At the core of the problems that African Americans face is what I call the African-American male school adaptability crisis. I believe this is the failure of African-American male students to adapt to various school requirements, which prevents African-American males from having stable families.
When I was dean of students at Bronx Community College, I sought to do something about this issue. I conceived and administered an experimental grant program called the Minority Male Career Pathway Program. Participants had a statistically significant higher retention rate and credit accumulation than their control counterparts. One group showed a statistically significant increase in their self-esteem.
I pursued these promising results upon retirement. I set up a private foundation to create an enhanced version of this program called the African-American Male Career Pathway Program to address various social problems. Central to my endeavors was the question of why do we have this issue.
In my opinion, essential to a solution is collaboration among the school as well as the home community. Without this partnership, the problem cannot be solved. I believe that many see our students as victims. As victims, the students are thought to have no role in the solution because being victims they are held blameless. In my opinion, the blame instead is being placed on the school and the system.
According to an article in The New York Times, the psychologist Angela Duckworth found that “the most successful students weren’t always the ones who displayed a natural aptitude; rather, they displayed something she came to think of as grit.”
Therefore, had our students acquired a feeling of security and love at home, especially during the first three years of life, rather than having character deficits, they would likely have sound character. I believe that the home is responsible for having a decisive role in students’ success. A bad home environment leaves the students unhinged with a guidance void.
To fill the void, I have concluded that black male leadership and participation is required.
As for what should be done, I believe that the African American Male Career Pathway Program offers a template. This is a successor to the Minority Male Career Pathway Program mentioned above. Mainly, professional black males would staff the program. This would enable students to discover and pursue a career pathway to address their needs and daily concerns through a loving environment to establish nourishing connections.
My proposals pertaining to the collaboration of school and community would draw upon the use of black males and would focus on career and character.
Daunting as I believe this problem is, it can be solved if our advantaged black males are willing to lead the way.
Joe L. Rempson is the former dean of students at Bronx Community College and has more than 40 years of experience in the field of education. He received his bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State and earned his doctorate in education from Columbia University.