Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children

I purchased Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit on my Kindle for my “Issues of Equity in Schools” graduate class.  There were a few books to select from and I wanted one that I could read on my Kindle.  Out of those available for the Kindle, I ultimately chose this one because of its publication date: 2012.  I hoped to find up-to-date information and suggestions for dealing with inequity.

I was dismayed to find that the book focused heavily on African American children.  I understand the author wanted to draw attention to the specific learning needs of African American children, but it seems counter-intuitive to me to focus on one particular race while arguing for equity.

The books aims to persuade its readers to take notice of the inequities in schools, especially urban schools.  Delpit is “still angry” as she puts it, over these inequities.  She begins by stating there is no achievement gap at birth, and in fact, she cites studies that African American children progress faster through the developmental benchmarks.  But soon “white” children (she does not refer students as Caucasian, only white) catch up and then surpass the African American children because teachers are not believing in each child equally.  As she puts it, “we cannot let an expectation gap lead to an achievement gap,” (p.26).

There’s a lot of whining and blaming in this book. Delpit complains that those who join Teach for America are essentially middle-class, white females who come to teach for two years and then leave.  These white teachers have jobs that are “reserved” for them because the school district went and fired all the black teachers to make room for the cheaper, higher turnover teachers (p.111).

She complains that African-Americans are stigmatized, called “oversensitive” or “too thick skinned” (p.175), and feel a “disidentification” with school (p.180).  I do not see any of these issues as being exclusive to African American students.  Delpit explained most of these incidents are “microagressions” that are small insults that independently mean nothing but when you add them up, you see a great deal of injustice.  She even complains about desegregation!

Many educators today don’t realize some of the “unofficial” repercussions of the desegregation decision.  Prior to that ruling, black teachers and principals were guaranteed jobs in the segregated system.  Whites taught white children in white schools and black taught black children in black schools. (p.105).

It seems to me that Delpit would rather have segregated schools because it guaranteed employment for black teachers.

Delpit tries to explain that every person in America is racist because we all are “racism-breathers” by referencing a story by Beverly Tatum in which Tatum describes the people of Los Angeles as smog-breathers simply because they live and breathe the smog in the area.  Tatum takes this analogy to a whole new level by stating that people who live in America are racism-breathers and that no matter what color we are, we all live and breathe racism (p.11).

Even our language is riddled with racist overtones, according to Tatum.  I personally disagree with her.  Her examples come from a piece by Robert Moore and some of the words like “black eye” (a mark of shame)” may be more related to the actual color black rather than race.  Many examples are outdated terminology as well.

Delpit argues every angle as to the cause for the achievement gap and somehow it always comes across as someone else’s fault.  Not just anyone.  The white teachers.  And while it is aggravating to constantly feel like I’m at fault, I don’t want to discount Delpit’s book.  She does make several good points about teaching youths of all cultures. I even marked a few ideas that I want to make into a lesson assignment.

She summed up the purpose of teachers, of education, and why we do what we do, quite eloquently.

We, in education, at universities or in K-12 schools, are charged with preparing the minds and hearts of these who will inherit the earth…The second purpose of education, I believe, is to build bridges across the great divides, the so-called achievement gap, the technology gap, class divisions, the racial divide.  If we do not find a way to bridge the divide between the haves and the have-nots, between white and black, between native and immigrant, then we are ensuring our ultimate demise.  We are all part of the whole, and no part can be affected without affecting the whole (p.200-201).

Digital Textbooks

There has been a big push towards using digital textbooks in schools across America and the globe.  Apple just recently gave the movement a giant shove toward digitalization with revamped iBooks app and  iTunes U.  But I haven’t pronounced the print textbooks market dead yet.

Sure I’d love to eliminate having my student’s lugging around a 6lbs literature textbook among 5 other textbooks in their backpack.  Perhaps phasing out of individual copies of textbooks and only having one classroom set would be a feasible idea – but what if the student does not have access to a computer or tablet?  Or that if lending the student the device would require a parent to sign a form that says they will be liable for all damages, including loss – and the parent says no?  Digital textbooks have a promising market in the middle to upper class schools and charter schools, but not in poor neighborhoods.  Thus, there will be a decent market for print textbooks, albeit smaller than it is now.

All the digital textbook information I see right now ties textbooks to specific devices.  Textbooks published through Apple’s iBooks can be published elsewhere, but Apple still takes its large fee.  Textbooks on the Nook and Kindle are pretty much only for their devices.  If the tablet market isn’t going to let all textbooks be available on all devices, the print textbook market will never die.  Perhaps the publishing companies will sell their own tablet for their own books.  Instead of 6 heavy textbooks, students will carry 3-4 tablet devices.  Still pretty expensive and not entirely what the digital textbook market is aiming to do.

Oh but wait, aren’t students supposed to take notes and read textbooks at the same time?  True students can flip between the textbook app and the notebook app to write notes, but what about drawing charts?  I’m all for typing notes in class, but sometimes it’s just quick to have a piece of paper and a pencil to scribble my notes and diagrams on.  We would be wasting time trying to teach kids how to make a ven diagram on their notebook app than it would take to draw the circles on a paper.  Speed is important, especially with the hundreds of benchmarks the government continues to thrust at teachers to have students be proficient in their education.

Just as eReaders and tablets will never kill the paperback book, they will not kill the textbook market either.

What do you think, will digital textbooks completely kill the print textbook market?

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Bilton, Ricardo. “Apple’s textbook plan’s biggest flaw is that it’s tied to the iPad | ZDNet .” Technology News, Analysis, Comments and Product Reviews for IT Professionals | ZDNet., 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2012.   Link to article

Faas, Ryan. “Apple’s new vision of education.” computerworld 21 Jan. 2012: n. pag. ComputerWorld. Web. 24 Jan. 2012.   Link to article


eReader Poll

I’ve been spending the majority of the day reading Wuthering Heights on my Kindle app for my iPad.  I love using my iPad to read the book.  It lessens the fatigue of my hands while reading which I believe increases my reading speed and focus.  Of course, the drawback is it sucks up battery rather rapidly (but not a bad rate) and I cannot use it outside in the sun.  I do have a paperback edition I will use for quoting and if I need to read outside, but it is very effective for siting for a long period to read.  I will not be completely sold on eReaders though.  I agree they have their uses and many positives.  But I just cannot forget the feeling of a new book in my hand, opening its cover and bringing its story to life.  I do feel the sense of accomplishment in the visual comparison of how much I have read and how much I have left.  Also an eBook (at least the Kindle version of Wuthering Heights does not have page numbers because you can increase the size of the text which thus alters the page numbers and creates an issue for citations.

I’m going to go more in depth on eReaders in another post so please – comment, email, facebook, whichever your preferred medium is – your thoughts and experiences on eReaders vs. paperbooks.  Or simply answer the following poll.

What is your preferred type of eReader?

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Have the Humanities Suffered?

Tom Stoppard in the UK feels they have.  He cites a statistic that about 40 years ago, educators thought the sciences and maths weren’t being focused on, so a big push to interest people in those fields was created.  However, English and other humanities are now lacking in the curriculum.  He even thinks the advancement in technology, although important and a great addition to society, has taken over which is destroy people’s desire for the written word.

Not me.  I don’t have an iPad, a Nook, or Kindle.  I’m wholeheartedly in love with paperbooks.  Musty, brand new, it doesn’t matter.  I can spend hours just browsing around a used book store or Barnes & Noble.  Of course the eReaders wouldn’t hurt my hands the way a paperback does, but I’m okay with that pain.  My library consists of old leatherbound books as well as the latest bestsellers.  Am I an exception?  No, but the marketshare of people who love books is shrinking.  Most people either read books for school or watch the movie instead of read the book.

When I finally have my own class, I want to infuse the past and present to teach.  I want to show students classics have storylines that occur in present day.  I am passionate about books as well as technology.  Old and new, together they form our future.

Read the article in The Register: