Sarah Grace Goolden
Throughout pre-K and 12th grade, I only had one black man as a teacher. The demographics of educators is drastically skewed away from men and minorities. Students need to see teachers that look like them in order to feel represented and empowered. Underrepresentation in the classroom is a problem that affects students even after they graduate.
Black and hispanic men individually only make up two percent of teachers in the U.S. This shocking statistic from the National Center for Education Statistics is disturbing for a number of reasons.
Educators are desperately needed in general, but minority educators are needed even more. Black and hispanic boys make up far more than two percent of the students. Teachers, especially in those crucial teenage years, are role models. What does it say that those kids don’t get role models of the same background?
Black and hispanic teachers can often relate more to Black and hispanic students because they were once in their shoes. Of course, a shared race and gender doesn’t mean they have the exact same experiences, or will necessarily connect more than someone of a different identity. But there is a cultural connection that cannot be feigned by anyone else.
A study from Economics of Education Review found that white teachers have lower expectations for Black students. White teachers are 30 percent less likely to predict a Black student will attend a four-year university than a white student. If educators, who are supposed to be unbiased and open-minded, don’t believe in these kids, who will?
There are certain adversities and difficulties that only minorities will face. A similar perspective from an educated adult is vital for struggling children and teens. While all teachers should be advocating for kids of every race, gender and sexuality, that firsthand knowledge is something that teachers can use to empower and relate to students. This empowerment doesn’t just end at feelings; Black male students do better when they have black male teachers. They score higher on tests and are less likely to drop out than those who do not have that representation. Good teachers can be the difference for a child struggling in school or with outside problems.
More than just that, students also need role models of different races than their own. White students need the perspective of someone from a different ethnic background, especially when that person is an authority figure. Those who were raised with racist or sexist ideas in their home can have a new and legitimate perspective.
Teachers ensure the future of society. There is no job more crucial than educating our youth. Why are children not being given the most extensive and eclectic education we can provide?
Black teachers are often recruited to schools with a high minority population. Historically, these schools are underfunded and overlooked. Teacher burnout can be detrimental to all educators, but especially those with a lack of resources or support. This leads to them switching careers and ultimately, a shortage of minority teachers. It is not that black and hispanic men do not want to be teachers; it is that they may not be able to financially or emotionally afford to.
The result devastates our youth. Children need representation of their own as well as different identities and cultures. There is a level of connectivity that minority children and teens need in their teachers. Again, Black and hispanic male men individually make up two percent of teachers in the U.S. Our education system is not representing the children it teaches or the world we live in. America needs to prioritize schools with high minority students. The future of our society is at stake and that is not something anyone should be willing to overlook.