Book of the week: educating black children

7th September 2001 at 01:00

Educating our Black Children: new directions and radical approaches
Edited by Richard Majors
RoutledgeFalmer pound;16.99

In his introduction, Richard Majors applauds the UK government's "innovative and creative approach to addressing social inclusion", but argues that further action is needed to maximise the benefits for black children. The book provides a convincing rationale for this argument.

My biggest reservation about the book is the slippage between "children" and "boys". The titles of six out of the 15 papers refer to boys; none have titles that refer to girls. In a further two chapters, both of which deal with exclusion, the focus again turns out to be almost completely on boys, though the authors use the words "boys" and "children" almost interchangeably.

Having said this, the collection includes some thought-provoking material. The three papers that make up the section on "Radical black approaches to education" make fascinating reading. Mekada Graham explores an "African-centred orientation to knowledge" and looks at the contribution African-centred perspectives can make to supporting an inclusive school curriculum.

Graham's paper is followed by Diane Pollard and Cheryl Ajirotutu's study of an "African American Immersion Schools experiment". This fascinating account of an elementary and a middle school set up by a MidWestern US city to implement African-centred models of education illuminates the possibilities of radical change.

The authors attribute the differing outcomes in the schools - the elementary school was markedly more successful - to a cocktail of management styles, history, staff stability and external reactions to the schools. With specialist schools high on the policy agenda here, this paper has much to say to the UK reader.

I felt the absence of contributions by practising classroom teachers was a missed opportunity: the perspectives of authors who are directly responsible for black children's education would have been valuable.

Shereen Benjamin is a research fellow at the Open University

A longer version of this review appears in this week's Friday magazine

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