Can Obama help black boys?

Black male students are lagging behind every other group, including their black sisters, writes Richard Whitmire in his farewell USA Today column.  President Barack Obama will be a symbol of success, but will that be enough to help black boys succeed?

It’s not just about race or poverty: Black female students are much more likely to earn good grades, complete high school and go on to college, he writes.  “Many colleges report that black women have higher graduation rates than white men.”

This gender gap has many causes, starting with the fact that 70% of black children are born into single-parent families. The girls have mothers for role models; the boys lack fathers. Then, ladle on daily doses of inner-city crime, violence, drugs and toxic popular culture, which disproportionately affect boys.

Now black boys have a role model of success, but that’s not enough.

As Obama often says, success begins with parents willing to take responsibility, set limits and turn off the TV. But successful education reforms have shown that the right academic atmosphere can help overcome dysfunctional family situations.

Whitmire suggests learning from schools that are succeeding with black male students and focusing on teaching reading effectively in elementary school — and, if necessary, in middle school. He thinks high-quality preschools could help black boys significantly, while mentors could keep more from dropping out of college.

Most important, Obama has resisted calls from the teachers’ unions to dismantle President Bush’s No Child Left Behind school-reform law. Whatever the law’s shortcomings, No Child’s relentless emphasis on data forces school districts to come clean about the poor job they have done with black boys.

Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail, took a buy-out from USA Today.  Welcome to freelance life, Richard.

Via Core Knowledge Blog.

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  1. Miller T. Smith says:

    Are black boys some kind of strange exotic animal requiring special handling? This focus on differences by race is coming very close to a thoory of genetic predisposition-something you will hear much screaming over if actual vocied in public…or on this blog.

    If everyone is truely equal at birth as a group and race is merely a social construct, then the cultural construct is the culprit. Those members of any group who wish to remain in a toxic cultural construct should be ignored as to how they perform in the dominant cultural construct. Just forget about them so long as they refuse to change. Seriously.

    The dominant culture has been rejected by black males. Okay then. What makes the dominant culture the one allowed to impose its values on other cultures. That is anti-multiculturalism. That is the beginning of creating hate for the minority cultures by blaming them for not conforming to the dominant culture.

    The majority culture needs to get over being rejected by black boys and get off the black boy’s backs.

    Or am I serious? Or not? If we take all the cultural ideas coming out of colleges these days, why is black boy performance anything to worry about?

  2. It’s nice to read the focus on what can be done in Richard Whitmire’s article.

  3. Charles R. Williams says:

    There needs to be a clearly defined understanding of what it means to be a man. The broader culture is unable to articulate such an understanding and so boys can only learn this from their fathers or other men in the extended family.

    All boys schools could help provided they could impart a clear, coherent vision of masculinity. Unfortunately the people that dominate our schools are as confused about masculinity as the general culture.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    CRW. I don’t think they’re confused at all. If they were confused, the requirement for Ritalin wouldn’t be so high.

    Unfortunately, the model for success exists. It just doesn’t happen to be one that the dominant culture approves. As with pro sports, one part of the model will reward less than one percent of the aspirants and ruin the prospects for the others.

    So, either the minority gets on board with the dominant culture or it does not. If it does not, it forfeits any claim on the dominant society due the entirely predictable results of its own footshooting.

  5. If Obama’s presidency has the effect of weakening or, God willing, destroying the idea that being a good student means “acting white”, then he’ll have done immense good without trying. (Which is the best way for a politician to do so.)

  6. Miller T. Smith says:

    I have heard *#gger spoken between my black students for years and no amount of telling them to stop has stoppped it. Then Obama won.

    The next day after the election I walked down the hall on the way to class and a group of black students were talking with each other. One kid says, “Did you see that *#gger the other night when…” when another black student in the group says, “Yo man, we can’t call each other that anymore!” i nearly jumped in thee air.

    The rate of *#gger between students has dropped off at my school to the point that I haven’t heard it in the hallway for a long time now. I hope that this transfers to academics as well.

    Obama could be the best thing to happen to these kids in a long time. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  7. GoogleMaster says:

    Here in Houston, we have ministers and the police chief trying to keep the young black males from killing each other, which would seem to be a prerequisite to success in school.