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Scholars Debate Theory That Blacks Equate Academic Success With ‘Acting White’


Blacks value education and good grades just as much as Whites, a
Harvard University professor said last week, challenging the idea that
an achievement gap between the races is caused by Black students’ fears
that doing well in school will lead to criticism of “acting

“You’ll find … very few indications that Black kids don’t value
school as much or even don’t work as hard,” said Dr. Ron Ferguson, an
economist and lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy
School of Government.

Ferguson spoke at the opening of the second annual Youth & Race
Conference sponsored by the University of North Carolina and Duke
University. This year’s seminar focuses on a 1986 paper titled “Black
Students School Success: Coping With the Burden of ‘Acting White.’”

The paper by Drs. Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu concluded that Black
students turn against academic success out of fear they will be accused
of “acting White.”

But Ferguson said his surveys of students have found no differences in
time spent on homework among those in the same classes. He did find
some differences among the races in areas such as homework completion
rates and in behaviors, such as leisure reading.

Ogbu, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has since
died. But Fordham, a professor of gender and women’s studies at the
University of Rochester, stands by her work. She is Black, as is

She’s suspicious of Ferguson’s studies because she believes children
will tell an interviewer what they think the adult wants to hear, and
that the best way to examine students is to observe them.

— Associated Press

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