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Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Even though the focus of this book is working with African-American children, the underlying theme that I took away from this book is the importance of understanding the culture of the children we work with on a daily basis. At one point I taught in an inner-city school with children with a variety of socio-economic and cultural experiences. At another school, I taught in a rural school, with my first class being children of farmers, and another class children of factory workers. Even though I was white, and they were white, I had to understand the farming and factory culture in order to reach my students. Relationship is primary in teaching, because if the children don't trust you, you will not be able to teach them. This book helped me to do that.

This book also helped me understand the social justice part of the teaching profession. Knowledge may be power, but education is opportunity. It's one thing to teach children because you "like" them, it's another to see yourself as doing the work of social justice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I have used this book for in-service training courses on meeting the needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. Delpit is extremely honest and forthright in her discussion of Cultural Conflict in the Classroom -- and how our schools can prepare our CLD students to make their way in the world.
This book is NOT for people who want to say they studied these issues but do not want to risk offending anyone. It is for people who truly want to have these conversations and are willing to get down to the nitty-gritty of dealing with differences, prejudices, and how we prepare students of all colors and backgrounds to be part of our multi-cultural world.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
We recently read this book as part of my MA in Secondary Ed, and I highly recommend it. Our diverse class of aspiring public school teachers found the author's opinionated and passionate essays to be a great discussion starter, with most of us having either strong positive or negative reactions to Delpit's perspective. In particular, we liked her explanation of the importance of direct language and making expectations of the school culture explicit for kids. In a critical sense, we found she tended to generalize too much.

Here are a few examples of things we found interesting:

White teachers ask "Where do you think the scissors go?" and black kids think, man, how did she get to be a teacher, she doesn't even know where the scissors go! Whereas, according to Delpit, a black teacher might say "Put the scissors back in the drawer and sit down."

White teachers at a school in Native Alaska complain about parents not making their kids go to school. Native Alaskan parents, whose culture values children's authority, respond that if their children don't want to got to school then the school must be a place where the children do not feel welcome.

Teachers are often compared to lawyers and doctors, when in fact a better comparison is with preachers, who need to respond to and inspire their congregations.
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is a must-read. Many important issues are presented which I had never engaged with before, even in my teaching program, and even in a class in which the teacher urged us to read this book (but didn't make it mandatory).

To cut to the quick, though, I have a few problems with it. Delpit seems to suggest that white teachers are not direct enough with minority (esp. black) kids, and this is a source of confusion, because black parents have a much more direct style than white parents, and so black kids don't know what to do when they aren't being ordered around as at home. Perhaps this is true, but what she doesn't say is that black parents also tend to use corporal punishment to enforce their authority... should we white teachers then be allowed to hit black kids for disrespecting us or refusing to comply with our commands? Many blacks I've talked to have emphatically argued that indeed, teachers should be allowed to hit the kids. But somehow this must cross the line for Delpit.

Another thing I noticed is that on p. 120, she quotes "a black teacher who taught for 2 years and then left the profession in 1971" as saying that "Minority teachers expect kids to make their own decisions; white teachers tell kids everything to do." This is obviously contradicting what Delpit says in her entire book, yet she does not even address the contradiction after the quote.

Then on p. 173 to 174, she talks about the now-cliched idea that we need to teach disadvantaged kids MORE, not less as we have been doing. Yet we can't teach them boring, minute skills, she says. What she doesn't say is, HOW are we supposed to teach them more when they can't even get the little we are trying to teach them? Is she saying we should pay home visits for extra tutoring? Surely she can't be saying we should just give them extra work, if they can't do the work they've already got. A little elucidation would help a lot here.

Then on p. 180 she talks about how when white teachers call the parents of failing black students, the parents say "Well, he's fine at home." And then us white teachers think the parents are being defensive, when actually the truth is that we need to ask them to help us do whatever it is they do to get the kid to behave. But I think it is at least equally often the case that the black parents say, "Well, we don't know how to control him at home, either." So what then? And even if they do seem to be able to control them at home, what likelihood is there that they do so without the threat of physical abuse?

Also, I forget where it was in the book (near the end), but she says something about how we can't stereotype kids by their race in order to try to understand the instruction they need. She says every kid must be treated as an individual. Yet the whole rest of the book is just her stereotyping kids based on their culture and offering suggestions of how to teach in culturally appropriate manners. So I guess we are supposed to be flexible with our stereotyping in case it doesn't work for some individuals? Is that her message?

All in all, she made me very depressed about the prospects for multicultural education, even though she herself seems to think it is the way to go, even though minority children did, and might again do better academically in segregated classrooms. Her argument, of course, is just that we don't want to continue with a segregated world... it is too dangerous in the nuclear age.

So, I've really focused on the problems and contradictions in her book, even though the truth is I thought that it was a very important and insightful book. If anyone has any answers to these questions I lay out, I'd love to hear them.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
I loved this book because it reminded me of the very important theories I was taught in my English as a Second Language class. It isn't about labeling or deriding minorities it is about recognizing different cultures and how they interact in the classroom. I think it is easy to understand how a child coming from Mexico or China might not understand the way our schools work as they and their family have very different expectations of behavior (i.e. to look at someone in the eye when spoken to or not). What is more difficult is to recognize that there are children that already live in America and have different expectations.
This book outlines the culture clash that occurs on a daily basis that goes unrecognized by many teachers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book has just enough material in it that is worthwhile for any teacher to read and is sure to provide insight into how any teacher of diverse populations can improve their approach. There are several instances where Ms. Delpit makes broad generalizations that could serve to alienate some readers, but it could be argued that this alienation could serve to bring about more understanding about the cultural conflict that she is addressing. Therefore, I am fairly neutral on the book, but would recommend it to any educator.
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on November 28, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Lisa Delpit's novel, "Other People's Children" is an insightful read about the cultural differences that exist in our society today. For some background information, Lisa Delpit is an African American who at a young age was forced into an integrated school district. She has written "Other People's Children" to share her beliefs on racism, mistreatment, and ignorance of our culture today. The book is divided into three sections, each consuming of a plan of action to create a more culture friendly society for teachers, students, and administration. Delpit's suggestion about her non-traditional approach to teaching is extremely insightful. Delpit focuses on teaching children of color, but her strategies and advice can be used to benefit all types of students.
The first section of the book, "Skills and Other Dilemmas of a Progressive Black Educator" discusses the ins and outs of our societies idea of a "language progressive" ideology. Here, and through out her entire novel, Delpit shares stories that have actually occurred in her life. For example, she talks about the idea of "black vs. standard English." Throughout her childhood, many would try and correct her grammar. This did not sit well with Delpit due to the fact that she believed she should write as she would talk. To keep from correcting her own students as she once was, she created a strategy to improve her students writing skills. She developed the idea of a "fast write" and "golden lines" which were to be done in a group process. This strategic plan helped students write freely, and focused their energy on fluency over correctness.
The next section of the book is titled, "Lessons from Home and Abroad: Other Cultures and Communities," These stories piece together the importance of culture acceptance. Delpit expresses that idea that education meets its maximized success when cultures of people are integrated. We can assume that by integrating our society, all will understand different perspectives of life. Delpit shared an incredible story about the Papua New Guinea in this section. Papua New Guinea is a county of only three million citizens who actually speak 700 different languages. They had to figure out how to teach all their citizens in "Standard English." After numerous failed attempts, a new reform labeled "Vilis Tokples Pri-Skul" was created. From the ages 10 to 15 students would learn English. This allowed the English language to reform in their society, while still allowing the people of Papua New Guinea to remain true to their culture. This example helped Delpit prove that the mixture of language and culture is your key to success in education.
The final section focuses completely on Delpits ideas for education reform, and goals that need to occur to provide equality for all children in the education atmosphere. Delpit goes into great detail discussing traditional style of teaching, and the negativity about teacher assessment tests. Delpit believes that teachers are overwhelmed with teacher assessment tests. However, these tests do not always determine the success of them. The tests have been consider to be the reason why their has been a significant decline in new professionals entering the teaching field. Furthermore, effects urban areas where minorities are a concern.
At the end of her book, Delpit shares recommendations. Her first recommendation is to teachers and family interaction. She believes that for a teacher to be successful, they must connect with their student's families inside and outside of the classroom. This helps teacher further their understanding of each individual student. She also recommends a more diverse teaching force. If you are a teacher and have a clear understand of what's going on in your student's lives, it will be much easier for them to trust you, and you to trust them. The last suggestion is the dismissal of Eurocentric curriculum. This segregated, race particular way of teaching needs to be reformed into a way to learn and teach about people of all backgrounds. This will provide our future with a more positive understanding of the world around us, and our place in it.
Delpit is successful in her attempts to inform readers about the difficulties our children face every day of their lives. Something she is a bit crucial, but her way of writing helps ones understand the importance of her beliefs. Delpits insightful stories, interviews, and beliefs create a story that gives future educators, like myself, a sense of hope to create change in the education world.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Other People's Children: Culture Conflict in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit is a nonfiction book based on Delpit's personal experiences with students of color and different races. The theme throughout the book is "the Culture of Power." The Culture of Power has five components in which she explains in detail with personal experiences as her examples and case studies as well as solutions to problems that arise within the five points. It is stated by Delpit that the culture of power must be explicit in the classroom and experienced as useful in the wider world. In the revised version she answers some questions that she has been asked since writing the first version.

The book is very insightful and useful for students getting into the teaching field as I am. It put school related instances into perspective and made me rethink some of my previous expectations and ideas about teaching in the school system. At times I questioned Delpit's approach when writing about white teachers but as I read through the book I see why it is so important for her not to "sugar coat" the problems within the school systems. If this book was not as straight forward as it was I do not think she would have been able to get her point across.

I agree with most of Delpit's ideas in this book. Teacher's today are not prepared for teaching students from different races, and cultures and are loosing the power to successful teach in the classrooms. The book raises the fact that in a classroom the average nonwhite students are at about 40% where the nonwhite teachers is only about 10%. This affects what the students learn in relation to their culture. How are the white teachers able to fully in capture the cultures of other races when it is not how they were raised? Delpit gives quotes from parents and students to show their frustration with teachers and what they are teaching. One parent states, "My kid knows how to be black--you all teach them to be successful in the white mans world"

Delpit tries to show the reader the problems that are arising in today's classroom with detailed examples from her own experience as well as other teachers, parents and students. This book really opened my eyes and was a great read for my introduction into the teaching program at my school. It was insightful and forced me to take a look at the issues I was unaware of in the classroom and how I can begin to think out of the box to help students that are being left behind due to their race or color. I plan on using it to help me become a better teacher and hopefully it can help others. The one thing I must say is that at first some might take offense to the way Delpit explains things, but when I put myself in the student's shoes I see why it is so important for Delpit to be blunt and upfront about these issues. If she was not I do not think that I would be considering teaching in an inner city school when I graduate. I want to make sure these students are successful and she helped me see the need for great teachers in schools with majority of minorities.
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on October 2, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
In her book, Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, Lisa Delpit provides readers with evidence that cultural issues are still very much present in schools today. She discusses hot button issues such as race, gender, social class, and other prejudices with in the educational system.

Lisa Delpit uses first hand evidence to support her claims. In the beginning of the book she explains how she felt when considering the way she spoke compared to how she was expected to speak. She states that upon returning to school an African American boy asked her why she was trying to speak "white." This situation could easily be turned around and a teacher could chastise a student for speaking the way he or she was taught at home, but what is noticeably not correct English. This is obviously still a hot issue today. Should teachers forcefully correct a student's bad grammar, or accept it as part of their culture. Because these lines are so thin it's hard to decide which is the best course of action. This book helps readers explore these type situations and gives them ideas as to better handle them.

Other People's Children is a great tool in the educators arsenal. Lisa Delpit sheds light on what it means to be an educator of diverse learners thus this book should be widely read. It helps show how stereotypes can be hurtful not only to the person stereotyped against, but also to the learning process of that particular person. If more people understood diversity in the classroom perhaps graduation rates would be higher than they are.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
Equally inspiring and offensive, "Other People's Children" raises a multitude of questions which educators have yet to answer or agree upon. This essay collection challenges the reader to dismantle personal conventions in order to comprehend the "other" perspective. Not an easy task, especially for members of the majority who are reluctant to acknowledge their cultural dominance. Sometimes the focus slips into a black/white dichotomy, but often these generalizations are quotes from other educators, not from the author herself. Lisa Delpit enraged many people back in 1987, when she declared that the minority voice was often hushed in educational discourse. Twenty-three years later, her words are still just as shocking and culturally relevant.
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