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Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students


Three African-American intellectuals on a crucial educational issue of our time

A huge portion of the school reform debate in America—explicitly and implicitly—is framed around the success and failure of African-American children in school. The test-score "achievement gap” between white and black students, especially, is a driving and divisive issue.

Yet the voices of prominent African-American intellectuals ...

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Three African-American intellectuals on a crucial educational issue of our time

A huge portion of the school reform debate in America—explicitly and implicitly—is framed around the success and failure of African-American children in school. The test-score "achievement gap” between white and black students, especially, is a driving and divisive issue.

Yet the voices of prominent African-American intellectuals have been conspicuously left out of the debate about black children.

Young, Gifted, and Black sets out to reframe the terms of that debate. The authors argue that understanding how children experience the struggle of being black in America is essential to improving how schools serve them.
Taking on liberals and conservatives alike, Theresa Perry argues that all kinds of contemporary school settings systematically undermine motivation and achievement for black students. She draws on history, narrative, and research to outline an African-American tradition of education for liberation and to suggest what kinds of settings black children need most. Claude Steele reports stunningly clear empirical psychological evidence that when black students believe they are being judged as members of a stereotyped group rather than as individuals, they do worse on tests. He calls the mechanism at work "stereotype threat,” and reflects on its broad implications for schools. Asa Hilliard ends the book with an essay on actual schools around the country where African-American students achieve at high levels.

Theresa Perry is professor of education at Wheelock College in Boston and coeditor of The Real Ebonics Debate (Beacon / 3145-3 / $14.00 pb). Claude Steele is professor of psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Asa Hilliard is professor of education at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

"These three very different essays go a long way toward raising the level of the national discussion about 'achievement gaps.' They point us toward a gap in teacher quality, toward a gap in the social structures that support a positive achievement identity in youngsters, a gap in public knowledge of excellence, past and present, in African American education, a gap in appropriate racial socialization. The authors insist on higher goals than just better test scores and they never lose sight of the rootedness of today's problems in historic and contemporary discourses about Black intellectual inferiority. These timely essays do more than restate the problem; they each offer concrete suggestions for resolving it. Collectively, they reform the discussion of 'reform.' "

--Charles Payne, Sally Dalton Robinson Professor of History, African American Studies and Sociology, Duke University, and author of I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Movement

"I am awed by the lucidity and careful crafting of these essays. The authors -- all scholars of impeccable credentials in their respective fields -- capture with unprecedented cogency the real issues surrounding the so-called 'achievement gap.' No one who reads this book can ever suggest that we don't know what to do to promote high achievement for African American students. The question is, do we really want to do so." --Lisa Delpit, author of Other People's Children, and Executive Director and Eminent Scholar of the Center for Urban Education & Innovation, Florida International University

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
In a remarkable essay in Young, Gifted, and Black, Stanford psychologist Claude Steele takes this very common coming-of-age experience and turns it into a hopeful solution to the failure of African-American and Hispanic students, even those from middle-class families, to match the academic achievements of whites and Asians as measured by standardized tests. In the 1990s, Steele, with colleagues Joshua Aronson and Steven Spencer, introduced the concept of "stereotype threat." Their experiments showed that minority college students did less well academically when they knew their graders were conscious of the racial achievement gap. Steele says this feeling of mistrust and apprehension leads minorities to do less than their best when "being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype," just like my feeling that as the new kid on The Post's foreign staff I was the most likely to screw up.

Steele's earlier work stated the problem clearly enough. This essay, in just 22 pages, proposes several solutions, as do the other contributions by African-American thinkers in Young, Gifted, and Black. Theresa Perry provides insights into the educational power of the story of the African-American struggle for freedom. Asa Hilliard reflects on why certain schools, and not others, have raised minority achievement. But Steele's research, because it is beginning to be confirmed by other scholars, offers the most promising way to get more young Americans learning at their full capability. — Jay Mathews

Library Journal
Three black educators join forces to focus on improving the educational experiences of African American children in schools. Perry (The Real Ebonics Debate; Freedom's Plow) argues that the historic African American philosophy of learning is based on the concept of "freedom for literacy and literacy for freedom" and supports that view with narratives drawn from the autobiographical writings of Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Jocelyn Elders, and others. She asserts that communities and educators must approach schooling for black children with strategies to counteract the widely held ideology that black children are not as intelligent as other children, which, she argues, has been "institutionalized in policies and practices" of our public schools. Claude Steele (Stanford Univ.) presents an essay on his widely published research into the threat of stereotyping as a deterrent to learning, which supports Perry's case. Asa Hilliard (Georgia State Univ.) offers examples of programs in which black students excel and identifies the characteristics of teachers that make them successful. The idea that black children should be offered an educational approach designed to counter a potentially limiting self-identity that was socially constructed over the past century is as controversial as the current opinions about affirmative action. The perspectives of these authors are important additions to the ongoing discourse. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-Jean Caspers, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807031544
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 2/1/1903
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.81 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Theresa Perry is a professor at Simmons College and coauthor of Young, Gifted, and Black.

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Table of Contents

Up from the Parched Earth: Toward a Theory of African-American Achievement 1
Stereotype Threat and African-American Student Achievement 109
No Mystery: Closing the Achievement Gap between Africans and Excellence 131
References 167
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