Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bad Boys

Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity by Ann Arnett Ferguson is an excellent analysis of the ways in which black boys are singled out and stigmatized in desegregated public schools.

Bad Boys is based on three years of field work at an school in California in the 90s, and the insights I'm sure are no less true today. Teachers and administrators, black and white, respond to these boys through the lens of racism, and these boys come to school with comportment styles formed in the face of our cultures racism. The institution of the school rewards those students who most conform to white middle class standards, and those who are routinely punished are denied school resources and put in an institutional cycle that leaves them behind academically. Looming large over them is the specter of the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system, and Ferguson's book offers some explanation for the disproportionate numbers of black men in our jails.


Sarap said...

I'm curious, Diana, if she offers any solutions or models of programs or interventions that work. I've seen this dynamic at play over the years, but like many colleagues, feel helpless in the face of it.

Diana said...

Unfortunately she doesn't offer solutions. Its a serious flaw, I think, in the book. Some answers can be gleaned from her analysis, like try to gloss over black boys' playful acting out in the same way it is glossed over with white kids, and make "punishment" activities less deadening and more productive, and working more creatively and dynamically with kids tracked in the lower academically functioning groups. Those are ideas I thought of when reading (and of course, smaller class sizes), but she doesn't provide any policy recommendations.