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Re: “Rich, Black, Flunking

As a former college teacher, what I ideally want to see in a student is a young person who has come from a home where parents emphasized reading, discussion of issues and learning to choose and defend a position using critical thinking, and respect for complex ideas and questioning assumptions rather than rote facts alone. This doesn't happen when parents themselves don't read and engage actively themselves. The parents don't have to be highly educated themselves--many immigrant and working-class native-born parents are not. What is important is that they themselves read and think, as much as they can. TV should be as little in evidence as possible at home: TV is a passive medium, books and magazines are an active medium. The library should be a home away from home. This requires very little money, but a large investment in time, attention, and a focused attitude.

My former students from affluent homes (almost all of them white) often were not hard workers, often did not know or care to think critically and deeply. They were often spoiled, but they had been passed from grade to grade in their wealthy schools doing mediocre writing, but having learned to "play the game" of copying out of reference books or buying term papers online to hand in to satisfy classwork requirements. Poor students were less likely to be hip to these scams. But culture did STILL make a difference. In general, I would say that immigrant Latino students often were able to survive in college due to more intact family support at home; Asian students survived because they had been pushed very hard by parents to learn daily study habits of hours of hard work. Black students, in my experience as a college teacher, often had the hardest time. I think they simply did not--for reasons described in the article about Ogbu--come from a culture where there had been a lot of reading, a lot of debate over the dinner table. They also may have come from homes with financial problems that led to distractions, parents unable to really help the kids (this was just as true of my working-class white students, of whom there were FEW because white students receive no race-based affirmative action helps to get to college). It's not at all that they were less able---I am NOT suggesting any differences between groups in inherent ability. I simply suggest that what happens at home is, in fact, CRUCIAL to how kids know what to do with schoolwork. It is NOT about race---any of this. It is about class, culture, attitudes toward learning. Learning begins and ends at home. School is only an adjunct to that.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Susan Nordmark on 12/14/2007 at 11:17 PM

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