Should There be Schools Exclusively for Young Men of Color? Yes, If They’re Done Right

(Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
(Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP)

by Andre Kimo Stone Guess

The Jefferson County, Ky. school system is considering a proposal to open an academy for “males of color” and educate them through the lens of African-American culture.

Is this a good idea?

It depends on the why and the how.

First, the why.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that black males are suffering in disproportionate numbers in several statistical areas compared to almost every other demographic, especially in educational achievement. According to the 2013 PBS documentary American Promise, a 12-year retrospective of two African-American boys who enter a prestigious white New York City private school, “Black males, even when given the same educational and economic resources as their peers of other races, are likely to fall short of their counterparts in virtually every measure of academic success. It is perhaps the single most pressing problem black males face today.”

This achievement gap, coupled with what Eddie Glaude, chair of the African American Studies Department at Princeton University, calls the value gap — the belief and practice that white people are valued more than others — places a significant number of black males at a marked disadvantage in their pursuit of the increasingly elusive American Dream.

If the overall goal of the school is to try to close these gaps or at least attempt to lessen their effects on the students, then, yes, it’s a very good idea. If the unspoken agenda is to remove and educationally incarcerate the “problem black boys” from other schools, then absolutely not.

That’s the why, but the how is just as, if not more, important.

It goes without saying that resources are key. The school should have all of the resources and funding that it needs to be successful.

The Afrocentric curriculum, if done the right way, could help students feel connected and engaged as learners, as proposed. It could also help them resist succumbing to the black inferiority that the value gap perpetuates. However, a curriculum that focuses on the history and culture of African Americans in this country shouldn’t just be for “males of color.” A more balanced black history and cultural curriculum for all students would go a long way toward closing the value gap system-wide.

There are three other hows that are essential to help close the achievement and value gap for black male students.

Young people usually sink to our level of expectation, so we should always set the bar high. Society in general has very low and negative expectations for black boys and men. Having black boys in one environment can help mitigate the low expectations that they encounter in almost all other facets of their lives.

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SOURCE: The Courier-Journal 

Andre Kimo Stone Guess is a Louisville writer and cultural critic. You can reach him at andre@aeducatedguess.com. He writes for The Courier-Journal, where this column was first published.