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Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools

reviewed by Ceola Ross Baber - March 27, 2007

coverTitle: Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools
Author(s): Sue Books (Ed.)
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Mahwah, NJ
ISBN: 0805859373 , Pages: 320, Year: 2006
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In this era of a pervasive moral and ethical malaise in the deep structure of our society as well as paradoxical policies and practices in our schools, those who are committed to equity and excellence in education for all children cannot help but feel intense rage and muted hope. Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools simultaneously fuels our rage and heightens our hope. The stories of young sheroes and heroes who are assaulted on a daily basis but still come back to give schools another chance enrage our sense of social justice and ethic of care for the “least of these.” Their stories also give us hope in terms of reaffirming our commitment to social justice through a deeper understanding of using diversity to build community. As David Purpel points out in the Foreword, “this book offers some important teachings—namely, that any education directed at human liberation must be deeply grounded in a commitment to creating communities of justice and love” (p. xii).

Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools contains fourteen chapters, five of which are new to this third edition; the other nine have been substantially revised and updated. The authors’ theoretical orientations include critical theory, critical race theory, and feminist theory—all of which emphasize the deconstruction of oppressive power plus affirmation of human dignity and diversity. The underlying ontological assumption shared by the authors is that the availability of human resource capital is directly related to the quality of educational experiences. As described by Gordon (1999) this human resource capital includes:

Human capital—social competence, tacit knowledge and other education-derived abilities as personal or family assets

Polity capital—societal membership, social concern, public commitment, political economy

Personal capital—disposition, attitudes, aspirations, efficacy, sense of power

Institutional capital—quality of and access to educating and socializing institutions

Pedagogical capital—supports for appropriate educational treatment in family, school, and community (pp. xiv-xv)

These types of human resource capital are of course symbiotic and interactive. However the chapters in Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools can be clustered around polity capital, human capital, personal capital, and institutional capital—with pedagogical capital being a pervasive theme throughout the chapters.

Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 emphasize polity capital or the relationship between societal membership, societal concern, public commitment and the political economy. Chapter 1, “Devastation and Disregard,” deconstructs the relationship between child poverty and educational opportunities in the aftermath of two disasters: Katrina and Iraq. Chapter 2 describes how practices and polices related to discipline, high stakes testing, and high school graduation accountability lead to the overrepresentation of youth of color (especially African American and Latino males) in juvenile detention centers and prisons. Chapter 3 analyzes the “landscape of chronic poverty and homelessness” (p. 40) through the stories of three homeless children and adolescents. Chapter 4 examines the obstacles migrant teens face in trying to continue their education; according to the authors, schools view most migrant children as workers who “should not burden the school system” (p. 76).

Chapters 8, 9, and 10 look at how schools discount the human capital (social competence, tacit knowledge, and other personal or family assets) that culturally diverse students bring from their homes and communities. Chapter 8, “How Schools Fail African American Boys,” explains the devaluing of African American boys through exclusionary practices, and then offers some strategies for success. Chapter 9, “Constructions of Blackness: A White Woman's Study of Whiteness and Schooling,” assesses the devaluing of Blackness from a position of interrogating Whiteness. Chapter 10, “Thanksgiving and Serial Killers,” explains the simultaneous American Indian visibility (through stereotypes) and invisibility in “progressive discussions within the larger debates in cultural studies and identity politics and education” (p. 173).

Schools can engage students through affirmation of personal capital, as explained in chapters 5, 7, 11, and 12. Chapter 5 describes the use of collective personal capital by an Islamic school in responding to September 11 through educating the surrounding community about their culture and religion. Chapter 7 presents one teacher’s affirmation of her immigrant students through art. Chapter 11 explains how a group of White working-class pregnant and parenting adolescent women critiqued society’s perception of them and also repositioned themselves as “not so bad” (p. 194). Chapter 12 discusses how “sexual minority youth make sense of their identity, reality, and experiences in the context of heteronormative and homophobic, as well as alternative, discourses” (pp. 213-214).

Chapters 6, 13, and 14 focus on institutional capital or the quality of and access to education. Chapter 6, “Korean American High School Dropouts” debunks the “model minority” myth through an examination of the educational experiences of Asian American students who are “at-risk” of dropping out of high school and who do not have access to the institutional resources needed for academic success. Chapter 13 describes the psychological and emotional toll on children and youth affected by the AIDS epidemic and how schools can be more nurturing of these students. Chapter 14, “Hoping for the Best: ‘Inclusion’ and Stigmatization in a Middle School,” examines the treatment of students with exceptionalities who are included in general classrooms--questioning the efficacy of the inclusion model.

In conclusion, Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools reiterates Counts’ (1934) conceptualization of linkages between schooling and the deep structure of society. As editor Sue Books explains, one aim of the book is to reflect

a particular way of thinking about the social foundations of education—namely, the idea that what is foundational to education varies with the times, and that the task of foundational inquiry is therefore to interpret the times and, from that vantage point, to provide insight into how the stresses, strains, fractures, and wounds of the broader society bear upon the lives of young people, including and especially their school lives. (p. xvii)

The authors accomplish this aim in a thoughtful and thought-provoking manner, making Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools an excellent text for courses related to the sociocultural foundations of education such as those that focus on the history of American education, introduction to the profession, diverse learners, and multicultural education.


Counts, G. (1934). The social foundations of education. New York: Scribner’s.

Gordon, E. W. (1999). Education and justice: A view from the back of the bus. New York: Teachers College Press.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 27, 2007
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 13951, Date Accessed: 5/21/2022 7:31:50 AM

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About the Author
  • Ceola Ross Baber
    University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    E-mail Author
    Ceola Ross Baber, Ph.D. is professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She currently serves as a reviewer for several journals, professional meetings, and textbook publishers. Her major research interests are in the broad areas of equity education, secondary education, and social studies education. Within these areas, she focuses on issues of social justice and culturally relevant pedagogy, in particular the relationship between cultural identity and school success for ethnic minority students. Her recent publications include “Building trust through culturally reciprocal home-school-community collaboration from the perspective of African American parents” (with Ereka Williams); "’Do you believe I can Fly?’ Understanding the connection between racial/ethnic identity development and academic achievement” (with J.E. Cooper); and “From liberal teacher to liberated teacher educator: A reflection on my journey through the profession.” She is currently working on several projects related to equity education including validation of an instrument to measure culturally relevant pedagogy and a study of the White identity orientation of preservice teachers.
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