Keepin' It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White / Edition 1

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How can we help African American and Latino students perform better in the classroom and on exams? In Keepin' It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White, Prudence Carter argues that what is needed is a broader recognition of the unique cultural styles and practices that non-white students bring to the classroom. Based on extensive interviews and surveys of students in New York, she demonstrates that the most successful negotiators of our school systems are the multicultural navigators, culturally savvy teens who draw from multiple traditions, whether it be knowledge of hip hop or of classical music, to achieve their high ambitions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...debunks the prevailing perspective that academic disengagement is influenced by student resistance to "acting white." "Acting White," Carter argues, is used by [African-American and Latino] students for cultural, not academic, reasons and is likely connected to student criticism of ineffectually organized schools that are blind to their social, cultural, and material realities offers educators valuable cultural insight into the role dominant and nondominant cultural repertoires play in the achievement gap. Recommended."—Choice

"This thoughtful and engaging study will change the way many people think about academic disengagement among low-income African American and Latino youths. Based on data from her field research, Prudence L. Carter advances an original and compelling thesis that challenges popular explanations of why some students fail in school while others achieve. Keepin' It Real is an important book."— William Julius Wilson, author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

"Those who continue to believe that Black and Latino students do not value education because they regard its pursuit as a form of racial treachery must now contend with Dr. Carter's powerful work. Through her textured and detailed ethnographic analysis of high school students, Carter shows that school success has no color, and that the desire to achieve through education has not died with this generation. For those interested in understanding the complex relationship between racial identity and school performance, this is required reading."—Pedro A. Noguera, author of City Schools and the American Dream

"Keepin' It Real offers fresh insight into the importance of a bicultural or multicultural approach to schooling. Carter's careful analysis of the experiences of low-income black and Latino students reveals marked diversity in their educational strategies and outcomes, and provides an important and timely counter to the oversubscribed to notion that these young people equate school success with 'acting white.' A must read for all those working to close the achievement gap."— Margaret A. Gibson, author of Accommodation Without Assimilation

"This book highlights the importance of cultural authenticity for minority students, and examines how it influences their relationship with the values they believe are privileged by the schooling system. Carter enriches our understanding of topics that have attracted enormous interest among social scientists. Her book should be widely read because it helps us make sense of how various cultural frameworks contribute to the reproduction of inequality."— Michèle Lamont, author of The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration

"Keepin' it Real provides the reader with a very rich description of the processes involved in a student's ability to maneuver between school, where dominant culture reigns, and their own community. Policy makers as well as educations should listen to Carter's call for teachers to become "multicultural navigators" Educators, researchers, and policy makers will benefit from undertaking the dynamics described in Keepin' it Real."—Children, Youth, and Environment

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Prudence L. Carter is Associate Professor in the School of Education at Stanford University. She won the 2006 Oliver Cromwell Cox Award and was a finalist for the 2005 C. Wright Mills Award for Keepin' It Real.

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Table of Contents


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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    Discourses on Culture and the Minority Achievement Gap, Christopher Jack Hill

    In Keepin' it Real: School Success Beyond Black and White, Prudence Carter brings cultural identity and education into conversation with critical examination of the complex and multifaceted ways in which racial and ethnic identities shape the experiences and achievement patterns of minority students. Carter opens her text with an introduction aimed at defining why so many African American and Latino students are performing "less well" than their Asian and White counterparts. (4) With ostentatious gentility, Carter, rightfully, makes a bold assertion that contemporary social scientist concerned with the minority achievement gap have left culture out of its discourse, more importantly, they have failed to highlight the cultural constraints that have severely caused and ever widening achievement gap between the privileged (think "Cultural Capital") and nonprivileged. The book is a compelling, and at times, prophetic study that details the story of several young, low-income black and Latino students in Yonkers, New York striving for success in school and the wider social society. Cater, a professor at Stanford University, compiles her research in a qualitative format, in which she has gathered her findings over a period of 10-months, in the early 1990's. (53) Although her time frame is very questionable; remarkably, she finds an unswerving pattern of beliefs that seems to translucently connect these students' convictions concerning education and career successes. Carter opens her text by defining the phrase "acting white, "a term which resurfaced in Franklin E Frazier's classic, "The Black Bourgeoisie."

    In contemporary era, the "acting white" moniker still has not lost its resonance. As the argument goes Black and Latino youth have chosen to define their identities in opposition to whiteness by refusing to speak standard English, do their schoolwork, earn high marks, or fully engage in school because they do not want to be seen as embracing behaviors that they label as "acting white" (Fordham and Ogbu1986; Lewin 2000; McWhorter 2001; Gates 2004) (Pre1)

    Carter contends that the students she examined believed that educational success is not a "white thing," and sanctioning others for "acting white" is used for "group solidarity purposes," not to oppose conventional formulas of success. What becomes profound is that Carter presents a shift in thinking about racial inequality and culture as it is related to achievement patterns. She further elucidates her arguments by acknowledging the previous explanations of school success and failure, which has been at the forefront of social science research for many years. What is fundamental (although not original) about her shift in thinking is that rather than revealing the monotonous stereotypes of dysfunctional behaviors by minority students, she preens readers into discovering how the ethnic and racial cultures of these students can work as a source of strength versus a simple reaction to their position in a society that has created socioeconomic boundaries.

    What I have discovered in this research is that students use culture as a vehicle to signal many things, ranging from the stylistic to the political. The oppositional culture framework, however ignores the full spectrum of why and how culture becomes a social and political response to schooling by discounting the positive values and functions of these students' culture, instead focusing on their culture as a maladaptiv

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