African American students and gifted education: the politics of race and culture. (Underrepresentation in gifted education: how did we get here and what needs to change?).
This article examines the following questions regarding the inequitable participation of African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. students in gifted education Gifted education is a broad term for special practices, procedures and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted or talented. Programs providing such education are sometimes called Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) or programs. First, will the changing of school practices and policies, (i.e. better tools for selecting and nominating students) result in a greater proportion of African American students being placed in gifted education programs? Second, to what extent do structural and institutional forces in schools and the broader U.S. society further impede the equitable placement of African American students in gifted education programs?
It would be redundant to expound ex·pound
v. ex·pound·ed, ex·pound·ing, ex·pounds
1. To give a detailed statement of; set forth: expounded the intricacies of the new tax law.
2. , in painstaking pains·tak·ing
Marked by or requiring great pains; very careful and diligent. See Synonyms at meticulous.
Extremely careful and diligent work or effort. detail, upon the myriad statistics that speak to the disproportionate underrepresentation of African American students in gifted education programs throughout schools in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . This article endeavors to move beyond those established statistical landscapes to examine how race and culture, as structural forces, affect the extent to which African American students are equitably represented in the field of gifted education. There is a relatively good understanding of how school processes, including school officials' overreliance on standardized standardized
pertaining to data that have been submitted to standardization procedures.
standardized morbidity rate
see morbidity rate.
standardized mortality rate
see mortality rate. measures (Ford & Harris, 1990; Hilliard 1990; Hilliard, 1991) and incomplete identification and nomination processes (Frasier, 1994; Frasier, 1997), impede African American students' placement in gifted education programs. Yet, there is little discourse regarding how structural and institutional forces further impede these processes.
The article begins with an overview of how historic and persistent notions of presumed African American intellectual inferiority permeate permeate /per·me·ate/ (-at?)
1. to penetrate or pass through, as through a filter.
2. the constituents of a solution or suspension that pass through a filter.
v. gifted education, consequently shaping contemporary notions of who is considered gifted and most often selected for gifted education programs. Next, the indelible impact of race and its implications for gifted education are examined. Afterwards, the article explicates the influence of culture on the schooling of African American students and its role in their academic success or failure. Specifically, how the negation NEGATION. Denial. Two negations are construed to mean one affirmation. Dig. 50, 16, 137. of African American students' culture in schools contributes to some African American students' development of an oppositional logic to schooling is examined. Finally, the conclusion emphasizes a greater need for researchers and educators in gifted education to begin to examine more closely the various ways that structural and institutional forces impede the placement of African American students into gifted education programs.
Enduring Perceptions of Presumed African American Intellectual Inferiority
If one examines the historical literature concerning African Americans' intelligence, an inference may be drawn that the profession of psychology has maintained an allegiance to racist themes that have perpetuated the perception that African Americans' intelligence is innately inferior to that of Whites' (Franklin, 1991). In many instances, psychological research legitimated (however subjectively) overt racist themes concerning the presumed intellectual inferiority of African Americans. As Franklin further notes, "the theories, methodologies, findings, and conclusions generated by many American psychologists The American Psychologist is the official journal of the American Psychological Association. It contains archival documents and articles covering current issues in psychology, the science and practice of psychology, and psychology's contribution to public policy. have been used to try and demonstrate that Blacks and other racial minorities are mentally inferior to Whites" (p. 207). During the earlier and middle part of the 20th Century, African American scholars such as Horace Mann Bond Horace Mann Bond (November 8, 1905 – December 21, 1972) was an American educator, writer, and the father of civil-rights leader Julian Bond. Horace was the grandson of slaves and the child of an extraordinary couple. and W. E. B. Du Bois Noun 1. W. E. B. Du Bois - United States civil rights leader and political activist who campaigned for equality for Black Americans (1868-1963)
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois often found themselves having to refute re·fute
tr.v. re·fut·ed, re·fut·ing, re·futes
1. To prove to be false or erroneous; overthrow by argument or proof: refute testimony.
2. the racist findings of some of their White colleagues who asserted that African American people were intellectually inferior to Whites. These scientists conducted and published findings from their studies that, in many ways, vindicated the African American race (Franklin).
Today, Herrnstein and Murrays' (1996) Bell Curve continues to propagate prop·a·gate
1. To cause an organism to multiply or breed.
2. To breed offspring.
3. To transmit characteristics from one generation to another.
4. the notion in the academy and popular culture that a major reason African Americans do not achieve in schools might be more connected to rank-and-file notions of African Americans' innate intellectual inferiority, than to persistent, concrete structural and historic forces. Gifted education, with its roots in psychology, inherited these perceptions of African American people, and remnants of this belief continue to germinate within the schooling process and the field of gifted education.
Who gets selected for gifted education programs is rooted in enduring perceptions, whether conscious or unconscious, that African American people might be intellectually inferior to White people. One cannot ignore this possibility considering the historic perceptions of--and attacks on--African Americans' intelligence. Schools today are not immune from the realities of history and the pervasive unspoken beliefs in the scientific community that doubt the intellectual capacity of African American people. Historically, such notions were driven by the placement of people in the United States into hierarchical arrangements of intellectual capacity, based primarily on physical attributes (Terman, 1916).
Moreover, the conventional thinking in gifted education, and likewise in academic tracking, is the false premise A false premise is an incorrect proposition that forms the basis of a logical syllogism. Since the premise (proposition, or assumption) is not correct, the conclusion drawn may be in error. that meritocratic mer·i·toc·ra·cy
n. pl. mer·i·toc·ra·cies
1. A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.
a. procedures govern student selection and placement (Ford, 1996; Oakes, 1985). Gifts alone do not determine placement in these programs; the students are probably just as advantaged by class and race as they are by their giftedness (Blackburn, 1999). Still, these programs disproportionately enroll White and middle-class students, and rarely do the intellectual abilities of these students come into question.
On the other hand, the presumption is that African American students' performance on assessments--particularly when these tools have deleterious deleterious adj. harmful. consequences--accurately reflected their intellectual abilities. Not only are African American students disproportionately ignored for placement in higher academic tracked courses and gifted education, but they are also significantly more likely to be placed in special education programs and lower level academic tracked courses. For example, recent findings from a study conducted by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University Harvard University, mainly at Cambridge, Mass., including Harvard College, the oldest American college. Harvard College
Harvard College, originally for men, was founded in 1636 with a grant from the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. found that racial bias by educators contributed to the overrepresentation of African American students in special education (Mathews, 2001).
The underlying message here is that African American students are not supposed to be as intelligent as Whites. Evidence to the contrary often creates alarm. For example, a 60 Minutes news program in 1995 that focused on racial tracking in Calhoun County, Georgia Calhoun County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia. It was created on February 20, 1854. As of 2000, the population is 6,320. The 2005 Census Estimate shows a population of 5,972 . The county seat is Morgan, Georgia6. , noted how some White parents from the public school district adamantly believed that school officials were justified when they moved low- and mid-range scoring White students up to the higher academic tracks (Olian, 1995). Some of the White parents argued that their children "did not test well," or would feel "socially isolated" if they were in the lower tracks where school officials placed most of the African American students.
Furthermore, these parents became outraged when the new superintendent, who also was White, pointed out the racial disparities in the integrated school system. The superintendent argued that either the African American students should be equitably represented throughout the academic tracks, or the tracking should be eliminated altogether. On the other hand, many of the White parents were not equally disturbed when some African American students who had scored much higher on the standardized tests A standardized test is a test administered and scored in a standard manner. The tests are designed in such a way that the "questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent"  than many of the White students in the advanced tracks remained in lower academic tracks. Many of the White parents eventually took their children out of the school district, which resulted in the district becoming predominantly African American (Olian, 1995).
Gifted education faces issues similar to academic tracking. While definitely not applicable to all, many White people expect their skin color to provide them with both tangible and intangible privileges and advantages, and will not sacrifice their superior social status just to achieve racial equality or equity (Bell, 1992; Grant, 1996; McIntosh, 1998). As further noted by Peggy McIntosh Peggy McIntosh is an American feminist and anti-racist activist, a speaker and the founder and co-director of the National S.E.E.D. Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity). (1998), "White Americans The term white American (often used interchangeably with "Caucasian American" and within the United States simply "white") is an umbrella term that refers to people of European, Middle Eastern, and North African descent residing in the United States. know that their white skin opens many doors for Whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us" (p. 81).
A related concern is the extent to which White school officials and parents would advocate for a greater presence of African American students in gifted education programs, despite concerns by some that these programs might be perceived as less academically rigorous (i.e., inferior in quality, solely because of the presence of Black people). Similar to the efforts that many White people up until the late 1960s went through to maintain their all-White neighborhoods and schools through redlining Identifying text that has been changed in a word processing document by displaying it in a special color, for example. It allows the original author of the text or other users to see ongoing revisions. The term comes from manual editing where a red pen is used to mark up the pages. and race steering, the maintenance of gifted education programs as predominantly White domains appears to also be driven by fear or concern. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , the presence of too many African American students in gifted education programs would represent the loss of White status and all of the privileges thereunto there·un·to
To that, this, or it; thereto. appertaining. It is worthwhile to note at this juncture that the placement of students in gifted education programs is a human endeavor that has resulted in subjective constructions of giftedness, and personal and institutional privileges based primarily on race.
Race, Racism, and Gifted Education
Race, however, is not a biological category, but a social construction. Notions of racial differences are, nevertheless, rooted in the structures of exploitation, power, and privilege, which have had dire social, political, economic, and educational consequences for different groups (Marable, 1990). Derrick Bell
law of the Medes and Persians
Darius’s execution ordinance; an immutable law. [O.T.: Daniel 6:8–9]
there always, as evilness with evil men. [O.T.: Jeremiah 13:23; Br. Lit. of Racism, asserts that racism is natural and permanently etched etch
v. etched, etch·ing, etch·es
a. To cut into the surface of (glass, for example) by the action of acid.
b. in the social and cultural order of American society, and that racial assumptions shape and govern educational and social policies and decisions in the United States. Improving African American students' placement into gifted education programs might begin by first questioning and examining the racial assumptions upon which the field of gifted education operates.
Although there are clearly other factors, the significance of race and racism as variables that determine which students are placed in gifted education programs needs further investigation. Such investigations might occur at the personal and institutional levels, as well as in predominantly White and predominantly African American schools and school districts. Too often, African American students in predominantly White schools are disproportionately placed in lower academic tracks and excluded from gifted education programs (Ford, 1996; Gay, 1990; Oakes, 1985). On the other hand, talented African American students who attend predominantly African American and urban schools, too often find their choices limited because of the absence of such programs in these schools. Whenever these programs are in predominantly African American and urban schools, more likely than not, they are part of a magnet program within the school designed specifically to attract White students back into urban areas (Amos v. Board of Directors of the City of Milwaukee, 1976; Arthur v. Nyquist, 1976; Smrekar & Goldring, 1999). These schools appear racially balanced on the surface; underneath, however, the magnet component usually enrolls a disproportionate number of White students in comparison to African American students.
Historically, African Americans have always been in a precarious predicament when advocating for quality education for their children (Du Bois Du Bois (d`bois, dəbois`), city (1990 pop. 8,286), Clearfield co., W central Pa., in the region of the Allegheny plateau; inc. 1881. , 1935). If Black people pushed their children to attend schools with White children, the chances for African American children and their culture to be totally ignored in the curriculum and the ethos of the school were great. If resolved to attend the all-Black school, concerns remained about the lack of resources, lack of exposure to rigorous academic curriculum, and lack of facilities. This dilemma and concern persists. For example, Fulton County
Meeting the needs of gifted and talented African American students is of the essence, no matter where these students attend school. Encouraging African American students to attend predominantly White schools with gifted education programs does little to ensure equitable educational outcomes for gifted and talented African American students if these programs are not also placed in predominantly African American schools and are accessible. African American students' access to gifted education programs and the curricula these programs offer, despite the racial composition of the school, can increase their overall access to educational opportunities beyond high school.
The Influence of Peer Culture on African American Schooling
The literature on African American students' educational experiences is replete re·plete
1. Abundantly supplied; abounding: a stream replete with trout; an apartment replete with Empire furniture.
2. Filled to satiation; gorged.
3. with analyses of how African American student peer culture, in particular, adversely affects African American students' academic school success. A number of scholars assert that some African American students are not achieving, partly as a result of the pressures they receive from their African American peers to not achieve for fear of being labeled as trying to "act White" (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Kunjufu, 1986). Fordham and Ogbu (1986) further discuss this phenomenon as an illustration of African American youths' resistance to the imposition of a White cultural framework for success. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Ogbu (1978) and Ogbu and Simons (1998), this explanation has a great deal to do with the way involuntary minorities (i.e., African Americans and Native Americans) approach schooling. Because of the imposing dominant white cultural framework of schools, consequently, some African American students develop certain secondary cultural traits, such as an oppositional cultural frame, as a defense mechanism. This oppositional frame often entails some African American children perceiving schooling as learning the White American cultural frame of reference. These students then perceive schooling as a subtractive sub·trac·tive
1. Producing or involving subtraction.
2. Of or being a color produced by light passing through or reflecting off a colorant, such as a filter or pigment, that absorbs certain wavelengths and transmits or , rather than an additive process.
To further illustrate this phenomenon in gifted education, Ford (1996) and Tatum (1997) noted how some gifted African American students go to the extreme of sabotaging their academic careers by refusing placement in gifted education programs because their friends were not in them, and the programs were almost completely filled by White students. Why would some students refuse to participate in such programs to the possible demise of their academic school success? The notion that some African American students sabotage their academic careers raises an important point about the relative value of being placed in a gifted education program at the expense of one's culture. Is it correct to presume that an increased proportion of African American students in gifted education programs means that those students would have greater access to a richer and more rewarding schooling experience? While there would quantitatively be greater access to schooling opportunities, some African American students might perceive that their experiences in gifted educational programs would be culturally subtractive from their Black experience. This is a sacrifice that many are not willing to make.
Historically, Black educators understood how notions of Black inferiority were pervasive in the larger society. Consequently, they often impressed upon Black children the need to achieve in order to refute such beliefs. It can be generally argued that Black students in segregated all-Black schools had very few reasons to accuse their high-achieving peers of acting White, and that this phenomenon apparently became pronounced in predominantly White school environments, where White students disproportionately benefited from educational opportunities. For example, we know that in many predominantly White schools, African American students often experience second-generation discrimination -- a situation in which schools would appear desegregated on the surface, but underneath, engaged in practices that resulted in segregation practices within the school (Meir, Stewart, & England, 1989). Examples of these practices include the disproportionate placement of African American students in lower academic tracks, as well as the disproportionate suspension of African American students in comparison to White students (Leake & Faltz, 1996; Morris & Goldring, 1999; Oakes, 1985).
When African American children go to schools with White students today, the cultural norms of White America are further reified, causing psychic tension, or a duality Duality (physics)
The state of having two natures, which is often applied in physics. The classic example is wave-particle duality. The elementary constituents of nature—electrons, quarks, photons, gravitons, and so on—behave in some respects of identity consciousness for some African American students (Alridge, 1999; Du Bois, 1903, 1994). These cultural norms place many students in the precarious predicament of having to choose between being culturally Black and participating in the academically enriched programs with their White peers, thereby losing some of their culture. The phenomenon of acting White is as much a reflection of the structural forces operating in schools and society as it is the personal decisions by African American students to shun Shun
In Chinese mythology, one of the three legendary emperors, along with Yao and Da Yu, of the golden age of antiquity (c. 23rd century BC), singled out by Confucius as models of integrity and virtue. academic school success or to refuse to participate in gifted education programs. Too often, the onus for changing this phenomenon rests on the shoulders of African American students, and not the school or the programs within the school. Moreover, it places an arduous task on young people because of educators' inability to recognize how these students deal with the day-to-day politics of race and culture.
The knowledge that school officials and society expect African American children to acquire validates or invalidates these students' cultural experiences. The resistance by some African American students might emanate em·a·nate
intr. & tr.v. em·a·nat·ed, em·a·nat·ing, em·a·nates
To come or send forth, as from a source: light that emanated from a lamp; a stove that emanated a steady heat. not solely from the influence of peers, but from the cultural milieu mi·lieu
n. pl. mi·lieus or mi·lieux
1. The totality of one's surroundings; an environment.
2. The social setting of a mental patient.
[Fr.] surroundings, environment. of the school and the classroom, as well as the institutional structures in the society that privilege White over Black. While there is considerable debate about the extent of this phenomenon, it should not be dismissed in a field that has historically operated with definitions of giftedness that are not multicultural and inclusive (Frasier, 1991; Kitano, 1991), and often encourage diverse cultural and ethnic group members to relinquish significant aspects of their cultural identity by assuming one that is primarily Anglo-American in nature (Tannenbaum, 1990).
Hence, in order to participate proportionately in gifted education programs, what should African American students in general do? Should these students hold in abeyance A lapse in succession during which there is no person in whom title is vested. In the law of estates, the condition of a freehold when there is no person in whom it is vested. In such cases the freehold has been said to be in nubibus (in the clouds), in pendenti their cultural identities and become raceless so that they can participate in gifted education programs without fear of rejection from their African American peers (Fordham, 1988)? Or, should schools and gifted education programs cease to maintain White dominant cultural frameworks so that African American students would feel not just tolerated, but welcomed? These questions are not easily answered. On one hand, African American students might be guilty of sabotaging their own futures because of their efforts to fit in with their peers. On the other hand, there are legitimate reasons for African American students' rejection of those aspects of schooling that impose upon them a White cultural and dominating framework.
The central debate regarding the conduct and character of gifted education programs ought to be framed by concerns related to equity and fairness, especially in U.S. public education. Gifted education programs should offer those students who possess exceptional talents the opportunity to display them. The extent to which this occurs should not be driven by racist notions and practices predicated on the unexpressed, presumed intellectual inferiority of African Americans, nor the notion that African American students should relinquish their racial and cultural identities in order to assimilate into gifted education programs. The promises of Brown v. Board of Education Brown v. Board of Education (of Topeka)
(1954) U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (1954), a case that eradicated legalized segregation in public education, will be further realized by desegregating gifted education programs in predominantly White schools, and ensuring that such programs are also offered in schools that enroll significant numbers of low income and African American students. In addition, adopting multicultural and broader definitions of giftedness and constructing better tools for assessing and identifying gifted African American students represent small steps towards creating equitable education for all students.
Then again, we have to be careful not to assume that better identification techniques and nomination processes would result in the equitable placement of African American students into gifted education programs. If we still fail to account for how the politics of race and culture affect the education of African American students in the American social and schooling processes, attempting to rectify rec·ti·fy
1. To set right; correct.
2. To refine or purify, especially by distillation. the problem would be analogous to trying to hit a moving target. The extent to which researchers and educators consider the impact of these forces in determining who is placed into gifted education can have a direct beating on whether meaningful solutions are conceptualized and implemented to rectify the gross racial disparities that exist in the field. Noted educator and psychologist Professor Asa G. Hilliard III, reminds educators, academics, and scholars of the following: "Race, minority status, socioeconomic status socioeconomic status,
n the position of an individual on a socio-economic scale that measures such factors as education, income, type of occupation, place of residence, and in some populations, ethnicity and religion. , and other variables are not factors that predict what students can learn. More likely than not, they predict how schools will treat children" (1995, p. xiv).
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New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : BasicBooks.
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a too costly victory; “Another such victory and we are lost.” [Rom. Hist.: “Asculum I” in Eggenburger, 30–31]
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A preface or an introductory note, as for a book, especially by a person other than the author.
an introductory statement to a book
Noun 1. to B. A. Ford, F. E. Obiakor, & J. M. Patton, (Eds.), Effective education of African American exceptional learners: New perspectives (pp. ix-xvi). Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
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McIntosh, P. (1998). White privilege White privilege has the following meanings:
* Its neutrality is disputed.
* It does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by citing reliable sources.
* It needs additional references or sources for verification. : A personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women's studies women's studies
pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
An academic curriculum focusing on the roles and contributions of women in fields such as literature, history, and the social sciences. , ED 335 262)
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Morris, J. E., & Goldring, E. B. (1999). Are magnet schools magnet school
A public school offering a specialized curriculum, often with high academic standards, to a student body representing a cross section of the community. more equitable? An analysis of the disciplinary rates of African American and White students in Cincinnati magnet and nonmagnet schools. Equity & Excellence in Education, 32(3), 59-65.
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Ogbu, J. U. (1978). Minority education and caste caste [Port., casta=basket], ranked groups based on heredity within rigid systems of social stratification, especially those that constitute Hindu India. Some scholars, in fact, deny that true caste systems are found outside India. : The American system The term American System can mean one of the following:
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Tannenbaum, A. (1990). Defensible de·fen·si·ble
Capable of being defended, protected, or justified: defensible arguments.
de·fen ? Venerable? Vulnerable? Gifted Child gifted child
Child naturally endowed with a high degree of general mental ability or extraordinary ability in a specific domain. Although the designation of giftedness is largely a matter of administrative convenience, the best indications of giftedness are often those Quarterly, 34, 84-86.
Tatum, B. V. (1997). Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? and other conversations about race. New York: Basicbooks.
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Jerome E. Morris is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Foundations of Education at The University of Georgia Organization
The President of the University of Georgia (as of 2007, Michael F. Adams) is the head administrator and is appointed and overseen by the Georgia Board of Regents. . His broader research interests focus on sociological and anthropological analyses of race and culture in urban education processes and policies.
Manuscript submitted September, 2000
Revision accepted July, 2001.