Detracking: The Social Construction of Ability, Cultural Politics, and Resistance to Reform
by Jeannie Oakes, Amy Stuart Wells, Makeba Jones & Amanda Datnow — 1997
Structural changes necessary in detracking efforts challenge not only the technical dimensions of schooling, but also the normative and political dimensions. We argue that detracking reform confronts fundamental issues of power, control, and legitimacy that are played out in ideological struggles over the meaning of knowledge, intelligence, ability, and merit. This article presents results from a three-year longitudinal case study of ten racially and socioeconomically mixed secondary schools participating in detracking reform. We connect prevailing norms about race and social class that inform educators? parents? and students?conceptions of intelligence, ability, and giftedness with the local political context of detracking. By examining these ideological aspects of detracking we make a case for reexamining common presumptions that resistance to policies providing greater opportunities to low-income and minority children is driven by rational estimates of the learning costs and benefits associated with such reforms.
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