Curriculum Ideological Base
It is no secret that in this country race plays a significant role in the opportunities a young person has for academic success, and well-being more generally. On virtually every measure of achievement, learning, and well-being, African-American and Latino youth lag behind their white and Asian counterparts. Achievement differences by race begin as young as the fourth grade and persist all the way through college. By the 12th grade, African American and Latino students are about four years behind students of other races (Haycock, Jerald, & Huang, 2001). Schools attended by African American and Latino students are more likely to be high poverty schools and students in high-poverty schools suffer through lower grading standards, less (and less deep) coverage of curriculum material, and less money spent per pupil (Gamoran, 2000; Haberman, 1991; Knapp, 1995). Further, African Americans in the United States suffer a myriad of poor outcomes, such as higher rates of chronic illnesses, decreased life expectancy, less family wealth via avenues like home ownership, and closer proximity to poor communities despite socioeconomic status (Gymah-Brempong, 1997; Harris, 1999; Massey and Denton, 1993; Pattillo-McCoy, 1999).
Statistics like these are by no means new, but they are pervasive—both over time and geographic location. To make matter worse, both communities and schools are increasingly segregated, perpetuating and intensifying the unequal distribution of resources and the concentration of poverty and all of its ills (Kozol, 2005). Clearly, one way that race matters in achievement and developmental outcomes is that our society structures opportunities inequitably along race and class lines. Thus, African-American and Latino students are afforded less than optimal access to first-rate schools and positive developmental resources. The unequal distribution of resources is a core societal wrong, and should be addressed by policy-makers and politicians. This unequal distribution of resources gives rise to another type of inequity, inequity in access to positive identities as learners in school. This inequity in access to positive identities as learners is critical to the learning and development outcomes of African American and Latino youth and perhaps can be directly addressed by psychologists and educators. In schools, academic identities can be problematic for many African American students, in part, researchers argue, because they conflict with students’ definitions of what it means to be a member of their racial group (Davidson, 1999; Fordham & Ogbu, 1994; Spencer, 1987, 1999). One influential theory in this regard has been Fordham and Ogbu’s “acting white” hypothesis (Fordham & Ogbu; Fordham). This argument goes that because African American youth view school achievement as a “white” phenomenon, they either chose not to invest in school (in order to preserve their perceptions of “blackness”) or they choose to become “raceless” in order to engage and achieve in school.
In a recent study in an urban high school, it was found that the meaning that students made of being African American seemed to differentiate students who were doing well academically and students who were not doing so well. Students who were more successful had conceptions of being African American that were more positive in nature—that is the content of their racial identities included things like being connected to the African history and getting good grades. Successful students not only defined themselves in relation to their academics, but they also defined their racial identity in relation to their academics (Nasir, 2012). In this case, then, race supports students’ positive identification with school. However, like prior research, the work confirmed the finding that students like these students constitute only a small sub-group of the overall African American student body. Students who were less successful had conceptions of being African American that were more negative.
The research on racial identity and academic identity and achievement supports three critical points. First, African American students across the country are struggling with issues of identity, and are finding multiple ways to reconcile their racial identities with their participation in schooling environments. Second, some configurations of African American identities seem to better support (or be more compatible with) school achievement than others, and too many students embrace identities that are detrimental for school achievement. Finally, the research seems to support the notion that these racial identities and students’ conceptions of them in relation to school are not fixed—that they shift over time, if often in the less adaptive direction.
Given these important findings, identity is a key point of intervention for African American boys and young men, and this curriculum focuses on creating opportunities that allow African American boys and young men to make conscious, positive identity choices, thus better supporting academic trajectories and school engagement.
Mastering Our Identity: African American Male Image draws on contemporary youth culture to support students as they explore their cultural identity options, learn how to manage their emotions, channel personal will, develop a positive sense of purpose in their roles in family and community.
Course Goals and Major Student Outcomes
Identity is a key point of intervention for African American boys and young men, and Mastering Our Identity: African American Male Image focuses on creating opportunities that allow our students to make conscious, positive identity choices, thus better supporting academic trajectories, school engagement, and college and industry preparation for success after high school.
This curriculum is best used with a socratic teaching style with an emphasis on academic discourse. By asking relevant introspective questions that are based on the content presented, the facilitator promotes and encourages understanding, analysis and critical evaluative thinking. Challenging open-ended questions are often time followed by a very specific group discussion model.
Results Oriented Design
This curriculum is results oriented and has been designed by Baayan Bakari which has been proven effective by an independent evaluation conducted by San Francisco State University that showed students who participated in the program experienced:
-Increases in GPA.
-Increases in Life Satisfaction.
-Increases in Self-Esteem.
-Increases in Self-Worth.
Intended Overall Academic Outcome
The intended academic results of this overall curriculum is for the students to gain an increase in their understanding of what it means and what is has meant to be an African-American male in American society, both culturally and emotionally, while at the same time increasing their capacity for a rigorous academic career.
Curriculum Facilitation Approach – Designed for Maximum Engagement
The curriculum is a multi-media, interactive, culturally inspired and is constantly evolving to stay relevant. It consists of powerpoint slides, films, music and interactive group activities that excite and engage the students.
Curriculum Background and Origination
Baayan K. Bakari is the former National Director of Mentoring Training at The Mentoring Center, Senior Consultant for Akoben Ent., CEO of Conner Legacy, LLC. As National Director Baayan designed and ran national training for mentors, educators and trainers around the country on how to engage highly at risk young people, with an emphasis on African-American boys, in personal growth and social change. He created his first African-American male curriculum in 1997 with a fellowship grant for Civil and Human Rights from the Echoing Green Foundation. Along with being a classroom teacher for several years, Baayan has also directed several community-based programs, including Oakland Freedom Schools, an initiative of Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund, and has received numerous honors for his creative approaches to community and youth development. In 2010, Baayan was selected by Susan L. Taylor, the former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, to serve on a committee to design a national infrastructure that reintegrates former inmates into society. Baayan has also received national recognition for his award winning film Equinox which is a coming of age about a boy joining a rites of passage program to learn how to become a man. For more info www.baayanbakari.com