Cultural Influences on Policy-Making Decisions

Article excerpt

Cultural Influences on Policy-Making Decisions

Kassie Freeman, who resides in the Department of Educational Leadership at Vanderbilt University, has harnessed the intellectual energy and acumen of African American researchers and scholars in the edited book: African American Culture and Heritage in Higher Education Research and Practice. Among the collection of authors included in this book are university scholars and researchers, members of national educational organizations, and some who have occupied the front lines -- as sentinels and/or victims -- in the struggle to promote equity and excellence for African Americans in higher education.

The book is divided into three parts with several chapters assigned to each. Part I focuses on the historical origins of issues, factors, and outcomes that have impacted African American culture and its relationship to the culture of higher education. All of the chapters in this section are well researched and provide a strong foundation of understanding.

The chapters in Part II move into a more contemporary examination of the book's theme, especially with an emphasis on social psychological factors within groups and between group differences. Several chapters address issues of identity and race consciousness but approach the topics in different ways.

In his chapter, Dr. Walter Allen presents a trend analysis of consciousness and racial attitudes over varying periods of time. The analysis is broken down by race, sex, and income.

Dr. Lori White, on the other hand, uses semi-structured interviews and personal narratives to present a powerful set of conversations among African American students about the relationship between campus participation and individual and group identity. Her work employs a qualitative, ethnographic approach and serves as a nice balance to Allen's more statistical analysis.

That the chapters serve as excellent sources of historical, social, and cultural analysis. Yet in many cases, the authors do not take definitive stands concerning controversial issues or solutions. One who does is Dr. William Harvey. In his article on increasing the presence of African American faculty in predominantly White institutions, he strongly chastises African American faculty who choose to wallow in the intellectual "life of the mind" at the expense of confronting the racism on campus that occurs outside of the ivory tower.

Dr. James Earl Davis offers a provocative conceptualization of the importance of cultural capital and the role of historically Black colleges and universities. …