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Revolutionary STEM Education

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


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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I remember my response to my high school English teacher like it was yesterday, though this conversation is more than two decades old. Ms. Horrigan asked me if I planned to go to college—which was an entirely reasonable question as she taught my 12th grade English class. I responded, only semi-jokingly, that I hadn’t planned on attending college because, well, the life-expectancy for Black males in my city was only twenty-one years of age. So, I told her that, following my high school graduation, I planned to just take life one day at a time because, clearly, growing up in Richmond, California did not hold the promise of another day for me or any other young man that grew up like me. Admittedly, I was the class clown, so I fully expected Ms. Horrigan to simply laugh this statement off—but, instead, I remember the sheer anguish—instantiated by her suddenly crestfallen countenance. I tried to reassure her that I was only joking. But, she saw something that I could not apprehend at the time: she saw that I was resigned to my fate. Because, like the majority of the students that animate this book, I grew up in urban-poverty, with a single-mother who had to function as both my mother and my father. I grew up in a city that during my high school years, in the early 1990’s, boasted the highest murder rate per capita in the United States. I grew up in Section 8...

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