The Walls Around Opportunity: The Failure of Colorblind Policy for Higher Education

Princeton Univ Apr. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780691227412. $29.95. ED
Orfield (education, law, political science, and urban planning, Univ. of California, Los Angeles) offers a thorough, unflinching look at what it would take to eradicate racial barriers in American higher education. Orfield walks readers through the history of harm and exclusion in the U.S. education system, especially for black, Latinx, and Indigenous students, and explains why most “race-blind” attempts to open up college access have failed. He argues that any policy that will truly make strides in narrowing the achievement gap will have to include considerations of race and the particular problems students of color encounter as they try to access education. This comprehensive work addresses just about every aspect of this multilayered problem, with particular attention to inadequate high school preparation and unmanageable college costs. Readers with a strong understanding of U.S. history will find that the first several chapters are primarily review, but Chapter six, which analyzes potential solutions, is the book’s strongest and is worth a read even for experts.
VERDICT This work finds clear directions within a complex issue and makes a robust case for centering race in higher education policy.
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