Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom: Win 2007 Prize for Excellence in Education Awarded by Conservative Foundation

Historians in the News

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation named civil rights & education researchers Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, keen and creative analyst Paul T. Hill, and charismatic equality champion Kati Haycock the recipients of the 2007 Fordham Prizes for Excellence in Education.

"Each year we strive, with the help of a distinguished independent prize selection committee, to make these awards to candidates who embody and exemplify the spirit of excellence in education, in ways consistent with the values and ideals of the Foundation, and this year is no exception," said Foundation President Chester E. Finn, Jr. "We are privileged to honor four remarkable individuals whose tireless, intrepid and imaginative efforts have forever altered the landscape of American education. The ‘achievement gap' is now part of our common vocabulary; ‘culture' is now understood to be a key determinant of student achievement that schools can actually shape; and charter and contract schools now proliferate around the nation as part of a larger reinvention of public education. These and many other momentous developments owe much to the courage, insight, and tenacity of this year's Fordham prize winners."

The Fordham Prize for Distinguished Scholarship is conferred on "scholars who made major contributions to education reform via research, analysis, and successful engagement in the war of ideas." In 2007, it is awarded jointly to:...

Abigail Thernstrom, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute; Vice-Chair of the U.S Commission on Civil Rights and Stephan Thernstrom, Winthrop Professor of History at Harvard University; Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute.

As individuals, the Thernstroms each have led distinguished scholarly careers. As a couple, they've been a dynamic duo, especially on contentious issues of education and race. Despite jabs from those who value "political-correctness" over scholarly research, their first joint book, America in Black and White, One Nation Indivisible (1997), bucked the conventional wisdom, showing that the U.S. has made great strides toward racial equality in the past 50 years. No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (2003) tackled the thorny issue of racial "culture," contending such elements largely explain why some groups trail and others excel. But theirs is no counsel of despair or determinism; they also illustrate the malleability and improvability of current performance by identifying and illuminating a host of schools that shape and reshape culture and thus help all of their students reach high levels of achievement.

"If you care about the fate of black kids, and you better care if you are concerned about racial equality, you don't pretend when you see a distinctive problem," says Abigail. "You confront it head on and try to find solutions, or at least try to walk in the right direction."...

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