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Claude Steele has been a professor of psychology at Stanford University since 1991, and before that served on the faculties of the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, and the University of Utah.

His research interests are in three areas. Throughout his career he has been interested in processes of self-evaluation, in particular in how people cope with self-image threat. This work has led to a general theory of self- affirmation processes. A second interest, growing out of the first, is a theory of how group stereotypes -- by posing an extra self-evaluative and belongingness threat to such groups as African Americans in all academic domains and women in quantitative domains -- can influence intellectual performance and academic identities. Third, he has long been interested in addictive behaviors, particularly alcohol addiction, where his work with several colleagues has led to a theory of "alcohol myopia," a theory in which many of alcohol's social and stress-reducing effects -- effects that may underlie its addictive capacity -- are explained as a consequence of alcohol's narrowing of perceptual and cognitive functioning.


Steele's theories on "stereotype threat" pay special attention to the lagging performance of middle and upper-middle class, and highly-prepared Black college students who are determined to be falling short of their academic potential. The research identifies the psychological reasons why racial anxiety can inhibit the academic performance of well-prepared Black students.

"Professor Steele's work on `stereotype threat' has played a critical role in shaping the debate [on the Black-White performance gap]," says Dr. Ann Marcus, dean of the NYU School of Education.

Earlier this month, officials from the U.S. Department of Education convened the federal government's first ever Symposium on African American Male Achievement, which was held at Howard University in Washington. The symposium highlighted the decline of Black male academic achievement largely over the past decade. Declining Black male academic achievement represents a significant factor in the overall measurements of Black-White student comparisons.

Reversing the slide among Black males is believed to be a critical task for education experts and officials who are committed to closing the overall Black-White student gap.

Since the late 1980s, scholars have sought answers and solutions to improving Black student performance at all grade levels from kindergarten through college and graduate school.

According to the work of prominent Black scholars, such as Steele, that task has grown more complicated rather than less so, inviting in a broad range of experts to study the issue.

"We know that there's a need for more research," says Dr. Edmund Gordon, the symposium moderator and a Columbia University dean.

Steele's NYU presentation and the U.S. Education department symposium highlighted the multi-disciplinary approach that is taking root in American higher education to solve the Black-White performance gap. The existing research indicates that poor schools and Black poverty provide only part of the picture of the Black-White performance gap. Psychologists, economists and public health experts are joining the ranks of scholars involved in examining the performance gap.

"This effort goes beyond the purview of education schools," says Dr. Ronald Ferguson, a public policy lecturer at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.


Ferguson, who was the keynote speaker at the symposium at Howard University, presented test score data that captured the essence of the Black-White performance gap over the past 30 years. Using data drawn from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) standardized test, he showed that Black student performance, which began to rise in the early 1970s, improved dramatically in the 1980s where it hit a peak in 1988 and has declined and remained flat.

In reading, the gap between scores for 17-year-old Black and White students on the NAEP test fell from 52.7 percent in 1971 to 20.3 percent in 1988. By 1992, the gap had grown to 36.8 percent.

In math, the gap between Black and White 17-year-olds on the NAEP was cut from 40 percent in 1973 to 21 percent in 1990. By 1992, the gap had reached 26.1 percent.

Ferguson told the symposium audience of 200 that he believes the decline in Black student progress is linked to the decline of leisure reading among young Blacks. He suggested the leisure reading decline may be related to the dramatic rise in popularity in hip-hop music among Black youth from 1988 to the present.

"Listening to and understanding hip-hop requires an investment of time that may help explain the drop-off in leisure reading by Black kids," Ferguson says.

Ferguson, an economist, noted that he has examined the Black-White student performance gap for the past five years.

After researching labor economic issues for much of his career, Ferguson began focusing heavily on the Black-White gap because of the potential it has to lead to even deeper divisions in American society.

"There's tremendous implications for the future of race relations in the nation. If something isn't done, we'll end up with a bifurcated society," Ferguson says.


Dr. Pedro A. Noguera, a faculty member at the Harvard University School of Education, addressed how culture affects the academic performance of African American males. Presenting a research paper entitled The Role and Influence of Environmental and Cultural Factors on the Academic Performance of American of African American Males, Noguera argued that it's possible to devise strategies that will disrupt harmful environmental and cultural factors. "When there are high expectations [on the part of teachers], our kids do in fact perform at high levels," he says.

Noguera stressed that research is lacking on topics where it's possible to develop new strategies. "African American males are in trouble by almost any standard," Noguera told his audience, noting that Black men have high incarceration rates, declining life expectancy, an increasing suicide rate and other social ills.

"Making that connection is important because it helps to put [the academic performance issue] in context. In fact, it would be much more surprising if Black males were doing well academically in spite of the broad array of difficulties that confront them," Noguera added.

Noguera said researchers have to begin looking more at culture and identity to understand the variety of responses African American males exhibit in the face of poverty and negative social influences. In spite of obstacles, there is a sizeable number of African American males who manage to succeed, according to Noguera.

"I think there's need for more research on youth culture and how it influences [Black male attitudes] on schools ... We have to look at how masculinity is constructed among African American males," he says.

At NYU, Steele presented research on student performance that showed how student self-perception in relation to his or her classroom peer group can negatively affect performance. Steele's notion of "stereotype threat" comes into play when a student whose race, culture or gender is associated with negative stereotypes, such as intellectual inferiority. Stereotype threat is felt by students in an academic setting heavily populated by peers and teachers who am likely to perceive individuals as representing the stereotype. Even though the students may be highly prepared, the anxiety they could experience from worrying whether their peers and teachers believe the stereotypes is distressful enough to lower performance.

Steele, who is chair of the psychology department at Stanford University, says solutions to stereotype threat focus on ways that teacher can improve their interaction with students who are at risk for low performance. "[The Black-White gap] is not likely to be solved overnight. It's going to be with us for some time," he says.

Dr. Troy Duster, a sociologist at New York University, told the audience that Steele's research helps steer the debate on Black-White performance away from being politicized. He says conservatives point out that the gap exists because Blacks and Whites aren't being held up to the same standards because of affirmative action. Liberals treat the gap as evidence of the disinvestment shown towards urban areas and urban school districts, according to Duster.

"This is a political minefield ... When you see Black-White gap, you see ready-made answers," Duster says.
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This article only solidifies in my mind how far ahead of the curve Jawanza Kunjufu really is. He has stated everything in this article but stated it much better in more relevant terminology as well. I just got his latest book this week entitled, Hip Hop Street Curriculum, this book is like a work book, I have only glanced through it so far but this weekend I should get a chance to read it.

Here is a summary of the book...

Refuting the myths that black youth are unable to excel at academics and are limited to careers in professional sports, rap music, or drug dealing, this motivational book aims to engage teens by bridging the gap between school and hip hop culture. Topics such as the ability for many youths to memorize rap lyrics verbatim and how those skills can translate into academia, are discussed along with more general issues, including peer pressure, media, sexuality, career development, and gang activity. Written in an adolescent-friendly style, this much-needed book for educators seeks a different way of approaching students.
I felt guilty.

I started thinking, 'Not another one.' by the time I got to 'alcohol myopia' I was thinking, 'What self-serving, academic bull shit.'

How dare someone offer this crap as a 'worthy endeavor'.

Here is a PhD who has decided that the significant behavioral study for African American teenage males is how stereotypes can influence 'intellectual performance'.

I had notice the name, Steele, but I thought, 'Naw'.

Such intellectual bullshit!!!!!!!!!111


Jim Chester
Originally posted by Faheem:
Topics such as the ability for many youths to memorize rap lyrics verbatim and how those skills can translate into academia, are discussed along with more general issues, including peer pressure, media, sexuality, career development, and gang activity. Written in an adolescent-friendly style, this much-needed book for educators seeks a different way of approaching students.

Granted Kunjufu should be credited for making education more accesible to Black students and helping us to better understand the academic and social needs of Black students; however, Claude Steele, trained as a social psychologist, is interested in investigating the ways in which racism and stereotypes, particularly the stereotype that says "Blacks are intellectually inferior" has influenced Black students' attitudes toward education and their competence as students.

This fall, I attended a seminar held by Steele at Reagan National in Washington, D.C. I was very impressed with his research. I'll never forget one experiment that he and his colleagues had conducted which revealed the negative consequence of gender socialization. The purpose of the experiment was to discover how women would perform on a difficult mathematics test when they are under the stereotype threat "Women are less competent in Math than Men." Essentially, there were two groups of participants involved (male and female college students) and two comparable math tests. Both groups of women and men were straight "A" Honors students, majoring in computer science and mathematics.

The first test was administered to the male and female participants, in separate rooms. The women were tested in one room and men in another. However, before the first test was administered to the women participants, they were told that both women and men tend to do well on this exam. After the first test was graded, the women performed with success. Their scores were much higher than the men's.

For the second math test, however, it was explained to the women that men tend do much better on this exam than do women. The researchers then asked the men to join the women in the testing lab so that both the women and men could take the second exam in the same room. Can you guess how the women scored on the second exam? On the second exam, the women's scores plummeted. They did much worse on the exam than the men, even though the second exam was no more difficult than the first.

Steele believes that what happened to the women in this experiment is comparable to what happens to Black students in public schools and other academic environments. Because Black students stay under the constant threat of people thinking they are dumb and incompetent, their learning suffers and their academic self-esteem remains low.
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Originally posted by Nmaginate:
It's rather ironic... Claude is Shelby's brother, right?

Well, it's funny that Stereotype Threat hasn't had the same currency as the "Acting White" ideas (which have been contradicted). Wonder why?

The Second Slave Era 2006: The Dismantling Of the African Mind

One of the things that lead me to the education profession was my experience as a job-seeker. Whenever I attended job fairs, I noticed majority of the students applying for the higher-paying positions in fields that have the greatest impact on our world (i.e., computer science, engineering, technology, agriculture, biology, and natural sciences) were Whites, Asians, and foreign students from India. The Black students, however, were huddled around the lower-paying booths (i.e., Target, K-Mart, Military Recruitment, Police and FBI opportunities, Verizon, etc. This was both disappointing and baffling. I wondered what was driving Black students' career choices? Why aren't Black students attracted to the mathematics and science fields?

I sought Black education professionals, psychologists and social scientists, such as Gloria Ladon-Billings, Jawanza Kunjufu, Janice Hale, Claude Steele, Asa Hillard and others for help and answers because I wanted to know what was holding us back? Why aren't we excelling academically? Why are we the lowest and the worst at everything academic and the best at everything outside of academia?

Some researchers say that it's the Black students' home culture, which encourages them to take a negative and rebellious stance against "the school system" and education in general. Others are saying it is a low academic self-esteem that plagues African-American students, which is transferred from one generation to the next. In other words, because the parents had bad school experiences, the parents don't expect much more academically from their offspring. And still others argue that its ultimately the constant threat of racism and prejudice that's precluding Black students from excelling in school. Whatever the cause may be, we have to do something about this on a magnificent scale. Minds are being wasted. Minds are rotting. We need help, before its too late.
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Rowe, is there a way to destroy anti-intellectualism in American schoolchildren, and in black schoolchildren in particular?

One of my co-workers once said to me that "college isn't for everybody," and I replied, "Jail isn't for everybody either, but a bunch of us end up there." Maybe college isn't for everybody, but I do think that a large number of black children who believe that have no idea how intelligent they are and are just discouraged to find out, whether by peer pressure or by the teachers or principals themselves.
I still stand bewildered that knowledgeable African Americans study the causes of what is called 'anti-intellectualism', and still adamantly endorse the system that is producing it.

What is the productive goal of Steele's 'discussion' of 'group sterotypes' influencing intellectual performance?

Clearly, simply knowing is a worthy goal.

But isn't this something we could have, did, conclude with deductive reasoning?

That's why this 'study', to me, smacks of academic pandering.

Who is it serving?

What tool is provided, and to whom?



Jim Chester
Originally posted by Huey:
I think that a large number of black children who believe that have no idea how intelligent they are and are just discouraged to find out,whether by peer pressure or by the teachers or principals themselves.

You know people believe that teachers are invincible to the societal ills of our world, but teachers have been subjected and exposed to the same ignorance about the limited intellectual competency of Blacks as everyone else. And they bring this ignorance, either consciously or subconsciously, into the school and classroom. Growing up in the gritty parts of DC, for example, it was never once required for me (or any of my classmates) to take courses in Chemistry, Physics, Biology or Calculus. People naturally assumed that these courses would be much "too advanced" for students like us. And because I mostly saw the smart White and Asian students taking these classes, I too assumed that the coursework would be much too difficult for me, and so I avoided them all throughout my academic career. It did not dawn on me until much later, however, that I, as well as those who guided me academically, were doing me and those other students an incredible disservice. That is why I decided to go into the education profession. I feel that I've been cheated out of a quality education, and I do not want this to happen to any student who has been placed in my academic care. I expect the BEST from my students. No excuses or "I can'ts" are allowed. I challenge them everyday to go far beyond what they think they can do and what society says they cannot do. I wish someone had encouraged me and those other students in the same way.
Originally posted by James Wesley Chester:
That's why this 'study', to me, smacks of academic pandering. Who is it serving? What tool is provided, and to whom?

I've only given a brief description of Dr. Steele's research. His research is much more complex than what's been discussed here. However, keep in mind that Dr. Steeele is a social psychologist. His work has been heavily influenced by scholars such as Kenneth Clarke, Jonathan Kozol, Amin Maalouf, and Daryl Scott, author of Contempt and Pity(1997). He has also co-written a book with Dr. Asa Hillard entitled Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African American Students (2004). He, like many other educational scholars are interested in discovering what is preventing Black students from excelling in academic environments, and more importantly, identifying with academic excellence.
He, like many other educational scholars are interested in discovering what is preventing Black students from excelling in academic environments, and more importantly, identifying with academic excellence.---Rowe

I read your last post. It is incredible that a school, with primary administration by African American-Americans, would not actively encourage all students to take what used to be called 'the academic' (college preparatory) course.

The words that would set off the few African American teachers we had in my school, as a child, was, 'I don't care.' On e friends almost got fired when he heard a junior high student say that, and then realized the kid was his nephew. He went linear!!!

That was in 1961!!!

As to Dr. Steele, and the quote selected above:

I accept your assessment of his work. Being Shelby's brother, however, leaves me vigilant.

I remain in wonder that the field of sociology has yet to address the issue of identity as a part of the remedy to the many ills it assigns as cause for so many behaviors.

You mentioned the exposure of professionals being same as any other American of unknown African ancestry, And, I agree.

Even so, you would think that somewhere along the line, someone would consider identity.

It is a great void in our group consciousness to not have a driving force to reestablish our natural entitlement to an ancestral nationality for instance; to talk about our ethnicity as a people.

That is one of the primary functions of the Liberal Arts. They direct and shape the tenets and goals of human society.


Jim Chester

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