Drawing on academic research and anecdotal evidence, the book makes a strong pedagogical case but is short on specifics as...

THE TYRANNY OF THE MERITOCRACY

DEMOCRATIZING HIGHER EDUCATION IN AMERICA

From admission standards to teaching philosophy, a renowned academic calls for a paradigm shift in higher education.

What her title terms “Meritocracy,” Guinier (Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback Into a New Vision of Social Justice, 1998, etc.)—the first woman of color to receive tenure at Harvard Law School—criticizes as “testocracy.” Throughout the book, she demonstrates how high SAT or LSAT scores most often reflect a tyranny of self-perpetuating privilege rather than potential, or even merit, in the broader, more democratic sense of the term. “[O]nce you’re past the first year or two of higher education, success isn’t about being the best test taker in the room any longer,” she argues. “It’s about being able to work with other people who have different strengths than you and who are also prepared to back you up when you make a mistake or when you feel vulnerable.” Collaboration rather than competition is the key to the transformation, with students encouraged to work in (even take tests in) groups and to concern themselves more with the process of arriving at the correct response than with the correctness of the response itself. She cites professors Eric Mazur (Harvard) and Uri Treisman (Univ. of Texas) as exemplars of this “culture of collaboration.” Guinier stresses that such a philosophy is more in keeping with the democratic ideal and that it will nurture potential beyond what a test score measures. She writes that we need “a classroom culture shift,” one that encourages “students to value the learning process over the final score.”

Drawing on academic research and anecdotal evidence, the book makes a strong pedagogical case but is short on specifics as to how we get from here to there.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0807006276

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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