Recruitment Of Black Men As Teachers, Turning into a Minstrel Show.

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( I guess that the movement of school districts throughout the nation to begin scouring the nation for African-American males to populate their classrooms as teachers is at least a small admission that Black Male Teachers matter. Considering the historic resistance of any admission regarding the worth and utility of black men, I will celebrate and revel in even the slightest admission to the contrary. I have always realized that I had much company in my contention that it matters, matters mightily, who is standing at the front of classrooms filled with equally impressionable and observant black children.

Although I realize that the forging of bonds between students and educators are not limited by Race, I also have taught long enough to understand that there is a special bond that black educators have with black children. The alluded to bond may be attributable to the fact that black educators have lived through what can be comfortably termed a hellish nightmare that for others has been nothing other than a dream or it could be attributable to an instinctive desire to serve as a never-ending resources as black students navigate the turbulent waters that America is known for. Ultimately, there is little room to debate the reality that the U.S. educational process is traumatic for black children.

Any African-American student who has been mentored by a black educator can attest to the fact that the bond between student and mentor extends beyond the classroom and invariably becomes interwoven into the very fabric of who they are and the future lives that they will live. Put simply, Black Teachers Matter. This desperate pursuit to find black men to serve as teachers is a shocking reversal to prior staunch resistance to even the insinuation that black students need black teachers at all. I am confident that the vast majority of black educators are shocked that white educational leaders are publicly conceding the rudimentary point that black males are best served by black male educators.

The path that white educational leaders have traveled to conceding this point has been an arduous one strewn with student failures and increasing occurrences of shocking physical conflict between black students and those assigned the task of uplifting their minds. It is difficult for one to argue against the assertion that the American educational system has failed far too many black children in a phenomenal way. Consider for a moment that educational studies have repeatedly shown that in regards to academics, black boys begin to lag behind their peers by the third-grade; unfortunately for Black America, these black children never catch up with their peers.

For anyone interested in saving black boys, this decade’s long pattern of black males lagging behind their peers raises many questions and few plausible solutions. Exasperated school administrators have thrown their hands up in regards to how they can reverse black male academic inefficiency. Put simply; many of the alluded to educational leaders have no idea of how they can reverse this unfortunate reality.

The desperation of white educational leaders is clearly displayed in an increasingly common solution to this dour dilemma. Their rather pedestrian solution is to support initiatives aimed at increasing the percentage of black male teachers. Of course, the logic behind these efforts is that if anyone can reach black boys, it is black men. It is with some reservations that I offer tacit agreement with this line of thinking. My analysis of this matter causes me to on one hand agree that the presence of black male educators matters mightily, yet, I am not foolish enough to believe that black males students will be saved by the arrival of a brigade of black male educators who enter the classroom saddled with an antiquated curriculum.

Myopic efforts to insert black male educators into an obviously broken educational system will ultimately do more damage than one could ever imagine. Pessimists may use such failure as definitive proof that no one, not even black male educators, can teach black males.

Although I do agree with Jawanza Kunjufu’s assertion that it matters mightily who is standing at the front of the classroom, I also realize the stifling nature of the American educational experience in regards to what teachers are allowed to “teach”, restraints that are reinforced via “end of the road standardized tests.”

From my position as an African-American Studies Professor who has helped build hundreds of black teachers, the most daunting and harsh reality that I rarely discuss with my young charges is that much of the content that they are learning in riveting classroom discussions that range from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apartthrough Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Jim Crow will not be included in the script that they will be provided by their new employers. When viewed through this lens, it should come into focus why I feel so strongly that the potential contributions of black male educators are derailed by a non-reflective school curriculum that fails to consider the black experience central to the American story.

Over twenty years of teaching has provided me interesting insight into why the vast majority of black males are disinterested and detached from school by the time they matriculate from high school. The minds of far too many black students are in a stage of atrophy due to a white-washed and disinteresting curriculum that invariably births an unmistakable perception that the cost of success is the adoption of a white worldview that is neither concerned with their cultural identity nor well-being.

American society routinely demands that black students adopt an individualistic worldview that diametrically opposes the communalism that has historically helped blacks “make a way out of no way.” For those capable of reorienting themselves into a faux ‘whiteness’ tangible rewards and prestige waits, while others find themselves marginalized in every segment of their life.

The vast majority of black males refuse to assume the persona of a “white man” and thereby resign themselves to a lifetime of “eating shit and grinning.” Make no mistake about it, the existence of a non-reflective school curriculum not only serves as the foremost obstacle to black male academic success but also pre-determines that this latest fad of creating black male teachers is destined for failure. Trust me when I say that without a relevant curriculum, it makes little difference the race/ethnicity or gender of the “educator” teaching what amounts to white-washed U.S. History script. School administrators should have learned long ago that black educators teaching a white-washed script to black children renders them modern-day minstrel parroting whites before a disinterested audience of eager black minds.

Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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