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The Black-White Achievement Gap : Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time
"The African American journey from slavery to racial equality and social justice in America has been, and continues to be, a long and arduous struggle. No barrier - whether embedded in law, rooted in social or economic custom, or enforced by racial terror - has ever been able to hold firm against the powerful and unwavering commitment of a determined, authentic black leadership. Yet there now exists an obstruction more subtle than past oppressions ... and one that threatens to impede any future progress." "On almost every measure of academic performance - be it the SAT, ACT, or state-mandated examinations - African American student performance trails, by large margins, that of their white peers. And while this achievement gap was first identified long ago and has since been the subject of countless studies and surveys, little public outcry has erupted - and no truly concerted effort has been made to combat it." In The Black-White Achievement Gap, renowned former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Elaine Witty provide a wake-up call to black leaders and communities, urging the kind of action that is essential if this blight on African American achievement is ever to be defeated. They trace the history of the achievement gap, discuss its relevance to racial equality and social justice, examine popular explanations, and offer strong suggestions for the type of committed leadership and community involvement that are needed to close it.
In this clarion call, Paige, a former secretary of education (2001-2005) and his sister, a noted educator, pursue two threads of thought: the quest for authentic African-American leadership and the black-white achievement gap. Their argument: while racism and discrimination are still barriers to African American progress, they are no longer the primary barriers; and the black-white achievement gap is the primary civil rights issue of our time. The main obstacle to closing that gap is black leadership culture, which they criticize... for its role in the existence, magnitude, and intractability of the black-white achievement gap. Authenticity is defined as activity by individuals or groups, regardless of ethnicity, which, with moral purpose, [that] affects the attitude and behavior of African Americans, through identifying and confronting major barriers to African American achievement. In making their argument, the authors report quantities of confirming data; assess various explanations for the gap; review the place of education in the black experience; find the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, and Urban League to have overlooked the issue; and predictably argue for the success of No Child Left Behind, the voucher system, and charter schools. Their last chapter, The Way Forward: A Call to Service, concludes with a useful, thought-provoking list of suggestions. (Jan.)
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January 31, 2010
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