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African American Males in Education: Endangered or Ignored?

by Jerlando F. L. Jackson & James L. Moore III - 2006

An introduction to the special issue African American males in education - PK-12 and Higher Education: An Examination of Critical Stages within the Educational Pipeline for African American Males.

African American males are often categorized as a population at-risk in education (Bailey & Moore, 2004; Davis, 2003; Moore, 2000). In many social domains of American society, they hold a peculiar but uncertain status (Austin, 1996). Endangered, uneducable, dysfunctional, and dangerous are many of the terms often used to characterize African American males (Gibbs, 1988; Majors & Billson, 1992; Parham & McDavis, 1987). Such terms often evoke unsettling emotions and perpetuate negative stereotypes. Nevertheless, it is apparent, based on the dismal national statistics on unemployment, education, incarceration, and mental and physical health, that African American males face numerous challenges in American society (Hoffman, Llagas, & Synder, 2003). It is likely that the aforementioned depictions of African American males can negatively impact the perceived ability and subsequent behavior of African American males (Bailey & Moore, 2004; Moore, 2000; Moore & Herndon, 2003) and impede their pursuit of the 'American Dream.” Therefore, it is not surprising that African American males often experience difficulty in social domains, such as education (Jackson, 2003; Jackson & Crawley, 2003; Moore, Flowers, Guion, Zhang, & Staten, 2004; Moore, Madison-Colmore, & Smith, 2003; Nogurea, 2003).

Throughout the educational pipeline—elementary, secondary, and postsecondary—in the United States, many African American males lag behind both their African American female and White male counterparts (Ferguson, 2003; Hrabowski, Maton, & Grief, 1998; Polite & Davis, 1999). They are often more likely than any other group to be suspended or expelled from school (Meier, Stewart, & England, 1998), to be under-represented in gifted education programs or advanced placement courses (Grantham, 2004a, 2004b; Hrabowski et al., 1998), to underachieve or disengage academically (Ford, 1996), and to experience the most challenges in higher education settings as both students and professionals (Flowers & Jones, 2003; Hrabowski et al., 1998; Jackson, 2003; Jackson & Crawley, 2003; Steele, 1997).

Today, education is arguably more important than at any other time in American history. It determines, in large measure, the degree of social mobility one has or will have in American society. Quality of life tends to be highly correlated with one's educational attainment (Austin, 1996). Moreover, many people see education as the “potion” for achieving social mobility in American society. For the last two decades, African American males' educational achievement has received serious research attention as it relates to their experiences in education (Bailey, 2003; Grantham, 2004b; Moore et al., 2004; Moore et al., 2003). Thus, a corpus of research is forming that examines African American males in education, both as students (Grantham, 2004a, 2004b; Moore et al., 2004; Moore et al., 2003) and educational providers (Jackson, 2003; Polite & Davis, 1999).

In general, the existing body of knowledge is both limited and disjointed. It neglects to examine collectively the educational experiences of African American males throughout the educational pipeline. This special issue of Teachers College Record is both timely and significant because it presents empirical research, both quantitative and qualitative, on the different stages of the educational pipeline for African American males. It also addresses some of the apparent gaps in the research literature by focusing on what educational researchers and social scientists need to know to understand how each stage of the educational pipeline impacts the other stages. This special issue, “PK-12 and Higher Education: An Examination of Critical Stages Within the Educational Pipeline for African American Males,” provides a much-needed treatment of the research-based literature on African American males.

This special issue also represents the first known attempt at producing a miscellany of scholarship and research that examines African American males' experiences at multiple stages of the educational pipeline. Previous works on African American males have primarily examined their challenges from a myopic point of view. More specifically, these studies have focused on one aspect of the educational pipeline (e.g., school counselors, college students, and university presidents) rather than the entire pipeline. The research contained within this special issue targets educational policy makers, researchers, and practitioners by contributing to basic and applied knowledge that will enable key stakeholders in education to better serve African American males.

This special issue begins with an exploration of the role of family functioning for African American males' academic achievement by Jelani Mandara of Northwestern University. He found that authoritative parenting and positive racial socialization were key approaches to improving the success of African American boys in schools. Chance W. Lewis of Colorado State University examined strategies for the recruitment and retention of African American male teachers in urban settings. He found that compensation was not the primary incentive, but, rather, it was humanity and working with young people. James L. Moore III of The Ohio State University examined factors that influenced African American males' decisions to pursue engineering as an academic major in college and provided implications for teachers, school counselors, and parents. His research also unearthed central themes that were critical for improving the presence of African American males in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Understanding that 2-year institutions serve a large portion of African American students, Lamont A. Flowers of Clemson University explored the impact of attending a 2-year (vs. a 4-year) institution on the type and magnitude of academic integration and social integration experiences that African American male students had on campus in their first year of college. He found that African American males at 4-year institutions reported higher levels of academic and social integration within the first year. Brian N. Williams of The University of Georgia and Sheneka M. Williams of Vanderbilt University examined the perceptions and experiences of African American male junior faculty in higher education. They found that institutions of higher education need to build a community that is inclusive of African American males. Jerlando F. L. Jackson of the University of Wisconsin—Madison investigated the status of African American males in academic leadership positions in higher education compared with their White counterparts. Although the study did uncover modest advancements for African American males in upper-level positions, the findings suggested that a disparate impact between African American and White males may exist in hiring practices.

As guest editors, we strongly believe that the aforementioned articles build on the extant literature on African American males, particularly as they relate to the educational pipeline. It is our intention that this special issue will contribute to current academic discourse on African American males. More important, we hope that it will shed light on complex problems facing African American males throughout the educational pipeline and that it will increase the ability of educational policy makers, researchers, and practitioners to address some of these concerns. In closing, we leave to the readers of this special issue to ponder whether African American males have been endangered or ignored in education. Nevertheless, more research is needed to inform policy and practice to improve the conditions of education for African American males.


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Jackson, R. L., III, & Crawley, R. L. (2003). White student confessions about a Black male professor: A cultural contracts theory approach to intimate conversations about race and worldview. Journal of Men's Studies, 12, 25-41.

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Brothers of the academy: Up and coming Black scholars earning our way in higher education (pp.248-261). Herndon, VA: Stylus.

Moore, J. L., III, Flowers, L. A., Guion, L. A., Zhang, Y., & Staten, D. L. (2004). Investigating non-persistent African-American male students' experiences in engineering: Implications for academic success. National Association of Student Affairs Professionals Journal, 7, 105-120.

Moore, J. L., III, & Herndon, M. K. (2003). Guest editorial. The Journal of Men's Studies, 12, 1-2.

Moore, J. L., III, Madison-Colmore, O., & Smith, D. M. (2003). The prove-them-wrong syndrome: Voices from unheard African-American males in engineering disciplines. The Journal of Men's Studies, 12, 61-73.

Noguera, P. A. (2003). The trouble with Black boys: The role and influence of environmental and cultural factors on the academic performance of African American males. Urban Education, 38, 431-459.

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Polite, V. C., & Davis, J. E.. (1999). (Eds). African American males in school and society: Practices & policies for effective education. New York: Teachers College Press. Steele, C. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologists, 52, 613-629.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 2, 2006, p. 201-205
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12306, Date Accessed: 7/28/2021 3:03:54 PM

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About the Author
  • Jerlando Jackson
    University of Wisconsin—Madison
    E-mail Author
    JERLANDO F. L. JACKSON is assistant professor of higher and postsecondary education at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.
  • James Moore III
    The Ohio State University
    E-mail Author
    JAMES L. MOORE III is an assistant professor in Counselor Education in the College of Education and an affiliated scholar at the John Glenn Institute at The Ohio State University. In addition, Professor Moore is a LASER research associate in the Center for Action Research on Urban Schools and Effective Leadership at the University of South Florida.
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