In Changing School Culture for Black Males Dr. Juwanza Kunjufu breaks down the culture of our American schools, and the odds our teachers are up against as instructors and role models for the youth.
“Interfacing with school culture is youth culture. African American youth culture is response to hundreds of years of slavery, oppression, discrimination, racism, poverty and injustice. It is a dynamic, fluid, highly creative, energetic, antagonistic against authority, and a powerful influence on its members. In recent years, hip hop has had the most influence on African American culture, and other races’ youth as well.” -Juwanza Kunjufu
A positive school culture doesn’t put the responsibility of academic achievement solely on the student. The best performing schools have teachers and staff that understand they play an equal part in creating an environment that is condusive for the student to be productive. A Eurocentric, inapplicable curriculum can often add another stress factor to the equation. This is why we need our teachers to be more than just state employees. We need more teachers who genuinely have a passion for educating the youth, expect more, and can go the extra mile to keep our kids off the streets and out of jail. We need leaders who are willing to invest the extra time into our future.
Kunjufu argues there is nothing wrong with our young Black men. We need teachers who consistently inspire academic excellence despite the many daily challenges they face. He explains, “Eduating African American children is a mission, a calling, a ministry”. In his book, There is Nothing Wrong With Black Students, Kunjufu identifies over 3,000 schools in low-income, single parent Black and Latino neighborhoods where Black and Latino students ranked well above the national average. These schools, like Harper High in Chicago, make it their mission to insure the success of each individual student by keeping their expectations high, and constantly finding ways to get the school and the community involved in the education process.
Based on current statistics concerning Black male youth in education, it would seem as if they were under siege. Only 12% of black males are proficient in reading by 8th grade, and 58% of youth admitted to state prisons are African American. We’re losing our men before they get a chance to grow up. 72% of African American children fathers are not in the home. If these children don’t have positive role models at home or in school, they are going to look no further than their neighborhood heroes, and the cycle continues. The saying, it takes a village to raise a child couldn’t fit a better demographic. We have to take a more aggressive, proactive approach to reverse the issue and secure a brighter future for the next generation. Get involved with the youth in your school and community. Every child we can save makes a difference.