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Journal Article: When Are Racial Disparities in Education the Result of Racial Discrimination? A Social Science Perspective

Journal Article » When Are Racial Disparities in Education the Result of Racial Discrimination? A Social Science Perspective

Categories

Education, Equal Education, Race and Ethnic Discrimination, Social, Sciences

Authors

Mickelson, Roslyn Arlin

Published

2003, Aug

Abstract

In this article I seek to answer the question, "When are racial disparities in education the result of racial discrimination?" To answer it I synthesize the social science research on racially correlated disparities in education. My review draws from the sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology, history, and education literatures. I organize explanations into six categories: biological determinism, social structure, school organization and opportunities to learn, family background, culture, and the state. I arrive at three answers. The first is a definition: Racial discrimination in education arises from actions of institutions or individual state actors, their attitudes and ideologies, or processes that systematically treat students from different racial/ethnic groups disparately or inequitably. The second answer is that while distinguishing racial discrimination from disparities may be an interesting intellectual, legal, and statistical challenge, the conclusion probably is less meaningful than social scientists and policy makers might hope. The third answer follows from the first two. Even if we conclude that discrimination does not cause racial disparities in education, we should not conclude that schools have no role in addressing them. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA )

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