Book Review: Because of Race: How Americans Debate Harm and Opportunity in Our Schools

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by Mica Pollock

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $52.50
    Format: Hardcover, 296 pages
    Classification: Nonfiction
    ISBN13: 9780691125350
    Imprint: Princeton University Press
    Publisher: Princeton University Press
    Parent Company: Princeton University
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    Read a Description of Because of Race: How Americans Debate Harm and Opportunity in Our Schools

    Book Reviewed by Kam Williams

    ’Today, racial inequality of opportunity and outcome in education is still the result of past generations of explicit policy decreeing that white children were to have better schools than non-white children, of the subsequent exacerbation of poverty along racial lines, of the nations failure to actively desegregate, and of the intersections between opportunity denials in health and housing as well as in education. But racially unequal educational opportunity and outcome today also result from ordinary actions and inaction by well-intentioned people ’ in part, within schools and districts themselves...

    Explicit resistance to opportunity for non-white people today has been replaced by stated general commitments to racially equal opportunity as a basic American value. But’ such generic commitments are often trumped by opposition to concrete efforts to equalize particular opportunities for people of color.’
    Excerpted from the Introduction (pages 11-12)

    Why is it that a half-century after Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark, U.S. Supreme Court case mandating the desegregation of the country's public schools ’with all deliberate speed,’ the bulk of African-American children are still forced to attend poorly-equipped, predominately-black, inner-city schools where the dropout rate is around 50%? And why do even those fortunate to be enrolled at a supposedly integrated institution still find themselves cordoned off with other kids of color in Special Ed classes or steered onto a non-academic track?

    These are the sorts of questions addressed by Professor Mica Pollock in Because of Race: How Americans Debate Harm and Opportunity in Our Schools. Pollock, who now teaches Education at Harvard's Graduate School, became acutely aware of the persistence of inequalities in educational opportunities while working at the Office for Civil Rights during the Clinton administration.
    In that capacity, she heard hundreds of complaints from minority parents about how their children were being discriminated against in a variety of ways, ranging from being denied access to basic resources to being discouraged to being unfairly disciplined to being subject to subtle forms of de facto segregation.

    In trying to right the assorted wrongs, Professor Pollock repeatedly encountered considerable resistance from school administrators who had become quite adept at rationalizing the difference between their servicing the needs of black and white students, despite the fact that the Supreme Court had long since declared such ’separate but equal’ accommodations unconstitutional.
    In clear and convincing language, the author exposes the primary four fallacious arguments bureaucrats generally rely on to maintain the status quo. And she subsequently offers several concrete suggestions for how this society might arrive at true equal educational opportunity.

    A groundbreaking book which blows the cover off the country's continued shameful color-coded patterns when it comes to access to quality education.

    Read Princeton University Press’s description of Because of Race: How Americans Debate Harm and Opportunity in Our Schools.

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