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Revolutionary STEM Education

Critical-Reality Pedagogy and Social Justice in STEM for Black Males

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Jeremiah J. Sims

Revolutionary STEM Education: Critical-Reality Pedagogy and Social Justice in STEM for Black Males by Jeremiah J. Sims, an educator, researcher, and administrator from Richmond, California, is calling for a revolutionary, paradigm shift in the STEM education of and for Black boys. STEM education has been reliant on axioms and purported facts that for far too long have been delivered in a banking or absorption model that is, arguably, anti-critical. Unsurprisingly, this pedagogical approach to STEM education has failed large segments of students; and, this is especially true of African American males. Revolutionary STEM Education highlights, chronicles, and investigates the potential inroads and vistas of a Saturday Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program, Male Aptitudes Nurtured for Unlimited Potential (MAN UP), which was designed to foster interest and competence in STEM by middle school Black boys. This program was impelled by a critical-reality based pedagogical approach, which was formulated to arrive at socio-academic synergy, that is, a thoughtful conjoining of students’ real life concerns, joys, ways of being, and socio-cultural identities and the curricular material covered in the courses offered at MAN UP.

Sims’ lived-experiences as an inner-city, low-income Black male are interspersed throughout Revolutionary STEM Education; however, the heartbeat of this book is, undoubtedly, the stories of the positive transformation that the MAN UP scholars experienced while becoming more competent in STEM, developing positive STEM identities, and learning to use their STEM knowledge for social justice.

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Chapter 3: Standing in the gap: Black boys and STEM

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3

 

Standing in the gap

Black boys and STEM

“Mr. J, I’m gonna keep it one-hundred with you: black boys just aren’t good at math. Chinese kids are good at math. But, we’re not. It’s is what it is.” This excerpt is part of a conversation that I had with Desmond, an 8th grade student at MAN UP. He was explaining away, just I had done 20 some years early, the struggles that he was experiencing in math. Many of the young men that we served in MAN UP were doing extremely well in math. However, this was not the case for all of our scholars. There was a group, made up almost exclusively of 8th graders, that struggled in math and that had, erroneously, determined that they were doomed to struggle with math in perpetuity. One of the primary objectives of the MAN UP program was to create spaces for Desmond and students like him to situate themselves vis-à-vis STEM. Our goal was to create nutritive educational opportunities where our “scholars” could immediately apply their newfound STEM knowledge to issues that they deemed important. We wanted their STEM learning to be contextualized; we wanted it to be useful in their immediate context—not simply for future use. This approach is very different from the realities that most Black males face in their STEM classes/course. For most of us, STEM is positioned as apolitical and therefore culturally...

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