Dear Commons Community,
In a New York Times op-ed today, Chris Emdin, an associate professor at Teachers College and an alumnus of our Ph.D. Program in Urban Education here at the CUNY Graduate Center, examines the role of black male teachers in -12 education. Chris comments that “black male teachers can serve as powerful role models, but they cannot fix the problems minority students face simply by being black and male”. His rationale is:
“Black male teachers are not just expected to teach and be role models; they are also tasked with the work of disciplinarians. The stereotype is that they are best at dispensing “tough love” to difficult students. Black male educators I work with have described their primary job as keeping black students passive and quiet, and suspending them when they commit infractions. In this model, they are robbed of the opportunity to teach, while black male students are robbed of opportunities to learn.”
As a result, black male teachers leave the profession rather than dish out “tough love”.
There is truth to what Endin says but it is not the whole story. The entire profession has a very high attrition rate regardless of race or gender especially in the first several years of teaching. Furthermore, there are so few black male teachers in K-12 because proportionally very few of them go into it in the first place. If there were more black male teachers, they would not all have to be “tough love” dispensers, some would just be teachers.
Chris is correct in that our schools of education can do more to prepare all teachers to deal with severe issues of poverty, the inequitable distribution of resources across communities, and the criminalization of black men inside and outside of schools. But I believe that we would serve our minority students better if there were more role models for them. Our K-12 system needs more male teachers – black, Latino, and white.