Scholars Debate Theory That Blacks Equate
Academic Success With ‘Acting White’
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.
Blacks value education and good grades just as much as Whites, a
Harvard University professor said last month, 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 White.”
“You’ll find … very few indications that Black kids don’t value school as much or even don’t work as hard,” said Dr. Ronald F. 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 focused on a 1986 paper titled “Black Student’s School Success: Coping With the Burden of ‘Acting White.’”
The paper, by Drs. Signithia Fordham and John Uzo 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. Both she and Ferguson are Black.
Fordham expressed suspicion 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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