A brief and rounded examination of the current disinclination to help blacks and others improve their lot. Gill, a former...

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THE MEANNESS MANIA: The Changed Mood

A brief and rounded examination of the current disinclination to help blacks and others improve their lot. Gill, a former researcher at the Institute for the Study of Educational Policy, Howard University (which is issuing this as part of a series), attributes this ""meanness mania"" to ""preoccupation with self"" (and, nationally, with inflation); identifies it with the ""upwardly mobile middle class,"" as distinct from the 1960s lower-middle-class ""backlash""; places it within a historical pattern of conservative reaction, manifest also in the 1920s and 1950s; and notes that arguments originally offered to explain 1950s discontent are now used by ex-liberal neoconservatives to justify opposition to the causes of that discontent. He next focuses on the neoconservatives as a bloc, their embrace of the ""conservative welfare state"" (where only social welfare provisions beneficial to all would be adopted), and their concern with governmental ""overload""--most pronounced, Gill notes caustically, apropos of minority programs. The condition diagnosed, he mounts his counteroffensive, citing recent data to demonstrate that 1) Great Society programs have been more successful than generally recognized; and 2) black progress has been less than generally believed. He also challenges William Julius Wilson's thesis, in The Declining Significance of Race, that class is a more potent factor today in the lives of individual blacks. On education per se, he offers up-to-date appraisals of busing (effective in achieving educational gains for blacks; not the sole cause of ""white flight""), of tuition credits and educational vouchers (a threat to public education and black progress), and of competency testing (justifiable only as a diagnostic/remedial tool). As regards affirmative action, with which he concludes, Gill's most telling point is the steep decline in black enrollment in graduate and professional schools since the Bakke decision, and specifically in those which abandoned minority admissions programs. Part cogent analysis, part hard fact; and though not the morally rigorous, exhortative equal of Daniel C. Maguire's A New American Justice (p. 961), a boon to anyone who would reverse the present trend.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Howard Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1980