Synopses & Reviews
Young, Gifted, and Black
is a unique joint effort by three leading African-American scholars to radically reframe the debates swirling around the achievement of African-American students in school.
In three separate but allied essays, Theresa Perry, Claude Steele, and Asa Hilliard place students' social identity as African-Americans at the very center of the discussion. They all argue that the unique social and cultural position Black students occupy, in a society which often devalues and stereotypes African American identity, fundamentally shapes students' experience of school and sets up unique obstacles. And they all argue that a proper understanding of the forces at work can lead to practical, powerful methods for promoting high achievement at all levels.
Theresa Perry argues that African-American students face dilemmas, founded in the experience of race and ethnicity in America, that make the task of achievement distinctive and difficult. (For instance: "How do I commit myself to achieve, to work hard over time in school, if I cannot predict when or under what circumstances this hard work will be acknowledged and recognized?") She uncovers a rich and powerful African- American philosophy of education, historically forged against such obstacles and capable of addressing them, by reading African-American narratives from Frederick Douglass to Maya Angelou. She carefully critiques the most popular theoretical explanations for group differences in achievement. And she lays out how educators today-in a postcivil rights era-can draw on theory and on the historical power of the African-American philosophy and tradition of education to reorganize the school experience of African-American students.
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 finds the mechanism, which he calls "stereotype threat," to be a quite general one, affecting women's performance in mathematics, for instance, where stereotypes about gender operate. He analyzes the subtle psychology of stereotype threat and reflects on the broad implications of his research for education, suggesting techniques-based again on evidence from controlled psychological experiments-that teachers and mentors and schools can use to counter stereotype threat's powerful effect.
Asa Hilliard's ends essay, against a variety of false theories and misguided views of African American achievement, and focuses on actual schools and programs and teachers around the country that allow African-American students achieve at high levels, describing what they are like and what makes them work.
Young, Gifted, and Black will change the way we think and talk about African American student achievement and will be necessary reading on this topic for years to come.
"Three black educators join forces to focus on improving the educational experiences of African American children in schools. Perry 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 polices and practices" of our public school. Claude Steele 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 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 is as controversial as the current opions about affirmative action. The perspectives of these authors are important additions to the ongoing discourse."
"Young, Gifted, and Black will change the public conversation about the achievement of African-American students. Three scholars, using their various disciplinary tools, show how race shapes the experiences of African American young people in schools. This book is a primer for the promotion of high achievement. All Americans need to listen."
—Henry Louis Gates Jr., coeditor of Encarta Africana
"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, Florida International University, author of Other People's Children
"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, Duke University, author of I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Movement
About the Author
is Professor of Africana Studies and Education at Simmons College. She is co-author ofYoung, Gifted and Black
, and co-editor of The Real Ebonics Debate
, among other books. She is faculty director of the Simmons College/Beacon Press Race, Education and Democracy Lecture and Book Series.
Claude M. Steele, formerly of Stanford University, is the provost and professor of psychology at Columbia University.
Asa Hilliard III (1933-2007) was the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Urban Education at Georgia State University.