From the Summer Bookshelf

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What worries me at this juncture is not that the United States will be unable to give some additional attention to the educational and related needs of minorities in the years ahead, but that Americans will not grasp the very large-scale and long-term dimensions of these challenges. Sustained intergenerational educational advancement requires an enormous investment over time, especially for groups that have had little previous experience with such education or that have been systematically denied educational opportunity.

There is more to the story: America has entered a period in which region-building should be a priority as well. ... Just as the well-being of whites is increasingly dependent on the well-being of Americans who are members of minority groups, so the well-being of all Americans is increasingly dependent on that of the people who live in Mexico and the nations of the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America. ...

Because many of those who come to the United States are not well educated and American schools often find it difficult to meet the educational needs of their children, the human-capital-development challenges of their countries of origin are, to a considerable extent, U.S. challenges as well.

From An American Imperative: Accelerating Minority Educational Advancement by L. Scott Miller (Yale University Press).

Most of us, over the course of our lives, acquire ideas about what it takes to be socially successful, which we pass on to our children. They are part of what psychologists call our cognitive schema, which may vary tremendously from one person to another. The children, forming schemata of their own, accept some of our biases and reject others, and in most cases that works reasonably well. But some children, for whatever reason, have trouble making friends. They may become clients of ther-apists and of social-skills-training programs, which are--unless the material has been researched--infused with the therapists' own cognitive biases. So what are the skills that ought to be taught, and how can training be improved?

From Behind the One-Way Mirror: Psychotherapy and Children by Katharine Davis Fishman (Bantam Books).

Currently, only a small proportion of high school students participate in innovative school-to-work programs, and it has been relatively easy for communities to fill the modest number of slots through ad hoc recruiting efforts. As programs expand, however, the debate about which students should be included in these programs will surely become louder, particularly as parents and students recognize that their access to the most attractive programs is constrained by resource limitations. In addition, as interest in school-to-work initiatives has grown, state and federal policymakers and program designers have often disagreed about which segments of the student population should participate. ...

From Home-Grown Lessons: Innovative Programs Linking School and Work by Edward Pauly, Hilary Kopp, & Joshua Haimson (Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers).

The bottom stratum of the black community has compelling problems that can no longer be blamed solely on white racism, and that force us to confront fundamental failures in black society. The social disorganization among poor blacks, the lagging academic performance of black students, the disturbingly high rate of black-on-black crime, and the alarming increase in early unwed pregnancies among blacks now loom as the primary obstacles to progress. To admit these failures is likely to be personally costly for black leaders, and it may also play into the hands of lingering racist sentiments. Not to admit them, however, is to forestall their resolution and to allow the racial polarization of the country to worsen. If the new American dilemma is not dealt with soon, we may face the possibility of a permanent split in our political system along racial lines.

From One by One From the Inside Out: Essays and Reviews on Race and Responsibility in America edited by Glenn C. Loury (The Free Press).

What is multiculturalism, and why are they saying such terrible things about it? We've been told it threatens to fragment American culture into a warren of ethnic enclaves, each separate and inviolate. We've been told that it menaces the Western tradition of literature and the arts. We've been told it aims to politicize the school curriculum, replacing honest historical scholarship with a "feel good" syllabus designed solely to bolster the self-esteem of minorities. The alarm has been sounded, and many educators--liberals as well as conservatives--have responded. After all, if multiculturalism is just a pretty name for ethnic chauvinism, who needs it?

From Rethinking Schools: An Agenda for Change, edited by David Levine, Robert Lowe, Bob Peterson, & Rita Tenorio (The New Press).

I wonder why I allow black men this leeway. Why am I so willing to forget my own suffering in remembrance of theirs? I have always considered the destruction of the black man as much my problem as anyone's.... But increasingly I sense that a black man's "we," meant to include all black people, only assumes that what is good for them is also good for us.

I try to forget that two of my close friends have been raped, and that two of us have been sexually assaulted, by men on this campus. None of us has said anything to anyone except each other, supportive friends, or in a few cases, to our assailants. They were friends, boyfriends, acquaintances. Black men whom we wouldn't want to see dismissed from school, or sent to jail, or publicly humiliated, their futures ruined. ... But as dire as the situation is for black men, I cannot say their pain is greater than ours, or that we should keep our mouths shut for the greater good. I am tired, oh so tired, of our being labeled "traitorous" when we try to be true to ourselves.

From Testimony: Young Afri-can-Americans on Self-Discovery and Black Identity, edited by Natasha Tarpley (Beacon Press).

Why have so many of our well-intended efforts to change the lives of poor people failed? ... We have simply failed to ask the right questions, to treat the right symptoms, and to set the right goals. If our goal is mere-ly to address a short-term symptom and not address the underlying malaise, nothing changes. ... Too often in America we still see the operators of soup kitchens feeding hungry people but never asking why the same people keep coming back hungry again. Our shelters provide beds for homeless men, but no one asks what keeps these men on the street. We build houses for homeless people but don't ask how they'll pay the rent. We teach job skills but do little to help graduates get jobs. We try to treat the symptoms, but we don't always recognize the disease. In short, recalling the old saying about fighting poverty through self-reliance, we give people fishand sometimes only a scanty portion at thatbut we forget to teach them how to fish.

From Reinvesting in America: The Grassroots Movements That Are Feeding the Hungry, Housing the Homeless, and Putting Americans Back to Work, by Robin Garr (Addison-Wesley).

Down a quiet, tree-lined suburban street I located our old school. A low, one-story brick building with white trim, it fit in attractively with the neighborhood of ranch-style homes. This wasn't a wealthy suburb by any means, but it was solidly middle class, the type of area that so embodied the American Dream of the 50's and 60's. Most of my teaching career since then had been spent in drafty, old, turn-of-the-century buildings in less affluent parts of large cities, and I had forgotten just what a small, attractive school this had been.

Pulling the car over to the curb, I turned off the engine. "Recognize this place?"

Sheila nodded faintly.

"See that window there, three along the left? That was our room," I said.

Absorbed silence.

"Do you remember any of this?"

"I don't know," she murmured quietly.

From The Tiger's Child: The Story of a Gifted, Troubled Child and the Teacher Who Refused To Give up on Her, by Torey Hayden (Charles Scribner's Sons Publishers).

Vol. 14, Issue 39

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