Fight the Extinction of the Black Male Teacher

Only two percent of American teachers are Black men. Here’s why that’s a problem.

The teaching profession is having a rough go of it these days. With state budgets drying up in a poor economy, public education is often one of the first to get slashed, and with those cuts go teaching jobs. But even without those firings, some of the most desirable teaching candidates are never becoming teachers in the first place. Behold, the frightening dearth of Black males in American classrooms.


According to new data from the Department of Education, Black male teachers and administrators are going the way of the pterodactyl. Of the nation's nearly five million teachers, only 2 percent are African-American men. If this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, because you think all good teachers are equal, the numbers say you’re wrong. This from New Orleans news station WDSU:


"Black male teachers, according to a study by Colorado State University in 2006, not only tend to be firm disciplinarians but also appear to enhance test scores among African-American students, particularly boys."


The simple fact is that when Black male students can relate to their teachers on a more personal level, it seems as if those students perform better. “When they see us in positions of authority in education, it can motivate them to be better men, be better fathers and do something that is going to take us out of that realm that says, ‘All African-American males are incarcerated, we have children out of wedlock and we don't take care of business.’ And things of that nature,” Michael Booker, a principal in New Orleans, told WDSU.


So serious is the lack of Black male educators that Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, has made counteracting it a verbal priority. “As a country we have a huge challenge to make sure many more of our young Black boys are successful,” he told CNN last year. “To get there I’m convinced we have to have more men of color teaching being role models, being mentors.”


Some schools have already started heeding Duncan’s call. South Carolina’s Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role models) program educates Black male college students and trains them to become classroom teachers in places throughout South Carolina. The program's results have yet to be tested, but it has convinced several young men to dedicate their lives to teaching, offering some boys in South Carolina the opportunity to look up to a role model and see someone who resembles them.


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(Photo: Digital Vision / Getty Images)

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