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HELPING BLACK MEN RAISE FAILING GRADES

HELPING BLACK MEN RAISE FAILING GRADES

Some thoughts about school and the struggles black kids face. Lots of folks with lots of experience have lots of opinions about what to do to better educate young African-American males. Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates recently offered yet another glimpse into the issue, suggesting in a piece for the website The Root that the need is dire, which of course it is.

But for many of us in education — and to my mind that includes parents, family and friends — the problem is more than knowing what's needed. It's knowing how to get it done and make it work, how to get young African-American men not only interested but engaged in learning, and enjoying rather than dreading the journey. That requires a lot of commitment from them and from us, and there are no shortcuts.

Besides my work here at NPR, I am a tenured professor in broadcast journalism at California State University, Los Angeles. I primarily teach writing, and it troubles me to no end to see young black men struggle in my classes because they can't or don't see the value of an education and the effort required to obtain one. Records show black male students badly lagging in their graduation rates from colleges and universities. When we see them on campus, they often dress differently, speak differently, have different expectations, and in the classroom can sometimes be difficult to reach.

I get that life for them is tough, sometimes in ways that I don't fully appreciate, even though I grew up in the '60s in South Central Los Angeles. My challenges for survival back then are different in many ways from the hardships these young men face today.

That said — can I just tell you? Education was a very useful weapon in my struggle for survival, and I'm convinced it still is. Maybe more so now.

So how do we convince these young men that the sacrifice is worth it? What do we do? I've scratched my head searching for answers and then asked myself: What have you tried that's worked? A couple of things, actually, which come from my decade of teaching and remembering those who taught me.

The first thing is to not give up on these young men — no easy task when you're fighting with someone you're trying to help. Persistence is required of teachers because learning isn't like a light switch that you flip on and off. Success is more gradual, and it takes time to realize its effect and impact. (more)

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Article written by TONY COX, posted by NPR's MICHAEL MARTIN | Read or listen to full article here