Updated: Jan 30, 2020
AUTHOR: Noliwe Rooks
PUBLISHER: The New Press
PUBLISHED DATE: September 26, 2017
In a New York Times interview published February 6, 2018, Tayari Jones said she read this book and was so frustrated she threw it across the room. So, of course, I had to read this book. As a mother of 4 black children, and a person who has experienced significant racism in American public education, I knew I'd be in for some enlightenment, and I was right.
Noliwe Rooks writes an extensively researched book detailing the history of segregation in public schools and the coded racism, incompetence, and fraud of many for-profit charter schools. Although I truly appreciate the work that Rooks does, she makes a grave mistake. She frequently interchanges predominately white with quality. This become increasingly problematic once she references the award winning techniques of educator Marva Collins. Rooks writes about how Marva Collins went to some of the worst inner-city schools in Chicago, and asked for the kids who had been labeled as having learning disabilities and were incapable of being taught. She took the most challenging children in the school district, and created a nurturing quality education using the Socratic method. She taught the students about their cultural history, and placed an emphasis on teaching the children how to think versus teaching them what to think. The results were that the students were out-scoring students in wealthier white communities around the nation debunking the myth that poor black students were incapable of being academically competitive on a national level. Collins won numerous awards, and other schools around the nation tried to replicate her methods but failed to include the nurture and cultural competency that made Collins stand out.
After reading about Marva Collins....it was difficult for me to believe that racist teachers and schools that are actively creating hostile exclusionary policies to keep their schools white and diverse free are quality.
Aside from that, this book is extensively researched. Keeping black and brown students in poorly resourced, highly policed and punitive educational environments ensures a generational class divide that many of us don't need to read a book to be able to see. What Rooks does very well is provide you with the research, both anecdotal and statistical, to show you how local governments have used the law to actively secure funds for wealthy white school children, and shut black and brown children out. Particularly heartbreaking is the story of a homeless mother in Connecticut, Tanya McDowell, who was sending her son to a top public school. When it was discovered that the mother was using a babysitter's address to send her son to school, the school district decided to make an example of her, and prosecute her for stealing "$15,686 worth of 'free' educational services". YOU. CAN'T. MAKE. THIS. STUFF. UP.
Recommendation: Required. This books needs to be read by every educator in the country. The historic inequity in education is disgusting, and we need to do all we can to ensure that all American children have access to quality education regardless of where you live or how muc