Sunday, October 26, 2014

"The Silenced Dialogue", Delpit Revisited

In the hunt for five quotes to pull from Lisa Delpit's extraordinary piece, I could find none more suiting than her five rules and codes of power that she lists clearly on page 24 of her article. The first quote being: "Issues of power are enacted in classrooms." This is something I certainly agree with, as in my service learning I have witnessed such powers be exposed whilst in the classroom setting. Most prominently, you are able to see the power the teacher demonstrates over the students. This power is something that appears to be contested more and more as students rise from elementary school, to middle to high, however the fact remains that while in the classroom, the teacher is indeed the one with the power. Think about it, they preside and instruct a class of sometimes 15-20+ students at any given time, and expect that when students come into school in September, they come with this knowledge that they are expected to obey, and file into this basic rule and code of power prevalent in the school system.
     The second quote from Delpit is: "There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a 'culture of power'". Delpit's reference to to this culture of power is referring again to the people who are in these positions of power, be that politicians, police officers, or even teachers. In order for these individuals to contain and remain in this culture of power, they need to abide by certain codes or rules that allow them to be in it in the first place, more specifically, ways of communication. The way we communicate is our portal into the mind of another human. We probe for answers, opinions, guidance and more from other beings, and these codes of power include being articulate and precise with what we say and how we say it, and the same principle again can be applied on a personal note to my service learning experience thus far. Being in an elementary school, the presence of a teacher is always massive in the classroom, halls, cafeteria and office, and the way they communicate their rules and rituals to the students are always clear and precise, so that potentially one day, a select few of those students may be admitted to this culture of power that Delpit so often seems to refer to.
    Delpit's third 'rule' states: "The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power." This is the rule where Delpit and I tend to disagree. This rule suggests that the children with a middle-to-upper class upbringing will naturally do better in school, as opposed to students who are in a lower class upbringing, because the culture of power is designed for people only in that middle-to-upper class category. I disagree, and in fact believe that the culture of power is slowly shifting more and more into the lower classes favor. We look at ethnically diverse schools across the country, and see the percentage of each race in the school, how many students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and how they may perform learning-wise. Remarkably, in my own personal service learning experiences, the students I have worked with and met have confided that they aren't wealthy by any means, yet their grades show that they are doing remarkably well, some even doing better than kids with that middle class upbringing. While students in that middle class upbringing may be given more of the tools to use to be successful in school, it does not necessarily mean they use them. How does that old phrase go again? "You can lead a horse to water."
     The fourth rule states: "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier." This easily ties into schooling, in the sense that when children are told something directly and with confidence, they will abide by it. For example, if  eight-year old Sally is misbehaving in class, and Mrs. Johnson says: "Sally, can you please try to focus on what we are doing instead of making a mess on your desk?" It does not seem effective, especially to a student at such a young age. Sally will continue making a mess on her desk, and Mrs. Johnson will begin developing a migraine. However, if Mrs. Johnson had said: "Sally, clean that mess up and pay attention to what we are doing, otherwise you are going for a time out." Sally immediately cleans her mess and pays attention. Why was the second method more effective? The ability to communicate directly and clearly with the student shows authority, and allows for structure to build.
     Finally, the last rule states: "Those with power are frequently less aware of--or least willing to acknowledge--it's existence. Those with less power are often more aware of it's existence." Once again to apply this to a classroom setting, the teacher rarely will say: "listen to me because I am the powerful one in this room." MOST OF THE TIME, you will hear the STUDENT say: "you have to listen to her, she's the teacher!" They have recognized that there is a certain standard of power that has been established, and that they are the ones without power. This rule has always been remarkable to me since I first read Delpit, because it was never something I truly thought about. When I led my high school band as a Drum Major for two years, I never thought of myself in a position of power, but simply acted in my position of power. I am sure President Obama doesn't go to bed each night (well at least most nights) saying how he is the most powerful man in the world, he simply just goes and attempts to do the job he's elected to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment