Educational Orientation for African Americans sample essay
“Reality depends on one’s perception of the world. Thus, although there is one school, each student perceives his or her experiences in that school differently. Reality exists in that individual perception” (Marcus, Gross, & Seefeldt, 1991, p. 364). Ensuring social justice and opportunities of achievement for all students, especially historically underrepresented groups, has been my mission in life for many years. Concerned with issues like equal opportunity and treatment for all students, regardless of students’ social class, ethnicity, or family structure, I have always attempted to be cognizant of students’ perspectives.
As a counselor in a school that is predominantly white with a few African American students I would like to research intervention strategies that would make those African American students in my school be more successful. There are many factors associated with school failure, especially in African American males. The purpose of this research is to identify those factors and develop interventions strategies to apply to combat the school failure of those students. Examining their culture and of the causes of this phenomena and understanding how they experience school was critical in identifying the issues and influences on their educations.
Students’ failures to learn and succeed do not occur out of thin air. More specifically, African American boys’ failures to achieve do not occur out of thin air. A review of literature on Black male achievement shows that not only do they lag behind their White counterparts in America, but also in Britain and Canada (Graham & Robinson, 2004; Smith, Schneider, & Ruck, 2005). Attention must be given to examining policies, practices, attitudes, and experiences that create such failure in schools (Christle, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2005; Kagan, 1990; Nieto, 1999). Educators have many responsibilities.
One of those responsibilities is to examine the reasons for the failure of students. Marian Wright Edelman (1992) sums up the purpose of education and echoes my belief of the responsibility of educators: “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it” (pp. 9-10). The decision to study African American males in middle school arises from personal interest in equity and social justice issues. Tied to that is my experience in middle schools where I have been witness to struggling students, particularly African
American males from low socioeconomic neighborhoods, who have demonstrated a lack of success in school. One cannot help but wonder why being Black and male puts students at risk for school failure (Davis, 2003; Noguera, 2003). For these reasons, my research is focused on a group of African American who are not successful in school; those who are struggling academically, demonstrating inappropriate behavior at school, and not putting forth effort to meet their academic potential. The research will seek to identify the influences, or the lack thereof, impacting these students’ success.
When factoring in other issues that potentially result from a lack of educational attainment, such as involvement in illegal activity and incarceration of African American students, it is easy to see that we cannot afford to gamble on whether or not these students will make it on their own. Alarming statistics create a sense of urgency and responsibility for educators in reaching African American students in particular. Predictions based on steady incarceration rates reveal that 32% of African American males will likely serve time in state or federal prisons during the course of their lifetimes (U. S.
Department of Justice, 2002). We are living in a country where twice as many African Americans live below the poverty line than Caucasians and where 40% of jail inmates are African American (U. S. Department of Commerce, 2002; U. S. Department of Justice, 2002). African Americans have held the lead in the percentage of people unemployed for three years consecutively (U. S. Department of Labor, 2003). Such statistics, when coupled with economic consequences of failing to adequately educate all students, paint a bleak picture for a large segment of our population. Gibbs (1988) goes so far as to say that African
American males are an “endangered species. ” She uses a dictionary definition to define this term as “a class of individuals having common attributes and designated by a common name [which is] in danger or peril of probable harm or loss” (p. 1). It is critical that struggling African American students are identified early to help avoid the dismal scenarios. The implications of failing to identify and assist struggling students at the earliest point possible not only have an immediate effect on students but also carry long-term consequences for students, communities, and the nation (Gibbs, 1988; Lee, 2002; President’s Committee, 1997).
The educational and societal implications of not reaching this group of students are worthy of great concern. The lack of both academic progress and motivation to learn are symptoms of a larger problem. Without getting to the root causes for the underachievement of African American males, another year goes by and they fall further behind their academically excelling peers, lowering their chances of passing their grades or scoring at proficiency on the required yearly standardized tests. On a larger scale, this “silent catastrophe,” as a member of the London Parliament refers to the underachievement of Black male
students, lays the foundation for impediments to quality of life, earned income, and other obstacles in these individuals’ lives, as well as implications for the greater society (Graham & Robinson, 2004, p. 654). behaviors children exhibit and failing to see the real problems. Conversations may take place between the teacher and the student or the student and an administrator on a superficial level inquiring as to why they are misbehaving or failing, but the deliberate search for the root causes is often set aside to deal with the immediate problem of behavior or unwillingness to learn.
Students who are not succeeding academically often become “casualties of the educational systems that cannot see them because their problems remain invisible” (Nieto, 2004, p. 17). Classroom interventions, parent contacts, disciplinary consequences, counseling, and tutoring are a few of the strategies educators have implemented to improve student learning and chances of success. However, with some students it does not appear that we have scratched the surface of the underlying issues.
Without getting to the root causes for the underachievement of African American males, another year goes by and they fall further behind their academically excelling peers, lowering their chances of passing their grades or scoring at proficiency on the required yearly standardized tests. On a larger scale, this “silent catastrophe,” as a member of the London Parliament refers to the underachievement of Black male students, lays the foundation for impediments to quality of life, earned income, and other obstacles in these individuals’ lives, as well as implications for the greater society
(Graham & Robinson, 2004, p. 654). Irvine and Irvine (1994) suggested there are two perspectives that sum up the critical factor analysis on African American students’ failure in school. The first they call the achievement problematic, which suggests that Black students’ school failure is related to their cultural beliefs, perceptions and values about education.
The second, cultural problematic, suggests that indifference to African American student culture is responsible for African American student school failure. The cultural vs. structural argument with regard to minority education is a common theme within sociology of education research. Empirical studies often highlight one or the other as contributing the under-achievement of African American. An examination of the various cultural and structural theories will put this debate into context.
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