Educating the African American Male for the 21st Century

 by Jà Hon Vance

Professor Vance
Professor Vance

Over the past twenty-five years, there has been great concern regarding the African American male student in higher education — primarily at the community college level. Often, he, meaning the African American male, has been written out of the learning achievement paradigm. Far too many educational programs have been created, but not developed nor structured for him to achieve the outcome of graduation while being competent, proficient and skilled to matriculate within the workforce or continuing onward to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Seemingly, to change the learning cultural curve, educational policy makers would have worked much earlier to close the achievement gap by lending support at the primary levels of education across America to ensure that the basic foundational skills in the areas of English, math, reading, and writing would be mastered before entering post-secondary educational institutions. Today, there is an urgency to train and re-train the African American male so that he can be counted within the completion of GOAL 2025 in America where, according to a report from the Lumina Foundation, 60 percent more college graduates will be working and creating progressive technologies to advance America worldwide.

Although the goal is commendable and needed, there is still the great educational divide. With the reduction of academic core programs, educational budgets, learning support services and the massive reduction of teacher shortage — the African American male is left without the needed resources to excel. More importantly, a large number of African American male students are located in both rural and urban areas where quality educational programs are nonexistent. If the proposed outcome is graduation and productivity, then there must be an immediate transformation in the learning curriculum and instructional design with the reimplementation of quality educational programs and services valuing the education of the African American male student.

More so, it is crucial that all educational stakeholders and policy makers collaborate creatively, as well as, become educational allies to ensure that the African American male student is successful in completing his postsecondary education. If this goal is expected to be achieved, then all governing parties in the field of education must be held accountable. It is only when the African American male student is thoroughly prepared through the educational institutions that he can serve as a positive contributing member of the workforce to guide America to the next level of technology advancement within the 21st century and beyond.

Jà Hon Vance is a professor of English at Baltimore City Community College and executive director of the QUEST Educational Conference that will be held in Baltimore in April. The theme for this year’s conference is “Closing the Achievement Gap for Males of Color: Constructing the Pipeline from K-12 to Higher Education.” For more information on the conference, click here.

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  1. Professor Vance,

    I believe that educating African American males in the 21st Century is experiencing the same challenges that ended with the Twentieth Century. Policy and Structural changes within the educational paradigm are needed from K through 16. Since many studies have demonstrated that many minority males are lost in the system by the time they reach sixth grade, it is incumbent to those interested in reversing the trends that have been persistent for decades to examine the chronic educational challenges that students face in the early stages.

    Male students of color need family support in those critical years. Support that says that ‘you can achieve’; ‘education is the key to success’; and ‘you can be anything you want to be’. Interventions in the later stages of a person’s development are important if they have not received this ‘support’ early on. However, I believe that having a seamless approach throughout would be even more effective. All of those existing programs across the country that have ‘proven’ successful through empirical research should be replicated on a national scale and assessed and evaluated to monitor the extent to which they, the programs, have really made a difference in increasing the number of male students who persist and graduate from college (both 2 year and 4 year).

    If the social and political will do not coalesce to resolve these seemingly chronic problems, I am afraid we will be talking about these issues for future decades to come. Pockets of progress have always been cited and publicized. It would be nice to have these challenges addressed holistically and with some degree of finality.

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