Favorite Young Adult Novels

  • November Blues
  • Beast
  • My Life As a Rhombus
  • Slam
  • Mother Love
  • Night Watch
  • The Way a Door Closes
  • Last Part First
  • PUSH
  • Watson's Go to Birmingham-1963
  • The Skin I'm In
  • Dope Sick
  • Who Am I Without Him
  • Harlem Hustle
  • Tyrell
  • Bang
  • Tears of a Tiger
  • Forged by Fire

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Motivates African American males to attend college?

I am totally immersed in Alfred Tatum's book Reading for their Life (Re)Building the Textual Lineages of African American Adolescent Males. I read his first book Teaching Reading To Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap, but this new one is really on target with what I want to see happen with the AAA males I know and love.

Recently, I had a conversation with some former students, all females, all college students or graduates. The question was "Why don't the boys go to college?" As they discussed the young men who attended high school with them, the number of college attendees and/or grads was much lower than those who didn't go. Why is that? I know a young man who was in college, but decided he needed a job to buy a car. The job became a priority and he never returned to college. The car aka " a hooptie" is history. He's laid off now. We have not discussed it, but the rationale that others give relates to responsibilities.

I am wondering if the lure of money is keeping many young AA males from going to college. The messed up economy almost makes a college education invalid, since many college grads are unable to find jobs.

Perhaps fear is a factor. Do they feel unprepared? Is college a monster for AA males whose high school learning experiences was not a preparation site? Then there are those who start college, then stop out, drop out or flunk out. My question is always what are the alternatives? My friend a former HS instructors claims he can tell early which boys will end up in their "mama's basement watching cable" by how many are seen reading books. Interesting.

As I reflect on why I went to college, it was purely survival. I knew the outcome had I not gone to college. It wasn't until 12th grade that anyone ever mentioned going to college to me. I wasn't asked if I wanted to go, I was told "You're going to college."It was just Divine intervention that the right teacher asked the right questions, said the right words and change my life's direction.

Reading Tatum's book there is a sense of urgency. The challenging it seems is engaging these young men early, with an understanding that not going to college is not an option. I am always quoting from Walter Mosley's young adult novel 47. The main character kept telling the enslaved that their condition did not define them. I agree. No one has to live the life script that has been write for them. This is only the first draft. There is always a chance to revise. I hope some of the information in Tatum's book will provide some gum on my eraser as I begin to deconstruct some of the negative perceptions about literacy, that will be a foundation to re-write life scripts.


  1. Perhaps the question should be what motivates them to NOT go to college. Semantics.

  2. It is clear AA children need adults, both teachers and others to help motivate and engage them in literacy learning. Many of them exhibit what Jeff Howard calls learned helplessness, truly feeling hopeless, so education is viewed as a waste of time. We have effective teaching and learning models that work for these young people we need to use them and write about them as Tatum has done!