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As a leader of the School Development Program, Comer (Child Psychiatry/Yale Univ.; Maggie's American Dream, 1988, etc.) has done much to better the plight of underprivileged students (especially black children) in our public schools. With his help, the SDP has effectively raised student morale, encouraged community spirit, and standardized test scores in some of the nation's poorest regions. Unfortunately, Comer's theoretical analysis of America's educational system isn't nearly as successful as his practice. Comer identifies two "myths" that he blames for most of the problems: First, "we believe that the life outcome of an individual is the result almost entirely of genetically determined intelligence and will"; second, "whites have been successful, and Blacks have not." Comer doesn't persuade us that these myths are at the root of the trouble, and in fact, it's highly debatable that they are even widely held. He then tries to "prove" his points with anecdotal evidence and poorly defined statistics. In the end, Comer's main prescription for change, while basically sound, is hardly groundbreaking. He believes that a child's education begins at home and in the community, and that schools can only accomplish so much without the support of these two networks.
Comer offers many success stories to make his point—his own story, as both a student and a professional, is the running theme throughout the book—but ultimately this falls short as a study of the problem, as a guide to improving it, and even as the thinly masked autobiography it actually is.