Changing School Culture for Black Males

Changing School Culture for Black Males

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by Jawanza Kunjufu

Addressing the many unique academic challenges that face black males—from low self-esteem, absenteeism, fatherlessness, and gangs to not accepting middle-class values, the impact of hip-hop culture, and drugs—this book provides answers and hope to teachers and the afflicted students and their families. With more than 75 solutions for educators to

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Addressing the many unique academic challenges that face black males—from low self-esteem, absenteeism, fatherlessness, and gangs to not accepting middle-class values, the impact of hip-hop culture, and drugs—this book provides answers and hope to teachers and the afflicted students and their families. With more than 75 solutions for educators to implement in their schools, including mentoring programs, rites of passage, internships, motivational speeches, counseling, and cooperative learning, this helpful resource shows how issues of retention, illiteracy, special education, and dropping out are simply symptoms of a much larger disease, and, if left unaddressed, will continue to stunt the education of black students.

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African American Images
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Read an Excerpt

Changing School Culture for Black Males

By Jawanza Kunjufu

African American Images

Copyright © 2013 Jawanza Kunjufu
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-934155-86-8



In this chapter, I present a series of ideological statements and questions about the education of African American males and the challenges they face. The purpose of these ideas is to provoke thought, and I'll explore many of the ideas in the chapters that follow. These ideas lay the foundation for this book and support my thesis that if we are to help our boys achieve their fullest potential, we must change school culture.

• It is very difficult, if not impossible, to transform school culture without the leadership of the principal.

• It normally takes two to four years to change the culture in a school. One to three teachers can change the culture of a school positively or negatively.

• Some teachers believe they don't see color. They see children as children.

• Does your school have a zero tolerance policy? Restorative justice or grace?

• Do you teach the way you want to teach or do you teach the way your children learn?

• Is it cool for boys to be smart at your school?

• Gangs exist and thrive when fathers, male teachers and mentors are absent.

• No other group has a sports fixation like African American males. We must change the culture from sports to science, music to math, rap to reading.

• Are athletes and entertainers the only positive role models for African American males?

• Streets are dangerous when they are filled with young, illiterate, fatherless, unemployed Black males who lack goals and morals and have plenty of guns.

• Single-gender schools are not a panacea. They cannot be effective with CEO principals, incompetent teachers who have low expectations of their students, poor classroom management skills, and do not offer an adequate amount of time on task.

• Schools must change the culture that being smart is acting White and feminine.

• Schools must make scholarship Africentric and masculine.

• Teachers cannot allow one to three students to negatively change the culture of the classroom.

• Do teachers know how to convert a class clown or thug to a scholar?

• There is no such person as a bad boy.

• Do some schools and teachers take away gym and recess as a form of punishment?

• Do schools understand that males are warriors?

• Do Black boys view out of school suspension as a vacation?

• Boys are not afraid of prison. It has become their rite of passage.

• Does your school dislike Black boys?

• Do you like Black boys?

• Which teachers in your school have a poor relationship with Black males?

• Which teachers have an excellent relationship with Black males?

• Do your males have a greater street IQ than school IQ?

• Could you survive their streets?

• We must expose Black males to Algebra before 9th grade.

• In your school, do girls give more respect to athletes or scholars?

• Why do some schools suspend Black males less than others?

• Suspensions increase with poor classroom management.

• Every Black male needs a positive adult role model.

• What could you do to make your school more attractive to Black males?

• Are gangster rappers raising Black boys?

• Black males are very competitive, but they work best in cooperative learning groups.

• What do Black males like about your school? What do they hate about your school?

• It's hard for most Black males to straddle the fence between school culture and Black male culture.

• How many Black male scholars have we lost to the streets?

• Most Black males do not want to please their teacher.

• Most Black males do not snitch.

• The worst thing you can do to a Black male is call him a sissy.

• How difficult is it to develop a five-year-old Black male into a Ph.D in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or medicine)?

• Until Black boys understand White supremacy, everything else will confuse them.

• Most Black boys suffer from cultural amnesia.

• The first function of education is to give each child a positive identity.

• The difference between a low and high achieving school is simple.

• The high achieving school hasa mission of urgency that permeates throughout the building.

• In a positive school culture, educators are problem solvers. In a negative school culture, they are frustrated and complainers.

• Are there more Black students in prison or college?

• Every student everyday needs at least one meaningful interaction with an educator.

• Zero tolerance should not mean zero thought.

• Disengagement is different from defiance.

• If we do not close the achievement gap, we will permanently place African American students into a permanent underclass.

• If doctors have difficulty getting their sick patients to change their lifestyle, you can only imagine the challenges principals have changing the habits of their teachers.

• Fatherlessness is the precursor of illiteracy, special education, suspension, dropping out, drug addiction, gangs, crime, teen pregnancy, and incarceration.

• Only 28 percent of Black boys have their fathers in the home.

• What can schools do about fatherlessness?

• How many seventh- to 12th-grade males are fathers?

• What are the classroom implications of boys being angry at their absent father?

• What are the classroom implications of being a mama's boy?

• What are the classroom implications of being told by your mother that you are the man of the house?

• The most influential factor for students is not family income or being raised by a single mother who lacks a college degree. Conversation in the home and teacher's lounge is the greatest influence.

• What is the classroom implication of video game addiction?

• Do boys have a short attention span when they play sports and video games?

• We must understand the male ego. It is large and fragile.

• Males thrive on success. They drop out or withdraw if they do not feel they have a chance to be successful.

• Does your school nurture or destroy the male ego?

• We must convince Black males that they will see their 80 birthday.

• Black males should not disengage from academics every year for three months of summer vacation.

• Twenty-eight percent of core academic teachers at predominately minority schools lack appropriate certifications.

• As age increases, so does the influence of peer pressure and street culture.

• Black males must be taught how to recognize and overcome racism.

• Every Black male needs a schedule and structure. Being on a sports team enhances self-esteem, reduces stress, teaches anger management, provides an adult mentor, teaches discipline, provides structure, and emphasizes teamwork.

• Every Black male must have a purpose in life.

• Do we have at-risk Black males or at-risk schools?

• The new form of discrimination is based on zip code.

• You are not at risk because you're Black, poor, and fatherless. You are at risk when you lack goals.

• How can we live in a capitalistic society and not teach Black males capitalism?

• The majority of Black males hate school by the time they enter junior high.

• Have rap lyrics moved from "fight the power" to kill the N and B?

• How are gangsta rap lyrics affecting the male psyche?

• Black boys know that one mistake on the street could cost them their lives.

• Every Black male should take the chip off his shoulder and take responsibility for his life.

• Every Black male should receive anger management classes.

• We must convince Black males they can achieve their career goals.

• Poverty devalues academics. Have we taught Black males how to overcome poverty?

• What do you teach Black males in school who are involved in a gang war?

• Are schools preparing Black males to work in factories that no longer exist?

• Are schools preparing Black males to be inmates?

• Whose job is it to motivate Black males?

• Whose job is it to give Black males home training?

• How do we convince Black males to believe in long-term gratification?

• Do Black males believe the gun is the great equalizer?

• Single mothers can raise a boy without a man in her life but not in his life.

• What are the differences between school and street culture?

• Do some Black males believe doing homework is betraying the race and male culture?

• Do Black males believe they can get an A in algebra or chemistry without studying or doing homework?

• Do you know why Thursday is a better test day than Monday?

• Do you know why May is a better test month than September?

• Are Black male athletes celebrated in your school and Black male scholars scorned? What can your school do better to reward Black male scholars?

• Black boys know by fourth grade whether school will be advantageous for them.

• Black boys want someone to teach them discipline.

• Black boys want teachers to care about them.

• Why don't more Black males become teachers? Why won't schools hire more Black males?

• Do schools have a hidden White middle-class curriculum?

• What are some best practices of Black male students that we can use in the classroom?

• The drive to be cool is a response to racism.

• Saggin' is a response to racism.

• The greatest problem facing Black males in school is not academics. It's the disconnect between school and street culture.

• Schools must create a culture of academic achievement.

• What can teachers learn from sports to make their classrooms more attractive to Black males?

• If most schools are resistant to disaggregating test scores by race and gender, then that explains why they are hesitant about providing solutions about race and gender.

• Boys are different from girls; they are not deficient.

• Black male culture must be integrated into schools. Can you imagine a school where the staff is 83 percent male? A school that rewards aggression by having students exercise the first five minutes of every hour? A school where the majority of the books are about sports, hip hop, science fiction, animals, male characters, and technology? A classroom with no chairs, tables have replaced desks and most classes are taught outside without textbooks, lectures and worksheets? Homework is only for 10 minutes?

• Why would a Black male want to be in AP, honors, gifted & talented classes in your school?

• Why are so many Black males angry and have chips on their shoulders?

• The Latin definition of "education" means to draw forth from within. Education is not about training Black boys to be docile and take exams.

• Do your Black male students value fighting and sports over academics?

• Has your school taught Black males how to resolve conflict through nonviolence?

• Which is worse: a crumbling school, insensitive teachers, overcrowded classrooms, or student violence? Many African American students endure all of the above.

• Every Black male should experience a military boot camp.

• Black males make silly mistakes when they have nothing to lose, when they don't have goals.

• Why is it so difficult to teach Black males how to read? Is illiteracy the precursor for retention, special education, dropping out, and incarceration?

• Retention or social promotion? How does it feel to be a Black male in ninth grade, 16 years of age, with a fourth-grade reading score?

• Who in your school determines the selection of books to be read by Black males?

• What type of books do young Black males like to read?

• Do schools know how to teach young Black males how to write?

• How difficult is it for a principal to change the culture of a school when the majority of his/her staff has tenure?

• What is the pecking order among your students? How significant is the pecking order around academic achievement? What do you about the Alpha male theory?

• When Black males wear saggin' pants, females wear revealing clothes, and teachers wear jeans, it says a lot about your school culture.

• We must teach Black males how to be strong mentally, not just physically.

• Many Black males want to succeed in school without studying or completing homework.

• Is there a cultural disconnect between some White female teachers and Black boys?

• Is there a cultural disconnect between some middle-class Black educators and low-income Black male students?

• Can you teach a child of whom you are afraid?

• Boys do not do well in school if they are not allowed to release their energy.

• There is a difference between self-esteem and school-esteem.

• Black males could be failing their classes but still have high self-esteem.

• Can Black males trust you as a teacher?

• Do you see your Black male students as future success stories?

• Teachers must have the attitude, "I refuse to let you fail or settle for mediocrity."

• There is a difference between "My students will learn" and "My students can learn."

• When teachers refer to a Black male student as son, they have begun the bonding process.

• If we want to change school culture, the best teachers should teach in the earlier grades.

• Black males view themselves as athletic stars. Some teachers view them as ignorant.

• There are no significant differences in dis-identification with academics by race or gender in primary grades. However, no group dis-identifies more with academics by ninth grade than Black males.

• What do your Black male students do between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm?

• How many Black males in your school have talents that go undeveloped?

• Why should Black males stay in your school if they are not learning anything that will help them survive the streets?

• In some school districts, students are arrested and handcuffed for talking back to teachers, possessing cell phones, or violating the dress code.

• Female behavior should not be the school standard. Boys have no desire to act like girls.

• We could reduce special education placements by reinstating recess, daily P.E., and allowing more movement in the classroom.

• More than any other factor, the percentage of Black males in special education and suspension reflects what you think of them.

• Some students are absent a lot and drop out of school because they have nothing to wear or don't like the clothes.

• We are not going to positively change school culture for Black males until we teach them how to overcome poverty and acquire wealth.

• It is difficult being a transformational teacher in a traditional school environment. The major catalyst for change is not funding, curriculum, school or class size, or whether the school is public, charter, or private. The major catalyst is a transformational school culture.

• In high achieving schools, classroom doors are open, and principals visit frequently.

• We must celebrate good teachers.

• While funding is important, it is not as important as relationship.

• In predominately minority schools, only 65 percent offer Algebra II; 40 percent offer physics, and only 29 percent offer calculus.

• Do we know how to teach oral learners, tactile learners, picture learners, and kinesthetic learners in intermediate, upper, and high school?

• Primary-grade children do not lose their learning style in the upper grades. Most upper grade teachers simply do not meet the needs of right brain learners.

• A school can determine the future and destroy a boy's life by placing him in lower track classes.

• Have we designed schools and the calendar for adults or for students?

• It cost more to correct failure than to produce success.

• Pre-school is a much better investment than prison.

• How many minutes per day, week, month, and year do Black males in your school spend in the corner, outside the door, and in the principal's office?

• Programs are progress, but policy is power. Teachers implement programs. Administrators implement policy.

• Boys measure everything by one yardstick: Does this make me look weak?

• In some neighborhoods, the most important skill to learn for Black males is survival. I wonder how many teachers could survive the streets of their students?

• Hollering sit down and shut up is not good classroom management.

• Some teachers have replaced textbook and worksheets with boring lectures and videos.

• Master educators teach on their feet and not in their seat.

• Memorizing is not learning. We must develop independent learners and problem solvers.

• Social promotions must cease. We cannot allow students to enter high school with elementary grade skills.

• How can we prepare students for high stakes testing if teachers give 30 minute exams and the state gives 90 minute exams?

• A major hinderance to changing school culture is the difficulty to remove an ineffective teacher. On average, it will require 3-5 years of principal's documentation and over $100,000 in legal fees.


Excerpted from Changing School Culture for Black Males by Jawanza Kunjufu. Copyright © 2013 Jawanza Kunjufu. Excerpted by permission of African American Images.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu is an educational consultant and the author of more than 40 books, including Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys, A Culture of Respect, the bestselling Raising Black Boys, and Understanding Black Male Learning Styles. He lives in Chicago.

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