Dr. Ivory A. Toldson declares himself the “myth buster” when it comes to researching the implications of racial biases on the education system serving Black students. He supports this claim by debunking well-worn biases and treading new ground that few within that system approach for solutions.
Black students are the most challenged population in America’s education system. They are examined through a kaleidoscope of negative stereotypes accumulated over 400 years and are fortunate to have a champion like Ivory Toldson, former Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Howard University Professor changing the tides.
In his new position as President and CEO of the Quality Education for Minorities network, Toldson will have the opportunity to expand his research, providing educators across the nation with resources to strengthen minority education goals.
As a newly free agent, Toldson stretches his wings serving as the keynote speaker for the National Education Association Conference on Minorities and Women’s Conference on Racial Justice and Education, Closing Plenary. Toldson understands present research processes and practices are made toxic by societal and personal biases, but he offered jewels enabling educators and administrators to reached beyond these borders with his “10 myth busters” for your edification below. He says,
“…these are what I call the 10 biggest lies that I hear about young, black males. And the reason why it is important to understand that they are lies is because these are often used as the excuse for why certain people in our field aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do for our children.
Number 1 — There are more Black men in prison than in college.
- In fact, right now there are more than 600,000 more black men in college than in prison.
Number 2 — 50% of Black boys dropout.
- Most people believe that because of their interpretation of some very popular reports, including the Shot Foundation‘s report with a looked at graduation rates and not dropout rates. You have to understand the difference between graduation rates and dropout rates in order to interpret that report responsibly, but the true dropout rate among black males as characterized by the National Center For Educational Statistics is right around 12%. Now, that is nothing to clap about, but when we look at a room full of Black males and we think that one of them are going to drop out, that is not the type of perspective or mentality we want our teachers to go into the classroom with.
Number 3 — Black boys can’t read.
- Now, most people are identified as non-readers because of our standardized tests. There are all kinds of reasons why a student who may be able to read functionally won’t do well on a standardized test, and if we don’t understand those reasons and just use these blanket indicators from the NAEP exam to say what percent are not proficient, and then interpret proficiency as their lack of an ability to do the things we need them to do in the school, then we are not going to exercise the best practices when we work with the students.
Number 4 — Black youth of today are more violent than any generation in history.
- When in fact, crime among Black youth escalated in the 80’s, reached its peak by the mid-1990’s, has been going down since the late-1990’s, and this is generation of youth is the least violent of any generation of youth since before the 1960’s.
Number 5 — One in three Black boys will serve time in prison.
- In fact, most of the reports that have claimed this have never looked at Blackmales as they exist right now. They use projections. The article that most people cite or the study that most people cite is by someone named Thomas P. Bonczar that did something called the “Double-Decrement Life Table” that looked at the year someone was born and then projected their odds of going to prison. He did this report over 10 years ago, and the only group of cohorts that had a one in three chance were those who were born a year before he wrote the report.
- So, in other words, he was looking at 2-year-olds and saying they would have a one in three chance of going to prison based on what he thought would be an escalation in the crime rate, not a de-escalation, which is what we actually got.
Number 6 — Black boys are at a natural disadvantage because most are from single-parent households.
- I have written two articles in this regard, but the summary of those articles is it doesn’t matter the composition of your household. It matters who your parents are. It matters the value they place on education, their engagement with the school, the socialization of their child to the academic environment,and it has nothing to do with who is in their bed.
Number 7 — Black students purposely underachieve because they associate being smart with acting white.
- Now, there is a lot I can say about that, but I have written an article on it. You can see the evidence. That is not true. And in fact, among Black girls, most of the strongest surveys show that Black girls actually have the highest regard for education than any other group of students out there. And in fact, there is a lesser known function that has been constantly found in the literature, and that is called the “Attitude Achievement Paradox.” That is the fact that in most survey research Black students actually show a higher attitude about the abstract notion of education, but their achievement is not measuring up to that.
Number 8, Black males are avoiding the teaching profession.
- Again, I have written an article about all of these. You will get the link soon. When you look at young, Black males who are college-educated, teaching is actually the number one profession. So you ask, why is it less than 2%? That is because we are only 5.5% of the population. Of that 5.5%, only 17% have at least a bachelor’s degree, and among those who go on to get their degrees in education — and this is a little-known fact, but it is in the report that I have written — Black males are more likely than any other race group to be promoted out of the classroom into administration.
Number 9 — Black men are underrepresented at institutions of higher education.
- The nation has 12.7 million Black men who are 18 years and older, and we make up about 5.5% of the adult population, and 5% of those who are in college. Where we are underrepresented is the most competitive colleges. So, those colleges with selective admissions criteria have an underrepresentation of Black students. And those that have open admissions criteria, like community colleges, have an overrepresentation of Black students. And that is largely because a lot of the factors these students talked about earlier, especially a young lady who says she was advised to go to a community college when she clearly had the academic credentials to go to Michigan State.
Finally, Black men are a dying breed.
Now, one of the things we have to understand is that when we are in a nation that only refers — only uses the terms breeds, endangered, and species for black men and animals, then that is a problem. But in fact, black men have an increasing representation in the population. Our numbers are growing. White males, their numbers are decreasing. Now that doesn’t mean either one is in danger. But when all we are doing is using these types of terms to deal with humans, then we are dehumanizing them. “