In her work "Black Children", Janice Hale argued that the difficulties many African American children have in school results from differences in learning style that are deeply rooted in African American culture. In this text Hale asks a new question: what sorts of extraordinary measures are needed to overcome these differences and let Black children reach their full potential in school and beyond? Her answer: none. Hale argues that no extraordinary measures are called for to assist African American children in reaching their potential. All that is necessary is for this society to remove the ashes that historically and presently stunt their development". Beginning on a personal note, Hale recounts the stories of her own parent's upward journey to educational and economic success. Why, she asks, did her father and mother - a sharecropper's son and a chauffeur's daughter - become the first in their families to earn college degrees? What factors - personal, social, economic - spurred them to achievements far beyond what would have been predicted for them? Hale uses these biographies to show how African Americans have historically used education to achieve upward mobility.
But she is careful to distinguish between the experiences of previous generations and the challenges faced by today's families. In contemporary America, Hale contends, schools too often function to reproduce for children the status of their parents - and it is only through extraordinary individual effort that upward mobility occurs. "Unbank the Fire" - the title is taken from a sermon preached by the author's father - proposes what teachers, administrators and parents can do "today" to remove the obstacles that block children's progress. Emphasizing the need for educating young children within the context of their own culture, Hale offers a wealth of specific suggestions. She proposes modest yet far-reaching reforms in educational practice, offering a detailed description of an early childhood demonstration programme that she desgined and explaining how all schools can develop new, culturally appropriate ways of teaching. Academic achievement for all our children, she concludes, is critical to solving problems in urban communities such as drug abuse, premature sexual activity, and violence.
Illustrated with the author's own family snapshots, historical photographs and views of exemplary contemporary classrooms, "Unbank the Fire" offers solutions to a longstanding problem that is the responsibility and concern of all Americans.