Beyond Desegregation: The Politics of Quality in African American Schooling

Article excerpt

Beyond Desegregation: The Politics of Quality in African American Schooling, edited by Mwalimu Shujaa. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 1996. 283 pp. $20.00, cloth. Reviewed by Nah Dove, Temple University.

The points of view that predominate in this book are those that challenge the ideological assumption that the desegregation of public schooling in the United States has greatly improved the education of African American girls and boys. Its contributors take deep and hard looks at the contradictions raised by African Americans' efforts to democratize, through the U.S. legal system, what many perceive as an inherently racist and racialized educational system. Their writings reflect their general concern over both the quality and quantity of teaching and learning experienced by African Americans since the momentous Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. They also provide a broad spectrum of interpretations about the impact of school desegregation on African American pupils, and challenge established notions about what desegregation has accomplished and whether or not it has been successful for or of benefit to African Americans.

Editor Mwalimu Shujaa is well-qualified to address many of the issues surrounding these questions, and a companion to this book would be his earlier work, Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies (Shujaa, 1994). An associate professor in both the Department of Educational Policy and Administration and the Department of African American Studies at the State University of New York-Buffalo, Shujaa is also director of that institution's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Teaching Africana Studies in Schools (CIRTASS). As well, he has been involved in the creation and development of independent, African-centered schools for over 20 years, and he serves as national executive officer for the Council of Independent Black Institutions (CIBI).

Beyond Desegregation is divided into four parts. Part one provides an historical context for understanding the politics of segregation and desegregation. In it, William Watkins profiles the knowledge base developed by African American intellectuals with regard to the schooling of their people, arguing that these ideas predate and are critical to many of the contemporary debates on the subject. Additional chapters by William Tate, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Carl Grant examine some of the contradictions associated with the legal application of school desegregation within a social system steeped in a history of racist oppression.

Part two examines the ways in which school desegregation efforts have been thwarted by institutional racism. Using the case of Yonkers, New York, as an example, Judith Failer, Anna Harvey, and Jennifer Hochschild focus on the political reasons for the less-thanadequate implementation of school desegregation in a northern urban setting. In her article, Jennifer Beaumont relates a similar predicament in the Boston, Massachusetts, public schools. Lastly, although Janet Schofield voices skepticism about the success of school desegregation efforts thus far, she maintains that the many challenges and obstacles to the process only strengthen her belief in desegregation as a vital process in need of continuous fine-tuning and assessment.

Part three highlights the impact of school desegregation on African American community life and school experiences. In this section, Van Dempsey and George Noblit's chapter analyzes what its authors perceive as destructive aspects of school desegregation in one African American community in the South. …