Educating african american men

In the last quarter century, the social and economic status of the African American male in the US has been described to be steadily deteriorating (Johnson, Farrell, & Braithwaite, 2001).   There are an estimated 18 million African American men in the US today, but majority of this number encounter problems and challenges unique to the African American community (Independent Lens, 2007).

Numerous studies have shown that the rates of schoolfailure, unemployment, homicide, incarceration, and other anti-social behaviors for African American males far exceed those for their Caucasian, Hipic, and Asian male counterparts (Johnson et al., 2001).

Statistics from the Bureau of Justice show that African American victimization rates in 2000 alone were higher by 20% as compared to those in the general population, while homicide rate for African Americans have been 5 times higher than that of the general population for several decades.

Homicide has been the primary cause of death for African American males between the ages of 15 to 34.  And while the percentage of African American men graduating from college has almost quadrupled since the passage of the 1964Civil RightsAct, more and more African American males are earning their high school equivalency diplomas in prison each year instead of graduating from college (Independent Lens, 2007).

The Bureau of Justice Statistics further provide that less than half of African American boys graduate from high school four years after entering the ninth grade.  More than half of the US’ 5. 6 million African American boys (below 18) live in fatherless households, 40% of which are impoverished.

And while the ranks of professional African American men have experienced a huge increase in the last four decades (for instance, as of 2004 there were 78, 000 African American male engineers, which was a 33% increase in 10 years), 840, 000 African American men remain incarcerated, with the chances of an African American boy serving time increasing nearly threefold in the last three decades (Independent Lens, 2007).

Related studies further support the evidence presented by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.   Edelman and Offner (2006) in their study indicate that in inner cities, more than half of all African American men do not finish high school.  In 2000, 65% of African American male high school dropouts in their 20s were jobless – meaning, they were unable to find work, or were not seeking work, or were incarcerated.

By 2004, the number of jobless African American men increased to 72%, compared to 34% for Caucasian men, and 19% for Hipic male high school dropouts.  In 2004 as well, half of African American men in their 20s were jobless, and these numbers unfortunately included African American men who had earned their high school diplomas (Edelman & Offner, 2006).

Furthermore, the movement of the labor force away from factory-based jobs has left unskilled workers of all races with fewer and fewer job options.  As of 2004, 50% of African American men in their 20s who did not have a collegeeducationwere jobless, while 72% of African American male high school dropouts remained jobless (Western, 2006).

These staggering statistics perhaps sadly reflect the difficult life that many African American men in the US have to face.  The inequality and punishment that lower-income African American men must deal with on a daily basis has been much documented in many studies.

These economic and social challenges may be rooted in the African American subculture, and would require an extensive analysis of the cultural patterns and behaviors.

The statistics showing the unemployment rate of lower-income African American males have also shown that they do not receive the same kind of opportunity that their Caucasian counterparts may have – however, the statistics also show that this status of being unemployed may be largely attributed to the lack of education of the African American male.

Dropping out of high school, not completing a college education, incarceration – all these are factors which contribute to the social and economic deterioration of the African American male.

As a way of addressing this social and economic deterioration of the African American male, this study will attempt to draw up a learning community which will allow for the African American adult male to achieve his fullest potential.   The paper will seek to establish a system of adult education wherein African American males may have the opportunity to elevate and improve their social and economic status in society.

Section 11.     Background

Subsection 1. 1. 1.        Definition of a Learning Community

The concept of a “ learning community” involves two distinct words which have been used in varying but traditionally separate contexts (“ Learning Community – A Definition,” 1998).  The Encyclopædia Britannica defines learning as “ the alteration of behavior as a result of individual experience.  When an organism can perceive and change its behavior, it is said to learn” (“ Learning,” 2007).

On the other hand, TheFreeDictionary defines community as “ a group of organisms or populations living and interacting with one another in a particularenvironment.  The organisms in a community affect each other’s abundance, distribution, and evolutionary adaptation” (“ Community,” 2007).

Taking the two definitions together, a learning community can then be understood to be an environment wherein a population lives and interacts with each other in order to perceive and change their behavior.

Within theacademicsetting, more specific definitions of a learning community have been provided for in previous research studies.   The concept has been defined as something located in the context of education for the young – 4 or 5 years old until 17 years old – as composing “ a group of students and at least one educator who, for a while and motivated by common vision and will, are engaged in the pursuit of acquiring knowledge, abilities and attitudes” (“ Learning Community – A Definition,” 1998).

Kowch and Schwier (1997) in their study defines a learning community as “ a collection of individuals who are bound together by natural will and a set of shared ideas and ideals” (p. 1) and as composed of “ autonomous, independent individuals engaged by influencing each other with a learning process” (Kowch & Schwier, 1997, p. 1).

Cross (1998) provides for a similar definition of learning communities as “ groups of people engaged in intellectual interaction for the purpose of learning” (p. 4).

In her outline, Kirby (2000) identifies different types of learning community models:

· Technological learning community.  This model involves students who are connected through technological communications.  The educational program, which is linked to schools, is offered online to students.

·Community education involvement.  This model involves entire communities participating in the operation of public schools and their educational outcomes.

·Cohort learning community.  This last model identified by Kirby involves students who go through an entire educational program or set of courses as cohorts.  Student cohorts are students “ commencing a course of study in a particular year with a particular higher education provider” (“ Glossary A-Z,” 2007).

A cohort learning community may be presented in different ways: 1) college undergraduate students with the same major housed in the same dorm, with special arrangements provided for group study; 2) courses taught as a unit, whether for a semester or a school year, with the same students enrolled in each of the classes in the unity; 3) students beginning an academic program together, being exposed to the same knowledge base, and eventually graduating together (Kirby, 2000).

Each of these three learning community models may be applied in various ways and at various educational levels.  Past studies on learning communities have also identified different learning community models.  For instance, Shapiro and Levine (1999) categorized learning community models as paired/clustered courses, freshman interest groups, team-taught programs, and/or residential learning communities.

On the other hand, Lenning and Ebbers (1999) categorized learning community models as curricular, classroom, residential, and student-type.   In their study, Freeman, Field, and Dyrenfurth (2001) integrate these previous models and have come up with four general categories for learning community models:

·Collateral course-based learning community model.  This category is identical to Kirby’s (2000) cohort learning community model.  Students may take two or more courses together as a cohort group.  This model may involve only two classes or the students’ entire course program for one or more semesters.  Educational programs may be discipline-based or cross-disciplinary theme-based.

·Residential learning community model.  Again, this is similar to Kirby’s (2000) cohort learning model, in that students live together in the same house or dormitory.  Unlike Kirby’s model however, this model proposed by Freeman, et al. (2001), does not necessarily require that the students take common classes or the same course.

According to Shapiro and Levine (1999), the residential learning community model integrates the living and academic environment of the students involved.

·Freshman interest groups.  This learning community involves entering a freshman with a particular subject interest, not necessarily in the same major, and allowing the freshman to take grouped or linked courses around that specific area of interest.

·Student-type learning community model.  This learning model, such as honor students, and students with disabilities.  It may or may not involve common courses or living arrangements (Freeman et al., 2001).

For purposes of this paper, it is important to understand the definition of a learning community since the latter basically pertains to a group of learners.  In this case, the particular group of learners are African American male adults.  It thus becomes relevant to provide a background on what a learning community is in order to understand how to set about developing an appropriate learning community for African American male adults.

It is noteworthy to point out that application of one learning community model does not necessarily mean the exclusion of another model or models.   According to Freeman et al. (2001), a learning community may be structured by following either one model or a combination of models, or even an entirely new and different model.

There is no required or strict standard which must be followed since the needs of the student population or target audience will necessarily vary per environment.   Rasmussen and Skinner (1997) in their landmark study on learning communities provides for the following insight:

“ The best design will depend on [the] institutional environment and the specific disciplines to be integrated as well as the characteristics of the faculty and students who will participate.

The goal is to provide a richer range of learning experiences to our students and contribute to a more vibrant and supportive campus environment for students and faculty alike” (Rasmussen & Skinner, 1997, p. 15).

Regardless of the learning community model selected however, the essence of a learning community should be producing a collaborative, harmonious environment between the teachers and the students.  It should allow for greater interaction of students with their teachers and peers.

Correlational evidence shows that students who participate in learning communities display more intellectual growth and get more out of their education than less involved students (Cross, 1998).