Just Sociology

Addressing Hyper-Masculinity and Educational Underachievement in Black Boys

In the United States, the educational underachievement of Black boys has been a complex issue for decades. Many factors contribute to this phenomenon, with one being the hyper-masculinity culture that is often reinforced within Black communities.

The concept of hyper-masculinity has been linked to the overemphasis on aggression, violence, materialism, and power, which produces negative impacts on Black boys’ academic achievement. This article will explore how hyper-masculinity’s impact on the educational underachievement of Black boys, specifically the role of street culture and Black masculinity in schools.

Additionally, the article will evaluate Sewell’s solution to the problem and the criticisms of his study.

Street culture and black masculinity

The majority of Black boys in America grow up in lone-mother households, which often leads to social and economic inequality. Street culture is prevalent in many inner-city neighborhoods where Black boys grow up, and this culture reinforces hyper-masculinity as a means of survival.

This hyper-masculinity is characterized by an overemphasis on physical strength, materialism, dominance, and violence. Unfortunately, this hyper-masculinity often promotes counterproductive behaviors; for instance, instead of emphasizing academic and professional success, it leads boys to glorify gang culture and violence.

The glorification of violence serves as a coping mechanism that shields them from the racial and class-based injustices that they encounter. The hyper-materialistic nature of street culture only serves to worsen the problem of underachievement; the pursuit of materialistic goals takes priority over academic and professional success.

Furthermore, Black boys are often subject to discrimination, racism, and prejudice, and the hyper-masculine culture exacerbates these problems by promoting a combative and confrontational demeanor. Overall, street culture’s influence on Black boys promotes attitudes and behaviors that negatively affect academic achievement.

Black Masculinities in School

The classroom environment often presents another challenge to Black boys’ academic success. The teacher’s role in a classroom setting is to provide authority and command respect, which can often conflict with Black masculine identities.

In addition, some black boys express a reluctance to engage in school work or conform to rules and expectations within the school system. Alternatively, others use the classroom as a space to innovate and cultivate identities as leaders amongst peers.

Still, others retreat from the educational system or engage in rebellious behaviors detrimental to academic achievement such as gang or drug activities. Additionally, The school culture and environment, facilities, curriculum, and teacher biases maintain an environment hostile to

Black boy’s futures.

Negative stereotypes, low teacher expectations, and historical educational discrimination against Black boys lead to lower educational and career goals. The stifling problems with school administration will always be a catalyst for the underachievement problems.

Criticisms of Sewell’s Analysis

Sewell’s 2008 report “Black Masculinities and Schooling” put the question of the underachievement of Black boys back in the mainstream media. Critics, however, have found that his analysis did little to advance understanding if not contributed to the problem.

An observation shows that scholars such as Diane Reay, Blair Justice, and Diane Brochu criticize Sewell’s study for various reasons. For instance, they argue that Sewell’s analysis unfairly blames Black culture for the underachievement of Black boys.

Another criticism is that the study stereotypes Black men and boys as being hyper-masculine and fails to recognize varying forms of Black masculinity. Some critics also argue that Sewell’s study downplays class inequality, racism, and lack of opportunities as the primary contributing factors to Black boys’ educational underachievement.

Sewell’s Solution

To address the underachievement of Black boys, Sewell advocated for an education system that recognizes the impact of street culture on Black masculinity. He argued that schools need to have stricter rules, foster high expectations for students regardless of their backgrounds, employ teachers and mentors from Black communities, and promote social and cultural capital that cultivates resilience and pride.

For instance, he recommended a mentoring program called Generating Genius that introduces Black boys to higher education and encourages successful professionals to become role models. However, critics of Sewell’s solution argue that his approach is too simplistic and does not address root causes such as class inequality, poverty, and racism.

Furthermore, some scholars argue that Sewell’s solution reinforces mainstream narratives that victims blame their own community and overlooking the structural barriers that Black boys face.


In conclusion, the hyper-masculinity culture within Black communities is a contributing factor to the educational underachievement of Black boys.

Street culture and black masculinity within educational institutions form a cyclical failure of educational achievement, negatively affecting Black boys.

However, critics argue that Sewell’s approach is only a partial solution, as it does not address class inequality, racism, and other structural issues underpinning educational underachievement in the Black community. Despite the criticism, Sewell’s analysis and his solution remain important contributions to the ongoing discussion on how to support Black boys and encourage academic achievement in the Black community.The Generating Genius programme is a mentoring programme designed for Black boys in the UK.

It aims to foster academic achievement, with a particular emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. The programme was a solution recommended by Sewell in his study “Black Masculinities and Schooling.” This article will explore the details of Sewell’s experiment as it relates to the Generating Genius program, the successes and limitations of the programme, and the broader implications for addressing the educational underachievement of Black boys.

Details of Sewell’s Experiment

Sewell evaluated the Generating Genius programme, which was aimed at mitigating the effects of street culture on young Black boys’ academic achievement. The programme consisted of mentoring sessions and workshops in science and engineering over the summer holidays.

Mentors from top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge worked with students to help them achieve their educational goals. The programme was aimed primarily at students in inner-city schools or those with lower GCSE results.

The programme’s success was evaluated through the GCSE results of the participants after they had attended the programme. Compared to a control group of students who did not participate in Generating Genius, Sewell found that those who participated had significant improvements in their GCSE results.

Moreover, a greater proportion of participants secured places at top universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College. Sewell’s study shows that the Generating Genius programme was effective at improving the educational outcomes of young Black boys from inner-city schools.

Through mentoring and support, students were able to develop the academic skills and resilience required to succeed at top universities.

Limitations to Generating Genius

Despite its success, there are limitations to the Generating Genius programme. One limitation is that the sample size is relatively small.

While the programme was effective for the students in question, it is unclear whether it would work as well for a larger group of students or for students from different backgrounds. Another limitation is that the programme did not have a control group of students with a similar profile who did not participate in the scheme.

Similarly, Sewell’s study of Generating Genius did not address the educational underachievement of other groups, particularly the underachievement of white working-class students. It is important to recognize that while Black boys are disproportionately affected, other groups also experience educational underachievement.

Therefore, while the Generating Genius programme was successful for young Black boys, it remains necessary to find solutions that address the educational underachievement of other groups, particularly white working-class children. Moreover, addressing educational underachievement should not solely be the responsibility of community-based programs such as Generating Genius; it should be a whole-of-society approach.

Solutions should include addressing systemic inequalities and systemic racism within the education system, within society more broadly, the availability of resources and access to quality education for all, regardless of race or social class.

Implications for Addressing Educational Underachievement

The Generating Genius programme provides a template for addressing the educational underachievement of Black boys in inner-city schools. The programme’s focus on mentoring and academic support, particularly in stem subjects, has proven to be successful in improving young Black boys’ educational outcomes.

However, there is a need for more comprehensive solutions that address the systemic problems of educational underachievement. It is crucial to recognize that educational underachievement is a multifaceted and complex issue that requires a whole-of-society approach that addresses systemic inequalities, racism, and poverty.

Achieving this goal will require the collaboration of the government, policymakers, educators, and community organizations. Additionally, there is a need to develop culturally responsive and inclusive curricula that meet the needs of all students.


In conclusion, the Generating Genius programme is a mentoring programme aimed at mitigating the effects of street culture on young Black boys’ academic achievement. Sewell evaluated the programme and found that it was successful at improving students’ GCSE results and increasing their university acceptances.

The programme provides a template for addressing the educational underachievement of Black boys through mentoring and academic support. However, there are limitations to the programme, such as a small sample size and a lack of control group, which raises questions about whether it would be as effective for other groups.

To address educational underachievement more comprehensively, it is necessary to recognize the systemic nature of the problem and implement whole-of-society solutions that address systemic inequalities, racism, and poverty.


In conclusion, the educational underachievement of Black boys is a multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive whole-of-society approach. Hyper-masculinity within Black communities, street culture, and biased school environments contribute to underachievement.

Through the Generating Genius programme, mentoring, and academic support have been successful in improving academic results. However, larger sample sizes and programs directed towards other underachieving groups need to be developed.

To address educational underachievement most effectively, solutions should extend to the systemic problems that cause inequality, poverty, and racism.


Q: What is hyper-masculinity, and how does it affect Black boys’ academic achievement? A: Hyper-masculinity is an overemphasis on aggression, violence, materialism, and power, which produces negative impacts on Black boys’ academic achievement by promoting counterproductive behaviors instead of emphasizing academic and professional success.

Q: Why do Black boys underachieve in school? A: Black boys underachieve in school because of multiple factors that include not limited to social, economic, structural inequalities, and racism.

Q: What is the Generating Genius programme, and how does it address the underachievement of Black boys? A: The Generating Genius programme is a mentoring programme aimed at mitigating the effects of street culture on young Black boys’ academic achievement, and it addresses underachievement through mentoring and academic support.

Q: Does the Generating Genius programme have any limitations? A: The Generating Genius programme’s limitations include a small sample size, the lack of school control groups, and its focus only on Black boys while ignoring other underachieving groups.

Q: What comprehensive solutions should be sought to effectively address educational underachievement? A: To effectively address educational underachievement, comprehensive solutions need a whole-of-society approach that address systemic inequalities like poverty, racism, and access to quality education.

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