Learning While Black: Creating Educational Excellence for African American Children

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In Learning While Black Janice Hale argues that educators must look beyond the cliches of urban poverty and teacher training to explain the failures of public education with regard to black students. Why, Hale asks simply, are black students not being educated as well as white students?

Hale goes beyond finger pointing to search for solutions. Closing the achievement gap of African American children, she writes, does not involve better teacher training or more parental involvement. The solution lies in the classroom, in the nature of the interaction between the teacher and the child. And the key, she argues, is the instructional vision and leadership provided by principals. To meet the needs of diverse learners, the school must become the heart and soul of a broad effort, the coordinator of tutoring and support services provided by churches, service clubs, fraternal organizations, parents, and concerned citizens. Calling for the creation of the "beloved community" envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Hale outlines strategies for redefining the school as the Family, and the broader community as the Village, in which each child is too precious to be left behind.

"In this book, I am calling for the school to improve traditional instructional practices and create culturally salient instruction that connects African American children to academic achievement. The instruction should be so delightful that the children love coming to school and find learning to be fun and exciting."—Janice Hale

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

ET Clark Academy - Deborah Godwin Starks

I have never read a book that has had as much impact on me as a parent and educator as did Learning While Black.

Black Parenting Today - Jenny Lee

Hale's well thought out suggestions put Learning While Blackat the forefront of discussions around educational reform.

Frost Illustrated - Robbin L. Melton

Hale's work not only can serve as an 'educational bible' for teachers and administrators who are serious about equalizing education between black and white students, but it can also assist parents and members of the community... a profound text that raises many issues legislators, administrators, educators, parents and the like fail to notice.


A heartfelt and forthright assessment of the all-too-often daunting task facing parents of black students. Hale parallels the racial profiling of law enforcement with current educational assumptions that put black children at a decided disadvantage, facing educators' low expectations and indifference. Educational reform efforts that focus on parental involvement are doomed to failure when so many parents of children attending public schools lack the education, time, energy, and resources to effectively monitor the school and advocate on behalf of their children. Hale relates her own frustrating experiences with her son's private school and not being part of the 'club' that knows the ins and outs and how to get around the rules. Hale offers a detailed strategy that focuses on the classroom and advocates coordinated community-support services and enhanced leadership roles for principals. An innovative and important book for parents and educators concerned about educating black children.

ET Clark Academy
I have never read a book that has had as much impact on me as a parent and educator as did Learning While Black.

— Deborah Godwin Starks

Black Parenting Today
Hale's well thought out suggestions put Learning While Blackat the forefront of discussions around educational reform.

— Jenny Lee

Frost Illustrated
Hale's work not only can serve as an 'educational bible' for teachers and administrators who are serious about equalizing education between black and white students, but it can also assist parents and members of the community... a profound text that raises many issues legislators, administrators, educators, parents and the like fail to notice.

— Robbin L. Melton

Sage Race Relations Abstracts

This is an important book that should be read by teachers and all those concerned with education policy.

V. P. Franklin
Hale uses her experiences as a single mother and well-respected educational consultant to chart a more positive educational future for poor black children. "Learning while black" need not be a negative experience,and Hale provides parents,teachers,and school administrators with a model for a culturally appropriate pedagogy to insure more positive educational outcomes for African American children.
Publishers Weekly
In a wide but welcome swing of the pendulum, Hale (founder of a school for facilitating the intellectual development of African-American preschool children and author of two books on educating black children) fixes her gaze directly upon schools the teachers and the children. Here is a fresh and feisty look at the miseducation of African-American children by a knowledgeable practitioner (and Wayne State University professor of early childhood education), a "call for action directed to the organizations controlled by middle-class African Americans, not to beleaguered individuals themselves." Relying to some extent upon the Waldorf School Movement (an approach that emphasizes children's individuality), Hale offers a solution that recognizes the school as the impetus for inner-city African-American children to achieve upward mobility, relying on help from parents, churches, community volunteers and teachers. Her model attends to those differences between "Afro cultural" themes and "mainstream" ones, which influence the varying academic achievement of African-American children compared with white children's achievement. Cognizant of religion's role in African-Americans' lives, Hale, who holds a master's in religious education, envisions a major role for the African-American church in enriching children's lives. Although the metaphoric basis of her program ("the Family," "the Village" and "the Beloved Community") and the detailed account of her own parenting experiences are occasionally distracting, both add substance to her theory the former by the grandness of its scheme, the latter by attending to nuts and bolts. (Dec. 4) Forecast: Professional educators in urban areas and parents of blackchildren are this book's primary audience. Although the cover (depicting a symbolic African scene of people walking toward the sun) suggests an Afrocentric philosophy and curriculum, booksellers will want to inform buyers that Hale's focus, while totally on the education of African-American children, is not Afrocentric. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Critically assessing current trends that focus on testing, Hale (early childhood education, Wayne State U., Detroit) offers an alternative. She places emphasis on the importance of the interaction between teacher and child in the classroom, and on leadership provided by principals who coordinate tutoring, mentoring, and other support from the resources of the community. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801867767
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 799,852
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Janice E. Hale is professor of early childhood education at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She is the founder of Visions for Children, a demonstration school designed to facilitate the intellectual development of African American preschool children. Her two previous books, Black Children: Their Roots, Culture, and Learning Styles and Unbank the Fire: Visions for the Education of African American Children, are also available from Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents


Foreword by V. P. Franklin



PART I: Breaking the Silence

Chapter 1: Mastery and Excellence versus the Bell Curve

Chapter 2: Playing by the Rules

Chapter 3: African American Goals and Closed Doors

Chapter 4: Down the Up Escalator

PART II: Creating the Village

Chapter 5: Twenty-First-Century Education Project: Report and Recommendations

Chapter 6: A Model for Culturally Appropriate Pedagogy

Chapter 7: The Role of the African American Church in Creating the Village

Chapter 8: Where Do We Go from here?: A Call to Action

Appendix - The Church's Educational and Advocacy Mission with African American Children: Cognitive, Affective, and Religious Context



Johns Hopkins University Press

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