Courting Success: A New Method for Motivating Urban Black Males. (BI Forum)

By Lancer, Jared R. | Black Issues in Higher Education, April 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

Courting Success: A New Method for Motivating Urban Black Males. (BI Forum)


Lancer, Jared R., Black Issues in Higher Education


Despite the great strides Black males have made over the last several decades in education, too often we are reminded of their straggle by statistical publications, media depictions and entertainment caricatures that hypothesize their gradual extinction from mainstream society. This extinction from society is shown to some degree by low levels of education and high rates of joblessness and incarceration when compared to Whites.

The subordinate status of Black males, however, came before their problems with school achievement. Racial stratification proscribes Blacks to a lower societal status and is at the root of their academic deficiencies. The lower academic performance of Black males is thus related to their limited perceptions of life opportunities as a result of a longstanding subordinate status in America.

Traditional American ideology holds that one must work hard in school to earn the proper credentials to compete for desirable jobs. But some Black males perceive this traditional route to success as fruitless due to generations of differential access to pursue an education and gain economic mobility. Black parents today may have experienced an unequal access to better jobs. As a result, Black students may not believe their parents when told about the importance of doing well in school in order to earn a "good" living. Black males may therefore hold high educational goals, but deep down, are not convinced that school perseverance will pay off. They adopt alternatives to school success in trying to attain status in adulthood.

One very well documented alternative route to success is through athletics. Research studies reveal that low-achieving urban Black males perceive professional sports as their ticket to success. Combined with low success rates, however, such pursuits do not normally promote academic excellence. And the possibility of experiencing failure upon entering the professional work force can lead to illegal avenues for attaining success that further perpetuate the Black male extinction phenomenon.

To address this problem, I implemented a motivational program at an all-boys high school in an urban setting in Southern California. The students were three-quarters Black and one-quarter Latino. Most students participated in football or basketball.

This program was based on research regarding Black males and their perceptions of viable avenues for attaining success and the implications these perceptions have on their school performance. The intent of the program was to draw on students' interest in team sports to teach character. Linking these principles to academic excellence resulted in a broadened scope of student perceptions of viable careers. …

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