On the surface, Riverview High School looks like the post-racial ideal. Serving an enviably affluent, diverse, and liberal district, the school is well-funded, its teachers are well-trained, and many of its students are high achieving. Yet Riverview has not escaped the same unrelenting question that plagues schools throughout America: why is it that even when all of the circumstances seem right, black and Latino students continue to lag behind their peers?
Through five years' worth of interviews and data-gathering at Riverview, John Diamond and Amanda Lewis have created a rich and disturbing portrait of the achievement gap that persists more than fifty years after the formal dismantling of segregation. As students progress from elementary school to middle school to high school, their level of academic achievement increasingly tracks along racial lines, with white and Asian students maintaining higher GPAs and standardized testing scores, taking more advanced classes, and attaining better college admission results than their black and Latino counterparts. Most research to date has focused on the role of poverty, family stability, and other external influences in explaining poor performance at school, especially in urban contexts. Diamond and Lewis instead situate their research in a suburban school, and look at what factors within the school itself could be causing the disparity. Most crucially, they challenge many common explanations of the 'racial achievement gap, ' exploring what race actually means in this situation, and why it matters.
An in-depth study with far-reaching consequences, Despite the Best Intentions revolutionizes our understanding of both the knotty problem of academic disparities and the larger question of the color line in American society.
The book focused one high school in particular and gathered all of their data and interviews from Riverview High School. They chose to study the one high school to show a snapshot of the nationwide problem but I felt that the book would have benefited from more nationwide statistics. There are many graphs placed throughout the book but unfortunately I was not able to see them in my copy of the book that I received from NetGalley. (So to be fair, there may have been more nationwide statistics than I was able to see.)
It can be hard to review non-fiction books. How do you like or dislike a collection of facts? When it comes down to it the authors writing is what creates a good book. I rated this book a three. The writing was very slow and repetitive. The data, interviews, and anecdotes were not presented in a way that makes you want to keep reading. This read much more like a textbook than a non-fiction book that I would want to share with my family and friends.
Even in excellent schools and progressive communities that say they value diversity, racial stratification persists. Upper-level classes tend to be predominantly white, while students of color tend to populate lower-level classes. In addition, discipline practices (not policies) vary according to skin color. Lewis and Diamond explore the research behind race-related dynamics in American schools with reputations for diversity and academic excellence. The ideas here are big and important, although they are delivered in prose that is wooden and frequently repetitive.
Sometimes the academic tone of this book made it hard to get through. Some of its language seems very repetitive. The content, though not entirely new to me, is of the utmost importance and is worth reading and thinking about and discussing with colleagues in education. Chapter 5: Opportunity Hoarding and Chapter 6: Conclusion were especially powerful. This book reminds me to feel grateful to teach in a district that is trying to tackle racial inequity.
This isn’t a review as such but rather a place to record my thoughts linking this book to my own experiences and the questions it raised for me. I will certainly continue to read around this topic and want to record where the journey takes me. ~**~ Three main areas of racism in schools are identified: - in tracking (streaming) - discipline - parent intervention and championing for their children
My first ‘work’ book in years - and I finished it!! For that alone I’m proud of myself. This book raised a lot of questions for me: I work in schools which ‘track’ based on testing early in each school year. These schools have incredibly few ethnic minority pupils (maybe 5-10 in the entire school population - which in itself is an issue). However, streaming students based on ability testing is there. 5 different ‘streams’ which pupils can move up or down through based on their test scores. In group 5 there are smaller numbers and often TA support. Teachers are also mixed every year - I teach stream 3,4 and 6 this year but taught 1 and 5 the previous year for example. Black students appear in a range of streams and don’t seem to be grouped in group 5. Does this mean the practices covered at Riverview weren’t seen in our establishment? Unlikely, although could the practices truly be linked to race if we were a predominantly white school, with average to below average attainment nationally? I found it interesting that the US education system has two streams which teachers pretty much ‘choose’ where to put pupils. I also found it very interesting that grades were so subjective; that teachers seemed to ‘pluck’ grades out of the air. (I know this is a huge over-statement but my idea of US assessment is based on assignments and hand in dates and the teacher reads through and stamps a letter grade on the work. Many staff use rubrics.) I know my marking is inconsistent and that is why I use a mark scheme and also mark ‘blind’. It’s easy to see why the US system could indeed be influenced by teacher opinion more so than the UK system. Jumping about a bit, I wonder what causes differences in ‘ability’ ? I have low- attaining students (who are obviously not low-attained due to race as they are white). What causes the differences between them and the higher ability students? This book reinforces that ability is ever changing and not genetic which I know is true.
DISCIPLINE Discipline ? I think I need. Whole other book on tackling this one. I know practices aren’t fair. A child who is louder than their peers will be told off more frequently in my classroom and I want to fix that but struggle with how. I came across a book title the other day recommend by another teacher to tackle unfairness in discipline and will read that soon I think. I can see how discipline can be linked to race. I found it interesting that black security (monitoring the corridors for those out of class without hall passes or those not abiding by uniform regulations) at the school also selected more black children to target for checking hall passes. Checking hall passes is not something we do in the UK. We also have uniform (which you may argue quashes individuality and right to celebrate heritage). When challenged by students in the past as to why we have uniform I often struggled to come up with reasons aside from financial benefits/deemed equality. Now I know it also helps pupils and staff not make judgements based on appearance. I recall reading about a UK student who said her teachers were racist because they asked her to move seats as her hair was too big for those sitting behind her to see. While I understand this was embarrassing for her and that her hair is a part of her culture and upbringing she wants to celebrate Im not sure it was racist - if children behind her can’t see then she needed to move! However, the news headlines don’t always cover the nitty gritty. What else was going on over the previous weeks and months? I find that generally if you feel you’ve been picked on it has indeed happened, even if the purportrator (sp) isn’t aware. (Although my own children can, on occasion, dream up inequality and poor treatment from each other which simply doesn’t exist - does this go away entirely above the ages of 5&7? Probably not.). Articles like this don’t help matters when it comes to race - they don’t explain exactly what is racist about the interaction to the public - a reader would simply say ‘but if a person was wearing a large wedding hat (for example) they’d be asked to remove it or move so those behind could see the board’.
PARENTS This was the most difficult and frustrating part to read. It didn’t get to the point and left me feeling confused for much of the chapter. I couldn’t get my head around it. In my head it boiled down (in early pages) to: white patents are racist because they champion for their own children (challenging SMT to place their children in the upper stream which SMT allowed, and challenging grades and getting improved grades -(Ha! Try getting improved grades at my school!)). I couldn’t see how this was racist. I myself am a ‘mama bear’ who will fight for what is best for my children. It’s instinct! I’ve never actually had to fight at school for them yet but I would if I needed to. Teaching in a private school I know virtually every parent champions for their children in this way - it’s part of the reason we have lower class numbers - just to deal with the demanding parents!! Parents of every colour this is. And parents in all (3) streams at this school. In fact, I’d say the parents in stream 3 were most frequently found in teacher meetings instigated by the parent. So I had trouble with this. Was I being racist? Heart sinking moment. Then a few fly away comments in the book were read. The more academic track in US schools had better teachers. (Not true at ours). White parents were more likely to get their own way in meetings and successfully get their children into the ‘better’ teacher classes. (I can see how that would happen and is racist). The book said that as schools have limited resources to deal with all families 1:1 thst at white parents should not be pushing for these meetings for their own children but should push, as a community, for better education for all. I couldn’t help thinking, wouldn’t that be nice? But I know I would still be at school pushing for my children as individuals if needed. This is a tricky one to see how it can be overcome. I would have liked to see some suggestions for how it could be fostered. I doubt a parent wants to hear ‘sorry, we can’t discuss how your child did x and was sanctioned because you’re being racist’ ; they want to support their child.
TALKING ABOUT RACISM I liked the acknowledgment that white people don’t like discussing race, even just amongst themselves. They are fearful of being labelled racist. I agree with this from my own point of view. I was brought up in a country where I, a white person, was the ethnic minority in that country. I mixed with lots of different children and had a diverse friendship group. However, I still find discussing race difficult. I don’t even know which words I’m allowed to say. It seems lots of different people take offence at different language. The only term I felt comfortable with was saying ‘African-American’. Not black. Not people of colour. Not coloured people. This is because I came across others, of different skin colour to mine who openly said they didn’t like those terms. I wasn’t brace enough to ask what they preferred. I feel more comfortable after reading this book and following ‘Black Lives Matter’ saying ‘black people’, but not entirely. However, I will endeavour to discuss the topic, especially with my classes, in an I open and frank way. We aren’t born racist (or anything else) but are victims of society and our upbringing. I’m glad I read this book as it introduces me to colour-blind racism and apathetic racism which I hadn’t come across before. The book has had a positive influence despite raising more questions. I would like to see a similar book written about the UK system, perhaps with more suggestions for how schools can overcome ingrained practices which discriminate.
While the research in this book is focused on a Midwestern suburban school system, it really sounded like it was describing any of the affluent towns of New England, many of which are predominantly white, but where the citizens of each town pride themselves on blue-state liberalism and where just beneath the surface is the "opportunity hoarding" of every white family hoping to get their own child ahead in life. The focus here on systemic and institutional racism that results in the proliferation of the racial Achievement Gap is clear and succinct, and gives educators and parents alike plenty to think about.
A little dense with the data/research, and the language was repetitive at times. Good nuggets of information here, however, about both systemic and day-to-day practices that set students of color back from their White peers.
This book is an amazing piece of sociological work. The ethnographic style the authors utilized is very well executed - the book tells as a captivating story, but includes the sort of data currently needed to establish scientific legitimacy in this society. Their narrative truly centers the children of the school they're studying, and highlights the numerous ways one's race can play into their educational experience. I would recommend this book to anyone working in education.
"Many of the hourly and daily practices and processes that are the substance of what we think of as 'school' are racially inflected. ... even as [they] are operating to create advantages for some groups and put others at a disadvantage, they appear to be 'race-neutral' [which] helps to provide legitimacy to the differential outcomes they help to produce."
Key takeaways: • it's not enough to look at how policies are written, you also need to look at how they're enforced • focus should be on impact, not intent • be racially-aware, not "color-blind" • school tracking is based in eugenics • beware opportunity hoarding -- middle-class white students are told they belong even before they arrive, and it's re-emphasized in daily decisions, assumptions and comments about students' clothing, work ethic, drive, innocence, potential, etc., and that sense of belonging has major benefits for those students in terms of academic success. What are schools and communities doing to enhance that sense of belonging for all students?
Makes a clear case that behavior and discipline are ostensively race-neutral but performatively problematic--except that the ostensive aspect "this is how we do discipline" is then examined, "there is little room for confronting the different ways in which school personnel enact the rules in practice." The thought that past and present unspoken perceptions and biases are acting within every small daily encounter is hard to hold and mitigate. "Opportunity hoarding", "white flight" (and, to a lesser extent, "racial apathy") on the part of white parents is also a key contributor to inequity. Authors suggest focusing on impact (rather than intent) and creating structural competency to see structural limitations.
(for ed policy class) I liked this! a very very good addition to the class. i was already familiar with a lot of these concepts, but appreciated the way it explored them (this would complement why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria by beverly daniel tatum very well.)
Oooh this book is really important for parents to read, particularly if your kids (like mine) go to a school that is racially diverse but still is not fully meeting the needs of Black and Brown students.
IQ "Therefore, to address the gaps in educational outcomes, it is important to challenge the in-group favoritism, opportunity hoarding, and racial apathy of parents and encourage them to serve as allies in the struggle for racial justice. It is not enough to possess a shallow commitment to liberalism and racial justice that embraces racial and economic diversity at the school level, for example, while accepting (even encouraging) resegregation at the classroom level" (178).
This was heavy on research, light on suggesting actual solutions which isn't the end of the world but I wish the authors had offered a FEW suggestions. Instead they basically seem to imply we need white parents to change and while that's true and I 100% believe that, how do we make it happen? I'm also not entirely sure they convinced me, most of the examples they used seem to rely on class. Yes they used a suburban affluent district but they seemed to emphasize that the Black students did not come from as wealthy a background as the white students. Simply saying "median family incomes for all groups are above national averages, while poverty rates are well below" (xv) was not enough for me or that Black and Latino students tend to not be in AP classes (ok great so why is that?). But maybe I am guilty of "for many white middle-class people, the racial achievement gap was about differences in income level, family cultural values, and different investments in education" (148). The authors seemed to think since the Black students weren't POOR they should be doing fine and that seems an awfully low bar. I don't agree with the cultural values or investment logic but I don't think my wariness of blaming the achievement gap solely on race is because I'm uncomfortable talking about race with white people. I am however wholly convinced that detention rates are driven by bias against Black students. It was also reassuring to read that they too dispute the "oreo" teasing peer pressure argument, meaning that Black students do not hide their intelligence out of fear of 'acting white'. Personally I may have done that while TALKING to my peers but certainly never on an assignment or test.
I chose the quote that I did because it reminded me of Nikole Hannah Jones' excellent piece on school segregation and its affect on her daughter as she reached a similar conclusion. It's one that I find fascinating and believe to be true and I look forward to reading more as people continue to take that idea and run with it (or at least, they should). Education policy is one of my top three issues so I thought this was a great read, not too dry. I would love to see a follow up that looked at more than one school.
I was hoping for a more nuanced exploration into the reasons behind achievement gaps at a well-funded and diverse suburban high school, with some deep dives into the lives of individual students to help bring to life the stories behind the numbers. Rather, the book spends most of time on theory, selecting quotes from its own small sample sizes as proof against the findings of other heavily researched studies. The authors’ arguments feel circular, and uncritically accepting of self-reported data while glossing over their own findings that seems to contract their view. If you approach the book already agreeing with the authors’ worldview you’ll hear much to nod along with. But if you want it to make a clear evidence-based case for itself for the unbiased reader it will fall short.
For a more enlightening look into this topic, watch excellent the 10-episode documentary America to Me, which follows several students over the course of a school year at the racially diverse Oak Park and River Forest High School in suburban Chicago.
Lots of thinking with this one. Forces you to examine not only institutionalized, systemic racism in schools, but also how parents, teachers, and administrators on personal levels may exacerbate the issue "despite the best intentions" to fix it.
Excellent. Writing down a bunch of excerpts because I found so much of this book insightful:
"The two central goals of the book: First objective is to provide a fuller account of what is racial about racial achievement gaps, something that goes beyond the individual characteristics of students and peer culture to understand what is going on what is going on within the institution of school that contributes to unequal outcomes: How does race matter? Second, and more broadly, we seek to use this close examination of Riverview to shed light on a wider paradox in the post Civil Rights U.S. Many if not most Americans express support for diversity and claim to be 'colorblind' and largely beyond race. Yet we find deeply seated racial inequality on almost every social and economic indicator we can name. How does this inequality persist long after the explicit and deliberate racist policies of the past have been formally outlawed?"
Lower performance expectations...George W Bush called these "the soft bigotry of low expectations"...
"On a survey, students were asked: 'How far do you think you will go in school?' Of all our indicators, this question regarding students' educational expectations was the most powerful predictor of students' grade point averages."
"More and more we are coming to understand how a sense of belonging can be vital to academic achievement. Disciplinary patterns serve as a barrier to creating such a sense of belonging among students when they contribute to producing what some social psychologists refer to as a 'threatening environment.'"
Sometimes students' clothing choices primed adults to certain behavioral expectations.
"These theories--expectation states theory (EST) and stereotype threat--essentially capture how the cultural beliefs and collective understandings of race or racial ideology that we have discussed impact behavior and evaluation at the macro or miso level and reproduce status hierarchy."
"...Racial apathy. Foreman argues that 'racial apathy' is a modern form of prejudice or racial animus. Rather than an active or explicit dislike of racial minorities, he says, racial apathy refers to lack of feeling or indifference towards societal, racial, and ethnic inequality and lack of engagement in race-related social issues."
"White middle class parents are not just advocating for their own children; they are also advocating for the maintenance of the structures of inequality that facilitate their advantage." (Pamela Walters study)
"We believe that on focusing on disparate impacts rather than intentional discrimination is helpful in at least two ways: First, contemporary racial inequality is reproduced through the accumulation of actions that do not necessarily require intent. In fact, we believe this is one key dimension of contemporary racial inequality that is missed when we mistaken focus too heavily of old fashioned forms of racial animus. Instead, our focus should be on how organizational policies and practices lead to disparate impacts on students. ... Second, using evidence of differential impacts on students that arise from organizational processes can help shift the conversation away from individual blame, a potentially unproductive witch hunt for racists, and towards frank conversations about racial dynamics that can move beyond fights about who's at fault and toward a discussion of interventions and solutions."
"Those with resources are unlikely to relinquish advantages voluntarily."
a good and educational book. read it on recommendation of the NYT's "Nice White Parents" podcast supplementary reading, and that recommendation was a good one. the question this book poses is: at this high school of roughly equal white and black/latinx students, why is it that the racial achievement gap persists and segregation continues at the tracking (basic vs. honors/AP) level? and i think the book answers its questions well-- it basically says 'it's NOT that black kids are resistant to school, it's NOT a purely class-based achievement gap, the failure in integration is a result of (often subconscious) unequal treatment in discipline and support, ALONG with being inherent to the tracking system in general.'
i think the last parts of this book especially hit upon what, like, i've heard specifically from white/asian parents and friends, which is that they've noticed that divide in their schools with tracking- ex.- a school with ~60% black population but ~10% in IB classes. and the reaction is so often 'i don't know what's going on there but the IB/AP track is what's best for ME/MY child.' and i feel like this book really wants you to have to sit with that.
i come back often to like, i think it was a tweet thread i read once (or something similarly inane). the point was like: "often, when we talk about feminism, we talk about its benefits to men, in that it will help them with the constraints of masculinity, and allow them to be free from the restrictions of gender roles. this WILL happen and it's nothing to be ignored, but we must be honest and say that men WILL ALSO lose out, if perfect equality were to be achieved today. when a privileged group loses their unearned opportunities, those are opportunities they have now that they will not have later. When it became unacceptable to give 100% of jobs to white men, that meant that white men were less likely to be hired for a job, and that is GOOD." so too for the benefits given to white children, me included, from higher tracking and gifted and talented programs. the book called this 'opportunity hoarding' and that i felt was very apt.
anyway i read some other reviews before i wrote this and some of them were right (book gets a little repetitive, uses the words Organizational Routine far too many times) but some of them were way wrong. saw at least 2 reviews like "well ok but what's the SOLUTION." it tells you right there in the conclusion. it's 'be conscientious of the racist assumptions you may be making so that you can counteract them, also abolish tracking.' or at least thats what *I* got out of it
Every once in a while there are books that imprint within your mind after you read them; they alter how you perceive the world around you. They make you reconsider your interactions and thought processes. They change you. This book, Despite the best intentions: How racial inequality thrives in good schools, is one of those books. Diamond and Lewis write this profoundly insightful text in a creative, yet informative manner.
Thinking recently about the amazing phenomenon that is teaching in many American schools leaves one on the verge of cynicism. In 2018 it is a fact that one could very well find themselves teaching in districts that are homogeneous and cater to a super white majority with regard to both teachers and students. That schools exist with populations 85% or higher of white teachers and students is scary when one considers who is engaging in this crucial conversations, if at all? What examples do students see of a country/world that is diverse and not just in theory? It becomes more evident how books like this become nothing more than a theory or a nice talking point regarding how "progressive" people are rather than a lived experience. Scary indeed that these communities and schools/institutions persist...
Everyone interested in racial justice should read this--it is both informative and frustrating. The authors, both academics, study an integrated school in an affluent community and find out that disparities between white and Black achievement is due to racism (thank goodness! What if they found out the disparities weren't due to racism?)
They insist that the intentions of white teachers and administrators are good--that they are not personally racist--but the racism seems pretty blatant in the differential enforcement of school rules.
Then there's the race based concept of Tracking: the AP and honors classes are mostly white and the other classes mostly Hispanic and Black. This is criticized for feeding into the perception that whites are smart and Blacks dumb. But what if there wasn't tracking?
I read this book for my Sociology class on Race and Ethnicity. I thought this research study was very interesting as it exposes racial inequality within the American education system, and particularly at this one high school. My only complaint is that Despite the Best Intentions repeated their points quite often - I guess it's good for cementing an idea, but some aspects were too repetitive. Still, this research study made me think about my own high school education at a private and majority White institution.
Some boiled down points:
At this liberal school called Riverview, the school is very liberal, diverse (45% White and 45% Black), and well-funded. However, Black students are stuck in the lower-level classes and there is a Racial Achievement Gap. Black students are over-represented in the lower-level class, just like White students are over-represented in the upper-level classes.
Another paradox: the White, liberal parents chose to send their children to this school because of its diversity, yet they (either knowingly or unaware) manipulate the school system and the administrators to get their White children into the honors and AP classes - even if the children aren't smart enough - because the parents want to Opportunity Hoard, get the best teachers and resources for their children.
I also learned that Students of Color are heavily monitored by the teachers and the security officers, meaning they are punished more than White students for breaking the same rule like walking in the hallway without a hall pass.
Lastly, I also watched the movie, "Precious Knowledge," (which is on Kanopy) in conjunction with reading "Despite the Best Intentions" and this documentary focuses on Latina/o students in Arizona. I learned how quickly threatened White politicians are by students learning about history that isn't White and how quickly they try to dismantle any efforts in self-discovery amongst minorities.
If you doubt the ongoing, lightly coded racism that animates how white Americans think and talk about public schools, or how white parents leverage their privilege to get more resources for their kids even within a given school, this book is full of evidence to set you straight. For me, sadly that's not surprising, as we hear stuff like this all the time about either Houston public schools generally or, more often, [Houston ISD public schools other than the few most gentrified ones]. And it's also compelling in addressing how schools discipline Black kids (especially boys) much more harshly than white ones.
But the later chapters are pretty thinly argued, essentially positing that "white parents use honors classes to get access to better teachers, even when their kids don't merit being in them" means we need to get rid of tracking more broadly, rather than to reform rules for who gets access to honors classes (and, implicitly or explicitly, tell white parents to go to hell). It does not grapple whatsoever with the equity-efficiency tradeoff around tracks, nor even consider the implication of the evidence it presents therein, that a teacher "dramatically increased the number of African American and Latina/o students taking calculus at the high school" with a targeted initiative.
Amazing; loved the new perspective this book gave me on public education and the idea of "tracking." You start this book with preconceived notions of what public school is and how "fair" it might seem, but Lewis and Diamond offered new perspectives I never thought of before.
Chapter 5, my favorite chapter, focuses on the idea that white parents take contradictory positions on dealing with the achievement gap; while most of them attest to the fact that they appreciate, even specifically chose Riverview for its urban demographics, in reality, they only continue to reinforce their racial advantage by advocating for their children to be placed in upper-level tracks. Simultaneously, when asked about the achievement gap between their students and minority students in lower-level tracks, white parents displace the blame from themselves to cultural and socioeconomic differences stemming from what white parents believe is lack of effort to place education at a high importance.
This was just one of the many insights Lewis and Diamond offered that I found fascinating and I would highly recommend to anyone interested in learning about education inequity to read the full book!
The authors make an excellent case study, selecting a strong test site and using valid methods. This book would be a must read to dispel encapsulated biases in pre-service teachers, and I’m sure this is a vital read for many educators. But will they read it and will they believe it applies to them? And what should they do next? (Not that it’s necessarily the authors’ responsibility to answer those questions) Like many books and studies in this genre, the selected case (affluent AND diverse high school) simply does not seem representative of our hyper-segregated society, and so its utility falls short. It illuminates what’s NOT wrong with students (mostly accurately, in my experience), what IS wrong with staff and the systems they uphold (even more accurately), and encourages conversations and reflections. However, being at a school that is having those conversations consistently, the points felt unsurprising and, unfortunately, unhelpful in helping us find a forward path.
I mainly read chapter 5. What stood out 1) Hoarding of opportunity. More white in honors classes means less space for others. 2) tremendous pressure schools face to provide parents with strong classes for their kids. 3) honors and AP GPA inflation is pernicious 4) brown v board has not improved things for black kids? Integration meant white kids still boarded the better teachers and got more resources. This wasn’t their thought but rather consistent with other claims I have read.
Their conclusion is a bit lacking. I’d like them to suggest an end to public schools but they don’t go nearly that far. Instead it’s more conversations on race and disparate impact and a recommitment to excellent education for everyone. Ok but I’d rather they discuss the role of unions and the general lack of accountability in public schools and compare to private.
This book was incredible, and I will be recommending it to all of the educators that I know. I very much appreciated how such heavy research was communicated through a case study, which personalized and simplified the complex subject matter and gave it a storyline that was easy to follow. Covered in this book is research on how assumptions are made about intention and effort of racial-minority students, how discipline contributes to the racial achievement gap, how ostensibly unbiased policies are corrupted by implicit bias, how even the best intentioned parents hoard opportunities from others, how tracking is rooted in racism, and how we as schools can do better. It was a challenging read that hit home personally many times, but so worthwhile in the end.