Discussion 2: The Culture of Power & Educational Equity (UNST 421)

PAIRINGSPOSTINGAlthough they come from very different backgrounds and approaches, all of the authors we read in this course address issues such as community, the culture of power, inequity, and social justice.  As part of our continued gathering of context/background information, please perform the following informal research on some of the community issues/experiences that impact the community partner with whom we are working.  Please read the assigned reading in our course text AND at least 2-3 other linked readings in order to participate fully and critically in this week’s discussion thread.

Reading Spotlight #2

Lisa Delpit, in “The Silenced Dialogue,” talks about the culture of power as most invisible to people who hold that power.

Please consider exploring these ideas in intersection with the local readings on gentrification, fair housing, and opportunity gaps by location.


STEP 1: Read and Connect

As a starting point for gathering your thoughts and questions, consider the following as you read:

  • What is your most significant learning from these readings and why?
  • How have these readings (or one reading in particular) impacted your understanding
    (personal view) of educational equity and the big picture?
  • How might you integrate this learning into your approach at the community partner
    site and/or in class?
  • What questions have arisen or remain unanswered as a result of this reading?



Then, develop a question or highlight a specific text or intersection between texts to get the conversation going.


16 thoughts on “Discussion 2: The Culture of Power & Educational Equity (UNST 421)

  1. I really enjoyed The Silenced Dialogue, especially the part about the difference between verbal directives from White and Black teachers. It made me think about my own experiences with teacher of different ethnicities. I definately remember the greater directness from the Black authority figues, more specifically from the women, in my schools as opposed to the White ones. Everyone noticed it but never thought too much about it. People would make comments from ‘she doesn’t like white people’ to ‘she’s harder on black students’, when in reality they may have been more no-nonsense because of their culture. When another teacher I had, who was Ukrainian, was direct, it was immeadiately attributted to her Soviet upbringing. My spanish teacher had a strong/different personality too, which was assumed to be a result of growing up in a different culture. Black people are American, so people expect them to act ‘American’ – which was the point this article was trying to make about culture norms.The Black women’s directness in my school was attiributed to a personality flaw, as opposed to the idea that their directness was the appropriate way to act when in a position of authority.

  2. The social controversy’s described in, The Silenced Dialogue, brought to my attention the importance of giving a voice to those not heard. Lisa Delpit discussed many issues that are currently presented in the field of education, many of which we may have either dealt with or will deal with as we enter the teaching field. However the issue that I found most relevant to my point of view is the topic of power. “Children have the right to their own language, their own culture. We must fight cultural hegemony and fight the system by insisting that children be allowed to express themselves in their own language style. It is not they, the children, who must change, but the schools” (Delpit, pg. 291). In my opinion, this statement encourages diversity in the classroom by allowing students to integrate their cultural beliefs, viewpoints, and use of different languages into their education. But what I find most interesting is that this statement also addresses power. Power of having a voice should be given to children who have outside experience and knowledge to bring into the classroom. If there is one thing I have learned consistently throughout college, it’s that diversity is beneficial to all. We learn from others experiences, beliefs, and cultures. We may not agree or share the same beliefs, but we learn by accepting others for their differences. “The answer is to accept students but also to take responsibility to teach them” (Delpit, pg. 292). This statement was made in reference to a native student who was entered into the teaching preparation program with the exception of her unnoted lack of technical writing skills. While most of the department either stated that the student was incapable of becoming a teacher or blamed her ethnic background for her difference in writing style, Delpit guided the student to success by giving her a voice in her education.

    I believe that teachers hold the authoritative position in the classroom, but I am not a believer in the teacher holding power over the students. In my opinion, both the students and teachers voice is a shared power and both students and teachers have the ability to share the power of voicing their opinions, beliefs, and use of languages in the classroom.

    So my question stands: How do we incorporate cultural differences into our educational system while also promoting acceptance of said differences? In other words, how can we promote traditional academic learning in a classroom that shares power of voice in a way that students feel comfortable discussing their cultural backgrounds and beliefs without receiving judgment from peers or authority figures?

    • Dakota:
      I really feel like we can teach children cultural competency the same way we learn it ourselves. What has made the difference for you in learning to be more culturally competent? How would that translate to a kindergarten classroom, a middle school classroom, a high school classroom?

      • Here is my issue, Zapoura: I would never describe myself as culturally competent! I am aware of the problems but don’t know how to fix them; I’ve learned about my white privilege but have no idea what to do about it. That’s why I’m glad we’re talking about solutions.

  3. This article “The Silenced Dialogue” was very interesting. I think the points that the other brings up are very important. We tend to assume that we all have the same style of learning and communicating as we are all humans.
    I think something important that we are lacking in schools is diversity among teachers. The article I included has some interesting facts on teachers. (I didn’t look too much into the article, just looked at some of the first charts that it includes) It shows that the majority of teachers are females and that the majority of teachers are white. The question I have is: If we have more diversity in teachers would that help students succeed?
    My personal reply to that question is yes. Students would have access to many different styles of teaching and communication that would allow them to have at least one teacher that was a better fit for their own needs. By having a more culturally diverse teaching staff it could help students by making those who are of other cultural backgrounds feel more at ease. And it would help those who are of the majority group get a better view and understanding of other cultures and the way that they interact.

    • I have not had much, if any, experience with diversity in teaching staffs so this whole article was pretty interesting to me. I feel like if I had, at the very least I would be a better communicator than I currently am. But I have always felt that there was a cog in the educational system, I always taught my peers how to do math problems, ages k-12. I basically acted as the translator between teacher and student which was possible because I was their age and could relate to them. If we can’t change the diversity of our teachers and our system, which I don’t think is possible in the short term, then the teachers need to find a more effective way to relate to their students, like the example given about the teacher asking students to deconstruct rap music and then using that to teach Shakespeare. So I guess my answer to your question is if diversity cannot be achieved, a diversity of thought should be aimed for.

  4. I think one way to incorporate different cultures would be to alter the course content a little. Maybe in English class have a variety of authors that come from different cultures. Also have the history classes focus more on non-European history, unless of course the class is European history. I know that change may not do much, but it’s worth questioning if kids feel alienated because the subject matter of some classes are ‘white’ focused. Are some books classics because they appeal to the white people who create the status quo for these things? Its much easier to enjoy books and history when you feel a connection to the people involved. People feel pride when thinking about their cultures, so subject matter that relates to their cultures may be more appealing and improve class participation.

    • I agree that having representative texts, teachers, histories, etc., taught would be a good start. Being able to see your own reflection in what you’re learning is important. I think that cultural competency skills and dialogue skills, along with self-esteem and identity lessons, should be embedded in our classrooms as well. Teach children how to find themselves and to value themselves. Teach them to value others as well. Have any of you (anyone) seen this kind of teaching in your own school experience?

  5. My favorite passage from this aticle states: “We must believe that people are experts on thier own lives.”

    For me this really is the bottom line.This means that we must validate everyone’s story and their live. Whether we do not agree, do not understand, or dislike thier ways we must work carefully with our students. We need to recognize our students’ culture and work delicate with them around the issues of thier culture. The minute we judge them negatively and begin to interact with them in a way that ignores thier culture, we discount thier ives, their stories and thier expertise on thier own lives.

    • Adrian, this is one of my absolute favorite quotes as well. It’s definitely something to keep in mind throughout this term and beyond…I feel like if people really embraced this, our communities would change…

  6. One of lines that stood out to me in this article was “The teacher cannot be the only expert in the classroom.” (pg 288)

    For me this line had two meanings, firstly, I think that we are all always learning. Not just in the classroom, but at work and with our daily interactions with others. We all have something to share and we all have to be open to learn something from everyone we encounter. Everyone brings a unique perspective and a different way of looking at concepts. If we open ourselves up to learn not just from a teacher but also other students we can get a deeper understand on a topic. Secondly, I think that when a teacher comes across as the ultimate power in the classroom and only source of information kids are not receptive to learn from them. Some of the best teachers I have had are those that acknowledge they are not the experts and they want us to question what they are teaching. Those teachers that enter the classroom with almost a peer like attitude and not an all powerful teacher make for the best learning environment and classroom experience.

  7. On page 286 of the Silenced Dialogue, Delpit talks about different styles of teaching and how only the children who were previously prepared to learn to read did so with success. This makes me think of something I’ve thought about a lot recently, which is pre-Kindergarten education. It’s not required but children who have it see greater academic success. Because it’s not required, people at economic disadvantage enroll their children in pre-K less, further propagating later economic disadvantage in younger generations. So I’m interested in accessible pre-K programs that could help kids with less resources succeed from the get-go. And of course being culturally competent and culturally sensitive is important… but like I commented above, I have no idea where to begin with that.

  8. As I read through the comment above I saw that me a Adrian are once again thinking along the same lines. And while I would have said it maybe just a bit different, Adrian said it perfectly. I think back this week to the students I was helping and think about the different cultures I saw this week alone. and that if I discount their culture then can they not discount mine? And how can we work in a positive manner toward equality if we don’t validate one another?

  9. I think one huge problem with schools and how they teach students is that they expect all students to learn and process information the same way. If one student isn’t able to conform to that particular style of teaching, they are labeled as dysfunctional or disabled in terms of learning and intellectual ability.

    When I was reading through this article, this sentence stuck out to me: “To deny students their own expert knowledge is to disempower them.” This is something I will try to keep in mind, because I truly believe that each student has knowledge and expertise that they can pass on to me if I’m willing to listen and learn from them.

  10. In the readings I learned how easily it can be lead to believe that colored people are easily stereotyped by one representative and justified to not be taken seriously by one or a couple of minor x reason, not considering strengths and possible outcomes.
    The reading put a whole different twist in a perspective in the shoes of someone with power. How the false assumption of a non-white applicant raised in poverty and poor quality of education with a weakness represents their whole culture group, meanwhile a white person in the same or better said middle to upper class environment with a weakness is simply a personal weakness not a trait representative of their whole culture group.

  11. I’m really sad that someone already used the quote I wanted to, but I think it has so much depth to it, I thought i would comment on it anyway.

    “We must believe that people are experts on thier own lives”
    I came from a town that had little to no diversity, we were a predominately whet school, even the teachers were all white, now that i think back on it. Even the teachers who taught spanish, were white. It’s funny to read articles like this that sparks a memory that you would have never remember hadn’t something reminded you of it. You never imagine as a student that teachers are still people, who have had their share of experiences, good and bad, that maybe leads them to be bias to a particular culture. I think a lot of people believe that racism no longer exists, and that we all are for the most part equal, and I feel like the more I learn, the more that statement is far from the truth. We all come across people that change and shape our ideas into the ones that they are. I think cultural differences will/ should always be present, but not with such negativity and fear. We should embrace different cultures, and learn from one another instead of fearing the unknown.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s