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Summarizing Anecdotes is not research
on June 28, 2004
As a psychology researcher in inner-city schools, I am drawn to the description of this book because as a field (edu. research), we do indeed lack a theoretical framework to understand poverty in relation to school achievement. But this book falls very short in presenting such a framework. The main data of the book is the author's anecdotal experience, which she summarizes in almost in-your-face presentation of poverty case studies. But a framework fails to draw on various existing well-researched directions in poverty and in education to present a coherent parsimonious way to understand complex phenomena. The conclusions drawn by this author is thinly baesd on a few limited writings (mostly on linguistics), while largely a collection of personal opinions. The author stated that the idea for the book proceeded her years of "research" experience. That may be the problem. A hindsight retrospection wears very tainted lenses. The "years of experience" is not examined in real-time with specific research questions. Rather, they are selectively drawn upon to be coherent only with the author's current thinking. The reference list in the back is more in depth than what the author actually put in text. The mostly pointless clip art inserted throughout the book made it seem like the publisher is trying to squeeze more pages into a other-wise small book. The two pages comparing classes are interesting (but by no means research or data based). They did become very stereotypical (like the local evening news). Educational recommendations are very simplistic and lack explicit logical reasoning. I question the book's treatment of poverty students as a different breed, indicating that somehow they need to be taught special rules in order to even begin learning. For example, the notion that somehow poverty students don't have a sense of choices thus fail to understand causal relationship leading from choices to consequences. What?! That's a very very broad claim that is unlikely to be measurable. In child development, there comes a certain age where many children have trouble realizing (thus having to learn) that choices are related to consequences, regardless of their race, culture, or, income. These claims are quite outrageously stereotypical. Overall, Framework for Understanding is neither framework nor understanding. It may be of some interest here and there, but its title surely over-claims the substance of its content.
For interested readers, I recommend John Ogbu's ethnographical study on Shaker Heights, titled "Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb".