Teaching and Learning

Issues of race and education find growing audiences

(Photo Left) From left, Ali Michael, Eddie Moore Jr. and Marguerite W. Penick-Parks share a selfie. Photo courtesy of Corwin/SAGE Publishing.

Some of the statistics around Blacks and education are stark, particularly when it comes to Black males. For example, 65 percent of the educators who teach black boys are white women. Black males make up only 2 percent of teachers nationwide.

Meanwhile, African-American males graduate rates are among the lowest of any demographic group, and are considered by some educators as the most “difficult to reach” students.

The impact of an educator’s race on the education of their African-American students has been a growing topic of late. Teachers, writers, media and others have taken up the cause for better future outcomes. 

The topic was reinforced with last month’s release of “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys” (Corwin/Sage Publications). Eleven of its contributors were local educators and experts. The book was edited by Eddie Moore, Marguerite W. Penick-Parks and Ali Michael, who teaches at University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the Grand Counseling Program at Arcadia University. It cites fear of Black males by teachers and of discussing race issues as one challenge, along with a lack of familiarity among Black males and white teachers with each other’s cultures.

“Getting over that fear and learning about race are pre-requisites for effectively teaching Black boys,” notes the Guide.

The book urges readers to: “Develop learning environments that help Black boys feel a sense of belonging, nurturance, challenge, and love at school”; “[c]hange school culture so that Black boys can show up in the wholeness of their selves”; and “[o]vercome unconscious bias and forge authentic connections.”

Meanwhile, in late September, local media outlets WURD radio, WHYY and Philadelphia Media Network (Daily News, Inquirer and Philly.com) joined the conversation, hosting “Reimagining Race and Education,” as one of a three-part “Courageous Conversations” series focused on race, class and culture.

The event invitation posed this question, “Race plays out in many ways in our schools, from funding inequity, to conflict, to how students and teachers view themselves and are viewed. How can we confront these issues, which hurt the whole community, and turn them into opportunities for conversation, understanding, and change?”

Among the speakers was Hilary Beard, who, in 2014, with Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson co-authored “Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and Life.” She noted the book's lasting impact and said that she continues to receive calls from schools and educators to lead workshops and discussions on the book’s content.

Also last month, more than 500 people at the heart of the issue, educators, policy makers and others, gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in Center City for “Stay Woke: The Inaugural National Black Male Educators Convening.”

The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice, who hosted the Convening, has launched a campaign titled “1000 x 2025,” with the goal of tripling the number of African-American male teachers. Sharif el-Mekki, an educator and co-founder of The Fellowship, pointed to the hundreds of Black male educators who attended the Convening and insisted that was proof that, “they’re out there.”


Teaching and Learning
Sheila Simmons - Contributor

Sheila Simmons brings many years of writing and communications experience to her work for Liberty City Press. She began her professional writing career at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she covered Business, City Hall and Education.


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