Keith Robinson

Sociology professor Keith Robinson will be speaking at a symposium held at the White House on Wednesday.

Robinson and Duke University professor Angel Harris will discuss their new book on children’s education at the Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement, held by the U.S. Department of Education and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at the White House, which starts on Tuesday night and ends on Wednesday.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for professors,” Robinson said. “It’s not something we ever really anticipate happening in our careers.”

Robinson and Harris’ book, “The Broken Compass,” addresses the impacts of parental involvement on children’s academic success.

In his research, Robinson examined the academic performances of children in K-12 across varying ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds over a period of time. He looked at how the children were doing in school and recorded their parents’ behavior. He later measured any changes in the children’s academic performances.

According to Robinson, parents expecting their children to go to college had an effective impact on their children’s academic performance, regardless of ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds. But Robinson said he also found parents help their children with homework was ineffective.

“I started becoming aware of the counterintuitive finding,” Robinson said. “There’s something about the way parents help with homework that’s not effective.”

Regarding his “counterintuitive finding,” Robinson said he was only able to record what parents were doing, but he was not able to test how they were doing it.

“Telling parents to be more involved won’t work,” Robinson said. “It needs to be directed on how we’re telling the parents and customized based on ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds and grade levels.”

Black students are more likely to support affirmative action and desegregation policies than white students, according to a recently released UT study. The study, conducted in 2008, took the student population of a well-integrated Midwestern high school and split it in half, showing one group an affirmative action plan and the other a desegregation plan for the district. The object of the study was to find which factors correlated to a student’s support for either of the policies. The most indicative factor was a student’s level of awareness, said psychology professor Rebecca Bigler, who led of the study. “How much a student knows about current inequalities and how the student explains these inequalities is the most important factor in deciding how the student will react to policies involving affirmative action,” Bigler said. Students, black or white, who attributed these inequalities to racism also supported affirmative action policies in three out of four cases, she said. But those who attributed the inequalities to other causes, such as laziness, showed much lower support for such policies. Bigler cites a lack of proper conversation at home as the primary cause. “White people generally adopted a colorblind philosophy [when dealing with race], but the problem is that when they don’t talk about it with their kids and the kid notices it, the kid has to explain it for herself,” she said. “And often their conclusions are not based on reality or fact.” These findings didn’t surprise associate sociology professor Keith Robinson. “[White parents] see it as a way forward, where race is no longer an issue, which is a good thought, but there has to be a healthy way to get there,” Robinson said. “And the healthiest route is where we’re all walking together.” People think desegregation has been achieved because of Brown vs. Board of Education, however, schools are still as bad as they were in 1965, Robinson said. Robinson said open conversation is the first step to achieving true equality. “We’ve been reluctant to sit down and talk about racial relations as they stand today,” he said. “And it’s not just one conversation we need to have. It needs to be a conversation amongst all U.S. citizens, until we’re no longer afraid to talk about race.”