Race in the Schools: Perpetuating White Dominance?
reviewed by Kitty Kelly Epstein - 2005
Title: Race in the Schools: Perpetuating White Dominance?
Author(s): Judith R. Blau with Elizabeth Stearns
Publisher: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder
ISBN: 1588262294, Pages: 250 , Year: 2003
Search for book at Amazon.com
Judith Blau’s unusual book, Race in the Schools: Perpetuating White Dominance, takes a
statistics-based sledgehammer to certain American stereotypes about schools,
students, and race. Blau
and her co-authors study such questions as integrity, tracking, social responsibility,
and going to college, using databases from the
In the chapter on “Locating Difference,” for example, Blau notes that “the processes of late modernity advantaged
whites in the
In her examination of the moral values of Black and White teens Blau upends some of these stereotypes about character and responsibility by demonstrating that black seniors gave greater importance to social goals than did white seniors in the NCES surveys. In 1992, for example, 26 percent of black teens as compared to 13 percent of whites reported that it was very important to work “to correct social and economic inequalities.” Black teens were also more likely to respond that “being a leader in my community” and “making a contribution to society” were important, and these differences persisted through the end of the period studied, 1999.
In other chapters, Blau uses her statistical analysis to contribute to some school policy debates. Analyzing how the curriculum is tracked for various groups, Blau concludes that the racial climate on a campus improves with greater diversity, but this is not the case in the very largest schools. She also notes that the presence of an arts curriculum “reduces the distance” between social classes and racial groups.
In some cases, the subjects under investigation would need the
sort of in-depth interviewing which Blau herself
suggests as a follow-up. In the chapter “Encountering Character,” for
example, Blau and coauthor Elizabeth Stearns use studies
The authors of this book do a terrific job of exploring the
connection between their data and the theoretical debates which surround race
and liberal American ideology. In a very
clear repudiation of color-blind liberalism, the authors caution against “essentialism,”
(the practice of assuming that all members of a group are naturally alike), and
then explain that there are nevertheless important differences between black
and white cultures that are produced by historic and economic differences. Ignoring these differences in social position
leads whites to the harmful fiction that race is irrelevant. Thus, while asserting racial tolerance,, many whites are, in fact, accepting the racial privilege
which accompanies the inaccurate assumption that all have the same opportunity.
While the authors’ use of critical race
theory is excellent, their work would benefit by the inclusion of ideas developed
by critical race theorists within the field of education, such as
This is an unusual and interesting book. Its authors use quantitative measures to analyze complex racial issues that are often addressed only by qualitative researchers. It deserves to be read, not only by sociologists, but by educators as well.