Why Don’t Black Men Achieve As Well Academically?

WASHINGTON- (NNPA) On campuses across the nation, it is becoming difficult to distinguish between all-female and co-ed universities. Often, the student government president is female. It is not uncommon for the editor of the school newspaper to be a woman. Walk into any classroom and the overwhelming majority of the students are females.

While unattached single males might applaud that disparity, the absence of Black men in meaningful numbers on college campuses is troubling to many and has profound implications for the future for Black America. If this gender imbalance continues, it could impact future family structures, the type of role models available to Black boys and the vibrancy of the African-American community.

Why are Black males failing to achieve at the same level as females?

“Boys are much more influenced by the streets. The biggest competitors to education are rap, drugs and sports,” says Jawanza Kunjufu, a Chicago-based expert on Black males. “When you think about it, of the number of Black males in college, what percent of them are athletes? Sistas don’t seem to be tempted by sports, rap and drugs. There is no question that more brothas lean towards faster money.”

Another problem according to Kunjufu is the lack of Black male teachers.

“We really have to look at why 83 percent of the school teachers in elementary are White females, 6 percent are African-American and 1 percent are African-American males,” explains Kunjufu, who heads African-American Images, a group that publishes and distributes books that promote self-esteem, collective values, liberation, and skill development. “America has designed a female teaching style. There is a possibility that a male can go K-8 [from kindergarten to eighth grade] and never experience a Black teacher.”

That also troubles Robert Lemons, dean of the School of Education at Florida A&M University.

“Whenever we have the opportunity, we talk to the legislatures and school superintendents asking them to make teaching more attractive for the male. We don’t get much response,” he says. “This has been a trend in education for a long time. Before the 1980s, most educated Blacks were in teaching. This was when we couldn’t go into any other occupations, but as soon as other occupations opened up, Black men left and went into professions they felt made more money.”

In 2004, there was a large gap between male and female teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Of the 6.2 million teachers, approximately 4.5 million (71 percent) were women and 1.7 million (29 percent) were men. Of all teachers, only 5.1 million (8 percent) were Black.

“Since 1954 there has been a 66 percent decline in Black teachers,” Kunjufu, who wrote the four-book series, Countering the Conspiracy to destroy Black boys, said. The paucity of African-American teachers hampers the normal development of Black males, Kunjufu argues.

Derrick Lawson, a 5th grade teacher in Los Angeles has the same opinion.

“I didn’t major in education during college, but I decided to go into the profession after realizing I was going nowhere with my job at the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles],” Lawson said in an interview. “Once I started teaching, I was surprised at how few Black male teachers there are in California and how much time you spend mentoring as opposed to teaching.”

Lawson, a Black man, says the responsibility of male teachers goes far beyond the classroom.

“When you are the only male figure some of your student see, it puts additional pressure on you to be their teacher, friend and parent. Many of my male students come to me because I am the only one they know that’s not on the streets, selling drugs or gang banging.”

Because Lawson is the only “father figure” some of his students have, it’s hard for him to leave even though the pressure sometimes seems overwhelming.

“When I started teaching I thought that it would be a typical eight to four day and when I realized that it was almost 24-hours I thought about going back to the DMV. What has kept me in the profession for these past five years is my heart. I see first hand how not having a positive male influence can destroy a child’s life and I am committed to making sure that I do all I can to ensure that these kids get a fair shot at success—even if it means sacrificing my own wants.”

Kunjufu says the lack of positive male role models may even limit their ability to excel personally and academically.

“Thirty-two percent of our children have their father in the home. Girls have their mother as a role model, but more than half of boys have no one. Another problem is that many mothers raise their daughters and love their sons. They teach their daughters to be more responsible and more focused, he said.”

According to the Census, the number of female-headed homes is higher than 32 percent. In the Black community, 44 percent of homes are headed by a woman, 23.4 percent in the Hispanic community, 13.2 percent in the Asian community and 12 percent in the White community.

In six year’s the number of female-headed households in the Black community jumped by 14 percent. In 1999, 30.1 percent of households were headed by women, in 2000, 29.7 percent, in 2001, 28.7 percent, in 2002, 28.8 percent and in 2003, 29.7 percent of households were run by women.

Many feel that these numbers are a direct correlation to the achievement of Black students and according to statistics.

In 2001, there slightly more college aged men than women. The Census reports that there were 14.3 million men and 13.6 million women between 18 and 24 years old. HBCU campuses did not follow that trend. During that year, the total fall enrollment in HBCUs was 289,985, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Women made up 177,111 (61 percent) and men 112,874 (39 percent) of that total—a difference of 64,237 (22 percent).

Kunjufu believes that early intervention is key.

“I still believe that it’s best to correct the problem K-12 [from kindergarten to 12th grade]. How are you going to feed the college community if you don’t develop students before they get to college?” he asks. “Older students could mentor younger students and plant seeds. Most brothas don’t have mentors, even on college campuses. A progressive president of a university would make sure seniors mentor younger classmen.”
Lemons agrees.

“Education is friendlier to females than males. Those students that do better in school are students that can pay attention. Females are more acclimated or predisposed to do that better. I’m afraid that the other things outside of school have a much stronger pull on men,” he said.
Kunjufu says there is no time to focus on what we can’t change.

“We need to point out that there are 1 million brothas competing for seven full-time jobs in the NBA, only 22 rappers are really getting paid, and drug dealers don’t have a retirement plan,” he said

Although there are currently 200,000 more women in college than men, at one time men outnumbered women on university campuses. The census reports that in 1950 there were almost 226,000 more men in college than women. Ten years later, that number decreased but men still out numbered women by nearly 116,000.

In 1989 things changed. During this school year, the number of female students jumped, surpassing men by six percent. In 1989 there were 1,051,344 students in college—559,648 (53 percent) were women and 491,696 (47 percent) were men. Since then, the gap in male and female enrollment has continued to increase, especially at HBCUs.

According to Kunjufu, unless the African-American community embraces Black men, their future is dismal.

“In 1980, there were 100,000 brothas incarcerated. In 2005 there is 1.5 million. The million dollar question becomes can the Black community survive if one of three of our men is involved somehow in the penal institution. The answer is no, so we need to start protecting these brothers.”