Ñ Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom ¹ Download by ✓ Lisa Delpit I wasn t sure how I would feel about this book when I first started reading it It seemed the author was way into race issues in a way that would make me feel guilty as a white woman who has chosen to work with ethnic and linguistic minority communities But Delpit s message is not one of hate or hopelessness The bottom line is that everyone can learn, bias exists and that thoughtful teachers should go to whatever means necessary to educate their students, teaching them to be successful in mainstream America She advocates neither rejecting home language or dialect nor teaching it exclusively Rather, she asserts, students must learn the tools and skills that are necessary for success in modern America, namely standard English Teaching standard English and language skills requires different things for different students Teachers should not be surprised if those who do not already have skills in standard English requirethan a self discovery or process approach to learning I for one appreciate Delpit s perspective and the high expectations she sets for all students.
This would never be a book that I would consider recommending for gaining deeper insights into teaching children of color I hoped to feel I had an edge to share with my teachers in dealing with and teaching children who come from culturally diverse backgrounds Instead, I felt scolded and preached to and was unconvinced that even the author has ideas of how to best help, teach and reach our disadvantaged minorities I concur with her last essay, that we need to value and celebrate the heritage of all children However, beyond that, she offers little to help us close the achievement gap and improve the classroom management that plagues our schools nationwide.
I despised this book It s a bitter, vitriolic, insensitive, racist, unsourced, and highly paranoid attack on liberal white educators The book is literally a practice in reverse prejudice Incredibly, Delpit s argument is one I agree with that students should be taught Standard English as opposed to African American Vernacular English because the gatekeepers who are likely to decide students futures such as employers, interviewers, college admissions boards, and the like tend to hold variant English dialects against would be applicants However, Delpit delivers the point in such a way that it turns me off almost immediately I was variously enraged and disgusted by reading this book Delpit makes some incredibly ridiculous claims, such as black people do not trust statistics, and her main argument seems to be white educators should trust my ancedotes over decades of scientific study, because I am black It must be noted that Delpit grew up in a very volatile time period I assume she attended school under the black cloud of racist opposition to desegregation, and so it makes perfect sense that she and a cadre of black educators like her are still stuck in the anti majoritarian mindset of that time period.
However, she does herself no favors with her blatant and unfair attacks against all Caucasian educators Repeatedly she suggests that white liberals are too scared to use authority in the classroom, and that they are too wimpy to properly teach African American children who Delpit treats as if they are a species apart, and so require different teaching methods as compared to all other racial groups She encourages her students to distrust and be suspicious of white Americans, and argues very early in the book that teachers who disagree with her that is, those that permit the use of AAVE in speech and writing, as long as a proper point is communicated likely only feel this way as a means to protect high status jobs She literally says, though the use of an anonymous teacher source s ruminations, that white teachers want their own kids to have all the good jobs, and so they actively work to keep black kids in the gutter It s bombastic and absurd.
She also attacks statistics, research, and science repeatedly throughout the work but even so, countless times she makes statements like studies have shown, followed by a completely outlandish belief Every time she does this, it lacks a reference or any details about the study All information as to where she got her facts is absent from the text.
In short, I hated this book, and found it absolutely useless I d rather read the Bible.
This is an excellent book to read if you re White and teaching in an urban school or if you re Black and are searching for validation for beliefs that have met opposition Here are some quotes tidbits to give the gist of the book In response to whether or not students should be taught Standard English, many parents share these sentiments My kids know how to be black you all teach them how to be successful in the white mans world Teachers do students no service to suggest, even implicitly, that product is not important In this country, students will be judged on their product regardless of the process they utilized to achieve it The teacher cannot be the only expert in the classroom To deny students their own expert knowledge is to disempower them We must keep the perspective that people are experts on their own lives Therefore, before you say, These parents just don t know how to parent ask them where they are coming from Seek to understand It will make a lotsense.
In her collection of essays, Other People s Children Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, MacArthur Award winning author Dr Lisa Delpit examines how everyday interactions in classrooms are laden with assumptions about the competencies, aptitudes and basic capabilities of low income students and students of color Through excerpts of conversations with educators, students and parents, Delpit explores ways in which educators can be better cultural transmitters She proposes that many academic and behavioral problems attributed to low income students and students of color are actually the consequence of miscommunication between the mainly white educators and other people s children Delpit asserts that being an educator who is an efficient and effective cultural transmitter is important in the classroom because classrooms are where prejudice, stereotypes, and cultural assumptions lead to ineffective education But Delpit also believes that cultural sensitivity, and valuing students language and culture alone is not enough educators of other people s children have a responsibility to give students the tools of the majority culture, even as they discuss openly with their students the reasons why they are doing so.
This hard conversation about power imbalances in our society and its effect on students is typically avoided in schools However, through Burgundy Farm Country Day School s new Learning Community Group Professional Development system, some teachers were able to come together this summer and read this collection of essays We began our discussion of these ideas at the Cove our West Virginia campus this fall, and now hope to share with the community what we ve learned This article is step one in that process We hoped that it inspires you to read this book, and to join in our discussion about culture, language and power in schools.
Focused, honest, insightful and challenging I took the time to type a few standout moments We have given up the rich meaningful education of our children in favor of narrow, decontextualized, meaningless procedures that leave unopened hearts, unformed character, and unchallenged minds xivThe reductionism spawned has created settings in which teachers and students are treated as nonthinking objects to be manipulated and managed xvWere we focused on our children as inheritors of the future, perhaps we could bedeliberate in teaching them the traits they need to become protectors of the earth and all of its inhabitants xviPoor people and people of color are clearly in trouble in this country And this means that we as a country are in trouble Our trouble cannot be resolved by the creation and administration of standardized tests Our trouble cannot be resolved by teacher proof curricula The troubles of our country indeed, the troubles of our world can be addressed only if we help ourselves and our children touch the deep humanity of our collective spirit and regain the deep respect for the earth that spawned us xviiiBut we cannot blame the schools alone We live in a society that nurtures and maintains stereotypes we are all bombarded daily, for instance, with the portrayal of the young black male as monster xxiiiWhat should we be doing The answers, I believe, lie not in a proliferation of new reform programs but in some basic understandings of who we are and how we are connected to and disconnected from one another xxvThe worldviews of those with privileged positions are taken as the only reality, while the worldviews of those less powerful are dismissed as inconsequential Indeed, in the educational institutions of this country, the possibilities for poor people and for people of color to define themselves, to determine the self each should be, involve a power that lies outside of the self It is others who determine how they should act, how they are to be judged xxvWhich I hope will interest people concerned with the improvement of education for those least well served by the public education system in this country xxviiLiberation for poor kids and linguistic minorities starts with accepting their culture and language and helping them to build on it page 9I also learned that people learn to write not by being taught skills and grammar, but by writing in meaningful contexts Page 12It is time to look closely at elements of our educational system, particularly those elements we consider progressive time to see whether there is minority involvement and support, and if not, to ask why time to reassess what we are doing in public schools and universities to include other voices, other experiences time to seek the diversity in our educational movements that we talk about seeking in our classrooms Page 20Those with power are frequently least aware or least wiling to acknowledge its existence Those with less power are often most aware of its existence Page 24This meant that the child who did not come to school already primed with what was to be presented would be labeled as needing remedial instruction from day one indeed, this determination would be made before he or she was ever taught Page 30The authoritative teacher can control the class through exhibition of personal power establishes meaningful interpersonal relationships that garner student respect exhibits a strong belief that all students can learn establishes a standard of achievement and pushes the students to achieve that standard and holds the attention of the students by incorporating interactional features of black communicative style in his or her teaching Page 35 36I also do not believe we should teach students to passively adopt an alternate code They must be encouraged to understand the value of the code they already possess as well as to understand the power realities in this country Page 40To do so takes a very special kind of listening, listening that requires not only open eyes and ears, but open hearts and minds We do not really see through our eyes or hear through our ears, but through our beliefs To put our beliefs on hold is to cease to exist as ourselves for a moment and that is not easy It is painful as well, because it means turning yourself inside out, giving up your own sense of who you are, and being wiling to see yourself in the unflattering light of another s angry gaze It is not easy but it is the only way to learn what it might feel like to be someone else and the only way to start the dialogue Page 46 47Teachers are in an ideal position to play this role, to attempt to get all of the issues on the table in order to initiate true dialogue This can only be done, however, by seeking out those whose perspectives may differ most, by learning to give their words complete attention, by understanding one s own power, even if that power stems merely from being in the majority, by being unafraid to raise questions about discrimination and voicelessness with people of color, and to listen, no, to hear what they say I suggest that the results of such interactions may be the most powerful and empowering coalescence yet seen in the educational realm for all teachers and for all the students they teach Page 47Forcing speakers to monitor their language for rules while speaking, typically produces silence Page 51Teachers need to support he language that students bring to school, provide them input from an additional code, and give them the opportunity to use the new code in a nonthreatening, real communicative context Page 53Robert Berdan s Atlantis Experiment Page 60Some youngsters may becomeengaged in school tasks when the language of those tasks is posed in real life contexts than when they are viewed as merely decontextualized problem completion Since our long term goal is producing young people who are able to think critically and creatively in real problem solving contexts, the instructional and linguistic implications should be evident Page 66 One of the most difficult tasks we face as human beings is communicating meaning across our individual differences, a task confounded immeasurably when we attempt to communicate across social lines, racial lines, cultural lines, or lines of unequal power Yet, all U.
S demographic data points to a society becoming increasingly diverse, and that diversity is nowhereevident than in our schools We can continue to view diversity as a problem Or we can recognize that diversity of thought, language, and worldview in our classrooms cannot only provide an exciting educational setting, but can also prepare our children for the richness of living in an increasingly diverse national community Page 66 67My experiences in these geographically diverse settings were some of the most important of my life I was very much the other I had no opportunity to see myself reflected in those around me Under such circumstances, one learns to see muchclearly the assumptions one makes about the world, and to see that they are just that assumptions Some people in similar circumstances, I have discovered, hold on to their worldview with great tenacity, insisting that all of the others are wrong, peculiar, undeveloped, heathen, or uncivilized I found that my survival depended on my being willing and able to learn from my new acquaintances and my new setting, to see the world through other eyes Page 74The worldviews of many in our society exist in protected cocoons their public lives and the institutions they have encountered merely reflect a reality these individuals have been schooled in since birth When these privileged individuals and they are privileged, whether they realize it or not see others who operate from a different worldview, they can often comprehend them only as deviants, pathologically inferior, certainly in need of fixing Even when individuals believe themselves to have good intentions, their own biases blind them from seeing the real people before them Those who have been on the receiving end of such biases understand them well Listening to the stories of these women and men has made me evensensitive to the ways in which most institutions in our society are created to reflect the realities of a particular cultural group mainly the white, academically oriented middle class Their stories have contributed, as well, to molding my views about what is needed to expand our educational vision to embrace the diversity that is this country s reality Page 74 75 It is important to teach our children to read and write, but it isimportant to teach them to be proud of themselves, and of us Letter from a Parent Page 89Academic education was fine and to be desired, but what really concerned them was social and moral education the education that trains youngsters to become good people, who care about, participate in, and are proud of their communities Page 89There is never a guarantee that a particular language or educational policy will work, but when that policy reflects the goals of the people it is to affect rather than those of either foreign missionaries or a colonial government, and when it reaffirms rather than negates a people s knowledge of its culture and heritage, then there is no better prospect for its success Page 90Traditional bastions of academe distance people from one another as they create power relationships whereby one group maintains the power to name the other They decontextualize people as their research subjects are scrutinized and analyzed outside of their own lives Page 91I realize that I am an organic part of all that is, and learn to adopt a receptive, connected stance, then I need not take an active, dominant role to understand the universe will, in essence, include me in understanding Page 92We children in our segregated schools were constantly admonished about being proper representatives of the race The white population saw us as one undifferentiated mass, and so, perhaps, we learned to see each other that way as well Page 93In education, we set about solving problems as if they exist in a vacuum We isolate the problem and seek a technical solution Page 93The CON meaning, with, in context The modern consciousness, inevitably moves us toward a focus on text rather than on context, on words rather than on all the phenomena surrounding the words Page 96 97The context of a message is at least as important as, and oftenimportant than the text of the message Page 97What s interesting to me is the frequency with which the Anglo teacher s words do not match his actions he frequently directs the children to do something while he is physically engaged in a completely different task himself For example, he says, copy the words from the board while he is away from the blackboard looking through his desk for something or other The Native teacher, by contrast, almost always matched her words with her actions if she says, copy the words, she is at the blackboard pointing The Anglo teacher asks that children attend to what he says, not what he does the Native American teacher, on the other hand, supports her words in a related physical context What gets done is at least as important as what gets said in truth he may well be unconsciously preparing children for their future schooling where they will be expected to attend to the words and not the surrounding context Page 99GREAT teacher example Page 99The Scollons discuss how much of what just seems ordinary to academically oriented parents is really training children to respond to the world in very specific ways While these modes may be reinforced in school, they are foreign to many children growing up in families not part of an academic culture Page 100When children who have been brought up to trust their own observations enter school, they confront teachers, who, in their estimation, act as unbelievable tyrants From the child s perspective, their teachers attempt to coerce behavior Despite the rhetoric of American education, it does not teach children to be independent, but rather to be dependent on external sources for direction, for truth, for meaning It trains children both to seek meaning solely from the text and to seek truth outside of their own good sense Page 101 102Era of Doublespeak Page 102Learning solely through the decontextualized word, particularly learning something that was so much a part of their home culture, was simply too foreign for the children to grasp without careful instruction about how to make the transition Page 103I have carried around the question of that child and that teacher for many years Why do we have such a hard time making school a happy place for poor children and children of color Page 104Negative attitudes in the university appear to be expressed in two ways directly toward the student, and orgenerally toward the student s cultural group This bias can be classified, according to Benokraitis and Feagin s scheme of discrimination, as overt, most blatant covert clandestine, maliciously motivated , and subtle unequal treatment that is visible but so internalized as to be considered routine in bureaucratized settings Page 113 I guess that is one way for a dominant culture to maintain dominance not to recognize any of the strengths of another group Page 114 115Racial discrimination in present day America is less likely to be the overt, blatant bigotry of the past Despite change in the stated beliefs of the white population, recent studies depict their actions as reflecting other values Researchers have found that the reactions of whites to people of color display subtle discriminatory behavior less assistance, greater aggression, overt friendliness coupled with covert rejection, avoidance, and assessment inconsistent with actual work performance Further, whites are seldom conscious of this modern prejudice, even as they practice it Page 115 Consequently many whites remain unconvinced of the reality of subtle prejudice and discrimination, and come to think of their black coworkers as terribly touchy and overly sensitive to the issue Page 116Good Teachers Page 118Teaching is all about telling a story You have to get to know kids so you ll know how to tell the story, you can t tell it just one way You can tell if you re on the right track by watching the kids Page 120 John Dewey advocated such a stance in 1904 In an article on the relationship between theory and practice in teacher education, he asserts that the greatest asset in the student s possession the greatest, over that ever will be in his possession is his own direct and personal experience Page 124Dewey further advises that failure to allow students to explore their past experiences in light of theoretical constructs will produce only a mindless imitation of others practice rather that a reflection on teaching as an interactive process Page 125It is vitally important that connections be examined, that the education professor highlight the narratives of the students of color and ask them to serve as resources for bringing to the fore differences in worldview, learning style, social organization, language, and so forth Page 126The students of color may find their experiences both admissible and valued in the classroom, which, along with the increased opportunity for interaction, may help to reduce their feelings of isolation from the university and their white classmates and professors Page 126If we are to succeed in this quest, we must recognize and address the power differentials that exist in our society between schools and communities, between teachers and parents, between poor and well to do, between whites and people of color Further, we must understand that our view of the world is but one of many, that others see things in other ways Page 133We all interpret behaviors, information, and situations through our own cultural lenses these lenses operate involuntarily, below the level of conscious awareness, making it seem that our own view is simply the way it is Engaging in the hard work of seeing the world as others see it must be a fundamental goal Page 151Knowledge about culture is but one tool that educators may make use of when devising solutions for a school s difficulty in educating diverse children Page 167Children who may be gifted in real life settings are often at a loss when asked to exhibit knowledge solely though decontextualized paper and pencil exercises Page 173If we do not have some knowledge of children s lives outside of the realms of paper and pencil work, and even outside of their classrooms, then we cannot know their strengths Not knowing students strengths leads to our teaching down to children from communities that are culturally different from that of the teachers in the school Page 173If we plan to survive as a species on this planet we must certainly create multicultural curricula that educate our children to the differing perspectives of our diverse population Page 177Were that not the case, these children would not talk about doing well in school as acting white Our children of color need to see the brilliance of their legacy, too Page 177If we are to successfully educate all of our children, we must work to remove the blinders built of stereotypes, monocultural instructional methodologies, ignorance, social distance, biased research, and racism We must work to destroy those blinders so that it is possible to really see, to really know the students we must teach Page 182 REFLECTIONS One of the educational conversations I always dream of having no ego, no contest, just a consideration of schooling and how it affects children s lives, combined with a lot of storytelling Herbert Kohl I expect tears, arguments, denials, excuses, confessions, accusations, and whole range of displays of vulnerability, revenge, and strength Upon first reading OTHER PEOPLE S CHILDREN many white teachers take it as an attack on their capacity to teach students of color Others believe their problems teaching African American students stem directly from the children s families, neighborhoods, peers, and cultural environments Most of all Delpit provides us with an occasion to reflect on ourselves as educators and as citizens living and working within a context where racism is pervasive and where, for many, hope is fading Herbert Kohl They somehow go through 160K worth of schooling without learning to think self reflexively, without learning to think of themselves as part of the problem They have been taught to think of themselves as the objective analysts and other people as the problem Charles Payne One of the privileges of being white in this country is that it largely insulates one from critical discussion Charles Payne After a workshop on poverty and some honest reflection Patricia Lesesne Through this communication, I realized that I was operating from a middle class ethos with all of is trappings Instead of asking why a behavior exists and when it will stop, I began to ask how I could create a classroom setting that allows these students to thrive in a society run according to middle class values while respecting their home cultures Delpit challenges me to know myself and my limitations, know my students and their needs, and through close, honest relationships rooted in mutual respect come to know the values of the adults in the communities from which my students come to me Patricia Lesesne
Through tales of Native Alaskan tribes, urban blacks, and minority student teachers, Delpit reminds teachers, parents, administrators, and students themselves about diverse upbringings and differences in linguistic cultural traditions that can easily be misunderstood in a school environment that is run by and which teaches the white, professional culture in power way of speaking writing learning relating.
Shook me up a little when she points out the flaws in the Graves Co writing workshop instructional methods when used as a blanket curriculum because I had not yet taken a truly critical eye to it or any of my readings up til now Writing workshop intentions are good, and it works for many, but probably not all Some students who may already have the fluency and creativity of language still need the keys to the explicit grammar skills which are the keys for entering the culture of power.
In the chapter where she discusses teacher education, some disheartening stories of potential teachers who gave up because they weren t being heard or felt they couldn t make a difference in a system where the prejudices are embedded, below the surface, and largely unacknowledged.
Key is to listen to really listen and understand, not just to hear, not just to gloss over their opinions, not just to refute with attitude to and form relationships with the community, the parents, the people of color who understand the children and the students we are trying to reach.
Some things of note from this book That, I believe, is what we need to bring to our schools experiences that are so full of the wonder of life, so full of connectedness, so embedded in the context of our communities, so brilliant in the insights that we develop and the analysis that we devise, that all of us, teachers and students alike, can learn to live lives that leave us truly satisfied p104What can teachers do p 163 1651 Acknowledge and validate students home language without using it to limit students potential.
2 Recognize conflict between students home discourses and the discourse of school.
3 Acknowledge the unfair discourse stacking that our society engages in.
And importantly, it seemed that she was saying that to teach all students well, we must know them and if possible, know and utilize their families as resources valuing their input.
Winner Of An American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Award And Choice Magazine S Outstanding Academic Book Award, And Voted One Of Teacher Magazine S Great books, Other People S Children Has Sold Over , Copies Since Its original Hardcover Publication This Anniversary Paperback Edition Features A New Introduction By Delpit As Well As New Framing Essays By Herbert Kohl And Charles PayneIn A Radical Analysis Of Contemporary Classrooms, MacArthur Award Winning Author Lisa Delpit Develops Ideas About Ways Teachers Can Be Better Cultural Transmitters In The Classroom, Where Prejudice, Stereotypes, And Cultural Assumptions Breed Ineffective Education Delpit Suggests That Many Academic Problems Attributed To Children Of Color Are Actually The Result Of Miscommunication, As Primarily White Teachers And Other People S Children Struggle With The Imbalance Of Power And The Dynamics Plaguing Our SystemA New Classic Among Educators, Other People S Children Is A Must read For Teachers, Administrators, And Parents Striving To Improve The Quality Of America S Education System We all carry worlds in our heads, and those worlds are decidedly different We educators set out to teach, but how can we reach the worlds of others when we don t even know that they exist Indeed, many of us don t even realize that our own worlds exist only in our heads and in the cultural institutions we have built to support them p.
xxiv understanding other worlds, journeys that involved learning to see, albeit dimly, through the haze of my cultural lenses In that blurred view, I have come to understand that power plays a critical role in our society and in our educational system The worldviews of those with privileges positions are taken as the only reality, while the worldviews of those less powerful are dismissed as inconsequential Indeed, in the educational institutions of this country, the possibilities for poor people and for people of color to define themselves, to determine the self each should be, involve a power that lies outside of the self It is others who determine how they should act, how they are to be judged p.
xxv when implicit codes are attempted across cultures, communication frequently breaks down Each cultural group is left saying, Why don t those people say what they mean p.
25 What the school personnel fail to understand is that if the parents were members of the culture of power and live by itself rules and codes, then they would transmit those does to their children In fact, they transmit another culture that children must learn at home in order to survive in their communities p.
30 In this country, students will be judged on their product regardless of the process they utilized to achieve it And that product, based as it is on the specific codes of a particular culture, inreadily produced when the directives of how to produce it are made explicit p.
31 The teacher cannot be the only expert in the classroom To deny students their own expert knowledge is to disempower them p.
32 there are different attitudes in different cultural groups about which characteristics make for a good teacher Thus, it is impossible to create a model for the good teacher without taking issues of culture nd community context into account p.
37 Now you may have interred that I believe that because there is a culture of power, everyone should learn the codes to participate in it, and that is how the world should be Actually, nothing could be further from the truth I believe in a diversity of style, and I believe the world will be diminished if cultural diversity is ever obliterated each cultural group should have the right to maintain its own language style When I speak, therefore, of the culture of power, I don t speak of how I wish things to be but of how they are p.
39 to summarize, I suggest that students must be taught the codes needed to participate fully in the mainstream of American life, not by being forces to attend to hollow, inane, decontextualizes subskills, but rather within the context of meaningful communicative endeavors that they must be allowed the resource of the teacher s expert knowledge, while being helped to acknowledge their own expertness as well and the even while students are assisted in learning the culture of power, they must also be helped to learn about the arbitrariness of those codes and about the power relationships they represent p.
45 Educators must open themselves to, and allow themselves to be affected by, these alternative voices p.
46 They understand the need for both approaches, the need to help students establish their own voices, and to coach those voices to produce notes that will be heard clearly in the larger society p.
46 To do so takes a very special kind of listening, listening that requires not only open eyes and ears, but open hearts and minds We do not really see through our eyes of hear through our ears, but through our beliefs To put our beliefs on hold is to cease to exist as ourselves for a moment and that is not easy It is painful as well, because it means turning yourself inside out, giving up your own sense of who you are, and being willing to see yourself in the unflattering light of another s gaze p.
46 Teachers are in an ideal position to play this role, to attempt to get all of the issues on the table in order to initiate true dialogue This can only be done, however, by seeking out those whose perspective may differ most, by learning to give their words complete attention, by understanding one s own power, even if that power stems merely from being in the majority, by being unafraid to raise questions about discrimination and voicelessness with people of color, and to listen, no, the hear what they say p.
47 Thus, if teachers hope to avoid negatively stereotyping the language patterns of their students, it is important that they be encouraged to interact with, and willingly learn from, knowledgeable members of their students cultural groups This can perhaps best become a reality if teacher education programs include diverse parents, community members, and faculty among those who prepare future teachers, and take seriously the need to develop in those teachers the humility required for learning from the surrounding context when entering a culturally different setting p.
56 learning to see rather than merely look, to feel rather than touch, to hear rather than listen to learn, in short about the world by being still and opening myself to experiencing it p.