Communications Question

coms 356: 2 page syntheisis School to Prison Pipeline

MLA Format Cheat Sheet
This handout provides a quick reference to the basics of using MLA style. For complete guidelines, consult the MLA
Style guide website:
Formatting Basics

Plain 12-point font (Arial, Times New Roman)

Double space throughout paper, with no extra spaces between paragraphs.

Top, bottom, and side margins should be one inch.

Indent the first word of each paragraph by ½ inch or 5 spaces.

Do not use a title page for the research paper: instead simply type your name, instructor’s name, course
number, and date. This should be flush with the left margin.

Center the title of the paper. Do not underline the title, or put in “quotation marks,” or set in ALL

Number all pages consecutively in a header in the upper right corner, ½ inch from the top and flush with right
margin. Type your last name before the page number, and do not use “p.” before the number.
Works Cited
MLA style requires that the list of Works Cited start on a new page at the end of your paper. Formatting rules include:

Continue page numbering from the body of your paper.

Center the title “Works Cited,” one inch from the top.

Alphabetize entries by the author’s last name. If no author, alphabetize by the title (ignore A, An,The).

Use a hanging indent.
In the 8th Edition of MLA, you include the “core elements” of the sources. Core elements are those basic pieces of
information that should be common to all sources, from books to articles, from lectures to tweets. The MLA core elements
(with the punctuation that should follow each element) are as follows:
Author. (Last Name, First Name; Online nicknames and handles are now acceptable if real name isn’t known)
Title of source.
Title of container.
Other contributors, (State specific role, followed by the word “by” and then first and last name)
Version, (Abbreviate ed. for Edition and rev. for Revised)
Number, (Use vol. for Volume and no. for number, with commas in between)
Publisher, (Include only name of publisher, not business words like LLC; use UP for University Press)
Publication Date,
Location. (Page Numbers (use p. for one page, pp. for page range), URL (Permalink, omit the http://) or DOI. For
online journals, DOI is preferred over URL.
A basic citation format should look like. You would omit elements that don’t exist or are unnecessary:
Author. Title. Title of Container. Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher’s name, Date of
Publication, Location.
Examples of Citation Format
Book with one author:
Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford UP, 2011.
Online database journal article:
Hannah, Daniel K. “The Private Life, the Public Stage: Henry James in Recent Fiction.” Journal of Modern
Literature, vol.30, no. 3, 2007, pp. 70-94. JSTOR,
“Woman Gives Birth to Grandchild.”, 15 Oct. 2006,
CMST 1700 Nature of Theory
APA Citation Unpacking the Basics
EVERY In Text Citation must have these THREE components.

Author(s) Name(s)
Year of Publication
Page Number
Option 1- Set Ups
Option 1 is great for setting up the articles you choose to use in your papers. It provides the reader with all the
pertinent information as well as the required information for a proper APA citation.
For an example let’s say I’m working on a lecture about theory and I remember a quote about theory that would
be useful:
You can’t live in the world without an idea of the world, but it’s living that makes the ideas. You
can’t wait for a theory, but you have to have a theory.
The first thing to do is locate the text. I own a copy of this play, it is absolutely my most favorite piece of
literature ever written (it has been stated that it is the most prolific piece of literature written in the 20th century),
and because I am a huge nerd, I have tactile read the piece (several dozen times if I’m being honest) and am
able to find the quote fairly easily.
I format the quote by noting the page number AND then I immediately create an APA reference citation (see
top of page 3):
“You can’t live in the world without an idea of the world, but it’s living that makes the ideas. You can’t wait for
a theory, but you have to have a theory” (p. 144).
Kushner, T. (1993). Angels in America: A gay fantasia on national themes. New York: Theatre
Communications Group.
Setting up a quotation requires adding the authors name, year of publication, and other important identifying
information like that this was a play a rather significant one actually:
Kushner (1993) wrote in his prolific masterpiece Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National
Themes, “You can’t live in the world without an idea of the world, but it’s living that makes the ideas. You
can’t wait for a theory, but you have to have a theory” (p. 144).
Option 1 works well to set up quotes you choose to cite throughout your papers. It allows you to be precise,
name the significance of the piece, the author, or the quotation itself. It also allows the reader to be able to
locate the work should they want to read and learn more on the subject.
Option 2- Additional quotes from the same text
Let’s say that as I continue to expand on Kushner’s work and I think of another quote from his piece that would
help make another necessary point:
Nothing’s lost forever. In this world there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve
left behind, and dreaming ahead.
Stylistically I could format the quotation differently because I already introduced the author and the piece.
Using additional portions of the text I can expand my arguments or review of the literature.
When examining how theory is applied to living life, Angels In America provides a melancholic yet empowered
notion capturing what it feels like living in a world that is rapidly changing. “Nothing’s lost forever. In this
world there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead” (Kushner,
1993, p. 142). The text allows for the reader to further distinguish between the notion of theory and praxis;
theory being ideas about living in the world, while praxis is the action of living.
Properly citing the selected quote using Option 2 gives you the ability to stylistically engage with the material in
a way that isn’t focused on setting it up.
Option 3- Long Quotation
When you conduct research and locate a beautiful quote that perfectly argues an important point you are trying
to make. For all quotes that are over 40 words you will utilize a block quotation:
As the characters trudge through the realities of a modern plague, living life while dying the
simultaneous and dichotomous juxtaposition of theory and praxis
Together we organize the world for ourselves, or at least we organize our understanding of it; we reflect
it, refract it, criticize it, grieve over its savagery and help each other to discern, amidst the gathering
dark, paths of resistance, pockets of peace and places from whence hope may be plausibly expected.
(Kushner, 1993, p.155)
Number of Authors
• One author:
o (Field, 2005)
• Two authors:
o (Gass & Varonis, 1984)
• Three to five authors:
o First citation requires: (Tremblay, Richer, Lachance, & Cote, 2010)
o Subsequent citations: (Tremblay et al., 2010)
• Six or more authors:
o (Norris-Shortle et al., 2006)
Works Cited
Kushner, T. (1993). Angels in America: A gay fantasia on national themes. New York:
Theatre Communications Group.
Your Works Cited sheet needs to have the following components:
• Needs to be in alpha order
• Double Spaced
• Subsequent lines are indented
PROPERLY CITE EACH TYPE OF TEXT. If you cannot memorize them, then create or find a cheat
sheet that is accurate and reliable, and have it handy so you can be consistent, and more importantly
precise. Academic Dishonesty is not predicated on if you intended to plagiarize, the focus of the inquiry
will be did you plagiarize. This is incredibly important. Works Cited sections are often patched together
in states of panic when work is done last minute.
Video Resources

Title of Paper Centered and Double Spaced
Kristo Name Gobin
Loyola Marymount University
The prompt for this synthesis: what does the field of communication say about theory and
Kushner, T. (1993). Angels in America: A gay fantasia on national themes. New York:
Theatre Communications Group.
In his modern masterpiece Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes
playwright Kushner (1993) wrote, “You can’t live in the world without an idea of the world, but
it’s living that makes the ideas. You can’t wait for a theory, but you have to have a theory” (p.
144). The incredibly dense play is typically performed over the course of two evenings. The
typical two- and half-hour blocks standard for Broadway productions are performed each night
are postmodern and critical to say the least. The play situates the real life of Roy Cohn, (The
Red Scare’s Joseph McCarthy’s right hand) among six other fictional characters in 1985-1986 in
AIDS ravaged New York. The piece provides a significant deconstruction of Reagan NeoConservative politics, liberal activism, a thorough look at the history of the Mormon Church,
mental illness, religion, God, the nature of forgiveness, and feminism to name a few of the
central themes.
This play is important when examining the connection between theory and praxis,
answering the central question how does the text set up and explore the differences between the
two? This question lends itself to exploring performance and performance studies which is
comfortably housed in Communication Studies.
When examining how theory is applied to the praxis of living, Angels in America
captures life in a rapidly changing world living and dying through a plague. Kushner sets up an
epic paradigm shift and for the first time frames the notion of someone living with AIDS.
“Nothing’s lost forever. In this world there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what
we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead” (Kushner, 1993, p. 142). The text allows for the reader
to distinguish between the notion of theory and praxis; theory being ideas about living in the
world, while praxis is the action or summation of the actions of the living.
As the characters trudge through the realities of a modern plague, living life while dying,
the audience is asked to weigh simultaneous and dichotomous juxtaposition of theory and praxis,
Together we organize the world for ourselves, or at least we organize our understanding
of it; we reflect it, refract it, criticize it, grieve over its savagery and help each other to
discern, amidst the gathering dark, paths of resistance, pockets of peace and places from
whence hope may be plausibly expected. (Kushner, 1993, p.155)
Kushner empowers the audience to consider residing in a liminal space, the small doorframe
between theory and praxis. A space where one can consider inherited histories, contextualize
problematics, deconstruct nuance while negotiating hostile dehumanizing institutions, navigating
choice, and residing and relying on communities. The play as text (theory), and the play as
production (praxis) introduced the idea that people afflicted with AIDS were people, and people
living with AIDS were living With AIDS. No longer was the diagnosis of AIDS death. Prior to
medical advancements and the introduction to the triple cocktail in the mid 1990’s which
significantly impacted mortality and morbidity rates, the life between diagnosis and inevitable
death were expanded upon. People lived until they died, which Kushner requires the audience to
wrestle with, much like Jacob wrestling with the Angel. This is important as President Ronald
Regan and modern Neo Conversative policies viewed AIDS as a plague sent by God to punish
and cleanse the earth of homosexuality. The official stance of the United States government was
to keep the plague and those dying trapped in silence, shame, and hidden away from financial or
medical resources much less compassion or love.
When theory is performed in praxis it poetically transforms to take on new life as it did in
the HBO Miniseries (2003) of the same name. Actress Meryl Streep played: Hannah Pitt, Ethel
Rosenberg, The Rabbi, The Continental Principality Oceania would go onto summarize the
intersection of theory and praxis by saying of Tony Kushner, “the bravest thing in the world is
that writer that sits alone in a room and works out his grief, his rage, his imagination, and his
deep desire to make people laugh, and he makes a work of art that then transforms the world,
with the truth, because that’s all we want, that’s all we need.”
Angels in America is a text that is brought to life through performance or praxis. It is
also a text that seeks to explore the gaps between theory and praxis. The play does not seek to
provide any answers to the profound questions it asks, instead lays out paradoxes that must be
Works Cited
Costas, C. (Producer). Nichols, M. (Director). (2003). Angels In America. New York,
NY: HBO Video.
Kushner, T. (1993). Angels in America: A gay fantasia on national themes. New York:
Theatre Communications Group.
Mischer, D. (Producer). (2004, September 19). 56th Prime Time Emmy Awards. Los
Angeles, CA.
2 Page Synthesis Check List
 2 Full pages
 Cover Page/Header/Page Number
 Citation at top
 Introduction of article
 3 selected quotes
 Set up, quote, synthesize the quote
 Conclusion of article
 Works cited for additional sources. PRIMARY SOURCES ONLY
 Correct APA (see APA Style Manual or APA Cheat Sheet for more details)
Annotated Bibliographies
Synthesize the article based on the question “what does the field of Communication Studies say
Introduce the article, what is the subject, why did you choose this article, what does this article
have to do with your topic? Is the scholar important, are they an authority on the subject, do they
have a robust body of research pertaining to this topic?
Are there key words, operational definitions that are vital to understanding your topic?
The Body
What theories are used?
What is the thesis?
What are the main arguments, findings?
Quote 1- use the text to discuss the text
Quote 2- set up the quote, provide the quote, explain what the quote means
Quote 3- make sure your APA is on point, no secondary citations
If someone asked what this article is about, how would you explain it to them?
Reiterate why this article is important to your topic.
Every article is different so focus on explaining why this article helps you situate the research.
Outline the method and provide details about the study.
crucial historical information
operational definitions
information that currently situates the article
important context about the article
important facts or data; statistical information, qualitative information, critical claims
use quotes to justify your summary
Be sure to only cite the authors. There are no secondary citations allowed in this paper. If you
like a quote from the literature review by another author, you need to find the citation in the
works cited, locate the article, and properly cite it. Tactile read it so you are properly citing the
article. Remember we do not read to memorize, we read and mark up important information so
that you can find it later when you need it.
Finally, notice my use of the phrase “this work” as opposed to “I think…” Do not use “I” you
are synthesizing a research article.
Equity & Excellence in Education
ISSN: 1066-5684 (Print) 1547-3457 (Online) Journal homepage:
(Un)Doing Hegemony in Education: Disrupting
School-to-Prison Pipelines for Black Males
T. Elon Dancy II
To cite this article: T. Elon Dancy II (2014) (Un)Doing Hegemony in Education: Disrupting
School-to-Prison Pipelines for Black Males, Equity & Excellence in Education, 47:4, 476-493, DOI:
To link to this article:
Published online: 14 Nov 2014.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 1685
View related articles
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Citing articles: 4 View citing articles
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Download by: [California State University Fullerton]
Date: 27 September 2017, At: 06:31
EQUITY & EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION, 47(4), 476–493, 2014
C University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Education
ISSN: 1066-5684 print / 1547-3457 online
DOI: 10.1080/10665684.2014.959271
(Un)Doing Hegemony in Education: Disrupting
School-to-Prison Pipelines for Black Males
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T. Elon Dancy, II
University of Oklahoma
The school-to-prison pipeline refers to the disturbing national trend in which children are funneled
out of public schools and into juvenile and criminal justice systems. The purpose of this article is to
theorize how this pipeline fulfills societal commitments to black male over-incarceration. First, the
author reviews the troublesome perceptions of black boys and men in educational settings throughout
the educational pipeline. Next, the ways in which black American boys are scripted out of childhood
humanity are discussed, drawing upon tenets of discipline and punishment theory. Second, drawing
from additional theories of power, the article re-interprets school discipline and achievement data in the
educational pipeline as tools of containment that support school-to-prison pipelines for black males.
The third section synthesizes the literature on black male behavioral responses in disempowering
educational settings. The article closes with discussion and implications for schools and society.
Black males remain one of the most socially and academically marginalized student groups in
US schools (Brown, Dancy, & Davis, 2013; Dancy & Brown, 2012; Ferguson, 2003; Howard,
2013; Lewis & Erskine, 2008; Noguera, 2003; Polite & Davis; 1999). Differential achievement and school completion rates; curricular inequities; over-expulsions and suspensions; overrepresentations in special, general, and vocational education; and under-representation in rigorous or gifted and talented courses characterize this marginalization (Ford, 2011; Garibaldi, 1992;
Grantham, 2011; Hrabowski, Maton, & Greif, 1998; Noguera, 2003; Ross, 2012). Although the
plight of black males in schools is well-documented, there has been little change in policy or
practice and little learning from this student group that is not associated with negative indicators
(Garibaldi, 1992; Price, 2000). For instance, disparate learning and discipline trends flow from
assumptions that black males are “unteachable” and “up-to-no good” (Brown, Dancy, & Davis,
2013; Polite & Davis, 1999). These realities work to construct what researchers and media pundits identify as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Students of color, particularly black males, are
vulnerable to this path (American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], 2013).
The school-to-prison pipeline refers to the disturbing national trend in which children are
funneled out of public schools and into juvenile and criminal justice systems. Supporting this
system are several policies and practices. For instance, the proliferation of zero-tolerance school
policies in the 1980s and 1990s, complete with drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors, has met
minor infractions (e.g., lateness and dress code violations) with suspensions, expulsions, and
Address correspondence to T. Elon Dancy, II, The University of Oklahoma, 820 Van Vleet Oval, Room 203, Norman,
OK 73019. E-mail:
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arrests, instead of the customary trip to the principal’s office (ACLU, 2013). Furthermore, many
K-12 public schools across the country staff law enforcement agents on school campuses in
growing numbers (Kim & Geronimo, 2009). High school teachers and public school students
report an increase of armed police officers stationed on school grounds (Kim & Geronimo, 2009).
Black males experience disproportionately high infant mortality rates, are more likely to be
reared in chronic and abject poverty, and are over-represented in underfunded schools (Anderson,
2008; Brown, Dancy, & Davis, 2013; Dancy & Brown, 2012; Polite & Davis, 1999). The persistence of social ills in the lives of young, black males reveals unique and harmful effects even in
adulthood (Dancy, 2012; Howard, 2013). For instance, black males have chronically high unemployment, are over-incarcerated, have disparately more negative health conditions, and ultimately
lower life expectations than any of the largest racial/ethnic and gender groups in the United States
(Alexander, 2012; Howard, 2013; US Department of Commerce, 2009). Public perceptions of
black males also are studied in the literature. Black males occupy a paradox in the American
public psyche that plays out in schools, where they are both admired and despised (Dancy &
Brown, 2012; Davis, 1994, 2001). Open praise of black male heroics in peer and athletic circles in
schools coexists alongside the negative stereotypes of violence, fear, and hypersexuality. Public
enjoyment of black male talent and genius in music and entertainment concurrently survives with
modern-day police and neighborhood lynchings of unarmed black males. In her discussion of the
“U.S love-hate relationship with black males” (p. 8), Ladson-Billings (2011) observes:
We see black males as “problems” that our society must find ways to eradicate. We regularly determine
them to be the root cause of most problems in school and society. We seem to hate their dress, their
language, and their effect. We hate that they challenge authority and command so much social power.
While the society apparently loves them in narrow niches and specific slots—music, basketball,
football, track—we seem less comfortable with them in places like the National Honor Society, the
debate team, or the computer club. (p. 9)
Ladson-Billings’ words appropriately indict educational settings as complicit in the societal
banishment of African American males. Her words also recognize that any suspension of this
aim occurs only when black male bodies operate within the narrow paradigms established in a
white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal world (hooks, 2004a).
While educational settings are found to reproduce inequity for black males (Brown, Dancy, &
Davis, 2013), public and school failures to institutionalize supports persist. The purpose of this
article is to theorize the ways in which the school-to-prison pipeline fulfills societal commitments
to black male over-incarceration. First, I briefly review the troublesome perceptions of black boys
and men in educational settings throughout the educational pipeline. Specifically, I pay attention
to the ways black American boys are scripted out of childhood humanity, drawing upon tenets
of Foucault’s (1980) social control thesis. Second, drawing from Foucault’s (1980) and Collins’
(1989) theories of power, the article re-interprets school discipline and achievement data in the
educational pipeline as tools of containment that support school-to-prison pipelines for black
males. The third section synthesizes the literature on black male responses in disempowering
educational settings. Finally, the article closes with discussion and implications for educational
settings and society. While I pay attention to issues of identity intersectionality in the review of
literature, as appropriate, to disrupt monolithic portrayals of black males (Crenshaw, 1989), the
focus of this piece is to interpret the educational challenges and factors that cut across multiple
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In his social control thesis, Michel Foucault (1980, 1996, 1997) argued that institutions (e.g.,
schools) confine selected groups as a method of controlling or isolating the socially undesirable.
According to Foucault, schools are institutions that teach people to respond in predictable ways,
and education is a form of disciplinary power used to maintain social order (Foucault, 1980).
Educational practices are associated with the emergence of innovation, and these practices have a
central role in increasing professionalization and bureaucratization of western society. Moreover,
these practices have a direct impact on all sections of society through mass education. Foucault
(1980) viewed power as a mechanism used to objectify human beings and bring order through
human interactions. Power is used to define and replicate what is “normal” and is used to enforce
conformity (Jardine, 2010).
Three instruments of power serve to control, monitor, and classify individuals: hierarchical
observation (i.e., surveillance), normalizing judgment, and examination (Foucault, 1980). Hierarchical observation is evident in the bureaucratic systems of checks and balances in schools,
among other means and methods of structural oversight. An example of hierarchical observation
in school is the use of constant observation or surveillance to intimidate students from breaking
rules and regulations. Normalizing judgments are the standards institutions use to sanction and
police the body around behavior, time, speech, and sexuality, among other elements (Foucault,
1980). Dress codes, for example, enable school personnel to decide whether student clothing is
“appropriate.” The examination tool involves power-holders assessing whether political subjects
fit with or deviate from the norm or mainstream, and then documenting the judgment. Deviation
from the norm is subject to punishment while rewards are given for the ability to stay within
normal limits. Foucault found the examination to be the most important instrument of disciplinary
power because it combines hierarchical observation with normalizing judgment.
White, male, elite class standards comprise the basis for the politics of containment (i.e.,
school discipline and surveillance) for black males (Dancy, 2012). American education emerged
to broker the larger colony’s interests in many ways (Apple, 1992). The colonial school functioned
to educate the developing nation’s white male descendants in ways that taught them the methods
of the controlling class (Dancy, 2013; Solomon, 1985). Over time, American education has
successfully maintained colonial interest through various traditions including the creation of
different schooling institutions to preserve class divides (Memmi, 1965).
Societal employment of all Foucault’s (1980) three tools works to exclude black boys from
the social construction of childhood (Dancy, 2012; Ferguson, 2003; Kunjufu, 1986). One recent
example of this effort is the shooting of Trayvon Martin. On February 26, 2012, an unarmed black
Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by white Hispanic George Zimmerman,
an adult citizen. While the guilt or innocence of the assailant, George Zimmerman, was tried in
the courts, one relevant question went curiously ignored: Did society view Martin as a child? In
a number of press conferences and interviews, Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, reminded the
public that Martin was a child, that he was a boy and not a man. In one press conference, she
observed, “Trayvon Martin was a child . . . I think sometimes it got lost” (Joseph & Somaiya,
2013). While policy definitions of persons as children or adults appear relatively uncontroversial
in the public, Travyon Martin’s 17-year-old body seemed an exception. Many in the courts and
media who felt Martin’s murder was justified also carefully ignored, or summarily dismissed,
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any construction of him as a child, reaching rather for labels like “suspect,” “thug,” “punk,” or
“asshole” (in the words of his assailant, George Zimmerman) (Pitts, 2013). Some pundits actually
sought to debate Trayvon Martin’s age, despite the birth certificate, in effort to consign Martin to
adulthood (Pitts, 2013).
According to media reports and essays, Zimmerman’s defense attorneys appeared successful
in erasing any jury considerations of Martin as a child, including any intuitive assumptions
that childhood invokes in American culture (Ford, 2013). Juror #B37’s casual observations that
Martin caused his own death and was unjustified in defending himself, fell outside of how America
thinks about childhood. In addition, this framing counters the common advice public officials,
educators, and parents give to children about how to react when assailed by strangers (Wikihow,
2013). The public cheers when children in movies hit, kick, punch or otherwise mount attacks in
self-defense. The public also mourns and presses for retribution even if children’s actions result
in their deaths or severe injuries (Ladson-Billings, 2011). However, Martin’s ex-communication
from this narrative of childhood responds to historical tropes about black men.
Childhood as a construct in American culture is contrived innocence, a projection of an
invented pristine moment outside of the cruelties of life (Ladson-Billings, 2011). In addition, the
structural classifications of persons aged 0–18 as, legally, children, respond to the modern K-12
education lifecycle as well as biological growth cycles (Aries, 1962). With the last century’s
proscriptions of child labor and the rise of the middle class, social understanding of childhood as
blissful innocence has largely freed children from public expectations of economic productivity.
However, middle-class attainment was not intended for the poor and certainly not for people of
color (Ladson-Billings, 2011). Black children in the United States historically never had a separate
status from their mothers. Children were units of an enslaver’s chattel from whom wealth was
extracted through the sale of bodies or abusing labor on the plantation. This paradigm embeds
institutional observations (i.e., surveillance) against a societal rubric for normative judgments
(Foucault, 1980). The resulting examination, therefore, finds black boys as fully-exploitable
men in little bodies (Foucault, 1980). Following the liberation of the enslaved, white supremacy
fashioned a concept of both black men and boys as menaces to society, in order to create a
new way of knowing bodies that were no longer controllable assets (Dancy, 2012). This new
normative judgment has been observed as a tool of power in the 1955 lynching of 14-year old
black male, Emmett Till. Schools are complicit in preparing black boys for other forms of societal
containment or other harsh life outcomes.
Foucault (1990/1978) observed that Western regimes must maintain cultural norms by containing
and policing the deviant. Extending Foucault’s work, Collins’ (1998) new politics of containment
theory questions how the “changing patterns of the global economy, the wholesale denial of deeply
entrenched racial practices in the United States, and the emergence of a rhetoric of color blindness
arguing that institutionalized racism has disappeared” (pp. 30–31) undercuts claims from African
Americans that race discrimination persists. The emergence of the rhetoric of colorblindness
obscures the workings of institutional power and challenges the notions of black disadvantage
due to racial barriers. The imperceptible nature of the politics of containment creates exclusionary
practices detrimental to African American boys navigating the education pipeline. Furthermore,
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criminalizing and pathologizing the behaviors of black boys and men work to maintain social
order. Even black males who are praised in athletic arenas are not relieved of the public scrutiny
surrounding black male bodies, which are read as threatening and prone to misbehaving (Cole,
2001). The “black males misbehaving” narrative (Clarke, 1991), which expresses, affirms, and
authorizes popular fears and anxieties around raced bodies, intersects with school sanctions in
ways that result in the following six disturbing trends.
First, black males comprise close to 4 million, or 7% of the US student population (US
Department of Education, 2011). However, data in The Urgency of Now: The Schott Foundation
50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males (Schott Foundation for Public Education,
2012) noted that black males are the least likely to secure a regular diploma four years after
beginning high school. The report also included an analysis of state-reported graduation rate data
(2009–2010) and found that in 38 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, black males have
the lowest graduation rates among black, Latino, and white, male and female students1.
In general, only 52% of black males graduate from high school in four years, compared to
78% of white males who do. Yet, the national graduation rate for black males has increased by ten
percentage points, from 42% in 2001–2002 to 52% in 2009–2010 (Schott Foundation for Public
Education, 2012). The progress over nine years toward closure of the black male and white male
graduation gap has only achieved a three percentage point gain, from a 29 percentage point gap
to 26. According to the Schott Foundation Report, it would take nearly 50 years for black males
to secure the same high school graduation rates as their white male peers. Therefore, the urgency
of this figure is not only about educational attainment but the speed with which education reform
efforts meet the disparate rate of graduation.
Some states perform well below the national black male graduation average. For instance, a
meager 37% of black boys graduate from New York high schools in four years in comparison
to 78% of their white male counterparts. Additionally, states with glaringly large gaps between
graduation rates for black and white males include the District of Columbia (50%), Iowa (49%),
and Nebraska (43%). States with relatively small black populations achieve high graduation rates
for black male students and suggest that black males, on average, perform better when they
are not relegated to under-resourced districts or schools. When provided similar opportunities
(e.g., schools in Maine, Utah, Vermont, Idaho), black males produce similar or better outcomes
compared to their white male peers (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2012). On average,
states with low graduation rates for black male students (e.g., New York, Nebraska, South
Carolina) tend to have concentrations of those students in under-resourced districts, where both
black and white male students perform poorly.
The Schott report identifies two key interventions in school districts with the highest graduation
rates for black males. First, on average, states and districts that limit the impact of poverty
and resource disparities on students, reach better outcomes. Second, innovative support-based
programming is a valuable intervention in school districts. While school districts in New York
reform education based on standards, the district has not provided supports for a critical mass of
black males to reach those standards (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2012). A critical
area of support, for instance, is the reform of temporary school closings, or “snow days,” which
negatively affect black student achievement (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2012).
State investment in the status quo reproduces the politics of containment. As Collins (1998)
contends, racial segregation is one of the primary tools. Racial segregation leads to “the division
of racial groups into physical and symbolic spaces based on the belief that proximity to the group
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deemed inferior will harm the allegedly superior group” (Collins, 1998, p. 280). People of color
are disproportionately poor and subsequently schooled in poorer districts (Dancy & Horsford,
2010). This kind of consistent social arrangement around black male lives remains remarkably
unchanged in contemporary American society (Dancy & Brown, 2012; Noguera, 2003; Polite
& Davis, 1999). In spite of the advancements of the civil rights movements, black boys and
men generally remain excluded from good jobs, schools, and neighborhoods (Brown, Dancy,
& Davis, 2013). Thus, the practice of de facto racial segregation is one strategy of control that
illustrates how politics of containment persist amid societal laws that abolish such maneuvers.
For instance, formal desegregation in schools gave African American boys and men access to
educational attainment; however possessing the right to be in a public space, such as schools,
did not necessarily translate into the right of equitable treatment in those public spaces (Brown,
Dancy, & Davis, 2013).
The Schott Foundation Report (2012) also argues that black males are at the center of a “pushout
crisis,” which responds to Foucault’s theory of power (p. 31). The report identifies two ways in
which black students, particularly males, are kept out of schools. First, the report noted that third
graders who attend schools with an average of five unscheduled closures report reading and math
achievement scores that are nearly three percent lower than third graders who attend schools
with no closings. Fewer learning opportunities along with other factors contributing to school
absence only exacerbate achievement gaps for black students. For instance, chronic absenteeism is
linked to lower achievement, while more time devoted to learning is highly correlated with higher
achievement (Dobbie & Fryar, 2011). A second and more well-established issue in the literature is
the high rate of suspension among black males (Brown, Dancy, & Davis, 2013; Dancy & Brown,
2012; Howard, 2013; Losen & Gillespie, 2012). Because black males are disparately policed in
schools due to their hypervisibility, others’ subjective interpretation, and inequitable punishment
(Ferguson, 2000), suspensions embed surveillance, normative judgments, and examination visà-vis Foucault’s arguments. A report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s
Civil Rights Project (Losen & Gillespie, 2012) indicates that over three million students were
suspended at least one time in the 2009–2010 academic year. Students who have been suspended
are three times more likely to drop out of school by the tenth grade when compared to students
who have never been suspended. Moreover, students who drop out of school are three times more
likely to be incarcerated in their lives (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2012). When these
students return to school, they are sanctioned in inequitable ways, including increased barriers
to guidance counselors, mentors, or mental health professionals who could support their needs
(Palmer, Wood, Dancy, & Strayhorn, 2014). Black males are three times more likely than white,
Latino, and Asian males to be suspended from elementary and secondary schools (Aud, Fox,
& Kewal Ramani, 2010). Not only are the wages of suspension associated with sociocognitive
development, they also are associated with learning and retention.
Administrative punishment policies are largely correlated with decreased learning outcomes
and increased student attrition (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2012). In the US, nearly
1 out of every 6 black students (17%), were suspended at least once in 2009–2010, compared to 1
in 20 white students (.05%). More extreme cases include a school district in Pontiac, Michigan, in
which 66% of the black students have been suspended at least once (Schott Foundation for Public
Education, 2012). While the pushout crisis increases the likelihood for incarceration, the Schott
Foundation Report (2012) also calls attention to America’s “lockout crisis” as a simultaneous
phenomenon (p. 39). This crisis describes the pathological blocking of black males’ access to
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several critical resources (e.g., access to highly effective teachers, opportunities for advanced
placement) that support learning. The Schott Report identifies five areas in which black male
achievement is hindered or black male bodies are “locked out”: (a) early childhood education,
(b) student-centered learning, (c) well-resourced community schools, (d) gifted/talented and
advanced placement opportunities, and (e) post-secondary attainment opportunities. These areas
are briefly elucidated below.
Foucault (1980) noted the role of classification in efforts to contain groups. Black boys are more
likely than other student groups to be classified as mentally deficient or to be identified as suffering
from a learning disability and placed in special education (Losen & Orfield, 2002; Noguera, 2012).
Even though black students account for less than 20% of the overall public school population, they
are grossly over-represented in all special education categories, accounting for 33% of students
classified as mentally retarded (MR), 27% of students classified as emotionally disturbed (ED),
and 18% of students classified with a specific learning disability (SLD) (National Center for
Education Statistics [NCES], 2007; Palmer, Wood, Dancy, & Strayhorn, 2014). In addition,
several researchers discovered teacher misunderstanding of black male students, which severely
impacts the process of over-identification for special education referrals and the underachievement
of students (Howard, 2001; Neal, McCray, Webb-Johnson, & Bridgest, 2003). In fact, some black
parents have accused school systems across the country of using special education, a federally
subsidized program tailored for children with documented disabilities, as a dumping ground for
disruptive black children (Lewis & Erskine, 2008).
As the country moves toward Common Core educational standards, the National Association
of Educational Progress (NAEP) data question whether the required supports to meet academic
standards are available at state and local levels, particularly for black males. In 2011, only 10% of
black males in the US were proficient in Grade 8 reading as compared to 35% of white males. In
fact, no state has NAEP Grade 8 reading proficiency levels for black males above Connecticut’s
19%. In addition, black male math proficiency scores continue to significantly trail behind those
of their white, Latino, and Asian male counterparts despite progress over the last decade (US
Department of Education, Institute of Education Science, & NCES, 2009). In 2009, black males
in Grades 4 through 8, who were not eligible for free or reduced lunch, had lower math scores than
white males who were eligible to receive free and reduced lunch (US Department of Education,
NCES, 2011). Black males also are most likely to be retained during their K-8 education (Howard,
A recent report from the National Center for Children in Poverty (Aratani, Wight, & Cooper,
2011) found socioemotional gaps in early child development among black and white boys that
continue to grow through preschool. Although the report finds significant differences between
reading and mathematics achievement scores for black and white boys in preschool, the scientists
also noted that gaps in most school readiness outcomes disappear by kindergarten. Therefore, early
developmental gaps likely correlate with dismal realities for many black males, including low birth
weight, foster care, poverty, and hunger, among other challenges to this kind of development (ETS,
2011). In addition, reading at grade level by the third grade has been identified as a benchmark
with critical implications for high school completion and college transition (Schott Foundation
for Public Education, 2012).
Second, student-centered learning refers to the ways in which decades of US achievement gap
and outcome data make clear a need for more subjective approaches that recognize black male
educational needs, social contexts, and learning styles (Schott Foundation for Public Education,
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2012). It is likely that the sociocultural norms, practices, and tools that many black males use
to navigate their world are completely misaligned with their teachers (Gay & Howard, 2001;
Howard, 2013). Thus, recent scholarship contends that culturally responsive educational delivery
provides black males with much better chances for school success (Brown, Dancy, & Davis,
2013; Dancy & Horsford, 2010; Howard, 2013).
Third, black male students are prevented the benefits associated with well-resourced community schools. At a macro-level, the lack of adequate tax revenues in urban areas strain school
funding, particularly as residents move. Furthermore, most urban districts spend at least $500 less
per pupil than suburban districts (Legters, Balfanz, Jordan, & McPartland, 2004). Urban school
districts serve students with greater educational needs and also face the challenges of aging
facilities that require expensive maintenance and renovation. At a micro-level, property-based
funding methods used to distribute existing fiscal and learning resources (e.g., access to early
education and highly qualified teachers), create inherent inequities (Schott Foundation for Public
Education, 2012).
Another Schott Foundation Report, A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York
City (2013), finds that in many urban and rural areas, inequitable resource distribution policies
and practices result in education redlining, which occurs when students’ neighborhoods significantly determine performance outcomes. One of the nation’s largest districts in New York
City provides an example of education redlining (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2012;
Spatig-Amerikaner, 2012). The process involves segregating black students in schools with high
poverty levels, reducing critical resources for high quality learning opportunities (including recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers) through budget and staff cuts, and subsequently
creating disproportionately high rates of teacher turnover. The result is often closed schools or
state takeovers of schools in communities of color. In this context, any chance of connecting
students in these neighborhoods to well-resourced community schools is highly unlikely (Schott
Foundation for Public Education, 2012).
Fourth, black male students are noticeably under-represented in Gifted and Talented programs in the US, and very few are allowed to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes. In New
York City, few students in predominantly black community school districts, if any, are tested
for admission to Gifted and Talented programs. In other states, magnet schools are found to
promote AP participation among white students but reduce participation among college-bound
black students, particularly males (Klopfenstein, 2004). These programs are traditionally better
resourced, with more experienced and more highly qualified teachers (Schott Foundation for
Public Education, 2012). At the high school level, black males are generally least likely to take
and pass AP courses, and black males score significantly lower than their white, Latino, and Asian
counterparts in these courses (US Department of Education, Institute of Education Science, &
NCES, 2009). Furthermore, teachers and counselors disproportionately track black boys into low
academic-ability classrooms, whereas many of their white counterparts are placed in advanced
courses that prepare them for college placement in competitive institutions (Palmer & Maramba,
Fifth, a shift in the global economy toward a demand for higher-order skills has placed
emphasis on post-secondary education and training as a maker of opportunity in America. A
recent study found that, by 2018, more than two-thirds of the 47 million projected job openings
will require some level of post-secondary education of training, including industry certification
(Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2012). Over the last four decades, roughly 39% of
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American adults have held a two- or four-year degree. In many states like New York, nearly twothirds of entering college students require some remediation. In addition, financial aid supports
are often not readily available to help this make this transition (Schott Foundation for Public
Education, 2012). Prince and Choitz (2012) argue that the United States will need to produce about
24 million additional credentials by 2025 to keep pace with leading Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, and achieve a 60% degree attainment rate
among adults ages 25 to 64. However, at current attainment rates, the US is on track to produce
278,500 additional credentials by 2025—a significant shortfall (Schott Foundation for Public
Education, 2012).The aforementioned data show that schooling conditions have not adequately
served black males well. Although the experiences of black males in schools are the subject of
many reports and studies, the following section interrogates a body of research on black male
reactions to education inequities. The literature base supports the idea that while society and
educational settings trouble black boys, black boys aptly trouble these systems back in resistance.
Scholars found that common stereotypes, including “popular youth” and “classroom terror,” lead
to a range of behaviors, strategies, and constructions within and beyond schooling spaces that
influence how black boys make meaning of themselves over time (Billson, 1996; Davis, 2000;
Ferguson, 2000, 2007; Majors & Billson, 1992; Sewell, 1997). Black men who have attended
school in the American educational systems consistently tell graphic stories that bear out this
argument (Cose, 2003; Wright, 1945/2005). Their autobiographical sketches reveal the impact
of disparate schooling and collegiate experiences on academic outcomes and the construction of
identity. For example, Black Boy by Richard Wright (1945/2005) provides an autobiographical
description of an early black boy’s experience in school. This account has been the subject of
scholarship interrogating the ways black male bodies are policed in education (Cose, 2003; Dancy,
2012, 2014; hooks, 2004b). For instance, hooks (2004b) writes: “A reader and a thinker, Wright
was constantly interrogated by classmates and teachers who wanted him to remain silent. They
wanted to know ‘why do you ask so many questions?”’ (p. 35).
In The Envy of the World: On Being a Black Man in America, Ellis Cose (2003) writes that
poor black children during Richard Wright’s time were classified as unable to learn. In fact,
Wright (1945/2005) argues that learning to read and write in his early childhood angered white
American communities who wanted him to remain uneducated. The narratives of black feminist
scholars recall sobering contemporary stories of black men similar to the 1920s (hooks, 2004b).
Cose reflects:
That elementary school experience made it difficult for me to take school seriously. I was never a
bad student, but I simply didn’t see it as a venue where much learning would take place or where my
mind would be stretched. And the more schooling I received, the more my assessment was confirmed
. . . [I learned to be] so mistrustful of school, so alienated from its methods, and so convinced that I
was too smart to be there, that I was in no mood to give it my heart. (Cose, 2003, as cited in hooks,
2004b, p. 35)
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In Makes Me Wanna Holler, Nathan McCall (1995) describes the racial harassment he encountered as an 11-year-old alone in a predominantly white school:
I was the only [black] in most of my classes. When I walked into one room and sat down, the students
near me would get up and move away . . . It wasn’t much better dealing with white teachers. They
avoided eye contact with me as much as possible . . . It was too much for an eleven-year-old to
challenge, and I didn’t try. Instead, I tried to become invisible. I kept to myself, remained quiet during
class discussions, and never asked questions in or after class. I kept my eyes glued to my desk or
looked straight ahead to avoid drawing attention to myself. I staggered, numb and withdrawn, through
each school day. (as cited in hooks, 2004b, p. 37)
Some studies note the ways in which the Wright (1945/2005) and Cose (2003) narratives demonstrate why black boys find it necessary to trouble schools and influence other black boys to
act similarly (Harris, 1995; Kunjufu, 1986). Subsequently, the peer group becomes a precarious
incubator for an orthodox black boyhood that resists oppressive environments.
Some schooling experiences are so transformative in the lives of black boys that they can even
reverse homegrown values (Dancy & Brown, 2012; Ferguson, 2000; Steinberg, Dornbusch, &
Brown, 1992). Years ago, scholars contended that black boys learn to behave in accordance with
a culture in which coolness is most respected and attained by breaking rules or receiving poor
grades in school (Ferguson, 2000; Kunjufu, 1986). Outcomes usually include social rewards like
security in peer groups, achievement, belonging, status, and self-validation (Harris, 1995; Taylor,
1989). Conversely, black males who perform well academically or exhibit different instincts
are potentially labeled by same-race peers as selling out and acting white (Fordham & Ogbu,
1986). The likelihood of peer group acceptance or rejection, however, is not the only force that
shapes boys’ identities and behaviors (Kunjufu, 1986; Steinberg, Dornbusch, & Brown, 1992).
Black boys learn early to value peer group admiration following success in athletics, fighting,
or risk-taking or “playing the dozens” well (Kunjufu, 1986). Playing the dozens is defined as a
competitive ritual characterized by an exchange of verbal insults related to the participants or
members of the participants’ families (Harris, 1995).
The adultification of black boys in schools is the subject of a variety of additional studies in
educational research (Brown, Dancy, & Davis, 2013; Dancy & Brown, 2012). The phenomena
refers to the ways that acts of childhood transgressions are read as sinister, intentional, and fully
conscious attitudes, stripped of any of the innocence and naiveté people generally perceive in
children (Ferguson, 2000). For instance, Ferguson (2000) found elementary school teachers with
a tendency to invoke such images of “looters” in the LA Riots of the 1990s and “refugees”
in Hurricane Katrina, whenever black males did children’s behavior such as borrowing library
books and not returning them or returning them late. As Ferguson argued, in the case of African
American kids, what might be interpreted as the careless behavior of children is displaced by
images of adult acts of theft that conjure up violence and mayhem. Thus, the assumption is that
black male children embody a willful, destructive, and irrational disregard for property rather
than simple carelessness. What is read as natural naughtiness in white children becomes inherent
viciousness and insubordination that must be controlled in black male children. Though our
culture sees children humanely and worthy of the perception of innocence (although immature),
systems of oppression deny black males even that benefit of the doubt.
Like Foucault’s (1980) theory argues, Noguera (2003) asserted that more attention should be
focused on the institutional dynamic. He writes, “[Black] males may engage in behaviors that
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contribute to their underachievement and marginality, but are more likely to be channeled into
marginal roles and to be discouraged from challenging themselves by adults who are supposed
to help them” (p. 452). Ferguson (2000) makes a similar argument, asserting that black males
display aggressive behavior because they are labeled as “unsalvageable” at the beginning of their
educational experiences. In Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity, Ann
Ferguson (2000) studies how institutional norms and procedures in the field of education are
used to maintain a racial order, and how images and racial myths frame how individuals perceive
themselves and others in a racial hierarchy.
Ferguson (2000) found evidence that school environment contributes to the marginalization of
black boys. Specifically, labels such as “troublemakers” imposed by authorities (teachers, principals, staff) predispose black boys to socially unaccepted and deviant life outcomes. Additionally,
Ferguson found that black boys in the study become less eager to persist in their fourth grade
year, and learn to model themselves after future professional athletes or black men in urban
neighborhoods at the same time. Unfortunately, this plan is shaped for them by contexts that have
labeled them as unsalvageable.
Garibaldi (1992) argues that teachers play a seminal role in reversing “unsalvageable” perceptions as well as harmful academic and social behaviors of black boys. However, he further
contends that teachers are susceptible to internalizing and projecting negative stereotypes and
myths to unfairly describe black boys as a “monolithic group with little hope of survival and
success” (p. 8). Garibaldi ultimately maintains that teacher locus may resist positive self-concepts
and personal expectations about and among black boys, leading to these students’ disassociation
with the learning experience. Similarly, hooks (2004b) recalls how black boys were unfairly
stereotyped despite excelling in schools:
White teachers were not eager to teach black boys and white parents were not eager to have black
boys sitting next to their sons and daughters. Suddenly, smart black boys were invisible. When a
“special” black boy was allowed to be in the gifted classes it was only after he had proven himself to
be appropriately subordinate. Always, he was the one smart boy who managed to excel, learned to be
obedient, to keep his mouth shut. Smart black boys who wanted to be heard, then and now, often find
themselves cast out, deemed troublemakers, and placed in slow classes or in special classes that are
mere containment cells for those deemed delinquent. Individual poor and working-class boys who
excel academically in the public school system without surrendering their spirit and integrity usually
make it because they have an advocate, a parent, parental caregiver, or teacher, who intervenes when
the biased educational system threatens them with destruction. (pp. 38–39)
Ferguson (2000) notes three key behaviors that emerge from the biased educational system
hooks mentions. These behaviors, Ferguson argues, provide evidence that black boys, to a large
degree, perceive manhood as a power struggle. The first, heterosexual power (understood as male
heterosexual), refers to the physical, biological, and representational differences to perform acts
(i.e., physical touching) that define black boys as perpetrators and black girls as victims. Personal
violations of heterosexual power include transgressive behaviors (i.e., same-sex curiosity and
attraction). Like other boy groups, when black boys want to show supreme contempt for another
boy they call him a girl or liken his behavior to a girl’s behavior (Ferguson, 2000). In general,
transgressing rigidly heterosexual masculine codes likely results in victimization and alienation
from black boy cultures at school (Davis, 2000).
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A second behavior involves usage of “confrontational voice” or classroom performances that
engage and disrupt the normal direction of the flow of power. Black boys use power to disrupt the
standards and well-scripted roles in classrooms (i.e., constant noise, rapping, laughing, crumpling
paper), and schools characterize these actions as disruption (Ferguson, 2007). Furthermore, black
boy peer groups perceive other black boys as lively, fun, exciting, and cool in an otherwise bland
context (Davis, 1999). However, when black males use confrontational voices in schools, the
goal is likely to make a name for themselves (Ferguson, 2000). Harper (1996) adds that how
black boys use their voice becomes an identifying marker for masculinity and that “a too-evident
facility in white idiom can quickly identify one as a white-identified Uncle Tom who must also
be weak, effeminate, and probably a fag” (p. 11).
Black males potentially use the third behavior, fighting, as a mechanism to demonstrate
mistrust of authority figures in school due to socio-historical and current power relations in
their communities (Ferguson, 2007). Ferguson’s work further contends that fighting is usually
an exploratory site to construct media-endorsed identities, a social practice of entertainment,
or an attempt to scare others to avoid future confrontations. Black boys who show competence
in fighting, sports, teasing, and reporting actual or contrived sexual conquests, are bestowed
with greater privileges than those perceived as less adequate in these areas. Corbin and Pruitt
(1999) write that black boys turn to sexual promiscuity, machismo, risk-taking, and aggressive
social skills to compensate for feelings of insecurity in a Eurocentric world. Such insecurity
likely manifests itself in changes in posture, clothing, dialect and language, walking style, and
demeanor (Harris, 1995). Majors and Billson (1992) further characterize this behavior as a coping
mechanism labeled “cool pose.” The authors define cool pose as:
The presentation of self that many [black boys and] men use to establish their male identity. Cool
pose is a ritualized form of masculinity that entails behaviors, scripts, physical posturing, expression
management, and carefully crafted performances that deliver a single, critical message: pride, strength
and control. (p. 4)
Majors and Billson (1992) argue that black boys, prior to college, learn early to project a façade
of emotionlessness, fearlessness, and aloofness to counter the poor self-image and confidence
expected from the race to which they belong. Majors and Billson also suggest that the cool
pose becomes pathological in a sense, or self-sustaining, because of its continued use as coping
mechanism. To view black boys (and men) in only this light, however, is problematic. Scholars and
activists write that the endorsement of a behaviorally restrictive or uni-dimensional conception of
manhood, (i.e., tough guy, player of women) is oppressive (Hunter & Davis, 1992). Unfortunately,
families either intentionally or unintentionally reinforce notions of a uni-dimensional boyhood.
Black boys also may consider academic engagement less masculine because of how it is valued
in families. In fact, hooks (2004b) argues that “soul-murdering” (p. 40) in families detrimentally
affects the self-esteem of black boys and potentially shames their authentic selves:
In some [black] families where reading is encouraged in girl children, a boy who likes to read is
perceived as suspect, as on the road to being a “sissy.” Certainly as long as [black] people buy into the
notion of patriarchal manhood, which says that real men are all body and no mind, [black boys] who
are cerebral, who want to read, and who love books will risk being ridiculed as not manly. (p. 40)
hooks reflects on experiences in her home in which her brother was constantly humiliated
by her father for “not measuring up to the standards of patriarchal maleness” (2014b, p. 89).
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Her suggestion that black boys are valued and indulged for being male, but also shamed for not
conforming to acceptable patriarchal boyhood, charges educational systems with failing to impart
or inspire learning in black boys. Both conditions infect the masculine identities of black boys
with powerlessness and hopelessness (hooks, 2004b).
Because of these early socialization experiences, researchers claim that black men quickly
understand the social rewards associated with exhibiting masculine behaviors, derogatory name
calling, and peer disapproval frequently associated with feminine behaviors (Davis, 2001; Ferguson, 2007). Discipline and retention trends support this assertion. For instance, black boys
have the highest suspension and dropout rates at elementary and high school levels. Widely, the
academic performance of black boys is lower than those of their white and Asian counterparts in
both urban and non-urban settings (Hrabowski, Maton, & Grief, 1998). These experiences subsequently inform black men’s collegiate perceptions. In fact, there are a number of well-rehearsed
gender roles that negatively correlate with black men’s collegiate perceptions by the time black
men reach traditional college age (Dancy, 2012; Fleming, 1984; Polite & Davis, 1999).
In this article, I set out to theorize six trends of push-out and lockout that support school-to-prison
pipelines for black males: (1) excessive school closings and disciplinary actions, (2) barriers to
early childhood education, (3) an avoidance or inability to promote student-centered learning, (4)
poorly resourced community schools, (5) under-representation in gifted/talented and advanced
placement opportunities and (6) under-representation in post-secondary attainment opportunities.
As Foucault’s (1980) theory argues, these tactics respond to societal efforts to standardize white,
elite male values and contain “the abnormal.” Furthermore, the elimination of black boys from
schools perpetuates the persistent stereotype of black male bodies, not minds, as commodities.
Because schools act to deprive black males any access to childhood humanity (Ferguson, 2000),
these boys’ careless behaviors are re-scripted as deviant, requiring dismissal from school settings
and, eventually, incarceration or death to their futures. Unsurprisingly, the research on black boys’
experiences reveals student groups resisting institutional oppressions.
Unfortunately, dominant perspectives on “the black male problem” indict black males as
creators of their own problems as opposed to the incapacities of schools (Howard, 2013; Schott
Foundation for Public Education, 2012). However, these reactions tend to reflect the narrowminded and hidebound tenets of racism in the public’s determination to ignore the histories of
violent discrimination and uncritically construct America as post-racial. Racism refers to the
global system of oppression that disempowers people based on skin-color or assumptions that
people of particular races hold undesirable qualities (Omi & Winant, 1989). The extant research on
black male experiences and the educational pipeline requires common thought and consideration
among all educational personnel—in schools, colleges, and other settings—who care about the
educational experiences of black males.
First, macro-level oppressions require macro-level interventions. The work of civil rights
movements is not over and is a critical educational outcome. A citizenry’s responsibility is to
push people in positions of power and to resist unjust political calculus. Lovers of justice must
join efforts to organize against the racist powers that threaten black male lives in society. These
efforts must include attention to educational opportunity as a persistent vehicle for political
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advancement and improved quality of life. Resisters must support these efforts or start our own,
since conversations, while vital, are not substitutes for legislation.
There also are interventions at more micro-levels, many of which capture the attention of school
administrators, local communities, and parents as possible solutions to the problems associated
with black males in public schools. First, mentoring programs that assign professional black men
as role models for young boys, typically in elementary and middle schools, have been established
in many school districts, both urban and suburban. Second, teachers play a critical role in reversing
black boys’ academic and social behaviors that conflict with educational achievement. Teachers
are leaders of the classroom experience. The messages teachers consciously or subconsciously
give to black males will manifest themselves in black males’ perceptions of schools and American
society. Counselors also must refrain from stereotypical thinking about the intellectual capacity
and aptitude of black males. In general, the public must commit to decolonizing its oppressive
gaze on black boys and men.
This article argues that educational settings must mine the sources for improving institutional
equity and climate. Rather than fostering positive and productive social environments, schools far
too often reduce or minimize black male spirit and potential. Much evidence supports the claim
that schools not only neglect the social, emotive, and developmental needs of black males but
also abuse them emotionally (Brown, Dancy & Davis, 2013; Brown & Davis, 2000). Whereas
black Americans traditionally have placed much faith in public schools, regardless of outcomes
and deliverables, current schooling experiences of many black males remain yet another disappointment. For many of these boys, school is a place that ignores their aspirations, disrespects
their ability to learn, fails to access and cultivate their hidden talents, and restricts their identity
options. Unfortunately, too many of these students simply give up and give into low expectations
and misguided notions about their authentic selves. In this regard, however, black males may be
less different from other students in schools across the nation.
Stone (1997) defines security as “protecting people’s identities as well as their existence”
(p. 90). Although often disregarded, schools must first ensure that all reasonable student needs
are met or accommodated. Hence, any examination of student achievement must essentially
include an investigation of student social lives. The community is the whole and the school
is the fragment (Jordan & Cooper, 2003). This line of reasoning begs the question: Do black
males have access to basic needs, including meaningful networks, adequate resources, and enriching opportunities? As Anyon (1995) argued, endeavoring to reform schools without simultaneously strengthening the contexts in which they are located is like attempting to filter the air
in a room with the windows open. Unfortunately, the scholarship in this article suggests that
schools are disengaging meaningful educational reform in favor of executing a devious public
The school-to-prison pipeline works to support mass incarceration of black males in the larger
society. The pathological incarceration of Black males is described in the literature as the new
Jim Crow (Alexander, 2012).2 One of the aims of the new Jim Crow is to justify racially biased
practices and mass incarceration with the argument that black males are naturally violent and
must be contained. To be sure, this perception is supported in media, which often depict black
males as gangsters, drug dealers, and street thugs. Characterizations of black males as aggressive,
nefarious, indolent, ignorant, and brutish respond to historical claims of black male inhumanity.
However, any public insistence that violent crime is responsible for mass incarceration does
not bear out in data analysis; it persists to intentionally victimize black males (Alexander, 2012).
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Sadly, while society executes a prison-building boom unprecedented in world history (Alexander,
2012), schools attempt to prepare black boys around this reality.
This article is not just an additional critique of how educational politics, complex bureaucracy,
and institutionalism ignore students’ cultural background and shape a narrow-minded view of
schools and schooling. Moreover, the location of Foucault’s (1980) social control thesis in the
aforementioned six trends is a clarion call for response to the insidiousness that is the American
school-to-prison pipeline. If this hegemony is not resisted on macro- and micro-levels, much
is at stake. America suffers when school-to-prison pipelines continue to persecute black males.
Indeed, society has an opportunity to fulfill its own interests (i.e., increased tax revenue, reduced
reliance on social services, and rising civic engagement) through supporting black male education
and achievement. Instead, America appears to be forsaking its duty to educate all citizens in favor
of fulfilling the low and unspeakable expectations of a sordid national past.
1. It should be noted that Latino males had the lowest the graduation rates in the other 11 states (Schott
Foundation for Public Education, 2012).
2. Jim Crow laws were racialsegregation laws enacted between 1876 and 1965 at the state and local level
in the US. They mandated dejure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former
Confederacy with a separatebutequal status for AfricanAmericans (Alexander, 2012).
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T. Elon Dancy, II, PhD, is Associate Professor of Higher Education, African & African
American Studies, & Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Oklahoma. His research
investigates the experiences and sociocognitive outcomes of students, particularly related to the
nexus of race, gender, and culture.

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