Inside Higher Ed reports today that the College Board has released a new study, “The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color,” and the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that four Democratic members of Congress met on Tuesday to discuss its findings regarding “the barriers minority men face along the path to higher education.” The College Board issued a press release summarizing the report, “Destructive Pressures Undermine Educational Aspirations of Minority Males,” and the full report is available online.
The reported problems do seem dire, and they were discussed in (quoting from the full report)
four one-day seminars organized by the College Board to explore the educational challenges facing young men of color in the United States. The Dialogue Days brought together more than 60 scholars, practitioners and activists from the African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American communities.
I’m not sure what educational “practitioners” are — teachers? — but all the participants in these high-powered gripe sessions (my characterization)
expressed their opinions and listened to the voices and anxieties of community leaders about the state of educating young men of color in the United States. Each leader brought a unique perspective, experience and expertise to the discussion about the critical problems that exist.
The Dialogue Day sessions pinpointed powerful societal forces that threaten educational aspirations of young men of color. These include the lack of role models, the search for respect outside the education world, the loss of cultural memory in shaping minority male identity and pride, barriers of language, the challenges of poverty, extraordinary community pressures and a sense that the education system is failing young men.
All of this must be placed in the context of the general disadvantaged condition of minority populations in the United States. Whether measured by unemployment rates, poverty, imprisonment or recidivism, the challenges facing minorities — both males and females — are stark and undeniable.
These complaints were closely tracked by seven “themes” that were identified, such as
2. At work are destructive community pressures that undermine minority male aspirations and expectations for academic success.
3. Lack of male role models leads to a search for respect outside our educational institutions.
4. Cultural and historic memory is deeply important to minority male identity and pride.
The report is suffused with a consensus that society is the culprit, with participants critical not only of schools but
also highly critical of the rest of society, arguing that the larger economy undermines minority male aspirations. A sense emerged from these meetings that not only are schools failing these young people, society is failing them. This is a function of communities in which there is no traditional work (but many opportunities in the underground economy) … of families stressed to the breaking point … of a society that measures success with an index of stock prices while ignoring the economic circumstances of most people within the economy … and of governments that seem willing to spend eight to 10 times as much per person to hold young men of color in jail as they do to educate them.
These complaints were predictably accompanied by calls for federal action. I’m not sure what Congress or other institutions can do to shore up the “cultural and historic memory” that is said to be lacking among young black men, but some sense of what might be expected in other areas was provided by Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), who said (quoting here from the Press Release):
Minorities are disproportionately represented in schools with high dropout rates, and we must work to turn those schools around. All middle school and high school students should have the support they need to graduate, and they should be prepared for college regardless of their circumstances. Any policy that fails students in these respects is a policy that fails the country.
It is certainly true that all students should be prepared for college and have the support they need to graduate, but how to accomplish those worthy goals and how much it would cost remain unclear. Perhaps Rep. Grijalva could introduce legislation requiring a much larger representation of minorities in schools with low or even average dropout rates.
Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, has noticed a central problem not emphasized in the report, which he has generously allowed me to quote since the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “comment” feature seems not to be working:
From the National Center for Health Statistics: By population subgroup, the percentage of children born out of wedlock is 70.7 percent for non-Hispanic blacks, 64.6 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 49.9 percent for Hispanics, 26.6 percent for non-Hispanic whites, and 16.5 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders. Illegitimacy correlates with just about any social problem you can name (poverty, crime, dropping out of school, substance abuse, etc.), and it — not discrimination — is the principal cause of racial disparities in all these areas. So, I hope the Representatives bear all this in mind.
Hope springs eternal….