KIDS DON'T WANT TO FAIL

KIDS DON'T WANT TO FAIL

ANGEL L. HARRIS
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hjp5
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  • Book Info
    KIDS DON'T WANT TO FAIL
    Book Description:

    Kids Don’t Want to Fail uses empirical evidence to refute the widely accepted hypothesis that the black-white achievement gap in secondary schools is due to a cultural resistance to schooling in the black community. The author finds that inadequate elementary school preparation—not negative attitude—accounts for black students’ underperformance.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06099-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 INTRODUCTION TO OPPOSITIONAL CULTURE
    (pp. 1-29)

    By age 17, the average black student is four years behind the average white student; black twelfth graders score lower than white eighth graders in reading, math, history, and geography (Thernstrom and Thernstrom 2003).¹ This racial achievement gap should be considered a national crisis and recognized as one of the biggest social problems facing the United States during this century. Interestingly, however, when blacks and whites have the same twelfth-grade test scores, blacks are more likely than whites to complete college (Jencks and Phillips 1998). Furthermore, even after young people enter the workforce, the black-white gap in basic premarket skills...

  5. 2 DISCRIMINATION AND BARRIERS: BASIS FOR BLACK CYNICISM TOWARD SCHOOLING
    (pp. 30-52)

    A major premise of the oppositional culture theory is that blacks disinvest from academic goals because they do not believe that education will enable them to overcome barriers to upward socioeconomic mobility. The black American experience is deeply rooted in socioeconomic disadvantage and in a history of being targets of government-sanctioned discriminatory treatment, dating back to the era of slavery (pre-1865) through the era of Jim Crow, which mandated de jure racial segregation in public spaces (1876–1965). State-mandated discrimination officially ended in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act; this legislation was followed by the passage of the Voting Rights Act...

  6. 3 ORIGINS OF YOUTH PERCEPTIONS OF OPPORTUNITY AND ACADEMIC INVESTMENT
    (pp. 53-73)

    According to the oppositional culture theory, blacks have developed a cultural norm of underachievement in response to inequitable educational opportunities and discriminatory social and employment policies within the United States. Black Americans have historically experienced barriers toward advancement not just in education, but in other realms such as the labor and housing markets. While these experiences were particularly acute prior to the civil rights movement, racial disparities continue to have an impact on numerous life outcomes, which I discussed in Chapter 2. Some scholars claim that because of these barriers, the larger black community has an antagonistic relationship toward education...

  7. 4 EFFECTS OF YOUTH PERCEPTIONS OF OPPORTUNITY ON ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT
    (pp. 74-97)

    In Chapter 3, I showed that parental perceptions of discrimination and racial barriers do not compromise blacks’ academic orientation. However, this says nothing about youths’ own perceptions regarding the opportunity structure. Youths’ perceptions about upward mobility are an important component of Ogbu’s framework. Although this aspect of the framework has been examined by others (Ainsworth-Darnell and Downey 1998; Mickelson 1990; O’Connor 1999), there is a dearth of quantitative research on whether blacks’ perceptions of barriers in particular are consequential for their academic investment. I argue that previous studies have not adequately assessed youths’ beliefs about the opportunity structure (schooling as...

  8. 5 RACIAL DIFFERENCES IN ACADEMIC ORIENTATION OF YOUTH
    (pp. 98-127)

    Most studies that capture teachers’ perspectives with regard to black students’ academic investment tend to focus on teachers’ perceptions or treatment of black youth (Bol and Berry 2005; Delpit 1995; Diamond, Randolph, and Spillane 2004; Downey and Pribesh 2004; Ferguson 2000; Ferguson 2003; McKown and Weinstein 2008; Morris 2005, 2007; Neal etal. 2003; Tyler, Boykin, and Walton 2006). In general, these studies show that teachers attribute a culture that opposes schooling to black students. However, a theme that fails to emerge is whether teachers believe blacks oppose schooling because of their perceptions about the opportunity structure. Rather, the emphasis tends...

  9. 6 SHOULD BLACKS BECOME RACELESS TO IMPROVE ACHIEVEMENT?
    (pp. 128-143)

    In Chapters 3 through 5, I examined various aspects of the oppositional culture theory. The components that I assessed in those chapters, all major aspects of the framework, were proposed by Ogbu. However, scholars other than Ogbu have introduced assumptions now associated with the resistance model. Signithia Fordham made nuanced connections about the black schooling experience that are consistent with the resistance model, yet distinct enough to comprise a separate theoretical framework. Aspects of her framework, including fear of “acting white” and the need to separate oneself from an Ebonics-laden black culture, are now part of the discourse about the...

  10. 7 SHIFTING THE FOCUS AWAY FROM CULTURE AND TOWARD PRIOR SKILLS
    (pp. 144-162)

    Perhaps the most important component of the resistance model is the portion that attributes racial difference in achievement to racial differences in students’ observable academic culture. Despite the scientific evidence that blacks do not have lower academic orientation than whites, proponents of the resistance model remain unconvinced. They point to observable concrete behavioral aspects of being a student, such as effort, attentiveness, comportment, and other indicators of academic motivation, which appear to be worse among black students. The lack of alternative explanations and a counterproductive behavioral approach to schooling that repeatedly leads to poor achievement makes it easy to interpret...

  11. 8 DOES MARGINALIZATION EQUAL RESISTANCE TO SCHOOLING? A CLASS-BASED ANALYSIS
    (pp. 163-179)

    After testing and finding a lack of support for numerous tenets of the oppositional culture theory, I now shift the focus away from a test of the theory to a search for evidence of the primary assumption underlying the theory—that marginalized groups resist schooling (henceforward, the marginalization hypothesis). In order to capture the more general aspects of being marginalized, I examined the marginalization hypothesis in a context in which race is not the major dimension of stratification along which groups are marginalized. In this chapter, I present results from my analysis of marginalization in the United Kingdom, where it...

  12. 9 REFOCUSING UNDERSTANDING OF RACIAL DIFFERENCES IN ACADEMIC OUTCOMES
    (pp. 180-196)

    The oppositional culture theory offers a popular theory for explaining racial differences in academic outcomes. Despite work by numerous scholars challenging the notion that an oppositional culture is prevalent among blacks (Ainsworth-Darnell and Downey 1998; Akom 2003; Carter 2005; Cook and Ludwig 1998; O’Connor 1997; Tyson 2002; Tyson, Darity and Castellino 2005), the theory remains popular among researchers, educational practitioners, and the general public. For example, in The Content of our Character (1990:51) Shelby Steele sternly asserts that even in the very worst schools “there are accredited teachers who teach the basics, but too often to students who shun those...

  13. APPENDIX A: NOTE OF CAUTION ABOUT TESTING
    (pp. 199-202)
  14. APPENDIX B: SOURCES OF DATA
    (pp. 203-210)
  15. APPENDIX C: METHODOLOGICAL APPENDIX
    (pp. 211-234)
  16. APPENDIX D: DESCRIPTION OF MEASURES
    (pp. 235-272)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 273-282)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 283-302)
  19. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 303-306)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 307-320)