cover image Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation

Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation

Stuart Buck, . . Yale Univ., $27.50 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-300-12391-3

Buck, Arkansas University doctoral fellow in education reform, enters the black-white achievement gap debate with a review of anti-academic attitudes among some black students, who dub school achievement as “acting white”; he finds its roots in “what was lost when schools were desegregated.” Buck fears misinterpretation (“no one should read this section as suggesting that we should go back to segregated schools”) as he delineates the costs of losing the schools as community centers, the concomitant loss of black teachers and principals as “academic role models,” and the detachment of black parents and students. “Desegregation,” he argues, then “set the stage for the 'acting white' criticism to emerge in the school setting,” as black students met hostile receptions from white students and teachers. Buck's proposed solutions are implausible—and almost risible: one, since “humans are tribal,” some students should be in “an all-black environment that includes black teachers and principals,” the other to replace individual grades with “regular interschool competitions, supplemented by small rewards for winners on a group basis.” Overstuffed with evidence showing he “examined literally thousands of sources over the past several years,” the result is a repetitive mélange of education philosophy and anecdotal history. (June)