The Will to Teach Black Males

We’ve got to teach them to be men, what manhood is all about.  How did we go from Medgar Evers, Frederick Douglass, and Langston Hughes to Lil’ Wayne, Drake, and Lebron James as the only models of success for our black males?  Do you have the will to do what it takes to help these young men succeed?

Currently at a the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Conference in New Orleans, I saw Principal Baruti Kafele speak this morning.  I’ve paraphrased some of his words above.  He held us captive with his energetic, engaging speech about how to get through to black males in school.

LIl’ Wayne
Langston Hughes

It’s a helluva challenge.

To answer Mr. Kafele, yes, I do have the will.

I agree with his assertions that culturally relevant teaching, improved classroom environments, and the exposure to more male role models can facilitate a narrowing of the attitude gap.  Get students, especially black males, to take off the mask they wear to school to hide their struggles.  Show them more models of positive manhood.

But I’m not a superhero, even though I have the will.  I do believe in my own power to transform lives in a positive way, but I have a lot of other responsibilities and duties.  Plus, I strive for a work/life balance.  If I don’t take care of myself and “turn off” work at some point every day, I won’t be effective from 7:00-3:00.

And right now, one of the biggest problems in urban education is the fact that nobody seems to have the will to admit and act on the fact that within current school structures, class sizes, and course loads, it takes herculean efforts to get large groups of disadvantaged black males to succeed academically and socially.

It takes a lot more effort, manpower, and strategic planning to give black males a shot at success versus other demographic groups.  How many schools are actually employing tactics that treat black males much differently in order to buck dropout and prison trends?

Not many.  It isn’t politically correct to single out groups of students, but any sane and reflective educator knows that certain groups of students need to be treated differently in some regards.  Some students need a longer school day.  Some students probably need counseling instead of biology.  Other students need a safe place to hang out after school.

Treating kids with equity–giving them a more equal chance of a successful educational outcome-requires will from politicians and education leaders to change course.

Give me a class with 10 struggling black males (or any struggling student, for that matter) instead of 25-30.  Then I can truly invest the time and energy as a role model, teacher, and mentor for the students who need it most.  Let those kids meet for an hour, once a week, with a respected community member.  During the school day.  Kafele promoted his own model this morning of bringing in community mentors, both male and female, on a regular basis.

As I wrote in a previous post, I can’t save all souls.  If we finally acknowledged that treating students equally (with regards to school structures, systems, course requirements, etc.) isn’t doing the job, I might have a fighting chance to reach more black males.  Right now, we don’t have the collective will.


  1. Good read!

    I think that the problem is the byproduct of a decline in ethical and responsible behavior in society in general, this, I’m afraid, affects all races and ethnic groups.

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