Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Male(d): Peril and Promise in the Education of African American Males

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Male(d): Peril and Promise in the Education of African American Males

Article excerpt

Black Male(d): Peril and Promise in the Education of African American Males, by Tyrone C. Howard. New York: Teachers College Press, 2014, 188 pp., $29.95, paperback.

Decades of scholarly research support the plight of Black boys and men facing academic disparities and inequities that are significant, yet unique for this ethnic population. Although African American males only comprise approximately 7% of the U.S. population (U.S. Department of Education, 2011), they make up 16.4% of special education programs, and 17% of high school student suspensions compared to just 13.2% and 7.4% respectively, for White male students. Based on findings from the Schott Foundation for Public Education (2010) approximately 52% of Black males graduated from U.S. high school within 4 years compared to 78% for White males. The findings and disproportionalities are part of the focus of Black Male(d), by Dr. Tyrone Howard, an Associate Dean and Professor at UCLA's Graduate School of Education, and the founder and Executive Director of UCLA's Black Male Institute. Howard focuses not on common perspectives based on deficit ideology, but on initiating a long overdue paradigm shift that deconstructs the current negative perspectives of Black males as underachievers, thugs, criminals, sexual predators, deviants, and brainless athletes.

The author was thorough in detailing various contributing factors that determine academic outcomes for Black males. The first chapter refers to social and environmental conditions that Black males navigate while being labeled as "at risk" or "uneducable." These same labels are also contributing factors for the low representation of Black males in gifted education programs. The book suggests that these labels often stem from structural racism where negative attitudes, a lack of support, or low expectations from faculty and administration often become issues of accountability. As a result, Black males often become academically disengaged or oppositional.

Chapter two provides an overview of how Black males have been perceived historically as well as the utilization of the concept of intersectionality. The author also discusses the dichotomous "love/hate" relationship society has for Black males where they are idolized as musicians and athletes, but not necessarily as members of the National Honor Society, or the computer club. As a result, Black males are often at odds with their masculinity and racial image as Black males in a diverse, but discriminating society.

Chapter three focuses on giving voice to Black males, by Black males for Black males through counter-storytelling, a narrative approach to qualitative research. Chapter three also introduces critical race theory as an appropriate and vital framework for this demographic as it provides a lens for the examination of policies, practices and inequities embedded in racism and politics, (Bell, 1995).

Chapter four introduces us to the "Sports Industrial Complex. " The author questions whether participation in sports has a detrimental effect on Black males who often see sports as "the answer" thereby minimizing the interest and importance of academic achievement.

Chapter five describes specifics of the author's methodology for the research that eventually resulted in several key recommendations and the development of this book. Examples of these recommendations are:

Eliminating Teacher Apathy-Participants in the study felt they needed better teachers who could make schools more inviting and provide more encouragement instead of seeming disconnected (p. 94).

Improving Curriculum that's Relevant-Participants often stated that the curriculum was uninteresting and often irrelevant to them. They felt that they were learning topics that didn't relate to their lives or subjects were taught as if Black people were an insignificant aspect of the topic or lesson. This often resulted in a lesser motivation to learn in combination with teacher apathy, (p. …

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