Education: A program to help Black boys

Thanks to a friend on facebook, I came across a New York Times article highlighting a mentoring program in Ossining, NY that focused on improving the academic performance and cultural awareness of Black boys. The district is sort of unorthodox in how it achieves racial diversity. “Its six school buildings are divided not by neighborhood but by grade level. All of the second and third graders in the Ossining Union Free School District attend the Brookside School.”

Some of the Black boys participate in a “special mentoring program that pairs them with Black teachers for one-on-one guidance outside class, extra homework help, and cultural activities during the school day.”

How this ‘some’ is determined, I don’t know all the details. In any event, participation is voluntary on the part of the boys and not alll of them choose to participate. As far as I am concerned, I am all for any program that doesn’t dance around the politics of closing the racial achievement gap and gets help to the people that need it most. To be sure,

Ossining school officials said they were not singling out black boys, but after a district analysis of high school students’ grade point averages revealed that black boys were performig far worse than any other group, they decided to act.

The sad part is that we don’t need any more reports to show that Black students (not all, I know) need major academic support. For context though, Black boys make up less than 10% of the suburban district’s 4,200 students. According to the 2000 census, the average income was upwards of $81,000, so we are not talking about low-income communities.

What this really higlights is that the academic performance of Black boys does not improve because you live in the suburbs.

Even still, I don’t understand why anyone would be against this program. To my chagrin, the New York Civil Rights Coalition (NYCR) plans to file a complaint against the Ossining program with New York State.

Unfortunately, NYCR’s mantra is that they are the voice of sanity about race and civil rights.

Executive Director of the NYCR, Michael Meyers had this to say about the program,

I think this is a form of racial profiling in the public school system…What they’re doing here, under the guise of helping more boys, is they’re singling them out and making them feel inferior or different simply because of their race and gender.

I am sure the NYCR does good work, but am I the only one that sees the idiocy of this comment? It bears repeating that the mentoring program pairs Black boys “with black teachers for one-on-one guidance outside class, extra homework help, and cultural activities during the school day.” 

What does Michael think Black folk did before Brown v. Board? 

We all know that Black boys are having trouble in school. To be sure though,

In Maryland, a state education task force asserted in December that “school itself, is an at-risk environment for African-American male youth” and issued a 58-page report “to justify fixing it – whatever the cost.”

I know that whenever a suburban program is highlighted there is clamor to talk about what is going on in the inner-city, but Black boys need help everywhere. To be frank, I think the efforts by the NYCR are misguided and make me wonder if quality education is truly a part of the civil rights agenda, sometimes I can’t tell.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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3 responses to “Education: A program to help Black boys”

  1. Dumi says :

    Yeah having a targeted program on race and gender in a public school in 2007 is roughly equivalent to putting a target on your back. But it highlights an important issue about the issues of Black boys (and girls) who are not more suburban than at any other point in the history of the US. The NYRC’s response seems to match their other positions, which take a very colorbling approach to remedying social inequality. If you look at the board, you’ll see Orlando Patterson, a Harvard Sociologist, whose pieces in the Times often advance very “troubling” positions from my point of view. I linked to one on my site a couple of months back. Research on African-American boy centered programs is really necessary, I know there are a lot of programs being developed and implemented, I wonder if there are best practices as of yet.

  2. Garlin II says :

    What’s interesting here to me is the “voluntary” part. Does this mean that only the already-relatively-high-achieving boys self-select for this program while the people that “need it” do not participate?

  3. Pat says :

    There has long been a need for more black teachers for the black community, and indeed, the civil rights revolution envisioned black teachers as the cure for racism as much as it did for blacks access to equal educational opportunities.

    That dream has yet to be fulfilled, however, and Obama has the right approach if he intends to help make that dream a reality.

    Why would he do anything else?

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