Ratchetdemic: Reimagining Academic Success

Beacon. Aug. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9780807089507. $25.95. ED
Emdin (science education, Teachers Coll., Columbia Univ.; Inst. for Urban and Minority Education) builds on his previous book, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood, and proposes methods of teaching and learning that welcome and nurture students of color. He writes that modern schooling should encourage behaviors and identities that it has historically vilified and sought to eradicate, especially among Black students. The book’s title refers particularly to the dismissal of ratchet identity in whiteness-centered schooling; Emdin defines ratchet identity as “the embodying of all ‘negative’ characteristics associated with lowbrow culture” like hip-hop. Using thoughtful metaphors and anecdotes, Emdin details situations in education where teachers and students have been encouraged or forced to surrender the most valuable parts of themselves, their energies, their creativity, their lived experiences, and their emotional intelligence. The dismissal of or outright hostility toward these students’ and teachers’ whole selves deprives them of an education, he writes, whether or not they continue to earn degrees. Emdin explores the intersections between the personal and the institutional and suggests that deeper, more individual pedagogical shifts are essential to reforming a system that continues to do lasting harm to children and communities of color.
VERDICT This engaging book makes its points clearly and effectively; even readers with decades of classroom experience will come away with new knowledge and perspectives. A must-read for educators, students, parents, and anyone with a vested interest in an equal education system.
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