Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Silenced Dialogue (Lisa Delpit)

In Privilege, Power and Difference written by Allan Johnson he talked about the power of privilege in society whereas in The Silenced Dialogue Lisa Delpit talks about power within the educational system. I had a more difficult time reading and comprehending Delpit’s article then I did Johnson’s. One example that left me perplexed was on page 34 she discusses a quote by Shirley Brice Heath who wrote Way with Words about the differences in directives that are given by a middle class “townspeople” teachers (I assume that these are white teachers) and that of black teachers. She gave an example regarding scissors. The white teacher asked “Is this where the scissors belong?” while the black teacher said “Put those scissors on that shelf.”  I sat wondering if this was a fact or was it just her opinion and if it was fact was it based upon certain schools in certain areas.  I think this has more to do with the teachers teaching style rather than based on their race.  Looking to gather more information I researched Heath and the book which was written in 1983 and is based upon two communities in Piedmont California: Roadville a white working-class and Trackton a black working-class. During her time of research in 1969-1978 she recorded and interpreted the language habits of children and teachers. Now knowing the context of this information and that it was from over 40 years ago it is easier to comprehend her point and what she is saying. Also with it being written over 40 years ago I ponder what research would show not especially with teacher evaluation systems in place.

One powerful and truthful quote that really stuck out to me while reading the article was on page 32 where Delpit wrote “The teacher cannot be the only expert in the classroom. To deny students their own expert knowledge is to disempower them.” An example Delpit provided was of a teacher who taught her students about the structure of grammar and Shakespeare by first giving them the power in the classroom of learning the skills needed through the use of something of interest to them-rap music.  She taught the skill using a topic that was motivating to her students. She gave them the power to succeed. She put thought into her process of teaching the skill.  

While reading the article I came across a point that made me think of something I read in Johnson’s article. On page 38 Delpit writes “A white applicant who exhibits problems is an individual with problems. A person of color who exhibits problems immediately becomes a representative of her cultural group” which made me think back to a quote in Johnson’s article on page 34 by Paul Kivel “In the united states, a person is considered a member of the lowest status group from which they have any heritage.”  It shows the correlation of being pegged into a group based on one unchangeable factor and not based on who the individual is.

 Learn more about Lisa Delpit

On a complete side note, since doing the Schwaamp activity in class on Wednesday I have been much more aware of and recognizing what we talked about in class. This week Lego revealed its first character with a disability who is in a wheelchair. In the article they talked about a campaign called Toy Like me which is a viral Facebook campaign calling attention to toy makers to create toys that “better culturally represent 150 million disabled kids worldwide.  
Also this week Mattel announced that they have expanded its line to include three new body types-tall curvy and petite and a variety of skin tones and hairstyles. They did not post any pictures so it will be interested to see how their interpretation comes to life.


  1. Alicia, your questioning about Delpit's argument regarding the different teaching styles of white educators and black educators resonates with me. I believe one of the most important things for a teacher to be is authentic. After all, being genuine and building trust is critical for teacher/student relationships and student achievement. It seems troublesome to me that Delpit asserts you "have" to act a certain way with students of color in order for them to be successful. I know that I'm boiling the point down a bit, but that's how it read to me.

  2. I like that you did some research and looked into the history of the research that Delpit reported in her text. That's something I didn't even think about! (I guess after fuming over Johnson's text last week, I was done with researching the author and his works!). I also found this to be such a strong quote "The teacher cannot be the only expert in the classroom. To deny students their own expert knowledge is to disempower them.” I truly believe students have so much more to bring to the table than (most) educators allow them to bring. Sometimes I feel (and I felt this way as a student) that teachers feel they are the all-knowing power in a classroom when the backgrounds of all students should be cherished and appreciated in a classroom.

    Also, pictures of the new Barbies are out! I personally can't wait to see what they look like on the shelves and how they sell. and

  3. Alicia I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I thought a lot about the Delpit quote where she says the teacher can't be the only expert in the room. I feel as though the best instructors I have had recognized this. I too had a problem with they way that the author categorizes teaching styles regarding the more authoritative teachers and the more implied authority. Although Delpit means well I feel that we she is arguing has some flaws. I am not an educator and dont spend as much time as you in the classroom but I wonder how you feel about teaching differently to some pockets of student within your classrooms?

  4. ^ I also liked that quote you mentioned about the teacher not being the only expert in the room.

    Christine, I was also going to bring up the new Barbies when I saw the Legos!

    Alicia, your blog actually helped me make a lot more sense of Delpit's reading.

  5. Hi Alicia,

    I also really liked reading about your research on where Delpit came up with the scissors quote. The thought crossed my mind that it was pretty presumptuous to assume black teachers would as ask a question in that manner as opposed to a “middle class townspeople” teacher. Thanks for sharing!