Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fewer male than female high school honorees — again

Each year I turn to The Oregonian’s honor roll of Portland high school graduates in hopes that a troubling phenomenon of recent years has reversed itself.

Will young males at least reach some kind of parity with female graduates on the honors list? What about the near absence of African-American males from the group?

Today’s “In Portland” section honored 117 graduates from Portland public and private high schools. The article calls them those “who rose to the top of their classes.”

There were 34 young men on the list. Less than one-third of the total. Not one appeared to be an African-American male.

Plenty has been written about young males lagging behind their female peers. Vis this issue of Newsweek and the book “Raising Cain.”

There are several causes. Certainly the popular culture embraced by adolescent males promotes non-academic values. Indeed it seems almost anti-intellectual and anti-social.

For years, the dominant culture of young African-American males has disparaged academically ambitious colleagues who have sought to excel academically, accusing them of giving in to “white” values. Though popular culture role models for young black men have been harmful, the success of Barack Obama’s candidacy could mark a major turning point and certainly will provide a new model for success.

Another catalyst for change among young black men are organizations like A2Mend.

As we acknowledge and honor the achievements of the best and the brightest in the Class of 2008, we should ask ourselves why whole segments of the student population are so grossly under-represented — and vow to do something about it.

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