Neither A Pot of Gold Nor A Highway To Heaven
‘All that glitters is not gold,” is a favorite adage of seasoned prospectors. “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” is another. The title and thickness of this book suggest that it will yield a glimmering mother lode of promising perspectives, practices and prescriptions aimed at helping teachers, policymakers, parents and others improve minority students’ academic performance. Unfortunately, the contents fall far short of the desired pay-off, and readers are led far from the destination ultimately sought. That this book is published by a vanity press, albeit one with an officious-sounding name, was the first indication that this work might not offer the desired payload. For those uninformed about the nature of such presses, they print books on demand, at their authors’ requests and expense, most typically without editorial scrutiny of their contents. Thus, what readers “see” is what the paying customer/author/editor “gets” — no proofreader, no copy editor, no “third eye” to help book originators sift objectively through the wheat and the chaff. Sans critical prepublication review, the product in this case is one whose contents generally blur rather than elucidate an important theme.
For example, among the most egregious oversights is the fact that a couple of the 19 articles included in this volume have absolutely no relationship to its theme. I am referring particularly to two cross-national studies that comparatively address the academic performance of Asian — not Asian American — and U.S. students. What “minorities” are being focused on in either of these articles? In Asia, Asians are not minorities! Would an article on Senegalese students’ achievement be included in a book on minority student achievement in Africa? I think not.
And then, what is the point of including several articles that are heavily laden with statistics in a book that is presumably targeted principally toward nonresearch-oriented, practitioner/policymaker audiences? For educational stakeholders unfamiliar with statistical gyrations such as MANOVA and delta p analyses, many of these studies serve not to clarify but to confuse the issue at hand. This muddiness is only worsened by the myriad typographical and grammatical errors that are rampant (and I mean rampant!) in this book from front to back, and that make for less than insightful or comprehensible reading.
Moreover, many of these studies lack the ingredients normally deemed essential to sound educational research — namely, thorough, concise methodology sections that include sufficient information on study participants, instruments and procedures. Failure to include these ingredients leaves serious readers groping for vital pieces of research information. Such omissions are too numerous and frequent to be overlooked in this work and are therefore inexcusable.
Last, what purpose does it serve to compile a collection of research studies that are generally less than satisfactorily conceived, in many case didactic and sloppily written, and insufficiently and incon-
sistently documented or supported — unless, of course, the objective is to publish at all costs? It is doubtful if many of these articles, without further (and in many cases substantial) revision, would have passed muster for inclusion in any scholarly educational research journal worth its ink. Indeed, critical readers might suspect that the vanity press outlet was the only way these articles could get into print. While one has no reason to doubt that the contributing authors and editor are not eminently dedicated and trenchant in their commitment to discerning these elements, their work ultimately contributes not to greater understanding of these elements but to increased befuddlement about them. This is not to say that the premises and intentions of this work as a whole are without merit; however, these chapters leave much to be desired by those whose expectations of scholarly literature far exceed the lowered standards of this work.
In her Introduction, editor Gregory presages that the authors’ contributions “provide supporting evidence that the academic performance of minority and other children can be enhanced through encouragement, caring and supporting attitudes on the part of teachers and parents, maintaining high standards, expecting academic improvement throughout the semester, creative pedagogy, a diverse curriculum, instructional support and resources for teachers, and utilizing various means to measure student performance” (pp. xxiii-xxiv).
Unfortunately, it is not until page 505 of this 519-page tome that Gregory’s own last-chapter contribution offers a concrete, albeit typographically slurred, identification of eight factors that “contribute to the academic success of minority, immigrant, and international the [sic] students, particularly those who are not native speakers of English.” Those factors are: early assessment and placement, remediation, support for mainstreaming efforts, supplemental instruction, assistance with the acculturation process, academic counseling and advisement, personal and career counseling, and faculty and staff development (presumably addressing issues related to minority students).
How unfortunate that readers must sift through all these flashes in the pan and travel down all these crooked paths to get to such a concise, straightforward revelation! How one wishes that this book’s good intentions had been better realized, yielding a real, rather than a substandard, “pot of gold.”
On a positive note, The Aca-demic Achieve-ment of Minority Students, though not first-rate scholarship, does offer some flecks of wisdom if one can manage to wade through its many digressive, insight-deterring elements. However, there is certainly a much finer body of scholarship available on improving minority students’ promise and potential. Much of that literature can be found in other minority-student focused resources published by reputable venues such as established scholarly journals and academic and commercial presses.
Overall, this edited volume would have benefited from closer editorial scrutiny of each article’s contents, quality and relevance. Additionally, its originator would have benefited as well from a professional publishing house’s editorial expertise to help her better conceptualize and select her contents.
Absent these advantages, like fool’s gold, the book lacks the luster of authentic, polished scholarship. It dangles the promise of untold riches before the eyes of readers and promises a path to greater understanding. But caveat emptor: All that glitters is not gold, and the road to Hell…
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