U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and filmmaker Spike Lee teamed up Monday to urge more black men to consider teaching.
More than 1 million teachers will retire during the next decade, according to federal estimates, and leaders have embarked on a nationwide drive to build a more diverse teaching force. Duncan on Monday took the campaign to Atlanta’s Morehouse College, the nation’s only all-male historically black college.
Teachers should look more like the people they serve, Duncan said. While more than 35 percent of the nation’s public school students are black or Latino, less than 15 percent of the teachers are black or Latino, according to federal figures. Less than 2 percent of the nation’s teachers are black men.
In Georgia, about half of the public schoolchildren are black or Latino, but only about 25 percent of the teachers are.
“Something is wrong with that picture,” Duncan said. “We’ve got to fix it. We’ve got to fix it together.”
Morehouse offers education degrees, but few choose the field. Of the nearly 500 students expected to graduate this year, six will leave with majors or minors in education, college officials said.
“Everybody can’t be a business major,” Lee, a Morehouse graduate, told the crowd. “We have to educate ourselves. We have to educate young black men.”
Tyron Young, an education major at Morehouse, plans to teach in elementary school. He started college as a psychology major but switched after attending a conference led by 100 Black Men.
“The profession isn’t pushed for males,” Young said. “We need to see teaching as a way to touch lives and help our community. If you saw your family member wasn’t succeeding, you’d step up to help. I believe we’re all family. I need to do my part and help out.”
Knowing some students don’t enter teaching because of the low pay, Duncan reminded them of programs that will erase their college debt if they work as a public schoolteacher for 10 years.
Duncan and other officials promoted the federal TEACH campaign, launched last fall to persuade more minorities and men to go into teaching.
Some colleges have their own programs. Georgia State University, for example, uses the Academy for Future Teachers to recruit men. Now in its fifth year, the academy is a three-week, math- and science-based program for rising high school juniors and seniors from metro Atlanta school districts.
At Morehouse, students and professors have a close relationship with the B.E.S.T Academy, an all-male Atlanta middle school. The college also uses a teacher recruiting program sponsored by Howard University.
“I would like to see more men teaching but you have to do it because it’s what you want, not because it will look great to say on a résumé that you taught for a couple of years,” Young said. “You do this to have a big impact on youth. You do this because you love it and because you know teachers are what make this world what it is.”
RELATED: DeKalb Hires Teachers From Overseas