Building on their important findings in The Source of the River, the authors now probe even more deeply into minority underachievement at the college level. Taming the River examines the academic and social dynamics of different ethnic groups during the first two years of college. Focusing on racial differences in academic performance, the book identifies the causes of students’ divergent grades and levels of personal satisfaction with their institutions.
Using survey data collected from twenty-eight selective colleges and universities, Taming the River considers all facets of student life, including who students date, what fields they major in, which sports they play, and how they perceive their own social and economic backgrounds. The book explores how black and Latino students experience pressures stemming from campus racial climate and “stereotype threat” — when students underperform because of anxieties tied to existing negative stereotypes. Describing the relationship between grade performance and stereotype threat, the book shows how this link is reinforced by institutional practices of affirmative action. The authors also indicate that when certain variables are controlled, minority students earn the same grades, express the same college satisfaction, and remain in school at the same rates as white students.
A powerful look at how educational policies unfold in America’s universities, Taming the River sheds light on the social and racial factors influencing student success.
Camille Z. Charles is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Social Sciences, and professor of sociology, education, and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Mary J. Fischer is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. Margarita A. Mooney is assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Douglas S. Massey is the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University.
"An insightful study of scholastic performance and ethnicity on US campuses. . . . The increasing relative underperformance of US higher education, and especially the variations in academic achievement and persistence between students from different ethnic and socio-economic groups, has recently spawned a plethora of scholarly studies. This book is one of the most important."—Roger Brown, Times Higher Education
"Fascinating and important for anyone who cares about managing diversity in higher education."—Stanley Katz, Teachers College Record
"Taming the River provides pivotal insights into the experiences of students based on racial differences at elite institutions. Despite its heavy emphasis on quantitative findings, readers can easily understand the data presented in this book. The authors' depiction of the challenges that many students, especially Black and Latino students, face while navigating the first two years of their higher education experience will hopefully inspire readers to develop educational programs to assist these students during this critical phase."—Jennifer S. Cortes, Review of Higher Education
"Taming the River is a well written and compelling read that uses sound research and analysis based in strong foundations of sociology and social psychology. The book clearly stimulates thought about institutional, state, and federal policies."—Noah D. Drezner, Journal of College Student Retention
"Our image of life in America's selective colleges has not caught up with the realities of that life, especially regarding the diverse students these schools now serve and the challenges these students face. This book—part of a series reporting on one of the most ambitious studies ever done on the experience of different groups in elite higher education—does more to remedy this problem than anything I have read in ten years. It delivers a revealing description of this part of society with comprehensive data that are brilliantly interpreted. It will be indispensable reading for anyone concerned with higher education policy and the challenges of racial integration in the United States."—Claude Steele, Stanford University
"Taming the River provides the best analysis yet of the factors influencing the academic performance of different racial groups in selective colleges. It contains an illuminating discussion of how undergraduates divide their time among coursework, social activities, recreation, and other pursuits, and why some students drop out of college or transfer to other institutions. This book will be invaluable to anyone interested in undergraduate education."—Derek Bok, coauthor of The Shape of the River
"This is the most detailed and sophisticated analysis of the determinants of student grades that has ever been done. The arguments and data are compelling."—Stephen Cole, State University of New York, Stony Brook
"Taming the River is an important contribution to our understanding of the college experience and specifically the factors influencing academic performance of minority students. Using a unique dataset containing an incredible richness of information on college experiences, the authors provide compelling explanations with breadth and depth."—Josipa Roksa, University of Virginia