Response to today’s conversation

Commenters on the AJC Get Schooled blog had a range of reactions to today’s guest column by Georgia Tech researcher Kamau Bobb on why so few black students are choosing to study the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. Here is a sampling of comments under the poster’s chosen screen name:

Leneva: Please don’t give the message to our children that they are locked out. That’s not the message my single mother gave me. She told me I could do whatever I wanted to, as long as I took advantage of the free public educational system.

Abby: I have a friend now working on his doctorate in chemical engineering at Georgia Tech. He’s African-American from rural western Kentucky. He’s very intelligent, but he’s still dependent on scholarships. Without scholarships, he wouldn’t be in the school in the first place. You can’t get a job or be employable with a STEM bachelor’s degree. You almost have to get a doctorate degree in many of the disciplines. Without a doctorate, you just spent a lot of money for a pretty piece of paper. So, if we get black youth in the program but they don’t come from wealth, how do we keep them in the program to completion?

NWGA: I wonder if there’s a way to control for more variables. If you could plot success rates for just the kids (regardless of skin color) who take their math classes seriously, I would think you’d see similar results on both sides. Which would then beg the question of, why aren’t more folks taking it more seriously?

Don’t Tread: Who needs math or science when you’re a rapper? The posse can take care of the math and science for you. It’s been said before: There isn’t an educational solution to a cultural/behavioral problem. The parents have to do that.

Jupiter: I recall there was a student team and black teacher from a predominantly black Southside Atlanta school that won a statewide STEM-related competition last year. They were No. 1 in the entire state. It was a great story and shows that the right teacher can spark the interest of these kids.

OriginalProf: It’s been a general educational concern for some time that more females of all races need to be encouraged to take STEM courses; and there are many college scholarships and programs to encourage female participation. I know Georgia Tech actively encourages more women to apply and supports those who become students though its new Office of Institutional Diversity. I think the problem with black males is different and may lie with the educational system and how it teaches boys generally. There has been much educational research showing boys and girls are wired to learn differently, and that unfortunately — probably because the great majority of k-12 teachers are female — k-12 education is geared toward the way girls learn. This can only reinforce any cultural biases against education for young black males.

Starik: Bad neighborhoods, bad friends, low expectations, uneducated parents and barely educated teachers make it almost impossible to compete. Black kids in good neighborhoods and good schools do fine. Segregation is the root of the problem.

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