 2003; Sellers & Shelton, 2003). It is in these psychological and sociological truths that culturally responsive curriculum and teaching arc apparently important. …

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