Black Education

Susan Phillips
November 1, 2005

CFK reports from: Black Education: A Transformative Research and Action Agenda for the New Century
Event: A book forum and media briefing
Organized by: American Educational Research Association
Where/When: National Press Club, Washington DC, Thursday, October 20, 2005

Report by: Susan Phillips

A panel consisting of the editor and two contributing authors of Black Education: A Transformative Research and Action Agenda for the New Century published by AERA () briefly summarized some of the research and themes of the book, then answered questions from the audience. Prof. Carol D. Lee of Northwestern University started off by discussing how research perspectives can distort our understanding of black student achievement and competence. Too often, said Lee, black experience is perceived as "a deficit that educators have to overcome." The result is curricula and teaching approaches that ignore rather than incorporate students' cultural background and heritage.

In contrast, said Lee, programs like Robert Moses' Algebra Project prove that given culturally appropriate teaching strategies, black students can excel academically. Lee also stressed the importance of acknowledging the social and emotional components of school and learning, saying that learning takes place through the connections between people, and that learning can be enhanced when those connections are strengthened.

Lee noted that many urban black children from low-income homes are more competent in certain areas than middle-class kids, noting that at the age of 8, such a child will be expected to go to the store and do some shopping, pay and count change, and otherwise contribute to household functioning, but that schools and teachers often do not recognize or make use of this advantage in experiential learning.

"Kids who live in poverty learn who to read the world, read people, and engage in responsible activity, and in the process they learn a lot that schools typically don't recognize," said Lee.

Prof. Beverley Lindsay of Pennsylvania State University discussed research into the global nature of black students' inadequate access to higher education, but noted that current efforts to forgive or restructure the debt burdens of many African nations could allow for a significant new investment in higher education facilities in those countries.

Prof. Joyce E. King of Georgia State University, who edited the book, said one of the goals of the group in producing this new book was to establish research priorities for the field of black education research, which she argued could lead to major changes in curricula and teaching practices that would ultimately benefit all learners.

In answer to a question about whether school desegregation had benefited black students, Lee said the results so far were mixed, with the decline in the percentage of black teachers and the persistent racial achievement gap demonstrating that desegregation had not eliminated educational inequality.