The impact of structural hypocrisy on the school performance of young African-American males
This study of life in an inner-city elementary school takes a critical look at cultural factors in the school that negatively affect the school performance of young African American male students. If, as a review of the literature indicated, the performance of young black males begins to decline by grade four, the question posed was, what is it in these early years that effects the decline?; The ethnography is the result of a year spent as a participant/observer in an elementary school in Washington, D.C. The observation of classroom sessions, PTA meetings, assemblies, cafeteria and playground activities; the interviewing of both children and adult personnel in the school, and the examination of documentary evidence of student performance rendered an in-depth picture of the plurality of cultures that interplay as the participants attempt to derive meaning from their disparate experiences. It pinpoints aspects of the school culture transmitted by the teachers and administrators, which make the school culture unique, on the one hand, while reflecting the norms and values of the dominant, white middle-class culture of American society in general, on the other. It demonstrates ways in which this culture conflicts with the culture that underpriviledged, African American children from the inner-city bring to their school experience. Highlighted in the study are the disparities between words and actions--between ideology and reality--found not only in this particular school, but in American society in general in its beliefs about schools and the role of education. The suggestion is that the conflict between ideology and reality creates a need to mask reality. This mask is referred to as hypocrisy--a kind of hypocrisy that is so pervasive and deeply entrenched in the system that those who participate in it are not always aware of its existence. In other words, it is a "structural hypocrisy.". The conclusion is that the difference in socialization patterns of poor, black males predisposes them to reject the hypocrisy as they move up in grade level. This rejection results in passive or active resistance, both of which lead to their ultimate failure in the school system.