Mike Andrews, the Good Men Project’s new education editor, talks about how he came to be involved in education, and how you can make your own voice heard.
The harsh confines and decaying landscape of city life in the 60s and 70s lead to the creation of hip hop; various levels of cultural expression that, unless you’re actively involved can look and sound like noise. You’re saying to yourself—“hip hop and education don’t get along.” How can they? Hip hop with all of its rambunctious reveling and brooding bravado; and education with all of its order and sitting, and writing. And besides, rappers don’t write their lyrics down. Until you begin to revere rap as poetry, view graffiti as art, and appreciate the physical expression in breakdancing, it can be overlooked and labeled as useless and unfocussed. Aren’t our boys susceptible to the same harsh perceptions and confinements that spawned the hip hop movement? It is well documented that boys are actively being failed by the one-size-fits-all approach of the American education system. It’s our time, as men to creatively approach and fix the stale and bleak outlook that boys and young men face in our generation. It’s time to start our own movement.
Currently, I work with a non-profit organization in Washington, DC dedicated to empower and engage 9th – 12th grade boys with hopes of encouraging high school and college graduation. We meet once/month to engage the young men in conversations about greatness, relationships, social responsibility, and other foreign languages to 9th grade boys. Prior to each meeting, we plan out our wonderful objectives and learning outcomes. We enter each meeting with high, some would say lofty aspirations, and oftentimes leave feeling like Dionne Farris: hopeless. In those moments, I feel like the old men that view rap as unintelligible and incoherent. We debrief, complain, curse, and strategize to come up with better and more structured ways to engage the boys. But at the end of the day, we too are buying into a broken system; a system that rewards structure, quiet hallways and lifeless lunchrooms.
I come to the Good Men Project with 15 years of active, engagement within American Education—on the college, non-profit, and K-12 level; along with some necessary street smarts. From my humble beginnings in Brooklyn, NY to attending Department of Defense schools as a military brat in Germany—graduating from high school in one of the richest counties in the U.S., and being the first in my family to graduate college (Go JMU Dukes!), I appreciate and understand how my experiences impact my perspective. I consider myself an educator, poet and hip hop enthusiast—as you’ve probably gathered.
As rap originator, Grandmaster Flash shouted “Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge”—our boys are close to the edge and falling quickly into failure. It is my hope that through this forum, we can share our stories, solutions, and unique outlooks on how Education has impacted our lives—positively and adversely. Whether you are a high school drop-out or Professor Emeritus, your unique perspective can shed light on an area that most media outlets are afraid to touch. Acknowledging that men and women learn differently is the first step. It is my hope that through our stories, we can begin to understand how we can impact an irrelevant system that is failing our boys.
Contact me directly if you’d like to share your nonfiction stories. Write freely—within the Good Men Project Style Guidelines. We look forward to sharing your stories with our readers.