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Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data

Park, Julie J.
Harvard Education Publishing Group, 2018

Book Review

Tags: antiracism   |   critical thinking   |   racism   |   student learning
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Reviewed by: Carolyn Helsel, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Date Reviewed: April 16, 2019
In this highly accessible book, Julie J. Park lays out current debates surrounding affirmative action regarding race on campus. The subtitle of the book, Debunking Myths with Data, conveys the direct approach Park takes: chapters focus on a particular topic associated with discussions about race on campus, such as “the problem of mismatch,” and makes the argument with data for why such language is problematic and inaccurate. For instance, in ...

In this highly accessible book, Julie J. Park lays out current debates surrounding affirmative action regarding race on campus. The subtitle of the book, Debunking Myths with Data, conveys the direct approach Park takes: chapters focus on a particular topic associated with discussions about race on campus, such as “the problem of mismatch,” and makes the argument with data for why such language is problematic and inaccurate.

For instance, in the chapter on “The Problem with the ‘Problem of Mismatch’,” Park lays out current debate surrounding whether race-conscious campus admissions should end. She highlights the work of authors such as Richard Sander, who in his book Mismatch (Basic, 2012) suggests that race-based affirmative action leads to students going to schools where they are mismatched, and who would have benefited from going to other (and less prestigious) schools. Park draws on data to show how the information Sander presents only looks at a particular set of examples, and ignores the larger and more positive impact that race-based affirmative action has had for persons of color. Parks lifts up statistics that show underrepresented minorities doing better at some schools than others, arguing that rather than blaming the individual or group of students for their lack of academic success, entire institutions need to reevaluate their role in contributing to or preventing the success of their underrepresented minority students. Parks points to support systems in place at particular top-tier institutions that help students excel. Park also reveals data showing that Asian American and white students struggle similarly in college, and focusing too narrowly on underrepresented minority students like African American students ignores the fact that college can be challenging for all students, and yet no one is suggesting that white students go to a lower-tier school for reasons of mismatch.

Other myths Park debunks include the complaint that black students are self-segregating by sitting together in the cafeteria or in student organizations. Park points to the ongoing racial segregation of historically White Greek Life, the sororities and fraternities that remain highly segregated across college campuses, showing that these groups have deep historic roots in intentionally racist exclusionary policies.

Ultimately, Park makes several suggestions for how to think about race on campus. First, being race-conscious is still important, not only to support racial diversity on campus but also to support economic diversity. Park lifts up data that shows Asian American students benefited more from policies that looked at race and class, rather than just class alone. Park also advocates for supporting underrepresented minorities students in interracial contexts as well as promoting intra-racial organizations. Finally, while diversity and inclusion are both terms that hold value for the work that needs to be done, neither are states or destinations where institutions can say they have “arrived.” Park underscores the need to continually work towards these goals, particularly in light of the resurgence of alt-right white supremacists. Antiracism is the work we need to be doing, and diversity and inclusion efforts are part of that larger and ongoing struggle.


At the time of this conversation, Eric Barreto was on the faculty at Luther Seminary, but he has since joined the faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary. His teaching practice is informed by his bi-regional and multi-lingual backgrounds. The biblical text and the ancient world are sites for destabilizing contemporary notions about the stability of historical conceptions of the possibility/ies of living harmoniously within diverse communities.
 
The “I” That Teaches - A new video project that invites senior scholars to talk about their teaching lives. These scholar-teachers candidly discuss how religious, educational, and family backgrounds inform their vocational commitments and, also, characterize their teaching persona. From the vantage point of a practiced teaching philosophy we get an intimate account of the value and art of teaching well.
 
Click here to watch all episodes of "The "I" That Teaches" on YouTube

 

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For Kenneth Ngwa, Drew Theological Seminary, teaching is not just a vocation but it’s a way of life. He confesses, “I cannot but teach.” Teaching is about a community of learners coming together to make meaning from a set of texts or artifacts. “I think teaching is a powerful tool, ” continues Ngwa, “to shape not just individual perspectives but how society functions.” He teaches classes in the Hebrew Bible and is an important voice in the field of African Biblical Hermeneutics.
 
The “I” That Teaches - A new video project that invites senior scholars to talk about their teaching lives. These scholar-teachers candidly discuss how religious, educational, and family backgrounds inform their vocational commitments and, also, characterize their teaching persona. From the vantage point of a practiced teaching philosophy we get an intimate account of the value and art of teaching well.
 
Click here to watch all episodes of "The "I" That Teaches" on YouTube

 

See Also:

My course began with an iconic book by bell hooks and ended, after several other readings, with a beloved text by Parker Palmer. On the last day of class, a white woman student came up to me to tell me how much she enjoyed the course (she had earned an ...

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The Indispensable Guide to Undergraduate Research - Success in and Beyond College

Charity Hudley, Anne H.; Dickter, Cheryl L.; Franz, Hannah A.
Teachers College Press, 2017

Book Review

Tags: critical thinking   |   teaching writing   |   undergraduate research
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Reviewed by: Allison Gray
Date Reviewed: April 16, 2018
This brief handbook and reference work was designed for college and university students interested in doing research. Charity Hudley, Dickter, and Franz present scholarly research as an exciting way for undergraduates to make the transition from students who learn to scholars who join an ongoing conversation as “masters of knowledge and challengers of the status quo” (5). The authors purposely construct the guide to serve not only as a resource but ...

This brief handbook and reference work was designed for college and university students interested in doing research. Charity Hudley, Dickter, and Franz present scholarly research as an exciting way for undergraduates to make the transition from students who learn to scholars who join an ongoing conversation as “masters of knowledge and challengers of the status quo” (5). The authors purposely construct the guide to serve not only as a resource but also as a model of a research-based approach to scholarly writing; they frequently comment on their own working methods and the research process that went into the composition of this text. The resulting book effectively demystifies the world of academia and the work of scholars, making research approachable and appealing.

Throughout the guide, the authors encourage students to pursue their academic and personal interests by becoming researchers, and they provide an impressively comprehensive roadmap for the research process. The book takes a special interest in guiding first-generation college students and students from historically underrepresented populations. The tone is collegial, and the text abounds with concrete advice about navigating the concomitants of scholarly research, from how to email a potential research mentor (80) to how to identify and access campus resources that can assist with time and energy management (49). Chapter 2, devoted to getting started, describes what research looks like across several academic disciplines and details ways different schools support and reward undergraduate research. Personal accounts from student scholars provide additional relatable voices and create the sense of a broad academic community into which readers are invited. The authors also emphasize the importance of sharing research results with a variety of audiences; Chapter 5, “Writing and Presenting Research” (91-116), describes different venues for written and oral communication that increase the impact of a student’s project, including conferences, articles, books, and social media.

A particularly valuable contribution of this book is its focus on empowering students from underrepresented populations. In addition to devoting a chapter to describing challenges that students from minority populations face and some tools for overcoming those challenges (“Underrepresented Scholars in the Academy: Making a Way,” [117-142]), the authors consistently highlight the value of diverse voices and backgrounds, and especially of the new questions such diverse viewpoints can generate. They frame the importance of greater academic inclusiveness and equity in a larger conversation about the powerful impacts researchers can have on their communities, emphasizing the value of interdisciplinary scholarship and community-based research.

Although the book is addressed directly to an audience of undergraduates who are or who seek to become researchers, the authors also model numerous ways to offer such students practical support. Therefore the text may also serve as a valuable resource for teachers, mentors, and advisors who assist student researchers and ensure their success.

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