INTERVIEW Issue 001
Are Black Male Teachers Becoming Extinct?
An interview with Professor Ivory Toldson
Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Howard University and Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Q: What gain is there for those who are painting a picture of black male teachers becoming extinct?
A: I don’t suspect that those who suggest black male teachers are becoming extinct have dishonorable motives. Most of them are noticing a true dearth of black male teachers, especially when comparing them to teachers of other races and genders. However, without carefully observing the data, people have the tendency to jump to erroneous conclusions about the nature of the issue. In general, people seem quite comfortable using the word “extinct” to describe the experiences of black men with respect to a range of issues. This in and of itself is problematic.
Q: Why should we be concerned about stereotyping black males as not wanting to teach?
A: This type of stereotyping distracts us from more legitimate issues. In order to provide solutions, one must first understand the nature of the problem. Research suggests that targeting Black males’ motivation and interests in teaching is misguided. Instead, we should target college recruitment and retention, as well as access to the teaching profession.
Q: Does not the research show that black role models in the classroom produce better black male students?
A: This is an assumption; and I believe the assumption to be correct based on anecdotal evidence. However, I know of no research studies to find empirical evidence that Black males perform better when the instructor is black. There are a range of characteristics of a teacher that research suggests is related to academic success among black males. Among the characteristics are empathy, respect, and cultural responsiveness.