Kalyn and Alison: Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity (p. 1-99)


looking at a similar scenario of the use of the word fag in schools

Both Bad Boys and the ethnographic novel Dude, You’re A Fag expressed racialized masculinities. The “fag discourse” spoken about in the novel is labeling others, in a joking relationships as a fag. Pascoe finds through his study that it seemed to cement the relationship among boys. They called their peers a fag for numerous reasons. There was an undertone that at any moment a boy who was not displaying attributes of being sufficiently masculine would/should be called a fag. In the school, the black students were less likely to engage in this discourse than the other students. Instead these students teased one another for acting white.

Though the book focused on masculinity, sexuality, and heteronormativity, racialized masculinities came forth throughout his time in the high school. He found excessive discipline from school teachers and administration. In this book, even dancing too provocatively would lead to expulsion. In comparison, the white boys were dancing equally as provocatively. In this example Pascoe felt that the teachers did not attribute sexuality to the white students.  In another scenario, the one case that involved punishment using the word “fag” was with an African American student.

“Pascoe observed that teachers routinely ignored homophobic and sexist comments made by students. In fact, with one exception, she never saw anyone punished for using words like “fag,” “gay,” or “dyke.” The one incident that did result in punishment involved an African-American student who yelled out to the all-white, all-male wrestling team, “Why are you wearing those faggot outfits?” This is interesting considering her observation that African-American boys in her study did not use the word “fag” as much as white boys.”


In a recent Huffington Post article, Black Students In The US Get Criminalized While White Students Get Treatment troubling behavior does not stop at simply splitting at racial lines. Like the text, Black students are more likely to get suspended, or otherwise disciplined while White students are more likely to receive medical or psychological treatment. White students are also pushed in the direction of special education services. The study was conducted by a Penn State Professor of Sociology and Criminology, David Ramey, who looked at suspensions, expulsions, and police referrals 59,000 schools across the country. According to the study the increase and importance of standardized test scores could lead schools to suspend or medicalize low achieving students (in order to boost their test scores).  prisonpipelinegraphic

The majority of Ramey’s work however, is done in reference to the phenomenon addressed in Bad Boys. “The bulk of my earlier research looked at how, for the same minor levels of misbehaviors — for example, classroom disruptions, talking back — white kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem, while black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn,” Ramey said in a press release.

In a related study, published in July of 2015, Ramey continues with this topic by stating that poorer schools have a higher rate of Black students. These schools have a lower enrollment rate in government programs designed to stop discrimination on students with disabilities. He further suggests that the way students are governed may affect the way students are disciplined (or not disciplined and instead told to see medical treatment).  Also mentioned in the article was that school districts with a higher rate of hispanic students were less likely to report criminal charges, but that they too, were less likely to seek medical treatment instead of discipline.

Similar scenario outside of the classroom

The criminalization of black children, as one would suspect, is not one that stays inside the school (or playground). In 2010, there were two instances of young boys stealing and driving a car. Both children were 7 years old, one was black and the other was white. Lisa Wade, PhD originally wrote this posted this piece on The Society Pages in 2010. It was republished in 2013 in relation to the verdict of the George Zimmerman case. After the act, Preston, the White boy was given an interview on the “Today’s Show.” In the conclusion of the show, they conclude that with any kid, you never know what they can do.  Preston is shown as an over-all good child. His answers, which were actually spoken by the interviewee, were largely innocent and childish. I drew a comparison to one of the teacher’s favorite boys in Bad Boys. “Teacher’s perceptions of students are grounded in their own location in social categories of race, gender, and class.”   The teacher spoke about the white boy’s misbehavior in a kind of endearing way. For the white boy, this fooling around balanced him. For the black students at Rosa Parks School, the same misbehavior is seen as an inappropriate act.

Similarly, looking back the the news story, the only available story shown of the Black child was shot on the street (instead of a TV studio). The chase scene in this clip was actually sped up making it look more intense.  Unfortunately, Latarian said all of the “wrong things.” He likes to do “bad things” and even mentions “hoodrat things with friends.”  Lisa Wade reminds us that both of these children committed the same act and perhaps Latarian has began to internalize the way society has been treating him. “Black children, especially boys, are stereotyped as pre-criminals; not adorably naughty, like white boys, but dangerously bad from the beginning. And studies with children have shown that they often internalize this idea, as in the famous doll experiment in which both black and white children were more likely than not to identify the black doll as bad.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/22/media-kids-racial-stereotypes_n_3624740.html – link to the video

Bringing in Critical Race Theory (CRT)

Critical Race Theory, something we discussed in the Theories of Identity class, expresses skepticism for the colorblindness and objectivity in education (in our case). In a generalized sense, whites see racism as being aware of color while blacks as system of power.

Being introduced to Critical Race Theory (CRT) led to a multitude of questions and critically reviewing the instruction I used in my classroom.  What I began to question was first if I had fallen into a trap of teaching toward a middle class cultural capital, a concept borrowed from Lisa Delpit (1988) in “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy of Educating Other People’s Children.”  The article brought to light ideas that were not a focus in my undergraduate studies. Teachers have the responsibility to acknowledge that students come into their classroom with different content knowledge, some based on cultural upbringing. Delpit (1988) argues that there isn’t one correct way to teach students and that every classroom should prepare for these variances. Instead, each classroom would need a variety of different teaching strategies that cater to the different learners present that year.  “Rather, I suggest that schools must provide these children the content that other families from a different cultural orientation provide at home” (Delpit 1988, p. 296).  I am not suggesting that explicit instruction is the way I should have taught in my classroom. Instead, I am advocating that pre-service teaching students should learn to be critical of teaching philosophies. Every classroom needs to accommodate its students based on these differences.

Delpit stated that Black families may want something different from an educator than how I seemed to be running the classroom. “They want to ensure that the school provides discourse patterns, interactional styles, and spoken and written language codes that will allow them success in the larger society” (Delpit 1988, p. 286). The largest cultural differences in my classroom were not amongst my students, but rather, myself in relation to my students.  When I step back to reflect on the year, I acknowledge that the cultural frames of my students were ignored when creating and implementing lessons throughout the year.

The Hidden Curriculum

Ferguson suggests that the crucial element for creating and reproducing social inequality includes such taken-for-granted components of instructions as differences in modes of social control and the regulation of relations of authority, and the valorization of certain forms of linguistic and cultural expression (p. 50).

“This hidden curriculum reflects the ‘cultural hegemony’ of the dominant class and works to reinforce and reproduce that dominance by exacerbating and multiplying– rather than diminishing or eliminating– the ‘inequalities’ children bring from home and neighborhood to school.”

Regarding reward and punishment models of schooling and curriculum implementation, Foucault (1979) asserts that normalizing judgements are the most powerful instruments of disciplinary power– its function is not to suppress unwanted behavior or reform it, but rather

refer individual actions to a whole that is at once a field of comparison, a space of differentiation. . . It measures in quantitative terms and hierarchizes in terms of value the abilities, the level, the “nature” of individuals. It introduces through this “value-giving” measure, the constraint  of a conformity that must be achieved. Lastly, it traces the limit that will define differences in relation to all other differences, the external frontier of the abnormal. . . [It] compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In short, it normalizes (p. 183).

These instruments of normalization thus act as the hidden curriculum of a school.


Ferguson, A. A. (2000). Bad boys: Public schools in the making of Black masculinity. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.

These Labels were Made Up to Divide us.


Roberto Lugo’s Emerging Artist Presentation at the 2015 NCECA Conference


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