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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 5: Showing out: Developing competencies in STEM and beyond

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5

 

Showing out

Developing competencies in STEM and beyond

The idea of showing up and showing out is of importance to traditionally marginalized students. This is a reconceptualization of a pejorative term. In my youth, whenever I was misbehaving my (Black) mother would warn me that I was “showing out”, which meant that if I did not soon correct my behavior—there would be consequences. In both planned parent-teacher conferences as well as unplanned parent teacher “conferences”, primarily in conversation with Black mothers and grandmothers, this term came up often. For many parents and guardians, the first thing they wanted to know about their son, nephew, or grandson was this: has he been showing out? Aware of this term, we, MAN UP instructional faculty and MAN UP students decided to appropriate and re-conceptualize this term. Instead of it signaling undesirable behavior, for us showing out meant: demonstrating an understanding of and identification with STEM and how it can be used to positively affect society. Implicit in this new definition was the notion that showing out was a direct challenge to negative stereotypes that hold that Black males cannot excel in STEM. In addition to developing the cohort’s STEM identities, the MAN UP program also focused on developing specific STEM competencies required for college and careers. These two measures are not disparate. In fact, this programmatic structure of MAN UP argued that the development of a positive STEM identity...

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