BLACK EDUCATION by Thomas Sowell


Myths And Tragedies
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An aggressive first-person critique of current fashions and procedures in higher education for black Americans. Sowell, a UCLA professor, begins with a good account of his own difficulties and accomplishments in segregated and integrated schools. He finally made it magna cum laude through Harvard and won success as an economist; but though he basically believes in uplift through education, this is not just another "I-made-it" testimonial. In part it is a defense of the black student's right to a first-rate education. Sowell maintains that putting ill-prepared blacks, especially from the ghetto, into a high-pressure situation at top universities creates destructive frustrations and catalyzes self-consolatory militant separatism; but to compensate with black studies programs full of soft courses and lower standards is to cheat the student. This view is elaborated at circumstantial length, especially with reference to the 1969 Cornell upheavals. Sowell is severe toward those black administrators and teachers who in his view cover their mediocrity by playing campus politics and by spouting the rhetoric of blackness. He further argues that many able, industrious black students are being discriminated against by recruiters searching for the more "underprivileged" albeit less gifted and he decries the tendency to dismiss working-class black families as "middle-class." There is a good empirical criticism of Jensen-style theories of innately inferior black intelligence, but Sowell does not ask why these theories are becoming fashionable; and, though he acknowledges that black education cannot be discussed in a vacuum, he doesn't specify what people should be educated for, but concentrates on the "talented tenth" who will become professionals and scholars; thus bypassing the job situation of most blacks. Nonetheless, his specific proposals for recruitment of students, pre-college training, and a black-sponsored institute for advanced study, deserve attention. A significant essay, appealing in its toughness, which may be praised or blamed for the wrong reasons, but should be welcomed by those who reject the paternalism and shortchanging implicit in much current black education.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1972
ISBN: 0679300155
Page count: 338pp
Publisher: McKay
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1972


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