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Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom Paperback – February, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-1565841802 ISBN-10: 1565841808 Edition: English Language
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

MacArthur fellow and educator Delpit argues that many minority students are erroneously labeled "underachievers" due to failures of communication between teachers and students.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


A godsend. . . honest and fair, yet visionary and firm. -- Quarterly Black Review

Here, finally, is multiculturalism with a human face. -- Teacher Magazine

Phenomenal. . . Reading it feels like a breath of fresh air in an increasingly polluted world. Without works like this, those of us who are struggling to change our schools (as well as our society) would be unable to breathe. -- San Francisco Review of Books

[Delpit] is a keen student of the way that ideas and practices take on new meanings in cultural contexts, including the context of unequal power. -- The Nation

[Other People's Children] provides an important, yet typically avoided, discussion of how power imbalances in the larger U.S. society reverberate in classrooms. -- Harvard Educational Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: New Press; English Language edition (February 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565841808
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565841802
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

364 of 383 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Coklow on March 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I think a lot of people have read this book with a defensive attitude and have totally misunderstood it. If we want to be better educators, we need to listen with an open mind and humble attitude. Pay attention to Dr Delpit's life story--she is not coming from an anti-white perspective; she is coming from the perspective of one who has made the same mistakes that we as white educators tend to make. She has a lot of relevant life experience AND relevant research and theory. What's more, her words fit perfectly with everything I have observed.
As a white person from upper-class background who has been trying to "make a difference," and has been bewildered when my best efforts still seem to fail to reach some kids, I felt that this book was the answer I have been seeking for years.
If you think you already know everything you need to know, don't bother reading this review or the book. But if you keep questioning why African-American kids fail in such dramatic numbers, and if you refuse to accept that it is someone else's fault or problem, but instead continue to ask how educators can do better--then skip the review and get this book.
I have been working with children of all backgrounds for more than fourteen years and have been trying to understand the riddle of why African-American kids have a hard time in school. I had come to two essential understandings but lacked a third that this book provided.
First, I used to blame Af-Am children's school problems on their parents and communities, but then I came to understand that their parents are as likely to be loving and supportive as anyone else's, and that their community's cultural values dictate that education is essential to success.
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87 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Mike MacFerrin on May 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
Currently a recent college graduate from a predominantly-white Midwestern background, this book got me on a serious soul-searching thought process. This fall, I will teach high school students from a culture considerably different from my own... a Public School in the primarily Cajun and Creole areas of Southern Louisiana (where Lisa Delpit was raised!). I'd always thought I could rely on my own memories of great teachers from my childhood to guide me in my own techniques. This book opened my eyes to the fact that my own assumptions are based in my own culture. Effective methods of learning, communicating, and especially TEACHING children of other cultures can and probably will vary significantly from my own.
I think a previous reviewer seriously misjudged Ms. Delpit's intent by saying she implies "we need to separate our students by cultural backgrounds to teach them individually using different approaches." Far from that, Ms. Delpit simply explains that we need to question our own assumptions on all levels of the teaching profession, from the way we teach students to the way teachers are evaulated as "competent" on a national level.
Lisa does not present simple answers... difficult problems are seldom solved by such methods. Like any good teacher, she thoroughly presents us with a serious problem and leaves us to explore the answers within ourselves, while pointing us in the right direction. This isn't a "How to Fix Public Education" guideline as much as a "What Needs to be Fixed and What We Can Begin To Do About It" memorandum.
The language was honest, powerful and easy to read. I cannot stress enough how important books like this are to improving the quality of education (not just for minorities!) in our school systems nationwide.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By J. Mills on October 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am a teacher and a Ph.D. student in education, and of all of the hundreds of articles and books I've read about education, Other People's Children has been one of the most useful, both in terms of my intellectual development and also in practical, common-sense classroom strategies. If you are an educator who is ready to stop blaming your students' parents for everything your students do wrong and who is ready to start asking what YOU can do to help your students achieve more, this book is an excellent choice for where to start.

Of particular interest were sections describing how well-intentioned teachers (not "the enemy" as another reviewer grossly mischaracterized) often enact policies that end up handicapping students who come from different backgrounds. Delpit describes the policies and the good intentions that led to them but also what the unintended consequences were and suggestions for how to deal with those consequences. Other helpful topics include descriptions of cultural differences in communication styles that can lead to conflict and how to address those, how to value your students' home cultures and still prepare them to succeed in the majority culture, and how to talk with your students about the social and political realities of being a minority in a majority culture.

I can't state strongly enough how this book transformed my thinking about teaching. I am no longer content to pathologize my students' home cultures, throw my hands in the air in despair, and say that there's nothing I can do. This book won't give you fool-proof recipes for success, as none exist; it offers descriptions of what her suggestions look like in practice. In fact, this book may raise more questions for you than it answers. If you're an educator looking to move forward, however, the questions raised are definitely worth the effort.
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