Murray Wardrop, Telegraph (London), October 21, 2011
Adolph Cameron, head of the Jamaican Teachers’ Association, said many boys perform poorly because their fear that appearing studious undermines their masculinity.
He claimed that many youngsters turn to a so-called “hustle culture” to make money, rather than chasing careers built on academic achievement and hard work.
Mr Cameron warned that the attitude was affecting the academic standards of Afro-Caribbean boys both in Jamaica and in Britain.
They are one of England’s worst-performing ethnic groups in schools. Last year just 40 per cent of Afro-Caribbean boys achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths, compared with the national average of 58.5 per cent.
Mr Cameron told the BBC: “That notion of masculinity says that if as a male you aspire to perform highly it means you are feminine, even to the extent of saying you are gay.
“But in the context of Jamaica, which is so homophobic, male students don’t want to be categorised in that way so that they would deliberately underperform in order that they are not.”
In a lecture at an event in Bristol aimed at promoting the educational achievement of black boys and sponsored by the National Union of Teachers, Mr Cameron said that in Jamaica, boys were at least 10 percentage points behind girls in national tests.
Misplaced views about masculinity needed to be tackled in schools, he said.
“Education . . . takes second place to notions of entrepreneurship as, predominantly our young men, get involved in the informality of what University of the West Indies academics have called a ‘hustle culture’.”
He added: “I would not be surprised if here in England the same or similar things occur in terms of how they feel about themselves and how the respond to and with respect to the society around them.
“Boys are more interested in hustling, which is a quick way of making a living, rather than making the commitment to study. This is a supposed to be a street thing which is a male thing.
“The influence of this attitude towards masculinity seems to be having a tremendous impact on how well African-Caribbean and Jamaican males do.
“There’s a fear of being categorised as gay in a society where homophobia is so strong.”
He went on to ask whether the notion of “academic achievement” could coexist with notions about “black masculinity” in contemporary culture.
Mr Cameron said the issue needed further investigation but there was a growing realisation among teachers in Jamaica that they needed to tackle it in schools.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “There are obviously issues for black boys both in Jamaica and the UK. We need system-wide reform to ensure that the system does not disadvantage black boys.
“Experience tells us that some black boys do achieve, and what we have to do is replicate those systems which enabled them to achieve success.”