Amanda Lewis & John Diamond’s Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools (2015) will be our next Book Club reading!
Despite the Best Intentions is a great read for families opting in to integrating schools (especially the fifth chapter entitled Opportunity Hoarding: Creating and Maintaining Racial Advantage!!). Thinking about classroom-level integration, this book looks at both the school structures and the behaviors of white and/or privileged families that support inequality on campus.
On the surface, Riverview High School looks like the post-racial ideal. Serving an enviably affluent, diverse, and liberal district, the school is well-funded, its teachers are well-trained, and many of its students are high achieving. Yet Riverview has not escaped the same unrelenting question that plagues schools throughout America: why is it that even when all of the circumstances seem right, black and Latino students continue to lag behind their peers?
Through five years’ worth of interviews and data-gathering at Riverview, John Diamond and Amanda Lewis have created a rich and disturbing portrait of the achievement gap that persists more than fifty years after the formal dismantling of segregation. As students progress from elementary school to middle school to high school, their level of academic achievement increasingly tracks along racial lines, with white and Asian students maintaining higher GPAs and standardized testing scores, taking more advanced classes, and attaining better college admission results than their black and Latino counterparts. Most research to date has focused on the role of poverty, family stability, and other external influences in explaining poor performance at school, especially in urban contexts. Diamond and Lewis instead situate their research in a suburban school, and look at what factors within the school itself could be causing the disparity. Most crucially, they challenge many common explanations of the ‘racial achievement gap,’ exploring what race actually means in this situation, and why it matters.
An in-depth study with far-reaching consequences, Despite the Best Intentions revolutionizes our understanding of both the knotty problem of academic disparities and the larger question of the color line in American society.
HOW Book Club WORKS:
- REGISTER by clicking on the time slot that works best for you… (We keep these conversation groups small to encourage meaningful discussion. We also try to offer a variety of times to accommodate lives and time zones. Please let us know if you’re interested in participating but cannot make one of these times work &/or if you need to cancel).
- Get the book. Read it. (especially chapter 5!)
- At your chosen time, log in through your computer or phone (it’s easy and free), and join the conversation online with parents from across the country.
- Invite your friends, share on social media!
If you’re interested in starting an in-person Integrated Schools Book Club in your community, drop us a line. And, as always, please email with any questions, suggestions or comments – we’d love to hear from you!