We need to stop thinking of poor kids and minority kids as deficient versions of middle-class white kids. They are not. They have a range of appropriate skills according to how they have been socialized in their community, and the role of schools is to serve kids based on the skills they bring into kinder. Traditional school is designed to serve middle-class white kids, building on the skills most of those kids learned at home (letters, numbers, answering questions the asker already knows the answer to) but doesn’t assume that they have skills like storytelling, interpersonal problem-solving, multilingualism, or creativity with language, so those are taught at school. Meanwhile, kids who DO come in with those strengths (typically minority students) but lacking the ones that white kids have are labeled as not ready for school. What if school was redesigned to build on the strengths that minority kids already demonstrate, and to teach them what they don’t know yet? Isn’t that why we have kids go to school for at least 13 years?
In the story “Mexican-American Toddlers: Understanding the Achievement Gap” on last week’s All Things Considered, I was disappointed not to hear a response to Bruce Fuller from an expert on bilingual and multicultural education. Including this perspective would have highlighted two significant problems with the piece: first, that Dr. Fuller’s research is framed in a highly anglocentric way, and second, that some of the claims he made on the radio are not supported by his research.
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