Monday, June 11, 2007

What White Teachers Don't Understand About Black Students


If Black students feel that you are disrespecting them.

They will not learn from you.

Disrespect, re: Black Teens.
Its a mighty amorphous thing.

I was reminded of this when reading a Times article about Ruby Payne.

Payne believes that teachers can’t help their poor students unless they first understand them, and that means understanding the hidden rules of poverty. The second step, Payne says, is to teach poor students explicitly about the hidden rules of the middle class. She emphasizes that the goal should not be to change students’ behavior outside of school: you don’t teach your students never to fight if fighting is an important survival skill in the housing project where they live. But you do tell them that in order to succeed at school or later on in a white-collar job, they need to master certain skills: how to speak in “formal register,” how to restrain themselves from physical retaliation, how to keep a schedule, how to exist in what Payne calls the “abstract world of paper.”

Your class, Payne says, determines everything: your eating habits, your speech patterns, your family relations. It is possible to move out of the class you were born into, either up or down, she says, but the transition almost always means a great disruption to your sense of self. And you can ascend the class ladder only if you are willing to sacrifice many of your relationships and most of your values — and only if you first devote yourself to careful study of the hidden rules of the class you hope to enter.

She has her critics tho.
Payne’s critics seem less aggrieved by what she includes in her analysis than by what they say she has left out: an acknowledgment that the American economy and American schools systematically discriminate against poor people.

In this way, Payne finds herself in the middle of one of the central debates about poverty today. On one side are those, like Payne, who believe that poor people share certain habits and behaviors that help keep them in poverty. Recognizing and changing those behaviors, Payne and those who share her views believe, will help poor people to succeed. On the other side are those like Payne’s critics, who think that the game is so thoroughly fixed that most poor people can’t succeed no matter what they do. To them, locating any of the causes of persistent poverty among poor people themselves is, in effect, blaming the victim.
This sh-t hit me square in my soul.


Hi Yall.

Are their any white teacher's that read MM.
If so , I would love hear from you.

So. Leave a comment.



Anonymous said...

I need to learn more about the opposition's stance.

But i think Payne has a valid point.

Side note:

Check out William Raspberry's "Looking Backward at Us" when you get a chance. One of his columns is w/ me almost a decade later:

"He's A Racist -- The Easy Answer".

He's coming from the other side, how black folk hurt themselves by declaring racism in a knee-jerk fashion.

If you go to the Post archives, it'll cost you.

Or you could rent the book from the library.

Very worthwhile.

Raspberry could've been a Ralph.

M.Dot. said...


You a Ralph!

I tells ya.

Think immma name our son Ralph.

neo said...

I think Payne is right and the other side is right...I do believe that there is a way each class behaves and acts and in order to be accepted into that class you will have to wear a form that is acceptable within that class. I think that's why rich (uneducated) rappers for instance aren't really "accepted" by their rich peers from other fields..

M.Dot. said...

I think that's why rich (uneducated) rappers for instance aren't really "accepted" by their rich peers from other fields..

Like who, for example?

neo said...

Most if not all...from jigga to whomever. In mags and media they can seem to be "accepted" but that don't mean them good ol' white boys give 'em any kind of respect..

matt williams said... A former Vogue writer, Plum Sykes, wrote a book a few years ago titled Bergdoff Blondes.

The book was about very wealthy New York women who did not have to work(an upper class take on sntc). One of the charcters was planing a party and one of the rich chics mentioned that they should invite Jay Z because he would beg(?) for a invatation anyway.

The way it was written/said between the characters was like they did not want him at the party but since he really wanted to be there and they need a spot of pepper in the salt they would invite him.

I think Plum was trying to tell us something on the DL. They don't want those folks? around but they will tolerate one or two of them.

Anonymous said...

I'm a white teacher, part time at a community college, in math. Living in South Berkeley. I've looked at MM a few times and am dropping you a line as requested.

Your post here reminded me that I need to do some more reading on those class-based skills before classes start up in the fall. Thanks.

M.Dot. said...

Hi Louise.

Classed based skills are the truth.

You have no idea how much a steep earning curve it is for folks like me, who are trying do "boot strap" but not catch schizophrenia in the mean time.

What do you think of Ben Chavis?

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