Pedro Noguera, a professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, is an urban sociologist who studies how schools are influenced by social and economic conditions. We recently spoke to him about The Trouble with Black Boys…and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education (Jossey-Bass, 2008).
I wrote this book to draw attention to a population of students that are among the most marginalized and disadvantaged in this country. Black males are over represented in every category associated with failure in American schools and under represented in categories associated with success.
How do social and cultural forces effect academic achievement in African American males?
We live in a society where the stereotypes associated with black males reinforce athletics and entertainment, propagate the notion that this is a group that should be feared for violence and criminality, and undermine intellectual pursuits. These fixed ideas invariably influence the identity development of black male children and others – police, teachers, employers, who see them through the lens of stereotype.
How does early education influence adult development?
The patterns of failure affecting children in school have a profound influence on outcomes for adults. Given the extraordinarily high incarceration and unemployment rates for black men in the United Stages, creating schools where stereotypes can be broken and challenged is essential to improving academic outcomes.
Your book was published at a zeitgeist moment in American culture. What are some of the issues we face in educating boys and are you hopeful about the future?
I think it is essential that the problems facing black males be seen as an American problem rather than a black problem. To the degree that we can find ways to make schools more equitable, just, and effective so that they are able to provide all children with a sound education that enables them to participate fully in our democracy, black male children will also benefit. I hope my book can serve as a call for urgent action to be taken in schools so that the negative patterns that shape the development of black males can be reversed.