Beyond Acting White: Reframing the Debate on Black Student Achievement / Edition 1

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Why do Blacks underperform in school? Researchers continue to pursue this question with vigor not only because Blacks currently lag behind Whites on a wide variety of educational indices but because the closing of the Black-White achievement gap has slowed and by some measures reversed during the last quarter of the 20th century. The social implications of the persistent educational "gap" between Blacks and Whites are substantial. Black people's experience with poor school achievement and equally poor access to postsecondary education reduces their probability for achieving competitive economic and social rewards and are inconsistent with repeated evidence that Black people articulate high aspirations for their own educational and social mobility. Despite the social needs that press us towards making better sense of "the gap," we are, nevertheless, limited in our understanding of how race operates to affect Black students' educational experiences and outcomes. In Beyond Acting White we contend with one of the most oft cited explanations for Black underachievement; the notion that Blacks are culturally opposed to "acting White" and, therefore, culturally opposed to succeeding in school. Our book uses the "acting White" hypothesis as the point of departure in order to explore and evaluate how and under what conditions Black culture and identity are implicated in our understanding of why Black students continue to lag behind their White peers in educational achievement and attainment. Beyond Acting White provides a response to the growing call that we more precisely situate how race, its representations, intersectionalities, and context specific contingencies help us make better sense of the Black-White achievement gap.

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Editorial Reviews

Michelle Lamont
This volume makes an essential contribution to the study of racial inequality by systematically assessing the explanatory power of the "acting white" thesis. Alternative sites of racialization, gendered self concepts, and the black immigrant experience are only a few of the dimensions Lamont considers in analyzing this ill-conceived theory and proposing imaginative alternatives.
Camille Z. Charles
This fine work focuses on high-achieving black students, a group that is too often ignored or worse, treated as nonexistent. [Horvat and O'Connor] break new scholarly ground, living up to their claims of moving beyond typical treatments of the acting white hypothesis.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742542730
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/2/2006
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.15 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Erin McNamara Horvat is Associate Professor of Urban Education at Temple University in Philadelphia PA. Professor Horvat's research agenda has explored how race and class shape access throughout the educational pipeline. She has used the work of Pierre Bourdieu extensively as a theoretical frame for her work and is interested in applying and extending Bourdieu's theoretical concepts. She has written recently on the role of social capital in shaping families' interactions with schools. Other recent work with YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School and YouthBuild USA has explored how to move students who have left school prematurely back into the educational pipeline. Her work has been published in Sociology of Education, Anthropology and Education Quarterly and American Educational Research Journal. Carla O'Connor is Associate Professor of Education, University of Michigan. She conducts research on the educational experience and outcomes of Blacks in the U.S., particularly Black students' experience with academic success. Amongst other studies, she has examined how social narratives and historically dynamic opportunity structures shape the processes by which Blacks experience success in school despite race-, class-, and gender- based constraints. She is currently conducting a qualitative longitudinal examination of how Black students negotiate their racial identity in relation to achievement performance as they transition to life after high school. She has published her work in the American Educational Research Journal, Sociology of Education, and the journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Foreword Chapter 2 Introduction: Framing the Field: Past and Future Research On the Historic Underachievement of Black Students 3 Bring it On! Diverse Responses to "Acting White" among Academically Able Black Adolescents 4 The Making of a "Burden": Tracing the Development of a "Burden of Acting White" in Schools 5 Shifting Images of Blackness: Coming of Age as Black Students in Urban and Suburban High Schools 6 Intersecting Identities: "Acting White," Gender, and Academic Achievement 7 To Be Young, Gifted, and Somewhat Foreign: The Role of Ethnicity in Black Student Achievement 8 Reconsidering "Material Conditions": How Neigborhood Context Can Shape Educational Outcomes across Racial Groups 9 Whiteness in School: How Race Shapes Black Students' Opportunities 10 Afterward

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