Discrimination, Culture, or Capital?

The Challenges of Underconceptualizing Race in Educational Research

Authored by: Amanda Lewis , Carla O’Connor , Jennifer Mueller

Handbook of Social Justice in Education

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805859270
eBook ISBN: 9780203887745
Adobe ISBN: 9781135596149


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Concerns about racial inequity are central to conversations about the role of education in promoting social justice as well as in promoting more just educational outcomes and experiences. In this chapter we examine how race is typically deployed in educational research and raise a number of concerns about its underconceptualization in the literature. Specifically, at the same time that race serves as a commonplace marker for deciphering group-based distinctions in school experience, it has been undertheorized as a social construct (Lynn & Adams, 2002; Pollock, 2004). As we will elaborate upon below, our failure to attend to race with greater conceptual (and by implication methodological) precision, impinges upon our ability to develop more exact interpretations of how and why students fare in school as they do.

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