As president of Morehouse College, the nation's premier institution of higher learning for men, I am often asked why there is still a need for a college dedicated primarily to the education of black males. People who ask this question point to the fact that since the 1970s, an increasing number of African-Americans have gained admission, matriculated and graduated from Harvard, Yale, Duke and other respected majority institutions. They add that with the recent Supreme Court decision that upheld race as a legitimate factor for admissions decisions, opportunities for black men to attend historically white institutions will continue to be open.
Having spent about 30 years of my academic career in four different major universities�the University of Illinois, Brown University, the University of Chicago and the University of California�I have personally witnessed the positive changes at these and other historically white institutions. The increased diversity on these campuses has enhanced the educational and social experiences of all the students, and no one can doubt that our nation is better off because of the thousands of highly educated, competent minorities who have graduated from these institutions who might not have without race-sensitive admissions. These men and women have contributed to economic growth and educational advancement within the African-American community and the nation at large.
Indeed, African-Americans of both genders have benefited from increased opportunities in higher education. However, over the past several years, it has become clear that despite these opportunities, the educational achievement of African-American men lags severely behind every other group in America, especially black women. Just 30 years ago, the number of black men and women in college was nearly equal. Today, more than 60 percent of all blacks enrolled in college are women. And while the gender gap in higher education persists across all racial categories, it is far greater for African-Americans.
The reasons for this gap are varied and complex. Two years ago, Morehouse hosted a national symposium attended by more than 100 academicians and policy makers to review the status of men and boys along the educational continuum and to discuss some of the factors that deter men from attending and/or completing college. Among the causal factors that negatively impact male education are the legacy of racism and poverty among African-Americans, the low expectation many people have for young, black men, the experience of boys in early childhood education, particularly the lack of male role models in schools, and the anti-intellectualism fostered by black street culture.
Participants in the symposium also discussed the practices that have proved most successful in engaging men in higher education. While there emerged no easy solutions to this multifaceted issue, over and again the experts stressed the importance of fostering the appropriate learning environment for black men to succeed. The fact that young black males face different cultural and social environments requires differ