Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Parents as Advocates, Motivators, and Teachers of Mathematics

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Parents as Advocates, Motivators, and Teachers of Mathematics

Article excerpt

With the growth and prominence of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in the twenty-first century, researchers have increasingly concerned themselves with the ways in which STEM education has systemically disserved Black students (Baber, 2015; Basile, & Lopez, 2015; Martin, Gholson, & Leonard, 2010). Although narratives about the underachievement and underrepresentation of Black students within STEM fields permeate the literature, they constitute but one dimension of a larger narrative encompassing Black student persistence, sustenance, and resilience in the face of historical and contemporary inequalities that challenge their economic, political, and social trajectories. Over the past 20 years, a growing group of STEM education scholars have been challenging the narrow focus on traditional quantitative standards of measuring academic success and have suggested a more expansive perspective that includes learning and involvement negotiated inside and outside of STEM classrooms (e.g., Martin, 2000; Maton, Hrabowski, & Greif, 1998; Mutegi, 2013; Strayhorn, 2015; Tate, 1995). Nonetheless, for Black STEM students, the road to college and career success is difficult, including racialized educational settings where academic and social ideologies routinely advantage White students. These psychologically challenging conditions contribute to chronically adverse experiences and outcomes for students of color. The inequities caused by schools that lack qualified STEM teachers exacerbate these circumstances. Educational researchers have affirmed that the current educational system is riddled with under-analyzed issues involving race, ethnicity, gender, social class, sexual orientation, culture, and language (Dixson & Rousseau, 2005; Milner, 2015; Noguera, 2009). These researchers contend that students are grossly underserved if these factors are present and their impact unaddressed. Nevertheless, one often-overlooked path to STEM achievement for Black students is the unyielding and multidimensional sources of support they receive from their parents and family members (Mickelson, Cousins, Williams, & Velasco, 2011).

This study explores high-achieving Black STEM college students' early (K-12) reflections on their parents' influence on their motivations and ability to succeed in STEM fields. (High achievement is defined as a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) or higher out of a 4.0 in STEM coursework and at least a 2.8 GPA overall out of a 4.0). Phenomenological approaches focus on the role of human perception for everyday functioning and understanding; at the same time, contextually oriented approaches pay attention to the effect of the setting and its contextual features on experience. This qualitative research design uses a combined phenomenological and ecological lens to understand Black parental academic and social capital through the perceptions and shared narratives of their STEM-successful students. These students challenge the limited and dangerously incomplete theorizing about Black parents' ability to produce STEM excellence in their children. Traditional theorizing frequently excludes any examination of the myriad structural and institutional barriers that impede Black parents' and students' ability to successfully navigate STEM fields. This study adds to the recent research in STEM education that pushes back against deficit perspectives of Black parental support, instead showcasing these parents' talents in circumnavigating racialized educational paradigms (Berry, Thunder, & McClain, 2011; Martin, 2006, McGee & Pearman, 2014; Mickelson et al., 2011; Noble & Morton, 2013).

HISTORICAL LEGACY OF BLACK EDUCATION

Since Blacks arrived in America, Black parents have endured and challenged seemingly insurmountable barriers to educating their children. This pattern was evident throughout slavery, during the era of Jim Crow laws, and persists up to the present day. …

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