(Lacy Atkins/San Francisco Chronicle)

Oakland schools have taken up some controversial methods to address the plight of African- American male students. There is a new charter school specifically for black youth, and a department at the Oakland Unified School District focusing solely on helping African-American males. We talk with those involved in Oakland’s attempts to improve the outcomes for black males and a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who has spent a year documenting Oakland’s efforts.

Guests:
Jill Tucker, education writer at the San Francisco Chronicle
Christopher Chatmon, executive director of African American Male Achievement at Oakland Unified School District
Jahi, hip hop artist and educator, who teaches and mentors students through the African American Male Achievement (AAMA) program
Thomas Logwood, Castlemont High in Oakland graduate

  • Karen

    I’d like to know at what grade they begin working with the boys? I’ve read statistics that show that the earlier the support the better a students academic outcome.

  • clumsycontessa

    Emotional intelligence training seems like something else that would probably help out a whole lot. The story of that teacher who just sent the student to ISC pretty much shows that.

  • Ehkzu

    Back in the 1970s I was attending Cal State Hayward to get a teaching credential. I remember taking an introductory Zoology course that included long lectures in an auditorium plus lab classes. In the lectures I became acquainted with a couple of black freshmen who’d graduated from high schools in Oakland.

    I’d take several pages of notes in small handwriting at each lecture. They’d take about 10 words. Their high school experience hadn’t given them the intellectual framework needed to listen to a lecture and process the information.

    And I would be very surprised it that wasn’t still the case today.

  • MattCA12

    So the message here is that, for a young African American male student to succeed, he must be taught by someone who “looks like him”, i.e. an adult black male? I heard this reiterated several times throughout the segment. So black male students cannot learn from non-black or female teachers? This seems remarkably condescending, short sighted, and borderline racist. Black male male self reliance and self belief have only very minor roles here. What is needed is more emphasis on social empathy, on self-discipline, and on strengthening the family and home life. Especially without the latter, it won’t matter what kind of school or how innovative it is, most students will fail.

    • Ellis

      Matt,

      It seems that you missed or misunderstand why this mentoring
      system has been put in place. The problem is that many of these young
      men come from homes that have no male figure around. The obvious
      factors why the fathers are missing include mass incarceration, death
      or abandonment due to financial reasons.

      So, the purpose of this program to fill this huge gap. The other
      factor that you might consider is that as you stabilize each child
      you are stabilizing the class environment, school, community etc.

      • Guest

        Matt,

        It was actually never once said that a black man must teach these young black boys. You say you heard this several times in the segment, but that is only what you are choosing to see. I am guessing you are not a black man because it seems like maybe you felt “left out” of this segment. Solidarity is a beautiful process and must take place in any community which does not yet have equality. These young boys are suffering more than most of us will ever know. Sure, other people besides black males can teach and help these kids. This short said nothing that fights against that, but in order for a community to rise up, there has got to be solidarity. A fellow African American can understand these boys in ways that other races cannot. It’s just a fact. I think you really need to open your mind up and not get hurt that this one program didn’t include whatever racial category you might fit into.

        For you to even use the word “racist” is a complete insult. There is nothing racist about this. If you want to go out and help children in need, no one is stopping you. What’s racist is the fact that young black men are dying and being incarcerated at unequal rate due to HISTORY, the government and the introduction of crack.

        “Americans define racism as individual, overt and intentional. But modern forms of racial discrimination are often unintentional, systemic and
        hidden.”

        You need to open your eyes and see that help in any form is positive.

    • Emily

      Matt,

      It was actually never once said that a black man must teach these young black boys. You say you heard this several times in the segment, but that is only what you are choosing to see. I am guessing you are not a black man because it seems like maybe you felt “left out” of this segment. Solidarity is a beautiful process and must take place in any community which does not yet have equality. These young boys are suffering more than most of us will ever know. Sure, other people besides black males can teach and help these kids. This short said nothing that fights against that, but in order for a community to rise up, there has got to be solidarity. A fellow African American can understand these boys in ways that other races cannot. It’s just a fact. I think you really need to open your mind up and not get hurt that this one program didn’t include whatever racial category you might fit into.

      For you to even use the word “racist” is a complete insult. There is nothing racist about this. If you want to go out and help children in need, no one is stopping you. What’s racist is the fact that young black men are dying and being incarcerated at an unequal rate due to HISTORY, the government and the introduction of crack.

      “Americans define racism as individual, overt and intentional. But modern forms of racial discrimination are often unintentional, systemic and
      hidden.”

      You need to open your eyes and see that help in any form is positive.

  • Observer

    @MattCA12:disqus No. The message is that is a methodology. Why not? We all know that there are not a lot of African American Male teachers in OUSD, so why not. And look up Targeted Universalism before you start with the late and outdated counter racism. The fact is that the program is a solution and instead of critics why not see it through and support it. Its interesting that people don’t have viable solutions or are commenting from arm chairs when these brothers are actually trying to do something right. Black students can be taught by any teacher of any race, but it does matter when young black males see someone who looks like them in the learning process. People who’ve had white privilege may have a hard time grasping this concept.

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