Unfortunately, unless Secretary Spellings performs some voodoo fever-reducing magic on me, it will not be today.
Enjoy the weekend, everyone!
Despite their poorer performance on average, study after study has demonstrated that African-American students do not perceive lower returns to education or less favorable occupational opportunities than whites.
Less understood is the gap between African-Americans' positive attitudes and their school-related habits and behaviors. A common explanation is the idea of a unique "cultural toolkit" shaped by African-Americans' economic experiences. As sociologists James Ainsworth-Darnell and Doug Downey explained:
African-American students tend to live in neighborhoods with material conditions (e.g. high unemployment and nontraditional family structures) that are less likely to foster the kinds of skills, habits, and styles that lead to school success. For example, contrast the life of student A, who lives in a world in which parents rise daily to prepare for work and other adults in the neighborhood also follow the structured routine of work, with student B, whose parents and many other adults in the neighborhood are unemployed. Other factors being equal, Student A will be more likely than Student B to develop the habit of being on time to school because of exposure to and emphasis on a daily schedule. Despite valuing education, therefore, African-American students are less likely to exhibit the kinds of school-related behaviors that teachers reward.
In short, there is still much work to do to understand what Roz Mickelson dubbed the "attitude-achievement paradox" - but there is little support for Fordham and Ogbu's claims about African-Americans' negative attitudes towards education.
Watch any TV sitcom and you'll see that, regardless of race, teenagers give "geeks," "brainiacs," and "nerds" a hard time. This is the key finding from Karolyn Tyson's study of North Carolina schools. However, in a subset of schools where tracking was racially and socioeconomically polarized, she did find evidence of a "burden of acting white." (Note that this is an association, not a causal claim; the direction of causality could run in either direction.)
Tyson's finding works in tandem with Roland Fryer's paper on the relationship between student popularity and GPA. Only in racially integrated schools did he observe a different relationship between popularity and GPA for black students. (I'll say more about the Fryer paper tomorrow. ) John Ogbu's study of Shaker Heights, an affluent suburb, as well as Ron Ferguson's work on integrated suburban schools, have uncovered similar findings.
Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.
The first and critically important change must occur in the existing opportunity structure, through an elimination of the job ceiling and related barriers. Changes in the opportunity structure are a prerequisite to changes in the behaviors and expectations of black adolescents.Fordham and Ogbu also saw a role for schools and communities to play. They wanted schools to acknowledge the effects of this burden on their students and design programs accordingly.