When Education Week reporter Debra Viadero wanted to learn how she could improve her reporting about race, she turned to three Black education scholars to review her past work.
One of those scholars was UW–Madison’s John Diamond, the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education and a professor in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.
The reviewers noticed that in some of Viadero’s articles, particularly those published between 1997 and 2000, she focused too much on the roles of students, families, and communities in contributing to Black students’ achievement and not enough on systemic issues. One example was a 1997 package of stories on the then-popular “acting white” idea to explain Black-white differences in educational outcomes.
The theory suggested that Black students were discouraged from attaining educational excellence by peers who equated academic achievement to “acting white,” Viadero explains.
Diamond noted: “In terms of peers disparaging school achievement, that was a cross-racial phenomenon … It wasn’t necessarily about Black students at all.”
Diamond explained that though a single article or paper or book cannot reverse hundreds of years of racial ideology, “I do think the repetition of peer culture can contribute to that louder, broader chorus, and that can have negative implications.”
Viadero also referenced the work of UW–Madison’s Gloria Ladson-Billings, a professor emerita in the School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, in the article, as it relates to recasting the so-called “achievement gap” as an “opportunity gap” or “education debt.” Ladson-Billings, “who coined the latter term,” Viadero explains, “compares it to the national budget debt, a product of centuries of accumulated historical, economic, and sociopolitical deficits loaded on the backs of Black students.”
To learn more, check out the full article on the Education Week website, here.