Book Review. Educating African American Students: And How Are the Children? (2016). Book by Gloria Swindler Boutte. New York, NY: Routledge. 217 pp. $45.55. ISBN: 978-1-138-89232-3. URL: https://www.amazon.com/Educating-African-American-Students-Children/dp/1138892327
Review by Jennifer Schneider, J.D., M.Ed., MSCIN, Southern New Hampshire University, firstname.lastname@example.org
As higher education becomes a realistic possibility for an increasingly diverse and growing student population, academic advisors welcome and support culturally and linguistically diverse students in their university communities. Despite efforts to promote diversity, research shows “continuing educational inequities and opportunity gaps in accessing and completing a quality postsecondary education” (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). Advisors and student support services serve a critical role in supporting student persistence and retention (U.S. Department of Education, 2016).
Boutte’s “Educating African American Children: And How Are the Children?” shares research and strategies in the form of adaptable tools (texts, lessons, inquiry units, reflection activities, resources, and examples which are beautifully “elastic” (Boutte, 2016, p. xii)) that advisors can use to flex and inform their interactions with students in ways that are empowering, inclusive, and based on trust and respect. (NACADA Core Values, 2017). Boutte writes that “[a]lthough this book intentionally focuses on African American students, the basic tenets can be adapted to other culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) groups” (Boutte, 2016, p. xii). Boutte was especially successful (perhaps more so than she realizes) in this regard.
Boutte reminds readers that while everyone is capable of detecting and interrupting oppression, everyone is also capable of unknowingly contributing to it (Boutte, 2016). Foundationally (and in alignment with NACADA’s knowledge framework), Boutte reminds readers to “focus on reading the world”) and actively critique, review, and ultimately debunk texts (defined broadly) for tendencies to reinforce stereotypes, beliefs, norms, and marginalized positions (Boutte, 2016, p. 59). Advisors can easily (and beneficially) apply these strategies when sharing resources, course recommendations, and university materials with students (whether upon matriculation and/or throughout a student’s academic journey).
The text’s seven chapters emphasize knowing students, not only as receivers of information, but as complex and diverse (racially, socially, culturally) human beings. Chapter 4 encourages “Loving the Language” (whether Standard English (SE), Mainstream American English, African American Language (AAL), or something else) of all students (Boutte, 2016, p.103). Advisors who anticipate and appreciate unique language patterns and usages (and view them as “co-equal language systems”) can better support their students, in alignment with both NACADA’s Relational Component of the Core Competencies and NACADA’s Core Values of Respect, Integrity, and Empowerment (Boutte 2016, p. xiii). Boutte shares that “[e]ven after 12 years of conventional language arts and English instruction, the majority of AAL speakers will exit school without SE proficiency” (Boutte, 2016, p. 107). Data of this nature empowers advisors to ensure students speaking varied languages and dialects receive the instructional supports necessary for success in the formal classroom. Similarly, Boutte’s reminders to remain “alert to words or phrases that serve as triggers” help sharpen and refine the reflexivity and work of academic advising teams (Boutte, 2016, p. 5).
Most relevant for advisors, the text emphasizes the power of individual relationships and interactions to promote change (both good and bad). On behalf of “the children”, I thank Boutte for guiding and inspiring us to “unlock the codes” of oppression (explicit and implicit) through greater understanding, awareness, and information (Boutte, 2016, p. 52). As an educator and student advocate, I count this book as one of my most valued, for both its practical advice and its awakening potential. Advisors strive to be “powers of good on behalf of” all students (Boutte, 2016, pp. 24). Boutte’s work offers valuable support in doing so.
Boutte, G. (2016). Educating African American students: And How Are the children? Routledge.
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development and Office of the Under Secretary, Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, Washington, D.C., 2016.
Jennifer Schneider, SNHU Global Campus, email@example.com