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The perceived social barriers that exist in our society create a picture of institutionalized racism for black adolescents. Helping upper middle and high school black males develop a more positive outlook for their future in what they believe to be a white society may be possible by developing psychoeducational groups that address issues such as self-concept and efficacy (Dowden, 2009). Black males tend to reject the educational system for fear of losing their own cultural identity by sabotaging their own academic success in an effort of not acting white. According to Lewis and Bratton (2004), Black males deliberately avoid academic achievement to avoid being alienated and rejected by their peers. Furthermore, Black adolescent males gravitate toward entertainment and sports as a means to better than socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, many Black males buy into the disparaging messages of comic routines, images, and lyrics that cause them to devalue their own culture, and ultimately themselves. Black males are at the top of the list for behavioral problems such as suspension, expulsion, and dropping out. Much research has been done on reasons for the achievement gap, especially among Black males compared to their white counterparts. Frequently society has argued that Black males academic failure is due to the stereotypical behaviors, such as being loud, lazy, criminals, athletic, and dangerous. Educators exist at all levels of education that reinforce this myth and claim that low academic performance and intellectual inferiority is inevitable among Black males. These educators lower their expectation and do not demand quality academic performance while the Black males who defy this type of stereotype are considered exceptions to the rule (Codjoe, 2006; Cokley and Chapman, 2008; Whiting, 2006). These concerns set the premise for my research on developing psychoeducational groups that specifically guide Black males into a positive self-concept and efficacy empowering them to change the direction of their academics by becoming motivated to achieve higher levels of reading.
A positive self-concept of one's self will steer Black males to a higher state of consciousness where they can embrace their own cultural identity while still being a part of the entire American culture. Currently, African American academic success and failure focus on a cultural identity crisis with constructs of racial and ethnic identity issues. The three components of cultural identity may explain the reason why African Americans display an anti-white attitude in regards to academics. African Americans are knowledgeable of their history and they choose to either adopt or reject familiar values and behaviors due to the psychological consequences of reactions passed down through generations. In many research studies, Black students' academic self-concept, attitudes and belief in one's own abilities, has been one of the key reasons for achievement and underachievement (Cokley and Chapman, 2008). The African American academic self-concept begins to deteriorate during the process of self-esteem detachment. This type of detachment is intrinsic and is utilized by the individual as a shield against failure. Efficacy eventually becomes nonexistent, and the African American looses more academic footing. It is important to note that many African Americans possess low self-efficacy and have reasonably high self-esteem, so self-esteem is not always an academic concern (Okech and Harrington, 2002). Academic disengagement can also be attributed to "soft bigotry of low expectations" causing African American males to believe academic achievement is unattainable. Black males deal with a powerful psychology issue of not feeling valued in educational institutions. This psychological devaluing affect causes the black high school male to lower the high expectation and standards he has struggled to maintain (McMillian, 2004). To reduce the academic achievement gap and create a more level playing field for African American males, programs to improve motivation must be developed and employed to help this population improve in self-concept, efficacy, and self-esteem. Motivation training will enhance success, lessen frustration, reduce failure, and diminish the perceptions of lack of meaningfulness of reading lessons. The program would provide meaningful tasks that are challenging and authentic (Demos and Foshay, 2010).
Academic achievement has improved significantly over recent decades for African Americans. However, for this population, achievement has been minimal, especially for Black males. McMillian (2004) argues that African Americans from affluent homes with well-educated parents still lag behind European Americans. Administrators and educators are now being forced to eliminate the achievement gap under the "No Child Left Behind Act" (NCLB). Schools are rewarded for progress while others deal with consequences of no progress.
Studies Tangentially Related
African Americans males who do plan to enroll in a post-secondary college or university and have received academic motivation training along with reading remediation in high school will find academic success more easily achievable. Research has shown that students who are struggling readers find a college curriculum more challenging. According to research conducted among developmental reading college students, overall scores increased in class work. Utilizing an online reading program allowed the college students to gain access to reading materials, self-selection opportunities, and social interaction about printed text. The desire to read improved because the students better understood the text. This type of developmental reading served as a vehicle for self-directed learning by at-risk college students (Burgess, 2009). McMillian believes that eliminating stereotyping and reframing education will unlock the key to reducing the achievement gap. This reframing should begin in higher learning institutions because they are frequently viewed as intellectual experts. McMillian (2004) asked the question if leaders truly want to eradicate the achievement gap. Whatever means educators have at their deposal should be employed to help African American males succeed both at the secondary and post-secondary school levels.
Not only do we need to address the Black male population, we must address the academic needs of the male gender. Beginning as early as kindergarten, the male population has continued to academically fall short of their female counterparts. According to the "National Assessment of Educational Progress" (NAEP), 4, 8, and 12 grade girls consistently scored higher in reading than males. A reading level gap of one and one-half years separate boys in the United States from a typical girl. This is true, in part, because boys do not place as much value on reading as girls. (Marinak and Gambrell, 2010). Self-confidence as a reader must be instilled in children at a young age. It has always been widely accepted that motivation is a key to student success (Park and Meyer, 2010). African American males should begin their academic journey with effectance motivation and maintain a high level of academic self-concept and efficacy throughout their life. It is the responsibility of the educational system to provide worthwhile, meaningful, and authentic training to this unique American population so that they too can not only become productive citizens, but economically successful.