Find Alternatives to Black Male Academies, Education Chief Urges

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Education Secretary Lamar Alexander said Wednesday that community leaders should find ways to meet the needs of black male students without sending them to all-male academies in violation of federal law.

“Brown vs. Board of Education is very simple and to the point. It says segregated schools are inherently unequal,” Alexander told reporters at a briefing.

Proponents of the black male academies say that many public schools have neither role models nor curriculum to bolster self-esteem or teach black culture. They say that, in regular schools, black boys are subjected to stricter discipline and other tactics that discourage academic achievement.


Alexander said he sympathized with the rationale behind the academies.

“I think it springs from real life, real concern about the way things are,” he said. “You have to deal with children the way they are growing up and help them. I understand that, and I worry myself about the apparent lack of male role models for boys growing up who are African American or black.”

But Alexander said, “We’ve got to remember the history of the last 30 years and what Brown vs. Board of Education was about.”

He pointed to Detroit, where controversy arose when the board of education tried to establish three all-male academies in an attempt to reach out to some of the 54% of black males who drop out of the city’s 170,000-student system. U.S. District Judge George Woods ruled the all-male schools unconstitutional, and the board voted Tuesday to admit girls to the institutions.

Alexander rejected arguments that such academies should be allowed because many urban schools already are predominantly black.

Those who point to the de facto segregation of inner-city schools are using the “same arguments that were made in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, and they weren’t enough,” the education secretary said.