Wednesday, December 31, 2003

I think it's important for bloggers to look for and think about stories which might require them to rethink their basic views on things.

At Medgar Evers, where 97 percent of the male students are black, the number of male students has been disproportionately low for more than a decade. Right now, only 22 percent of the students are male. And the men are far less likely to graduate than the women.

The discrepancies are not unique to Medgar Evers. Women outnumber men at most colleges, but the gap is especially large among black students. Nationally, barely a quarter of the 1.9 million black men between 18 and 24 — prime college-going years — were in college in 2000, according to the American Council on Education's most recent report on minorities in higher education. By comparison, 35 percent of black women in the same age group and 36 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in higher education.

And the graduation rate of black men is lower than that of any other group. Only 35 percent of the black men who entered N.C.A.A. Division I colleges in 1996, for example, graduated within six years, compared with 59 percent of the white men, 46 percent of the Hispanic men, 41 percent of the American Indian men and 45 percent of the black women who entered the same year.

"It's the shame of American higher education," said Arthur E. Levine, the president of Teachers College at Columbia University.

Researchers say the obstacles keeping black men from earning college degrees include poor education before college, the low expectations that teachers and others have for them, a lack of black men as role models, their dropout rate from high school and their own low aspirations.

While most of these problems are common to disadvantaged minority students regardless of sex, black men have the special burden of being pigeonholed early in a way that black female students are not. This was among the findings of the African-American Male Initiative, a program set up by the University System of Georgia to research and remove the obstacles to college enrollment and graduation for black men. The system has 17,000 black men among 250,000 students on its 34 campuses.

The downward spiral begins in Head Start classrooms, said Arlethia Perry-Johnson, the chairwoman of the initiative and an associate vice chancellor of the Georgia system. Some black male students are labeled developmentally delayed, funneled into special education and "never get mainstreamed," she said. Shoved off the college prep track, they begin a "cycle of being reprimanded, disciplined and ultimately suspended for negative behavior," she said, leading to expulsion, unemployment and even crime and imprisonment.

Solving the problem is beginning to get more attention at colleges. Nearly three dozen selective liberal arts colleges, including Amherst, Swarthmore and Wesleyan, have united to create a working group on minority achievement issues, including the underrepresentation of black and Latino men in colleges.

Recently, Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., sponsored a symposium on the absence of black men in higher education. Women outnumber men by about 2 to 1 at Howard.

This artictle from The New York Times looks at many different problems. I'm not saying affirmative action won't help directly or indirectly with any of them, but in some cases I'm not sure if it will help or how. One thing is clear though - for everyone who is not a black American to look for excuses to say that this is not our problem because it's someone elses fault would be counterproductive in the extreme. It is much cheaper to find the cause of a problem and solve it than to wait until someone does something illegal and spend a lot of money keeping them in jail.

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