How black, Latino males succeed

Black and Latino males who are doing well in high school credit their parents’ high expectations, relationships with caring teachers, a respectful, college-going culture in their high schools and a desire to get out of poverty.

Succeeding in the City, a study by Penn Education Professor Shaun Harper, is based on interviews with New York City juniors and seniors with a B average or higher in college-prep classes. All were engaged in school activities and planning to enroll in college.

Two-thirds of the students’ mothers and three-quarters of their fathers lacked any college degree. However 45 percent lived with two parents, which is above average for low-income urban neighborhoods.

“Staying on track can mean staying indoors,” writes Emily Richmond in The Atlantic.

When asked how they avoided being drawn into gang activity in their neighborhoods, many of the students said their parents prohibited all outdoor activity after dark. Some students said that having a reputation as a serious scholar headed for college actually protected them from gang conscription. Many of the respondents also stayed on campus long after classes ended for the day in order to do their studying and hang out with friends, often as a means of avoiding the disruptive neighborhood environment.

Harper also tracked 90 young male black and Latino college students from the same high schools. “Students said they had difficulty with time management–in high school, teachers were careful not to overload students with competing assignments due on the same day, and a student who asked for an extension would likely get one.”

All the high school students could name a teacher who’d helped them succeed. None of the college students could name a supportive professor.

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    We succeed (AND fail) the same way as everyone else, no?

    It’s just that for success we often (not always, but often) have to find someone other than our parents who will tell/show us exactly how that works.

    And then we have to believe them more than we believe other people in our lives who counsel… poorly.

    Which sometimes means finding ways to minimize the impact of those of the poor counsel.

    Which can sometimes mean making huge and far-reaching life decisions without really understanding the scope of those decisions.

    But once we do that, *then* we succeed and fail just like everyone else does.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      It might be easier than in some other circumstances.
      We have dear friends in Mexico, going back to the Sixties and we’re at the point of what, generationally, might be grandkids.
      One of the kids is in Austin teaching English and Spanish to immigrant kids. Why Spanish? Their Spanish is poor, lower-class. Don’t the parents resent the implication? No, they know their kids are far more likely to succeed if they speak standard Spanish. Enlightened me, I can tell you.
      Certainly beats the attitude of Huck Finn’s father.

  2. I agree that Latino and black kids need the same things as others, to succeed, but many (like poor whites) may lack much family/community support. A recent post on this site discussed the different expectations; some minority communities may place more emphasis on college kids coming back for a family birthday than on staying on campus to study for an exam. This is far less likely in upper-middle class families. I know my youngest son and his wife changed their intended wedding date because it fell on the weekend before two of the bridesmaids (med student and college senior) began finals week. The change didn’t even require discussion; college came first.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Might want to run that decision past the Seattle school board. You know, about future time orientation and such.
      Hate to have to re-educate your kinfolk. But needs must.

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      I think it’s significant that an unusually high percentage of the successful students had married parents. Based on my experiences tutoring inner city kids (nearly 15 years ago, now, but still..), the kids who had married parents tended to excel. They were the ones who participated in extracurriculars instead of gangs, did their work (because the alternative was grounding!) and ended up going to college and getting decent jobs.

      If you looked at income alone, they were often as bad, or even worse off, than the kids of single parents. Their clothes weren’t as nice, they ate plainer food (no fancy frozen dinners and soda and chips! That wasted money. Nope, it was home-made everything.), they never had the same level of gadgetry….

      But they turned out better…. It’s almost like it would be impossible to set a dollar value on “Having married parents with a dad who actually cares…”

      And actually, these same families had a tendency to ‘adopt’ the success oriented kids from broken homes, and have them over for dinner and give them stability and accountability….

      I wonder if, in their studies, they asked if the kids of single parents had any stable families that they were close to? I bet it makes a difference….

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        Couple of points:
        Some things can be quantified if you don’t mind the sloppiness of contentious definitions, and the dollar value of an intact family could certainly be. If we can calc the dollar value of college degrees by major,etc….
        Considering the massive difference between making it in the mid-middle class for fifty years and being on welfare and/or in prision for the same, less the shorter life span average, it would be huge. Question is how many of each category go which way.
        Guy named Eberstedt, doing some demographics, discovered that, if illegitimacy were a disease, it would be the most dangerous disease for kids in the US. Ditto in Europe with their various approaches to health care. Whys and hows are obvious, but the figures are the important thing.
        My father, some years ago, remarked that some of our friends–when we were kids fifty years ago–have thanked him and my mom for some family-ing back in the day.