There are seven lies we need to stop telling about young black men in this country.
1. There are more black men in prison than in college (which I have written about and debunked before)
2. Black males believe academic achievement means they are “acting white”
3. Less than 50% of black males graduate high school
4. Black males don’t go to college
5. Black male student athletes graduate at a higher rate than their peers
6. Black male students have the same opportunities as their peers
7. Black males students are underachievers
The final one is particularly troubling to me as a teacher as research shows that the attitude of teachers towards black male students may encourage not only that stereotype but that behavior in young black male students.
Coded language and misused statistics have constructed this idea that African-American male students are underachievers. But ignoring the fact that some of America’s brightest minds are African-Americans, recent research shows that a lack of critical feedback and demonstrated high expectations is stifling black confidence in the classroom.
In three double-blind randomized field experiments, researchers at the University of Texas found that African-American students improved their grades after having the assignment expectation reinforced by their teachers. These results point out that a cycle of mistrust and lower expectations is a likely culprit in cases of African-American underperformance.
While some of these are very encouraging, our work is still far from done. Let’s continue to improve our nation by making sure every child, especially those most disenfranchised by our institutions, has the opportunity to change the world and receive a quality education.