The Covenant with Black America

Liam Julian

Introduction by Tavis Smiley
Third World Press
2006

The majority of this book (currently number 26 on Amazon.com) may not be as vapid as its examination in chapter two, or "Covenant II" as the chapters are named, of how to better educate black students. But I read only Covenant II-and it's pretty awful. Not only does the chapter avoid saying anything substantial, but most of its sentiments are either wrongheaded or just plain wrong. Take, for example, this sentence from the chapter's introductory essay by Edmund W. Gordon: "As members of the black community, we must take responsibility for educating all our children-whether ours by birth or otherwise-to uplift our people as a whole." One expects the next paragraphs to expand upon this theme, perhaps by suggesting how black communities can take responsibility for educating their children. But Gordon doesn't have time for substance; he's got a lot of fluff to cover. He kicks it up a notch when his meaningless musings become overtly ridiculous. He writes, for example, about America's "caste-like system" and puts forth unreasonable thoughts about redistributing the nation's income, wealth, and resources. And of course, as an Ed school professor (at Columbia, no less), Gordon must incorporate sentences like this: "But even more problematic may be the changing and rising demands for intellective competence that are associated with urbanicity and post-modernity, at the same time that blacks are trying to close the achievement gap." Ugh. Are we even still talking about education? The rest of Covenant II is no better. There are many platitudes about demanding high standards and universal pre-K, and a lot of nice notions such as making sure everyone in the family has a library card. Nothing of substance here; no hard questions addressed in a serious way. Cornel West writes that this book is "an historic document...." No, it's really not-skip it.