Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Stanford Conference Looks at the 'Most Frustration Racial Barrier'

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Stanford Conference Looks at the 'Most Frustration Racial Barrier'

Article excerpt

Stanford Conference Looks at the `Most Frustrating Racial Barrier'

STANFORD, Calif. - They came to discuss imagery. They came to discuss religion. They came to discuss African American and ethnic studies programs. They came to discuss discrimination. And, they came to discuss why, as Stanford University Psychology Professor Claude Steele put it, education is the "most frustrating racial barrier" confronting the United States today.

These conversations took place at last month's "Stanford Conference on Race," which included more than three dozen panel discussions and town meetings. Four hundred people attended with 190 of those being program participants, says Lisa Hell-rich, the conference's coordinator.

Among the participants: Dr. Lawrence Bobo of Harvard University; Dr. Nancy Cantor University of Michigan; Dr. John Hope Franklin of Duke University, Dr. Manning Marable of Columbia University's African American studies department; Dr. Roslyn Mickelson of the University of North Carolina; Dr. John Ogbu of the University of California-Berkeley; Charles Ogletree of the Harvard University Law School; Gary Orfield of Harvard; former Stanford Chancellor Condoleezza Rice; Dr. Stephen Smith of Winthrop University; and Dr. David H. Swinton, president of Benedict College.

During a panel discussion titled "Racial Barriers to Educational Outcomes: Challenges to the Future" -- which was the next to last event of the conference -- Steele pointed to the Coleman Report of 1964, a survey of African American education that was supposed to evaluate the effect of desegregation. The goal, according to Steele, was to find the differences in the education of Blacks and Whites, "fix it, and move on."

However, Steele said, no initiatives were developed from the Coleman Report that successfully moved Blacks to "better" schools or produced a rise in test scores. Instead, a blame-the-victim mentality arose in which it was concluded the "problem [of better education for Blacks] will not to fixed by bettering the school system, but that the problem had its roots in the Black family."

The Coleman Report ultimately "led to a diversion of funds from programs meant to aid African American education, undermined optimism in mending minority educational problems, illustrated how test scored could be used to justify racial inequities in school funding, introduced a complexity of how race affects test scores and, lastly, derailed a political civil rights objective to better minority education," Steele says.

Voluntary & Involuntary Immigrant

Ogbu, who teaches anthropology, then noted the differences between "voluntary" and "involuntary" minorities. Voluntary minorities are immigrants who came to this country of their own free will. Involuntary minorities are those who were enslaved, conquered, or colonized. Ogbu says differences in educational outcomes arise from a different mindset between the two minority types.

"Immigrants tend to compare themselves with what they left behind," he said, and they "see how much better off they are in America."

Involuntary minorities, on the other hand, tend to compare themselves with middle-class White Americans and therefore see themselves as being worse off than they should be.

Ogbu added that immigrants come to America to use education to advance their well being. …

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