Re: a little more on the Panofsky article

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Tue Jun 22 2004 - 20:35:11 PDT

Thanks to you, too, Steve, for summarizing the three key studies that
Carolyn brought to our attention. As a triplet, they decouple ethnicity and
class effectively, so that when (as is usually the case) class and
ethnicity co-occur in the classroom (the Collins case) the case for
class being the basis of teachers' differential behaviors is not (mis)
attributed to rascism, though rascism can be expected to be present as

In San Diego county, a highway running east-west through the center of
the city provides a rough demarcation of ethnicity/class where the same
division that Carolyn notes in the three studies you summarize is
routinely observed. Teacher education students are sent to schools in
both the north and south parts of the county and routinely report back
on the differential behavior of the KIDS in such classrooms, inverting
the focus on teachers. When students use the indirect/internal strategies
discussed in Carolyn's article, the kids are reported to get out of control
quickly, transforming the way the students teach (a transformation that
has already taken place in the district teachers in whose classrooms they
do their practice teaching). Moreover, the parents of these children, who
themselves were schooled in direct/transmission/external control conditions
voice their disapproval of teachers who do not use such methods, sometimes
angrily arguing that the teachers are teaching their kids to be disrespectful
so that they stop obeying adult auhority.

Lisa Delpit has, as many on this list are sure to know, sharply criticized the
use of middle class, internal, constructivist teaching in working class
African American classrooms as basically mystifying and inappropriate.

I mention this kid--> teacher and parent --> teacher direction of behavioral
influence because like you, I believe that the classroom culture (habitus
if one prefers) does indeed covertly teach class distinctions and that the
cycle is very difficult to break within the confines of a single classroom.
Even teachers who are quite aware of what is going on may not have ability/
resources/support to overcome what is going on by creating a counter-
hegemonic, class-busting environment.

I think it is also important to remember that there are some powerful
external factors operating to keep the system in place. For one thing, kids from
poor families, and more so, kids from non-Anglo families who are poor
are more likely to come to school having consumed too much lead and too
little protein which put them at physical risk. When their behavior is
affected by these all-too material consequences of poverty, they provide
"living proof" of their inferiority which feed into prior beliefs and local
cultural practices.

When the problem is coming from many directions, and operating at many
levels, responses which do not counterattack in kind are at a great

I feel this problem strongly in my own work. We all know the paving stones
from which the road to hell is paved. I feel too often like I am spending
my time helping make those paving stones. Carolyn's article, and others in
that volume as well, are important reminders of how complex an issue class
domination is, and how easily people fall under the spell of rhetoric of
no child being left behind when children are being shoved back by those
who proclaim their good intentions the loudest. The inequalities are
indeed savage, but savagery in return is as unlikely to remove them
as good intentions.

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