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Multiplication Is for White People:…

"Multiplication Is for White People": Raising Expectations for Other… (edition 2012)

by Lisa Delpit

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Title:"Multiplication Is for White People": Raising Expectations for Other People's Children
Authors:Lisa Delpit
Info:New Press, The (2012), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:negros, educação

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"Multiplication Is for White People": Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit



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Well, this is a pisser. To be clear: Delpit is a strong writer covering a topic that's sure to enrage almost everyone: that is, public education in the US. The short version is vast amounts of money from the Gates and Walton foundations (among other sources) haven't helped, except to divert energy and money away from public schools. No Child Left Behind hasn't helped, except to divert billions away from any actual education and into private companies producing the loathed tests and test-prep materials (if I recall correctly, one of the Bush sons is in this racket, although that isn't covered in this book). State efforts to bust unions, depress wages, and transfer employment from career teachers to the well-meaning but inexperienced Teach For America volunteers who mostly quit after their very short (two year) commitment. Most surprising thing I learned: desegregation of public schools meant that experienced teachers of color got fired in favor of inexperienced white teachers in a huge way, and pretty much every reform effort since then has shown the same pattern.

Although the system is a boondoggle, there are still teachers and schools that do manage to teach, but students of color and poor students are getting the worst education. Since 2010 far my state has spent more than $144 million implementing the Common Core standards, and the state legislature has decided they don't like it, and it needs to be changed. Gee, I wonder how much more money they'll spend and to whom they'll give it? What I know is, it isn't going into schools, or teachers, or anything that will actually improve the education of students in this state. Yeah, I'm enraged.

Library copy. ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 17, 2016 |
MacArthur Fellow and education professor Lisa Delpit (author of the seminal book Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflicts in the Classroom) takes on the “pedagogy of poverty” in this exploration of why education is still failing poor students of color. She charges that in spite of the fact that America has a black president,

“…we are far from a color-blind society, that African Americans are still devalued, stigmatized, and made invisible.”

In particular, she points to “microaggressions,” the term coined by Harvard researcher Chester Pierce, which refers to:

“Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

As Pierce observed, any one of these may not be of great consequence, but when added together over time create a deadly psychological assault.

Delpit provides numerous examples of children of color (including her own daughter) being discounted, discredited, and stereotyped in the classroom.

The author reminds us that research shows there is no achievement gap at birth. But as minority children endure year after year of this treatment, they begin to “disidentify” with school and education and may either protest by acting out, or withdraw by disengaging. As Delpit writes, “Disidentified students become aliens in the academic world.”

Part of the problem is that different socioeconomic classes and different ethnicities have quite different ways of expressing themselves and of learning. When white teachers encounter these differences in children of color, they very often infer the child is learning impaired or disruptive or incapable of learning, when this may not be the case at all. Most critically, the students and their innate capabilities (or lack thereof) are blamed for failures in achievement rather than a deficiency in the teachers.

Interestingly, Delpit reports that one unexpected and deleterious effect of the Brown v. Board of Education decision (desegregating the schools) was that a large number of black teachers and administrators lost their jobs and were replaced by whites (at the insistence of white parents). These new educators were not necessarily better qualified than those they replaced. But even many well-meaning and qualified white teachers went into these newly integrated classrooms with a view of themselves as the white “saviors” of the black children. There were two other bad results as well: one was that black students were less likely to see people “who looked like them” in positions of authority. Perhaps more importantly, these white teachers and principals had little understanding of the cultures and styles of learning of their students.

As a result, behaviors that may be overlooked in whites are disparaged and punished in blacks. (A study released in March 2014 by the Department of Education found that while black children represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment they make up 48 percent of preschool children who receive more than one out-of-school suspension.) Is it a matter of black students just being not as well behaved? Data is only beginning to be analyzed, but anecdotal evidence at least, as reported in "The Washington Post," suggests this is not the case.

What happens to those students who have become alienated from education? As one educator said, “the disenfranchised will either implode and destroy themselves or explode in our own front yards and most assured destroy us.” Do we really want to abandon all these children and create dangerous and expensive social problems rather than encouraging every child to reach his or her potential and contribute to society in a positive way? What must be done to change this pattern?

Delpit admits there are things educators cannot change, such as the level of poverty in a community, but asserts that blaming poverty is just an excuse for poor teaching. She identifies many examples of programs in blighted areas that experienced success when children were treated as if they could and would succeed. She proposes a formula for fostering excellence in urban classrooms that includes recognizing the inherent brilliance of poor, urban children and teaching them more content, not less; demanding critical thinking; providing children with emotional ego strength; and honoring and respecting the children’s home cultures, inter alia.

Unfortunately, recent education “reforms” with their emphasis on worksheets and test preparation make instituting these practices difficult. Even charter schools have started to weed their student populations in favor of less challenging students whose scores will generate more funding.

We must not give up, though, she urges. What is at stake is too important. It is only by continuing to push open dialogue on these issues (as she does with her books) that educators can honor their sacred trust to “fill our students’ hearts and minds with the potential for envisioning a future better than we ourselves can even imagine.” And that means filling all our students’ hearts and minds.

Discussion: Obviously the quality of American education is suffering in all socioeconomic groups. (See for example this article by Elizabeth Green, “Why Do Americans Stink at Math?”, an except from a new book on problems with teaching.) But middle and upper class white children, as members of the social majority, have opportunities and resources not available to poor children of color. Moreover, they have a more immediate acceptance and sense of comfort by how they are treated, which enables them to maintain a positive attitude and the expectation of success. This optimistic frame of mind is easier to maintain when one is not beaten down at every corner. Simply stated, those who think people of color are “oversensitive” have never gone through life as a person of color.

Evaluation: Anyone concerned about the quality of American education and the future of American society will find this book illuminating, as will anyone who contends that we in America have come to “the end of racism.” ( )
  nbmars | Sep 19, 2014 |
There were some good pieces in her narrative but I was looking for more. I do appreciate that this is a tough subject to tackle and can lead to a whole lot of misunderstandings. However, the reality in some urban areas such as the one I work with, is that the majority of students are minorities and the majority of the teachers/administrators are not. I do believe that this can lead to misunderstandings particularly around parental involvement and procedural school-based issues. I was hoping that Delpit would explore these topics a bit more and provide ideas as to how we can all work together to create a better system.

Her focus is primarily on African American students, which is fine, but I would have liked a meshing with other populations who are part of the growing achievement gap. I do agree with her in that children are all born fundamentally equal in ability and talents; the impact to their future can happen through systemic racism and preconceived notions about what is achievable. I know that many students are discouraged from pursuing AP courses or even college because of what educators think they can do. It is also interesting that of all the professions very little in professional development for educators focuses on urban issues, cultural differences and the impact poverty has on student lives.

I hope that her voice is added to others that standardized assessments are not the only way to value and rank students, and that the education system can return to focusing on content as well as basic skills. Although I had initially been a big fan of Teach for America, Delpit and other education leaders are shedding light for me on how this model may be causing more harm than good.

The best thing to get out of her book is that the Hart-Risely study is really examined. I have been in many meetings where this study is quoted and used as the basis for program development and policy changes. Delpit is the first writer I have read who takes a look at this work and questions its applicability across populations. The study basically states that a child's later abilities and achievement is linked to the number of words they hear in the first three years of life; however the study sample was very small and the link between quantity of words and development cannot be made so neatly.

( )
  MichelleCH | Apr 5, 2013 |
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This book is dedicated to my mother, Edmae Butler, a ninety-six-year-old educator who is still teaching me patience, unconditional love, and the value of finding something to laugh at every day;

To my daughter, Maya Delpit, who -- as she constantly reminds me -- taught me everything I know about teaching "other people's children";

To my Southern University students who continue their commitment to education in the face of challenges that would leave lesser people hiding under their covers;

And to the brilliant and talented students of Southern University Laboratory School, their teachers, principal, and families.
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This book presents a striking picture of the elements of contemporary public education that conspire against the prospects for poor children of color, creating a persistent gap in achievement during the school years that has eluded several decades of reform. As the author reminds us, and as all research shows, there is no achievement gap at birth. Her first book, Other People's Children, focused on cultural slippage in the classroom between white teachers and students of color. Now, in this second work, she reflects on two decades of reform efforts, including No Child Left Behind, standardized testing, the creation of alternative teacher certification paths, and the charter school movement, that have still left a generation of poor children of color feeling that higher educational achievement is not for them. In chapters covering primary, middle, and high school, as well as college, she concludes that it is not that difficult to explain the persistence of the achievement gap. Punctuated with telling classroom anecdotes and informed by time spent at dozens of schools across the country, she outlines a blueprint for raising expectations for other people's children, based on the simple premise that multiplication, and every aspect of advanced education, is for everyone.… (more)

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