Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Other People's Children, 3rd Meeting

For our third and final meeting on Lisa Delpit’s “Other People’s Children”, we discussed the final section of the book, titled “Looking to the Future: Accommodating Diversity”. As with our previous meetings, we kicked off the session with partner conversations, this time focused around the idea of cultural barriers to communication, grounded by a quote from Delpit:

“One of the most difficult tasks we face as human beings is trying to communicate across our individual differences, trying to make sure that what we say to someone is interpreted the way we intend. This becomes even more difficult when we attempt to communicate across social differences, gender, race, or class lines, or in any situation of unequal power.” (p. 135, “Cross-cultural Confusions in Teacher Assessment”)

From there, we shifted our whole group and small group conversations to focus on what has and has not changed since Delpit published this book in 1995. While we acknowledged that many of her critiques of teacher preparation programs were incorporated in our experiences with teacher preparation, and most of us even read Delpit in our courses, we came to the conclusion that many of the issues Delpit describes remain or have become even more significant.

Delpit begins to mention the challenges of standardized testing for students and standardized assessment of educators, but these issues have become major federal policy since the book was published. Delpit talks about the importance of hiring and retaining educators of color, which has become an even more significant issue, especially here in Philadelphia where the proportion of Black educators has declined sharply in recent years. Fundamental issues of racism, power, communication, and culture remain as significant as ever, increasingly so in the era of a Trump presidency.

We closed our meeting, as we do each week, by reflecting on what makes it hard to talk about race and why it is important. After finishing “Other People’s Children”, we are shifting our conversation to “Raising Race Questions” by Ali Michael to focus on how we, as white educators, can help to foster the change that Delpit proscribed over 20 years ago.

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