Why Some Minority Groups Succeed in School and Some Don’t to be Provocative Subject of UB’s 2000 Acer Colloquium

Release Date: September 19, 2000

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- John U. Ogbu, Ph.D., Chancellor's Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley and one of the world's leading educational anthropologists, will present the 2000 Charlotte C. Acer Colloquium on Urban Education at UB.

The endowed colloquium, sponsored by the UB Graduate School of Education, will be presented from 4-6 p.m. Oct. 5 in 250 Baird Hall on the North Campus. It will be free of charge and open to the public.

In his lecture, Ogbu -- a leading researcher in the field of minority-group school performance -- will present data from his ethnographic research of differential academic performance by immigrant (or voluntary) and non-immigrant (or involuntary) minorities.

The major theoretical issue he will address is why some minorities are relatively successful in academic terms, in spite of differences between theirs and the dominant culture, language, cognitive styles, and why other minorities with similar differences are less successful.

He also will discuss the relationship between collective identity and rejection of "white behaviors" among black students and within the African-American community.

Ogbu currently is working in three research areas: minority status and schooling in urban industrial societies, collective identity, and culture and intelligence. His comparative research explores the influence of culture and culture change on cognitive skills or "intelligence."

His recent field studies were conducted in Oakland and Union City, Calif., on African Americans, Chinese Americans and Mexican Americans, and in an affluent suburban community in Ohio.

He is interested as well in the relationship between collective identity and cultural/language boundaries. His focus is on the sense of "we-feeling" and "belongingness" within cultural minority groups.

Ogbu notes that collective identity may not be less important to members of individualistic mainstream U.S. and western European societies -- or to anthropologists from these societies, for that matter.

He maintains, however, that collective identity has much greater import to minority groups in contemporary U.S., Canada, Japan and other urban industrial societies, as well as to various ethnic groups in Bosnia, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and other nations.

Ogbu is the author of several books and more than 90 articles on these issues and is widely referenced and quoted by academic scholars working in the fields of education and educational anthropology.

Among his recent publications are "Voluntary and Involuntary Minorities: A Cultural-Ecological Theory of School Performance" in Anthropology and Education Quarterly and a chapter on "Speech, Community, Language Identity and Language Boundaries in "Language and Environment: A Cultural Approach to Education for Minority and Migrant Students," edited by A. Sjogren (Stockholm: Botkyrka, 1997).

The Charlotte C. Acer Fund of the UB Graduate School of Education was endowed by Acer, an alumna of the school, to facilitate informative and provocative lectures, discussions and analyses that address complex issues in urban education.

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