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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Twenty-Six: Lisa Delpit, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (1995)

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TWENTY-SIX

Lisa Delpit, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (1995)

Kal Alston

As a parent, teacher, and researcher, Lisa Delpit repeatedly encountered profound disconnection between the experiences of children who brought racial/class/linguistic differences to their classrooms and their (often) well-intentioned teachers. Her 1995 book, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom,1 was published as a fiercely personal and political account of her own journey of understanding how schooling can consistently fail some students despite good-faith work to help them.

The book comprises nine essays grouped into three sections. The first section includes two essays originally published in the Harvard Educational Review that pose a challenge to popular strategies of teaching literacy skills to children, and a third that responds to some criticisms leveled at those essays. In the second section, Delpit takes up literacy, orality, and culture in Alaska and Papua New Guinea. In these essays she engages in a close analysis of teacher education and the challenges faced by teachers who are “native” to the communities in which they teach. In the third section, Delpit specifically calls for a reexamination of teacher assessments and standards as they were being developed at the time. She issues a call to educators to reconsider their practice in light of reflective self-knowledge, humility, and cross-cultural understanding.

Literacy and Teaching More Than Words

Delpit prefaces each section of the book with a...

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