Cultural Ecology Explanation of School Failure

Anthropologist John Ogbu hypothesized that the poor academic achievement of African Americans primarily resulted from their opposition to White mainstream culture and the fear of acting White. Ogbu distinguished two types of racial minorities: immigrant or voluntary and caste-like or involuntary. Voluntary immigrants came to the United States because they viewed it as a land of opportunity and hope. Caste-like minorities are indigenous groups that have experienced institutionalized racism and discrimination in the United States. Voluntary immigrants to the United States—such as immigrants from China, India, and Jamaica—are more academically successful than are caste-like minorities because voluntary immigrants tend to embrace U.S. mainstream values and behaviors that are manifested in the schools.

Caste-like minorities such as African Americans and Mexican Americans resist the academic values and ...

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