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Teaching Gap?

Ms Kudu responds to TMAO’s post on cultural differences in education success:

I will go one step further to say that I don’t believe there are all that many external factors which make the education of any group as difficult as it may seem. I come to believe, more and more each day, that arguments such as home life, socio-economic status, “cultural behavior” (don’t even get me started on how much I hate that one), and even quickie-diagnoses of learning disabilities which may or may not exist are simply excuses to blame the child for a perceived inability to learn – an accusation which is completely inappropriate and laziness on the part of adults charged with children’s education, to say the least.

The thing is, in TMAO’s original post, the facts were indeed that education is failing at a cultural level, rather than a socioeconomic one. I don’t think any of us believe that it is inevitable (or else we wouldn’t be working where we are), but I don’t think you can eliminate everything except the teacher, either.

I’ve seen teachers with decades of successful experience come to the schools I teach at, and get eaten alive. They inevitably blame the kids, because they have those years of success.

Which is too bad, because this is one of those situations where blame isn’t going to work. (And here, i think and hope that I agree with TMAO).

These schools are different. The Kids are different. The environment they come from is different. You can’t ignore that. If you do, If you try to say that the only difference between these schools and others is the skill of the teachers, you are going to continue to doom them to failure.

I think the real point here is not that the kids aren’t different, but that those differences don’t rule them out as successful learners.

Let me repeat that, rephrased:

Just because these kids don’t learn under the same conditions that other kids do doesn’t mean that they are incapable of learning.

There is empirical evidence for this – schools get turned around – scores go up, differences are made. We can’t ignore those differences, we need to embrace them, learn how to work with them, and still provide pathways to not so flexible world of a university education.

{ 5 } Comments

  1. TMAO | February 28, 2008 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if we can say that education has failed on a cultural level. It has failed to educate Black and Latino kids, but a difference in achievement across cultures does not equate to a cultural cause, necessarily. Or certainly not a cause that can even be possibly mediated. The SJ Mercury News is going around asking why kids from different cultures do better, and a premise there is that the culture itself, and the behaviors associated with that culture is a factor that can affect learning.

    Maybe. I think these things are filtered in too many ways, and spun through the centerfuge (sp?) of life too long to start pulling out influencing factors that are as broad as all that. So maybe.

    But who cares, right? Because we know some folks bring it and some don’t, that’s where we start. The far more compelling slide to show is the student performance of School A with its high poverty, high Black and Lation demographics, and compare to School B, with comparably demographics. What does School A do differently? Maybe it’s something to do with culture and ethnicity, and maybe not. Maybe it’s a host of things. But we get at those things by looking at schools and districts, first.

  2. TMAO | February 28, 2008 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I should say that I think we all agreeing with one another in verbose ways.

  3. Mr K. | February 28, 2008 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Because we know some folks bring it and some don’t, that’s where we start.

    I’m kind of glad we’re all agreeing. But that’s just a start. My next questions are: how do we find those folks, how do we figure out what they’re doing differently, and finally, most difficultly, how do we teach others to do the same?

  4. gahrie | March 10, 2008 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Just because these kids don’t learn under the same conditions that other kids do doesn’t mean that they are incapable of learning.

    That’s an easy statement to agree with. Every student is capable of learning. The biggest problem I have is the students who are unwilling to learn.

  5. Miss Profe | March 19, 2008 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    To understand the achievement gap between students of color – and I can only speak on an informed level re: Black students – and White students is to possess a historical perspective on the situation. Slavery and Jim Crow have given rise to the situation which currently exists, and, even 54 years after Brown v. Board of Education, our Black students are still being treated like second-class citizens in the Educational Industrial Complex. So, yes, it is cultural: The racism which exists in the larger American society. And, no, this is not an excuse to not fix the schools, but is a major reason why some schools get fixed and others do not.