His latest book on charter schools continues his research on minority success in education.
The economist Thomas Sowell’s new book, “Charter Schools and Their Enemies,” was published last month on his 90th birthday. I hope he’s not done yet, but you could hardly find a more suitable swan song for a publishing career that has now spanned six decades.
Mr. Sowell’s earliest tomes—an economics textbook for college undergraduates and a book on economic history—were directed at students of the dismal science. But his third book, the semiautobiographical “Black Education: Myths and Tragedies,” was published in 1972 and written for the general public. It grew out of a long article on college admissions standards for black students that he wrote for the New York Times Magazine in 1970 after leaving his teaching post at Cornell. And it begins with a recounting of his own education—first at segregated schools in North Carolina, where he was born, and later at integrated schools in New York City, where he was raised.
The topic of education is one that he’s returned to repeatedly in his writings over the decades, in books like “Education: Assumptions Versus History” (1986), “Choosing a College” (1989) and “Inside American Education” (1993). In addition, he’s done pioneering research on the history of black education in the U.S. The preface to his latest work describes a conversation he had in the early 1970s with Irving Kristol, the late editor of the Public Interest. When Kristol asked what could be done to create high-quality schools for blacks, Mr. Sowell replied that such schools already existed and had for generations.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images