Contemporary debates about the tendency toward poor academic performance among boys of color point to inadequate and punitive schools, poverty, and cultural conflicts. Julia Grant offers a historical perspective on the "boy problem," revealing it as an issue that has vexed educators for more than a century.
Since compulsory schooling was enforced, immigrant, poor, and boys of color have constituted the most school-averse population with which educators have had to contend. Public schools developed vocational education, organized athletics, technical schools, and evening continuation schools—contributing to a culture of masculinity that devalued academic success in school.
Urban educators sought ways to deal with the many "bad boys"—almost exclusively poor, immigrant, or migrant—who skipped school, behaved badly when they attended, and sometimes landed in special education classes and reformatory institutions. The problems these boys posed led to sustained innovations in public education and juvenile justice.
This historical perspective sheds light on contemporary concerns over the academic performance of boys of color who now flounder in school or languish in the juvenile justice system. Grant's cogent analysis will interest education policymakers and educators, as well as scholars of the history of education, childhood, gender studies, American studies, and urban history.