Dumbing Down by Butch Ford

Black Boy Graduate

How many of you have heard of the term “Dumbing Down” before?  Well, it’s really a thing and has been for quite some time…especially in the urban (African American) community.  But what does it mean exactly?

Let’s take two kids who have been honor roll students since starting kindergarten.  One male, the other female.  The playing field is level throughout elementary school.  Culturally, both students are admired and respected for being academically gifted.  But somewhere during the middle school years peer pressure becomes prevalent and things begin to change.  But why?

The female student remains highly regarded for continued success in her studies.  While the young man begins to be ridiculed by his male counterparts if he’s perceived as “smart” or gifted.  Why is it not acceptable for our male students to maintain honor roll status?

For some reason, inner city males are not supposed to be intellectual.  And they’re frowned upon if they are.  It’s viewed as being soft or weak in our community.  When and where did this stigma originate?

I know from experience.  I WAS THAT KID.  I was double promoted in elementary and remained an honor roll student until around the 7th grade.  I started being called hurtful and derogatory names.  My solution was to act out while allowing my grades to slip, in order to fit in with the other male students…and to not be singled out.

This behavior and mentality continued throughout my high school years.  I did just enough to skate by…when I was capable of doing and being so much more.  This is called “dumbing down.”  I deliberately underachieved to avoid being bullied and ridiculed.

This continues in our community today.  It’s a major problem among African American males.  But what can we do to prevent it?   We’re too accepting of mediocrity and modicum.  Our male youth deserves better.  There’s more to life than incarceration and an early death.


Butch Ford