Black boys have struggled in the public school system since the days of integration. Many factors have led to this interesting dynamic.
In the Prince George's County school system, black boys are at the bottom of every statistical category possible. They have the highest suspension rates, lowest standardized test scores, lowest grade-point averages and the most recommendations for special education services.
Are black boys really that dysfunctional?
Why are they at the bottom?
What can the educational system and the community do to alleviate these issues?
Students cannot be expected to learn anything if they are not placed in the center of their own education. Far too often, black boys are misunderstood by their educators due to a lack of formal training and a misunderstanding of their culture.
“Teachers don’t relate to black boys, so they don’t feel as if the teachers care,” says Lindsay Bailey, a black physical education teacher at The Possibility Preparatory Middle School in Largo.
Educators must understand this: Black boys come into the classroom with completely different experiences, and if education is not approached from the correct lense, many of them will shut down.
Aside from the lack of cultural understanding, they also deal with a misdirected curriculum. Black boys are told to conform to a prescribed standard of education, even when it doesn’t fit their respective experiences and lifestyles.
“The curriculum in Prince George's County schools aren’t set up to help our black boys to learn," Bailey asserts. "It’s not catered to their needs."
So the big question is, what do they need? Black boys should be placed at the center of their education from kindergarten. In science, they should study Imhotep before Franklin. In Math, they should study Egyptian agricultural systems before they pick up a compass. In history, they should paint pictures of the Nubians before they study Greece.
It’s not about discounting others; they need to know that their existence did not begin with slavery and civil rights. To teach effectively, educators need to understand the culture of their youth. And black boys are immensely misunderstood due to educators’ mis-education.
Educators should not take all the blame. Fathers, families and community members must begin to assume responsibility for our children’s shortcomings. If we are to ever fix the situation, we must begin to reclaim the value we once had in education. We need the same value that made ex-slaves build countless schools within a few years after emancipation. The same value that made toddlers and seniors walk miles to a one-room school house with dirt floors to find a way to equalize the playing field.
Parents must demand more of themselves first. That means spending more time during the week developing the black male mind. It means exposing them to books and museums at a young age. It means redefining what it means to be cool.
Successful black men have to make themselves available for black boys to see them. Boys can see themselves in men, and without a clear representation of manhood from a very young age, our boys grow up confused by media images and misled by a facade of cool.