How different is the way you speak at school to the way you speak at home? How differently do you act at school than you do at home? Do most of the other faculty members look, speak, and act like you?
You were being asked to speak in a way very different to what you speak at home? You were told that speaking the way you do at home is “incorrect”? The people telling you this often didn’t look, dress, or act like the people you know?
Academia operates within white, middle-class language and values Any divergence frowned upon, considered inferior Uncomfortable and soul-crushing for minorities and working-class ◦ Everything about me is wrong, destined to make me unsuccessful Teachers largely white, middle-class ◦ People like me don’t belong ◦ If I do graduate, I should never come back (Sefa Dei, Mazzuca and McIsaac 169-170)
With one foot in the working class, the other in the middle class, people like me are Straddlers, at home in neither world, living a limbo life. It’s part of the American Dream you may have never heard about: the costs of social mobility. People pay with their anxiety about their place in life. It’s a discomfort many never overcome. (Lubrano 8)
Which ethnic groups do well in school? Proof that America is a land of opportunities for those willing to work hard enough?
John Ogbu’s theory of voluntary immigrants vs. involuntary minorities Voluntary immigrants – here by choice, can return home, willing to “play the game” Involuntary minorities – brought by slavery or conquest, culture rooted in discrimination, cannot “return home” One group strives for success, the other bitter and disillusioned early (Finn, Literacy with an Attitude 41)
Can “play the game” the way academic would like Yielding to “the enemy” by “acting white” ◦ Own culture rejects a “traitor” ◦ Dominant culture (white) never fully accepts (double consciousness) ◦ Must choose between alienation with possible success or “failure” with acceptance (Ladson-Billings 11) “…generations of Blacks who have ‘acted white’ have not been fully accepted into mainstream society, and have found themselves alienated from their own communities as well” (Finn, Literacy with an Attitude 45)
“Oppositional Identity” – resistance to the dominant culture in preservation on one’s own Perry Gilmore’s study
For some, a matter of survival In some neighborhoods, “normal”, “polite” behaviors can get one in trouble ◦ Making too much eye contact ◦ Getting too involved in other’s business ◦ Seeming to back down (Anderson 82, Ainsworth- Darnell and Downey 550; Goldblatt 149)
In many schools, white teachers have adversarial relationships with black students ◦ Miscommunications misconstrued ◦ Philosophies of “colorblindness” cause many to back down from issues of race that still exist ◦ Black struggle reduced to slavery only ◦ “Get over it, already”, many think ◦ Bad behavior ascribed to being characteristic of the race ◦ Discomfort, fear, contempt ◦ Expectations of failure all around (Ladson-Billings 31- 32, McIntosh 5-7, Irvine 26-27) Black students receive 23% of total school suspensions and 22% of total expulsions –highest of any ethnic group (Stevenson 356)
Though making up just 8.6% of the population of American public school students in 2001, Black males accounted for a shocking 41% of students enrolled in special education (Smith 26-28). Blacks and Latinos in college report higher instances of credentials being questioned ◦ “You’re only here because of a) Affirmative Action b) government grants” (Langston 68)
“I don’t belong here.” The belief system, the few words that summed up in a neat phrase the wisdom of my conquered self…Just an overwhelming feeling of having a huge array of forces stacked against me…Universities are established to keep people like me out, and to keep middle- and upper-class people in. If working-class people suddenly began earning university degrees in large numbers, who would work the lines, scrub the toilets, descend into the mines? Would we have remained in the places others have prepared for us? (Kadi 92-93)
Academia ◦ Hostile ◦ Degrading ◦ Adversarial ◦ In opposition to own culture
Just let students speak and write however they like in class But wait! ◦ Academia endorses white, middle-class language and values ◦ Workforce does, too ◦ Not teaching this a disservice
Make clear to students the difference between academia’s language/culture and their own Don’t couch in terms of right and wrong so much as having a time and a place Allow personal language use during discussion and informal presentations Require “academese” for formal presentations ◦ Enables students to see when to “turn it on” and “turn it off”
“What do you mean explain more? How much more can I say?!”
Read the following excerpt from To Kill a Mockingbird, and consider the answer to this question: Why didn’t Miss Caroline understand what Scout was saying?
Language with implicit value Makes sense within community Lost on others
Middle-class and upper-class children involved in many social circles ◦ Dance lessons ◦ Sports teams ◦ Travel Used to conversing with “strangers” ◦ Used to making ideas clear to those outside of community (Finn and Finn 20)
Working-class and minority students often raised in homogenous communities Adopt manner of communication heavily dependent upon shared experiences and terminologies ◦ Those within community easily understand ◦ outsiders find it hard to grasp subtle, understood nuances meaningful only within the individual’s immediate circle (Charlesworth 139-140). ◦ communicating with someone who does not share certain basic experiences unfathomable ◦ Need to make strangers might never have been needed before
Schoolwork rarely produced for friends and family “Implicit” and “condensed” language difficult for readers to understand (Bernstein, qtd. in Macaulay 64). students cannot see where meaning could be obscured by encoded, community-specific language (Levinson 203-204)
“…the language of school is explicit, a mode of discourse that fits nicely with the middle- class families’ habits of language use” (Finn and Finn 201) working-class child has difficulty making self clear in an academic setting (Linkon 98-99)
Want their students to give more detail or explain further Student might not see where this can happen Teacher might make erroneous assumptions ◦ Lazy ◦ Unintelligent ◦ Not “college material”
Must be as explicit as we want them to be ◦ Directions must be detailed ◦ Provide examples of what sort of information/details we want ◦ Better yet, ask leading questions ◦ Make students aware of audience ◦ Create awareness of difference between writing and speaking ideas ◦ Challenge them to “insult your intelligence”
Working-class students full of intelligent, thought-provoking ideas May struggle to express these to new audiences Empower students to unleash ideas
What is student’s mind frame after 18 years of this? ◦ Wait for teacher and/or others to tell me what to write ◦ My ideas mean nothing ◦ Answer is more important than process ◦ Only others have the right answer
Can’t ask students to jump out of frying pan and into fire Support them through process ◦ Having an INFORMED opinion is good ◦ You have the right to agree or disagree with others – even if they’re published ◦ Imagination is good if used effectively ◦ Here is how to use opinion and imagination effectively in academia ◦ Never let someone else have the last word!
Must divorce students from idea answers/end products are all that count ◦ Provide assignments that grade process over answer ◦ Give extra credit for explanations of why test answers were wrong ◦ Portfolios ◦ Peer review
Commas and grammar are just as important as coherence, flow, argument, structure. Commas and grammar are much easier to fix because they’re already done for me. If commas and grammar are just as important as the other stuff, and the other stuff looks hard to fix, why bother? Doing half of the corrections is better than none, right? My teacher is the only one who can fix my essay.
What is the top priority the student needs to review? (Sommers 150-151) ◦ Make this the clearest, most prominent issue we highlight ◦ It’s ok to let some grammatical, mechanical, or other errors go unmarked for the time being ◦ Overwhelming ◦ Confusing ◦ Unproductive
Summative comments most important ◦ Students largely skip over our precious marginal comments ◦ Go straight to summative ones (Soles 123-125) Clearly outline what you want ◦ Do not assume they know what you mean ◦ Remember how frustrating it is when they do this to you (Straub 248) Clearly state the essay’s strengths (find some!) ◦ Important for growth to know what works/doesn’t (Soles 123-124)
“…children of the working-class are rewarded for docility and obedience and punished for initiative and assertiveness. Remember the teacher who said, ‘Do it this way or it’s wrong’”(Finn 20). Is it any wonder some of them find it so difficult to engage with subjects on a critical/independent level? Fixing only what they KNOW the teacher will think is right (i.e. copying exactly what we wrote) is safer.
Ask questions, but do not give answers ◦ e.g. “And how does this relate to what Johnson said?” Underline mechanical errors, but have student identify and correct them for themselves ◦ i.e. rather than write a comma in, underline where a comma is missing and tell student it is his/her responsibility to figure out what’s missing there ◦ Probably only appropriate for students whose structure/organization is strong enough to take additional skills onboard Place emphasis on supporting ideas explicitly ◦ e.g. “And what is the significance of this quotation?”
Telling students ◦ We want to hear your ideas ◦ Your ideas are “the right answer” as long as you explain and support them clearly ◦ I’ll give you suggestions, but you’ve got to take charge ◦ The “hows” are just as important as the “whats” ◦ You are a valuable member of the academic community
Ainsworth-Darnell, James W. and Douglas B. Downey. "Assessing the Oppositional Culture Explanation for Racial/Ethnic Differences in School Performance." American Sociological Review (1998): 536-553. Anderson, Elijah. "Power Play." The Atlantic Monthly (1994): 80-94. Charlesworth, Simon J. A Phenomolgy of Working-Class Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Finn, Patrick J. Literacy with an Attitude. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. Finn, Patrick J. and Mary E. Finn. Teacher Education With an Attitude: Preparing Teachers to Educate Working-Class Students in Their Collective Self-Interest. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007 Goldblatt, Eli C. 'Round My Way. Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995. Irvine, Jacqueline Jordan. Black Students and School Failure: Policies, Practices, and Prescriptions. Westport: Praeger Paperback, 1991. Kadi, Joanna. "A Question of Belonging." Tokarczyk, Michelle M. and Elizabeth A. Fay. Working-Class Women in the Academy: Laborers in the Knowledge Factory. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993. 87- 96. Ladson-Billings, Gloria. The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994.
Langston, Donna. "Who Am I Now? The Politics of Class Identity." Tokarczyk, Michelle M. and Elizabeth A. Fay. Working-Class Women in the Academy: Laborers in the Knowledge Factory. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993. 60-72. Levinson, Kenneth. "At the Crossroads of Language Variation: Urban College Students Lean about Sociolinguistics." Teaching English in the Two-Year College (2005): 199-210. Lubrano, Alfred. Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams. Hoboken: Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2004. Macaulay, Ronald S. Talk That Counts: Age, Gender, and Social Class Differences in Discourse. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. McIntosh, Peggy. "White Priviledge: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Independent School (1990): 1-7. Sefa Dei, George J., et al. Reconstructing 'Dropout': A Critical Ehtnography of the Dynamics of Black Students' Disengagement From School. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997. Smith, Rosa A. "Building a Positive Future for Black Boys." American School Board Journal (2005): 26-28.
Soles, Derek. "Grading as a Teaching Strategy." Teaching English in the Two-Year College (2001): 122- 134. Print. Sommers, Nancy. "Responding to Student Writing." College Composition and Communication (1982): 148- 156. Print. Stevenson, Howard C. "Fluttering Around the Racial Tension of Trust: Proximal Approaches to Suspended Black Student-Teacher Relationships." School Psychology Review (2008): 354-358. Straub, Richard. "The Concept of Constrol in Teacher Response: Defining the Varieties of "Directive" and "Facilitative" Commentary." College Composition and Communication (1996): 223-251. Web.