Book by Vanessa Sheared & Assoc. (Eds.)
Review by Carolyn A. Caveny
Academic Advising
Emmanuel College, Boston, Massachusetts

The title, The Handbook of Race and Adult Education, almost immediately caught this reviewer’s attention. Excellent educational pedagogical strategies for black students and critical theories of race and racism have been priorities throughout my professional career and personal life. So it was disappointing when I experienced a dissonance between the contents of this work and its title. 

The very term “handbook” implies guidelines, principles, best practices, and focuses on the practical applications of theoretical underpinnings. It has the potential for direction and guidance. At the same time, “Adult Education” in a post secondary environment elicits an emphasis on the non-traditional student and/or career changer. Unfortunately, neither of these realities is evident on the first read of this text.  

The book is divided into five (5) parts: The Myth Versus the Reality of Race and Racism; Problematizing “Whiteness”, Supremacy, and Privilege: Their Impact on Race; Theoretical Responses to Race and Racism; Reframing the Field Through the Lens of Race; and Individual and Collective Responses to Race and Racism. The personal experience and/or scholarship of twenty (20) contributing authors are referenced throughout parts 1 - 4. Part 5 includes an epilogue with input from the editors.

The editors state on p. xxii, “dialogue is one way of improving how individuals approach and deal with the subject or race and racism”. Equally important,” we look forward to providing a medium through which those in higher education as well as in the general adult education field can engage in a discussion that leads to a critical understanding and moves individuals into meaningful change”. p. 3 

As a way of proceeding with the directive above, this reviewer suggests reading the Epilogue first. It contains Implications for Curriculum, Programming, and Research. The Epilogue delineates the tenets and practices of Afrocentrism and Womanist theories, and challenges and instructs readers about white privilege. Then, the reader might continue with “Reading, Writing, and Racism: Developing Racial Literacy in the Adult Education English Classroom and “Transforming Teaching and Learning: Teaching Race”.

This work, however poignant, sounds confessional and needs to be streamlined and refined. I applaud the editors and contributing authors’ willingness to offer personal and professional insights on racism and their experience in education. And at the same time, I agree with the editors’ words on p. 338, “we often were trapped in a cycle of conversations that remained aloof and detached”. Sadly, this frustration seems to persist throughout this work.

The Handbook of Race and Adult Education: A Resource for Dialogue on Racism. Book by Vanessa Sheared, Juanita Johnson-Bailey, Scipio A. J. Colin, III, Elizabeth Peterson, Stephen D. Brookfield & Assoc. (Eds.). Review by Carolyn A. Caveny. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 416 pp. $55.00. ISBN # 978-0-470-38176-2
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