Friday, November 14, 2014

Examples are the Go-Cart of Judgment: Solution Two for Engaging Black Males in Reading

Solution Two - Always present texts and videos of speeches that show African-American males speaking well or that affirm the importance and power of African American males

"Indeed, the grand and only use of examples, is to sharpen the judgement...Examples, thus are the go-cart for the judgment." -Immanuel Kant

I've heard it said that if you don't know better you won't do better. I think there is truth to that. It probably follows that seeing is a way of knowing. One of the core principles of any instruction is to have exemplars of models of the assignment or end-product. This way, students can know what is expected. The same can be said for Black boys in regards to engaging them in reading and writing well - we need to see it before we do it, we need exemplars.

In my middle and high school years, I went to a church called Rhema Christian Center, located in Northeast, Washington D.C. Because my dad was a deacon, and perhaps because he wanted me to know God and stay off the streets, I would be in church at least three days a week and sometimes more. While there, I had the opportunity to see living, breathing models of Black males who connected articulation and passion regularly. I had Sunday school teachers, one of whom was my dad, who were unapologetically literate. These examples shaped my perception of what I could be as they normalized three ideas for me:

1. Black men can passionately express ideas without slang or cussing; 

2. Black men read well;
3. Black men speak well

This was in addition to the daily example of my father who read the bible often, required  'yes-sir' and 'no-sir' and never met a slang/cuss word he liked. Ever. Couple his example with my mother who was a schoolteacher and excellent example of articulate speech and I had several examples with which to form a literate identity. Everyone Black boy doesn't have the wealth of examples that I had, but you can make your home or your classroom a culture where those examples can live with these five practices:

1. Connect with the fathers in your school or men in your community and have them come to read to your boys monthly. There is a program that a co-worker of mine told me about that is based out of Houston called 'Real Men Read,' - check them out here.)

2. When possible, show footage of Black men who spoke passionately (Malcolm X), persuasively (Martin Luther King), poetically (Dr. Cornel West) and practically (Marc Lamont Hill). 

3. Show footage of Black men introducing critical ideas about popular culture such as this clip, where the author Thomas Chatterton Williams takes on Biggie and the current Hip-Hop culture to the amazement of all in attendance.

4. Comb through texts online and within your own school/home library that are short and powerful that give power to the perspective of a Black male or that affirm the identity of a Black male (Emancipation from Paul Laurence Dunbar being one of my favorites).

5. Have students keep record of poems and parts of texts or lyrics that affirm them or are meaningful to them. One way to do this is to keep a textual lineage (a picture of the template is below) so that they can keep a running record of texts that empower them. This can be done for pieces that they write as well. The idea is taking from an amazing book by Dr. Alfred Tatum which can be found here.)

Exercise some great judgment today and inspire a Black boy to read,
Josh Parker

Maryland Teacher of the Year '12


P.S. This is the third post in the series on Engaging Black Boys in reading started here: 

Solution One can be found here:

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