Delpit, L. (1995). Other peoples children:Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: The New Press.



 
This book expounds on four of Ms. Delpit's published writings regarding education for Native American and African American students. Ms. Delpit, herself a black
educator, graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her experiences include working as a classroom educator, as an education researcher and as a
writer. Her writings seem to have revived some old, buried conflicts within the education community. Her frequent use of quotes from personal interviews or
observations she has made of classroom interactions make for interesting reading.

Delpit shares her frustration regarding the "writing process approach" versus "skills" approach to literacy. She notes that white students perform well in the writing
process approach because most already have home-derived [White English] skills, defined as "useful and usable knowledge which contributes to a student's ability
to communicate effectively in standard, generally acceptable literary forms." Prior to entering school, black students know what she calls "Black English. " Black
students and educators express frustration, believing that in order to be successful in America, students must "appropriate the oral and written forms demanded by
the mainstream [white culture]; they must learn these skills at school as well as "writing process."

Delpit presents five aspects of power in the classroom. To summarize: those in power create rules of the culture and if participants are informed explicitly about
those rules, it makes acquiring power easier. Ms. Delpit believes these rules are not explicitly clear to black children who, at home, are accustomed to directives.
When they reach a white culture classroom, requests are veiled as "implied commands," consequently black children do not respond and are labeled negatively.

Delpit reiterates that ignoring existing "power" only perpetuates the status quo, and that teachers are in an ideal position to encourage open dialogue between
different cultures. She suggests three ways to do this: (1) seek out those with differing perspectives, (2) give their words complete attention, and (3) understand
your own power. This all speaks to developing proficient basic communication skills.

The chapter on Language Diversity and Learning further addresses communication with linguistically diverse students. Unfortunately, appreciation for English other
than Standard English is often minimal which may further invalidate the importance of heritage, creates a divide between community and school and angers
"minority" students. Delpit suggests that the study of language diversity should be a curriculum for all students. We now require students to learn a foreign
language, but what about recognizing the language varieties within our own "English?" As educators, we can prepare children for living in an increasingly diverse
national community by recognizing and celebrating diversity in thought, language and worldview.

In conclusion, she states that "teaching is preaching." Teaching styles should reflect the cultural styles of constituents. This includes the rhythm, intonation,
gestures, emotions, humor, metaphor use and 'audience participation standard' of the culture. Teachers should attempt to "see the world as others see it."

Delpit believes that schools should work to develop a multicultural staff.Secondly, students from diverse cultures should be seen as resources, not problems.
Thirdly, that the Eurocentric curriculum provided for teaches needs to broaden. She states "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."

Questions I would ask Ms. Delpit:

1. To support the idea of top down changes, what assistance can schools (versus teachers) provide for the process of promoting "dialogue" between community
cultures?

2. Gathering knowledge is one thing, doing something with it is another. Once the dialogue is occurring and issues are on the table, what is the most effective
process for proceeding through the issues and reaching a consensus to make effective changes?

3. Who does she think should be responsible for monitoring this process?

4. What training or skills do teachers need to see past surface behaviors and understand student's actions?

5. How can teachers make colleagues more comfortable with seeking out perspectives different than their own?

6. What changes would she make in teacher education to improve communication skills?

7. Does she believe that a "happy school environment" can make up for an "unhappy home environment"?

8. Does she believe black students should be taught to respond to "veiled commands" or should teachers make explicit commands? How does she see this issue
relating to students of color who eventually work in a "mainstream" [white] culture?

Submitted by Maggie Jackson



The author
        discusses the impact culture has on individuals,
        families, communities, and teachers. She addresses
        the importance of a teacher acknowledging the variety
        of cultures present in a classroom and asserting the
        importance of diversity. I selected this book because
        of the interesting personal experiences listed throughout
        the book that the author experienced or other people
        shared with her.

        My questions:
        · For the author-Why didnít you address social class,
          which has as much influence if not more in the way
          a student responds to a teacher?
        · Why donít schools in Inuit villages in Alaska,
          acknowledge the culture of their people as well as
          expose them to the ways of the "outside" world?
        · How is a teacher supposed to learn each history of
          each culture and understand the unspoken rules of
          each student who enters their classroom?
        · Why are teachers who make prejudiced statements about
          students not stopped or alerted to their prejudice?
        · How should a teacher address stereotypes of groups
          to avoid believing an individual from one culture
          possesses different skills than those from another
         (solely based on culture)?

        Submitted by Laura Gray.



This book chronicles the research and findings as well as the teaching experiences of an African American College Professor. She is able to come to this field of teacher education in a unique position of a minority and shares her insights to multicultural education. To add more interest she also taught in Alaska where she was helping to prepare both white and Native Alaskans to teach in the Alaskan rural schools.

I chose this book because the title "Other Peopleís Children" captured my imagination. Having my own children I hoped that I might learn how to better understand and teach "others".

My questions for Ms. Delpit would be as follows:

1. How might a white woman, such as myself, who, by the way, seems to be the majority teaching staff, truly be able to identify if learning difficulties in my classroom are culture related?
2. What steps have been done to successfully integrate all the differing cultures in a classroom? I might expect at least three different ethnic heritages in a class.
3. I have acquaintances that have gone to the far northern reaches of Alaska to teach because of the high salaries and subsidized living. Is this practice creating more problems for the native students? Should there be only native teachers?
4. What evaluation techniques do you see as useful for administrators to use to monitor individual teacherís teaching styles in terms of multicultural education?
5. Have you seen positive progress in the last several years, i.e. are we doing what needs to be done?

Submitted by Denise Buck


   Other Peoples Children discusses Americas classrooms and shows how
to be aware of various cultures within the classroom setting.  The
majority of teachers in our society our white females and have been raised
to believe all other cultures should conform to ours.  This book
illustrates how to respect other cultures within the classroom
setting and how to make each child feel comfortable with their culture
within the classroom.
        I choose this book because I do have little experience with those
outside of my culture.  I found this book to be very educational.  It
taught me a lot about ethnic diversity, including the need to respect and
include every culture within the classroom setting.
The questions I would ask are:

1) If black students need to be directed differently than white students,
how can a teacher do this without coming across as treating the children
unequally.

2) When having parents of various cultures participating in discussions,
how do you get them to agree on a specific way of doing things?

3) When differing between dialect intervention and reading instruction,
how is a teacher to know when language diversity is appropriate and when
it is not?

4) Belonging to a society where school is mandatory, how does one respect
the idea of the Native Alaskan communities (where the parents let it be
the childs choice whether or not to attend school) and accept their view
into ones classroom.

5) What is the most effective way to decrease the difference between the
students culture and the schools culture?

Submitted by Krista Brown


Return to Annotated Bibliography Page
 Return to Home Page