“In traditional schools, both public and private, we are systematically taught that Western culture is the best culture. We are taught that the greatest thinkers, scientists, authors, and political figures are White and that there is a serious absence of talent and historical achievement among people of color. To be truly American means to reject all that makes you different as a person of color and instead adopt the beliefs, education, aspirations, and even the leisure pastimes of White citizens… The result is that students of color graduate knowing more about an external culture than the culture found within their own homes.” – Zakkiyya Chase, No Dream Deferred: Why Black and Latino Families Are Choosing Homeschool
Growing up, we are told that education is the great equalizer. But it isn’t, because everyone doesn’t get the same quality of education. “Land of opportunity” has always been more distant hope than immediate reality for many families in the United States, and although the modern generation would like to believe that we are “post-racial”, race plays an enormous, and detrimental, role in why that is, especially when it comes to the education of Black and Latinx children.
In her riveting, well-researched, and concise new book, Zakkiyya Chase makes a case for homeschooling that is compelling, to say the very least. Chase uses both the past and present of persons of colour in the U.S. to illustrate how our children are funneled through a school system which views them as grades and test scores at best, and allows them to fall through the cracks at worst. She plainly and unambiguously details how, as the products of the white supremacist system of government which they seek to uphold, with faculty who are mirrors of the preconceived notions about race, ethnicity and socio-economic class that permeate the very fabric of this nation, the American school system, while a nice notion, has been unkind to children of colour in its execution.
No Dream Deferred… delves into the ramifications, both great and small, of “normal” being cishet white patriarchy and how the teaching based around this homogenous idea of normalcy can be exclusionary and downright toxic to children who don’t fit that criteria. She painfully, and accurately, narrates the sense of alienation and dehumanization Black and Latinx children can often feel when they are forced to partake in an entire curriculum centered around the history, agenda, and worldview of their oppressors, with their own history and unique racial and ethnic culture being relegated to an occasional elective or one month of the year, if not outright dismissed. Chase’s book presents the “radical” notion that having their entire personhood acknowledged, and teaching how they learn, rather than trying to make them learn how you teach, is not only the best way to honour a child’s natural curiosity and foster a lifelong love for learning, but also a way of paying homage to their culture, and building their sense of family and community.
No Dream Deferred… pinpoints the ways in which public, private, and charter schools set brilliant, enthusiastic, inquisitive, developmentally delayed/learning disabled and/or poor children of colour (read: “behavioural problems”) up for failure while slowly killing or successfully repressing their individuality and sense of self. We examine the ways in which children of colour are forced to use inauthenticity as a survival tactic, stripping themselves of culture and originality in order to stay out of trouble in an environment which will gladly pummel who they are in order to rebuild them into someone “better” (read: more obedient to self-professed authority figures). She delves into the history of integrated public schools and takes us right to the present, where classism is being used as a tool to resegregate, private schools often being exclusionary ports of religious and social indoctrination, and charter schools being one of the most significant rungs on the ladder that is the school-to-prison pipeline. We are also forced to re-evaluate the level of harm being perpetuated in many of the seemingly harmless methodologies utilized by the traditional American school system that many of us grew up with.
Both educational reference and social commentary, No Dream Deferred… doesn’t just lay out problems in the current systems of schooling and the way we think about education, but it is an uplifting and inspiring point commencement for those who would seek to embark on the journey of homeschooling with their children. With simplicity and honesty, Chase describes the few trials and well as the abundant rewards of homeschooling for both parents and children, and the limitless ways in which such a method of learning can be customizable, engaging, challenging, and affirming for both parties. Chase, who has homeschooled her own son all of his life, offers testimonials from other homeschooling parents of colour, giving us brief, yet intimate and varied glances into the lives of everyday people making the revolutionary choice to expand and nurture their children’s minds, rather than shape and mold them. I highly recommend this book to any and everyone who is, has, or is considering homeschooling, to parents, soon-to-be parents, and would-be parents. If children are the future, we must be proactive in ensuring that said future is bright.
I give this one 5 stars.