Written By: John Diamond & Amanda Lewis
Published By: Oxford University Press
Read: June 12-14, 2015
You can buy this book here.
On the surface, Riverview High School looks like the post-racial ideal. Serving an enviably affluent, diverse, and liberal district, the school is well-funded, its teachers are well-trained, and many of its students are high-achieving. Yet Riverview has not escaped the same unrelenting question that plagues schools throughout America: why is it that even when all of the circumstances seem right, black and Latina/o students continue to lag behind their peers?
Through five years’ worth of interviews and data-gathering at Riverview, Amanda Lewis and John Diamond have created a powerful and illuminating study of how the racial achievement gap continues to afflict American schools more than fifty years after the formal dismantling of segregation. As students progress from elementary school to middle school to high school, their level of academic achievement increasingly tracks along racial lines, with white and Asian students maintaining higher GPAs and standardized testing scores, taking more advanced classes, and attaining better college admission results than their black and Latina/o counterparts. Most research to date has focused on the role of poverty, family stability, and other external influences in explaining poor performance at school, especially in urban contexts. Diamond and Lewis instead situate their research in a suburban school, and look at what factors within the school itself could be causing the disparity. Most crucially, they challenge many common explanations of the “racial achievement gap,” exploring what race actually means in this situation, and how it matters.
Diamond and Lewis’ research brings clarity and data into a debate that is too often dominated by stereotyping, race-baiting, and demagoguery. An in-depth study with far-reaching consequences, Despite the Best Intentions revolutionizes our understanding of both the knotty problem of academic disparities and the larger question of the color line in American society.
Despite the Best Intentions discusses racial inequality in our school systems. It focuses on the “racial achievement gap” which is basically the differences in test scores, G.P.A.s and graduation rates between white students and African American and Latina/o students. It is an important subject that needs to be addressed and I was excited to read this book and learn more about the subject.
The book focused one high school in particular and gathered all of their data and interviews from Riverview High School. They chose to study the one high school to show a snapshot of the nationwide problem but I felt that the book would have benefited from more nationwide statistics. There are many graphs placed throughout the book but unfortunately I was not able to see them in my copy of the book that I received from NetGalley. (So to be fair, there may have been more nationwide statistics than I was able to see.)
It can be hard to review non-fiction books. How do you like or dislike a collection of facts? When it comes down to it the authors writing is what creates a good book. I rated this book a three. The writing was very slow and repetitive. The data, interviews, and anecdotes were not presented in a way that makes you want to keep reading. This read much more like a textbook than a non-fiction book that I would want to share with my family and friends.
2015 Reading Challenge- A Non-Fiction Book
Recommended for Fans of: Non-Fiction
Suggested to Read Next: I Am Malala