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Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    Other People's Children Review

    In Other People's Children, author Lisa Delpit does not refrain from speaking openly and honestly about teaching diverse students in the classroom. This book combines Delpit's articles, research, and personal testimonies to effectively address the shortcomings and successes in the American classroom. While discussing the many issues surrounding diversity, Delpit enlightens the reader on issues of stereotyping, cross-culture confusion, and linguistic differences while challenging the reader's own views on these topics. An important aspect of Other People's Children is learning how to differentiate between cultural differences and unintelligence. This aspect is addressed many times in the book especially in the subject of reading. Many times teachers overcorrect students while reading but it is important "not to confuse dialect intervention with reading instruction." Many times overcorrecting a child can suppress their hunger for knowledge. Delpit is trying to stress that a student's comprehension is more important than having "proper" verbal communication. In Mathematics classes, students do not always understand word problems because they do not relate to them. Math teachers can use this insight to create problems in their class that are culturally inclusive for all students. I would recommend this book to teacher education candidates because the topics covered in Other People's Children are ones not always taught before entering the classroom. Many times discussions of diversity are sugarcoated or disregarded altogether but through Other People's Children future educators will be exposed to a sensitive subject early in their careers. Future teachers will also benefit from Delpit's book by gaining insight on how to use students' diverse backgrounds as an advantage rather than a hindrance.

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    Great Book for Current and Prospective Educators

    Lisa Delpit's compelling book, Other People's Children, can open the eyes for many current and prospective educators. Delpit effectively conveys the issue of diversity in the classroom, or the other hand, the lack there of. She helps the reader understand what it takes to be a diverse teacher, and the importance of connecting with each student individually. Delpit's book will truly make any educator evaluate themselves and their classroom through the heart-breaking information Delpit reveals throughout her story.
    Delpit is an African American teacher who has taught for years, all over the United States. In my opinion, the usage of her personal experiences is what makes this book so powerful. In her book, she gives many examples that show evident diversity issues that are happening in schools today. By the end of the book, as a reader, you want do everything in your own power to fill the unfortunate gap that is happening between students and teachers.
    Delpit emphasizes on the importance of culture and how understanding a students background can help you, as a teacher, meet that child's educational needs. She also hits on the topic of stereotyping. Delpit gives an example of a teacher who basically disregards an Asian-American female student because Asian-American female students are considered to be "the best students". However, this particular child was struggling and the teacher didn't even know it because she automatically assumed she was just like the others. Issues like these and many others Delpit brings to the table of education are disheartening. It's sad to know that some students are not experiencing the fullness of a good education due to teachers being unaware of the diversity in their students. By reading Delpit's book, I feel as a prospective teacher I have a better understanding of the diversity I am going to face in my classroom and how to be receptive of diversity. I also feel like I will go the extra mile to understand my students' background, culture, and learning style. I would suggest this book to any educator, prospective or current. It can truly make you regroup your thoughts about what is important in education today.

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  • Posted September 28, 2009

    A Good Read

    Other People's Children, by Lisa Delpit, gives a firsthand description of the hardships that can be faced in today's school system on the account of race. Delpit is an African America teacher who has taught at many grade levels and in many different school systems across the United States. Although some may find this book to be biased, it does a good job of putting these racial issues into perspective for the reader.
    One big issue that I got from this book is how many teachers teach language as right and wrong. If the student does not speak the way the teacher feels is appropriate, than it is wrong. The chapter on language talks about the right way to teach and enforce language style without offending their culture. Students should not be forced to give up their dialects, we should embrace it and incorporate it into the lessons we teach. The chapter gives many examples of how to use questioning and other resources to educate correct grammar and language.
    On the other end of the spectrum, Delpit discusses later in the book of how a school system in Papua New Guinea deal with the issue of dialect. There are hundreds of dialects in the country, with only thirty percent of the natives speaking English, the school system still teaches in English. In the younger grades, children are taught about their culture and their own language. Then as they grow older, the English language is slowly introduces as a second language. In turn, they have higher test scores than most other countries because of their teaching method. This led to one of my biggest takeaways from the book as a whole; know your children. We should get to know our students and learn about their background and culture, and then incorporate this knowledge into the lessons we teach.
    I feel that Delpit's book would be very informative for people looking to pursue a profession in education. Before I read this book, I knew that the race issue in the education system existed, but I was unaware of most of the issues presented in this book. Delpit opened my eyes and broadened my horizons about race. I strongly recommend Other People's Children to all future educators.

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  • Posted September 28, 2009

    May Contain Spoilers! -- Review of Other People's Children

    Other People's Children by Lisa Delpit is a unique masterpiece that will change the perspective of any prospective teacher who reads it. It details current cultural issues that we face not only American schools, but in schools all around the world. It also gives teachers and prospective teachers plans and ideas for dealing with problems in the classroom regarding race, ethnic backgrounds, and many other characteristics that make each and every person different.
    If you choose to read Other People's Children, do so with a very open mind. Some of the issues and the way they are presented might seem to be negatively directed toward a certain race, specifically Whites. However, the passages are not meant to degrade the White race, but to simply bring to light certain truths that we see in school. For example, Delpit refers to middle-class White people as being part of the culture of power, in that they live according to what is considered "normal" and "correct" in our society. If not considered with an open mind, this concept and many other concepts explain in Delpit's work could be seen as being negative toward middle-class White people. Personally, I read the book with an open mind, and instead of making me bitter or angry, it completely changed my perspective of how I should teach school.
    Other People's Children explains why races other than the culture of power excel at lower levels than what is expected. The reason behind many issues, such as dropouts and graduation rates, is detailed in this book. I believe Delpit's purpose in writing this book was to try to fix those issues and to create harmony between all the different cultures in society. It also answers what I believe was a very important question: "Why are we seeing less and less black teachers in our schools today?" Other People's Children is a book that will leave you eager to make a change in our schools, to create an atmosphere where all cultures feel accepted, and to make schools a place where people from all cultures can express themselves freely.

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  • Posted September 27, 2009

    Lisa Delpit's concepts on the socio economic status and the educational gap that faces teachers toay

    Lisa Delpit's novel, Other People's Children, focuses on the diversity issues that teachers will eventually, or have already had to, face in their classrooms. She gives the reader a chance to look at real life examples and solutions to each problem. I would recommend this book to read as teachers but not as a class reading; some material may be too controversial to read to young adults. This book is also designed for teachers to read, not for students. Delpit is not afraid to state her opinion and is not afraid of who she might offend while doing this. She also encourages us as teachers to look into each student's different cultures and backgrounds to fully understand their situation.
    Although at first I did see a little bit of biased pull for African Americans, I have come to be more aware of the socio economic status' impact on students and the schools in general. She is very concerned about the academic achievement gap that is so evident in schools today, and is set on trying to improve this system. The sections that stood out the most to me were of her concern for English. This really opened my eyes on account that I plan to be an English teacher and it will be my responsibility to make sure my students understand the correct way to write. At the same time, the way a person speaks has become a part of them; it has become part of their identity. Before reading this book, I was unaware of this and figured that all students should know how to uphold an intelligent conversation through diction and tone. Although I do still think students should be able to write a professional paper and be able to speak professionally, I now understand that there is a time and a place where they are also free to speak in whichever way they would like. Trying to change the way a person speaks is like trying to change their identity and that is something that no teacher should try to adjust.
    Delpit also tries to sympathize with other cultures and their language. She gives examples from every culture in between African Americans, Alaskans, Native Americans, and even incorporates stories from Papua New Guinea. She shows the difference that each community has, and shows how none of these differences are wrong. She really tries to understand each culture and dissects the "culture of power". After reading this book I understood that is was necessary for her to write in plain black and white, without trying to sugarcoat any of her opinions. Sometimes things have to be written harshly for others to understand them. She does not criticize the school system or bash the teachers of today; she simply provides practical ways to improve the odds and ends of the school system and makes perfect sense while doing so.

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good for teachers!

    Why is there a problem with minority students lagging behind others in school? Is there a way to reach students that on the surface, appear unreachable? The book, Other People's Children, written by Lisa Delpit, explores the world education from the perspective of an outsider looking in. Delpit uses examples of successful educational techniques that have been used around the world to enrich the educational experience of diverse students.
    Delpit's approach to her book is to help the reader see the world from the perspective of the students. A predominant theme is that most teachers do not possess the same racial/cultural background as their students. One group that she explores is the Native Alaskans. She states that, "most Native Alaskan students, just as most children of color throughout this country do not have teachers from their own cultural group." Delpit contends that the culture and language of the Native Alaskan student is very different from white-skinned teachers who have migrated from further south. Delpit points out that students tune into academic lessons much better when a teacher understands the culture and is able to teach within that culture.
    Delpit uses this correlation of race and culture with African-American students. She acknowledges that students of color in American high schools largely come from a different culture than white students, and bring with them a slightly different dialect from Standard English, both of which add to the difficulties that African-American students have in performing to their potential in public schools. All students must be open to changing themselves somewhat to conform not only with the accepted standards that are the basis of a high school education, but also to learn what is accepted to be successful within the society in which they live. Delpit supports teaching minority children within their own cultures and dialects. The problem with this theory is training teachers to be sensitive to the variety of cultures within their classroom while maintaining their own personality traits. When someone tries to be someone they are not, the students will see right through their façade. While Delpit's approach seems to be one of supporting a racial/cultural divide, further reading reveals her mindset toward a solution to this problem.
    Delpit describes the educational system in Papua New Guinea to make her point. There the first exposure that children have to education is conducted in their native language. Once the students learn their lessons in their native tongue, they learn further lessons using the English language. The parents of the students apparently provide strong support for this approach. In the case of Papua New Guinea, students are taught elements that help them hold onto their culture, yet prepare them for success in global society and business. One might reach the conclusion that Delpit would support a re-segregation of public schools. This is not the case.
    What Delpit does make a case for, however, is the understanding that teachers must have for students of varying racial/cultural backgrounds. This will involve teachers getting to know their students and the students' communities better. Delpit causes the reader to wonder why there isn't a more racially diverse demographic in the teaching profession. All prospective teachers should read this book for the questions that it asks and the thought that it provokes.

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