LEARNING WHILE BLACK: Creating Educational Excellence for African American Children

Janice E. Hale, Author, V. P. Franklin, Foreword by . Johns Hopkins Univ. $45 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8018-6775-0 ISBN 0-8018-6776-2

In a wide but welcome swing of the pendulum, Hale (founder of a school for facilitating the intellectual development of African-American preschool children and author of two books on educating black children) fixes her gaze directly upon schools—the teachers and the children. Here is a fresh and feisty look at the miseducation of African-American children by a knowledgeable practitioner (and Wayne State University professor of early childhood education), a "call for action directed to the organizations controlled by middle-class African Americans, not to beleaguered individuals themselves." Relying to some extent upon the Waldorf School Movement (an approach that emphasizes children's individuality), Hale offers a solution that recognizes the school as the impetus for inner-city African-American children to achieve upward mobility, relying on help from parents, churches, community volunteers and teachers. Her model attends to those differences between "Afro cultural" themes and "mainstream" ones, which influence the varying academic achievement of African-American children compared with white children's achievement. Cognizant of religion's role in African-Americans' lives, Hale, who holds a master's in religious education, envisions a major role for the African-American church in enriching children's lives. Although the metaphoric basis of her program ("the Family," "the Village" and "the Beloved Community") and the detailed account of her own parenting experiences are occasionally distracting, both add substance to her theory—the former by the grandness of its scheme, the latter by attending to nuts and bolts. (Dec. 4)

Forecast:Professional educators in urban areas and parents of black children are this book's primary audience. Although the cover (depicting a symbolic African scene of people walking toward the sun) suggests an Afrocentric philosophy and curriculum, booksellers will want to inform buyers that Hale's focus, while totally on the education of African-American children, is not Afrocentric.

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
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