Sunday, May 29, 2011

Talking Points - Other People’s Children – Lisa Delpit Blog Format - Quotes

        In “Other People’s Children,” Lisa Delpit examines the issues of race and power in education. She begins the piece with quotes from individuals in the education field who have attempted to discuss these issues with their colleagues without success.  In each of the examples, the individuals feel un-heard, and ultimately stop talking, hence her title of the first section, “The Silenced Dialogue.”  Delpit explains, “The saddest element is that the individuals that the black and Native Alaskan educators speak of in these statements are seldom aware that the dialogue has been silenced. Most likely the white educators believe that their colleagues of color did, in the end, agree with their logic. After all, they stopped disagreeing, didn’t they?” The way Delpit used real life scenarios was quite powerful. As a white middle-class person, I have to admit I am somewhat ignorant to the issues of race and ethnicity. After reading the scenarios it made me ashamed to be identified with the all knowing and un-hearing white race. This quote described the frustrating experiences of the individuals of different races trying to have honest discussions with their white colleagues.  While I have not experienced colleagues of different races coming to me with idea and arguments, is it possible that this is the case because they are so frustrated with their experiences with other white people that they do not even want to try anymore? This quote and the scenarios shared by Delpit made me interested to read further.
       Delpit goes on to discuss how we must un-silence this dialogue in order to best educate students of color. She acknowledges that often times white individuals in education do not have bad intentions, and they often believe they have the same goals in mind as their counterparts of other races and ethnicities. Delpit goes on to ask, “How can such a complete communication block exist when both parties truly believe they have the same aims? How can the bitterness and resentment expressed by educators of color be drained so that the sores can heal? What can be done?” Educators of all races want their students to be successful, but the problem lies within the miscommunication and the silenced dialogue between them.  It is important for white educators to be open and not defensive to the dialogue, in order to better educate all of their students. As white educators we must also acknowledge the frustration and resentment from both educators and students of color. Until we do this, the dialogue will go on being silenced and nothing will change. Delpit goes on to explain the five aspects of power and their relevance to the discrepancy between views of the white and non-white educators.

        Delpit’s fifth and last premise resonated with me, as I am sure it did with many white educators.  The fifth premise states: Those with power are frequently least aware of - or least willingly to acknowledge – its existence. Those with less power are often most aware of its existence.  Before beginning this class and reading Johnson and Delpit, I honestly never thought of the “culture of power” or that I was in power just for being white, and it is an uncomfortable subject.  Delpit explains this perfectly, “For many who consider themselves members of the liberal or radical camps, acknowledging personal power and admitting participation in the culture of power is distinctly uncomfortable. On the other hand those who are less powerful in any situation are most likely to recognize the power variable most acutely. My guess is that the white colleagues and instructors of those previously quoted did not perceive themselves to have power over the non-white speakers.” While they may not be aware (or do not want to admit it), this power does not exists. Delpit feels that those in power must admit it, as uncomfortable as it may be, in order to deal with the issues it creates. The example Delpit gave of the East Indian interviewing for a job with an all white committee, illustrated this point. The white committee, while wanted to be helpful, became so uncomfortable at the idea that they had power over the interviewee, that they did not help the man at all. Had they acknowledged the power and instructed the interviewee explicitly in what they were looking for, rather than becoming more and more indirect and vague as a result of being uncomfortable, the interview may have gone completely differently. Delpit’s main point in that is the unwillingness to acknowledge the culture of power and to try to lessen the power differential, by not addressing it will only do everyone a disservice. 
       Lisa Delpit then goes on to discuss literacy instruction and she examines the direct program instruction Distar. I found this part particularly interesting because at my school, Distar is the primary curriculum used.She states, “Perhaps the ultimate expression of explicitness and direct instruction in the primary classroom is Distar. This reading program is based on the behaviorist model in which reading is taught through the direct instruction of phonics generalizations and blending…The liberal educators opposed the methods – the direct instruction, the explicit control exhibited by the teacher. As a matter of fact, it was not unusual, (even now) to hear the program spoken of as “fascist.” While this discussion of Distar and direct instruction were not major points in Delpit’s writing, I was drawn to this quote and the examination of Distar because I use it each day in my classroom. Delpit uses the example of Distar to examine curriculum and methodologies of teaching in regards to students of color. It was interesting to me to see the idea behind the curriculum and the criticisms about it. In my school Distar is used as a one on one instruction method which is not the way in was intended to be used. While it is not used as it was intended in my school,  I have never thought about it as giving the teacher the ultimate control and it was strange to see that people thought that. 




  1. Hi Brigette,
    I agree with you that Delpit opens our eye to issues that many people are not aware of for so many reasons... It makes me think as an educator, what am I going to do from know on to listen to all the voices.

  2. Hi Brigette,
    You created a very nice blog:)
    I must say while reading the different scenarios in Delpit's article, it made me feel ashamed to be identified with the all knowing and un-hearing white race too. Now that we are aware of how strongly people of color feel about this topic we can make a change. We can remove the earplugs, listen carefully and work collaboratively with parents, children and teachers of color.

  3. Brigette, I agree with much of what you say and if fact I used 2 of the same quotes in my blog. Delpit's words are very powerful. My first reaction was to become defensive thinking I am not like "those" teachers that Delpit talks about, the ones who refuse to hear what their colleagues who have personal experience as members of a culture that is not the culture of power have to say. As I continued to read I realized how much could be gained by just listening.