Re: [xmca] Allan Luke on Race and Language as Capital -- part 2

From: <ERIC.RAMBERG who-is-at>
Date: Tue Nov 25 2008 - 07:47:42 PST

Hello all:

I attended a two day in-service put on by Hamline University's Center for
Excellence in Urban Teaching:

Very interesting. The most interesting was to see how resistant the
teachers I work with were in understanding that many students attending
inner city schools bring different cultural mores than the normal middle
class suburban upbringing that most teachers in St. Paul bring to the
classroom. At one point a teacher stood up and started yelling because the
presenter had the audacity to suggest that a fist bump could be a proper
greeting (funny, this was prior to the famous greeting between the U.S.
President-elect and his wife). I think at this point in the discussion it
would be exciting to hear what others view as the dynamic of paradigm
shifting in education. Is it even possible in this age of 'high-stakes'
testing? I am reminded of the early fifth demension writing regarding
appropriation and how the educators needed to sidestep behavior issues from
the students and stop thinking in the mode of making students behave prior
to learning. Instead if the educators appropriated the expected behavior
and ignored the silly stuff learning happened. I also like Peg Griffin's
idea of not remediation but beginning with mediation, or something to that

I believe positive change can happen but at first those who have the power
to make changes need to recognize a problem exists. Also if change agents
are implemented then what is the direction those changes should take?

One more thought; don't people recognize anymore that the world needs
ditch diggers and that there is nothing wrong with becoming a garbage
hauler. Not everyone needs to excell to the level of a liberal arts

                      Jay Lemke
                      <jaylemke@umich. To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
                      edu> cc:
                      Sent by: Subject: Re: [xmca] Allan Luke on Race and Language as Capital -- part 2
                      11/25/2008 09:15
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,

Beth and others interested,

I don't know about changing habitus. I do know some people have
struggled long and hard with these issues, esp. systemic racism
inherited by people who want to become teachers. From what I've heard,
the University of Wisconsin, and initiatives led by Gloria Ladson-
Billings have had more success than most.

There was also a legendary in service TPD program initiated by Anthony
Alvarado in District 2 in New York City, and semi-replicated later in
San Diego, that caught a lot of attention at the time and after,
including some academic research studies. See
  for one lead in to more info.

What I don't think we know about are long-term effects, and that is
the right indicator for possible changes in habitus. Bear in mind as
well that all the helpful individual habitus around won't lead to
significant results in schools, systemically, without corresponding
changes around the rest of the CHAT triangles, as Allan also argued,


Jay Lemke
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On Nov 25, 2008, at 7:43 AM, Beth Ferholt wrote:

> SO much to think about here, obviously -- thank you!Just on one
> point that
> is vexing me right now, as I apply for jobs to teach teachers:
> Have you encountered any teacher preparation/professional
> development that
> does remake teacher habitus, despite your apt observations on this
> recommendation of Alan Luke's?
> Beth
> On Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 8:30 AM, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
>> So, for any of you who are still reading my reactions to Allan
>> Luke's essay
>> ... I pick up with the question of unified response to oppressive
>> logics of
>> practice and the practices that implement them, and then with
>> reactions to
>> Allan's proposals for school-based reform.
>> Yes, kids move across institutions, including home, school, popular
>> culture
>> media worlds, etc. And we know from some very old and disheartening
>> research
>> about kids raised in liberated, pro-feminist households where daddy
>> did half
>> the cooking and housework, that young kids still held the same
>> dominant
>> ideological views about sex-role stereotypes --- because they
>> picked these
>> up outside their own homes, in the homes of friends, from
>> television and
>> movies, etc. Ideologies are pervasive in their reach, part of our
>> social
>> realities, and no single institution can reform in isolation with
>> respect to
>> these.
>> But Allan does seem to leave the point there. His analyses and
>> recommendations thereafter deal only with schools, curricula,
>> teachers, etc.
>> He does not consider how the recommendations would be subverted by
>> the
>> failure to simultaneously address kids lives in non-school
>> contexts. Or
>> possible solutions. Once upon a time I think many of us imagined the
>> solution to be a total political revolution, replacing the policy
>> makers,
>> and so on down the line to the institutional practices. But as
>> Allan points
>> out, that was really when it was all about a single principle of
>> division:
>> replace the ruling capitalist class with the working class, and
>> voila! But
>> now this logic leads us to consider working class women, and non-
>> working
>> class oppressed women, and gays, and non-european peoples, and
>> non-dominant-language speakers, etc. etc. Today there is no unified
>> anti-dominant interest whose representation obviously leads to a
>> unified
>> replacement for capitalist policies.
>> The problem once again, I think, is residual, even if critical,
>> essentialism. The idea of the nation-state, the ideal of
>> democratically
>> setting single unified policies for massive numbers of diverse
>> people and
>> communities ... is itself part of the problem, not a framework for a
>> possible solution.
>> And so, finally, to the recommendations.
>> Accurately and fairly recognise and evaluate the cultural capital
>> that
>> students bring to school ...
>> But by whose standards? according to Bourdieu, those standards are a
>> function of where we sit, and the dominant standards are those
>> defined by
>> sitting with a lot of money and power. How can there be ANY universal
>> standards for doing this, no matter how critical or well-
>> intentioned? not to
>> mention that the value of cultural capital is RELATIVE to a social
>> field ...
>> change that of the school and the evaluation changes. Shift to a
>> non-school
>> setting for an internship or apprenticeship, it changes again.
>> Change the lingua franca of the school field:
>> Change the regulative rules of interaction in the school field:
>> Both are probably better than doing nothing, but which other
>> languages are
>> to be accepted as legitimate in the school? in many urban settings
>> throughout the world, there are multiple non-dominant languages in
>> the same
>> school. And making the change in the school does nothing about what
>> happens
>> outside the school. Shall we put to a vote to make discrimination
>> anywhere
>> in society based on language a crime? (I'd do it, if it would
>> pass.) Think
>> through the consequences. And as to changing the regulative rules
>> (which
>> means things like how discussions and learning are socially
>> organized within
>> the school or classroom), this works well in some case for a specific
>> cultural model, but what again when the classroom has multiple
>> cultures and
>> their preferred models of learning and interction represented? You
>> can't
>> change from one hegemonic practice to another and be ahead inthe
>> long term.
>> (Though it's nice to make the dominant group kids suffer
>> briefly ... or is
>> it?)
>> Revise the curriculum:
>> Yes, let's dump the canon and try not to replace it with
>> another ... and in
>> the multi-cultural setting (and multi-gender, sexuality, age,
>> class, etc.)
>> if everyone gets their five minutes of curriculum time, we have the
>> most
>> superficial and useless possible curriculum. The problem is not the
>> wrong
>> curriculum. It is having a universal curriculum at all. It lies in
>> the
>> assumption, which functions to support hegemonic ideologies, that
>> everyone
>> ought to learn the same stuff, rather than learning some of what the
>> community needs to have known, and learning how to combine it with
>> what
>> others know.
>> Critique social fields:
>> Well, I can't argue with the goal here. But it's damned hard to do,
>> because
>> it goes against much of the values, loyalties, identities, and
>> habitus of
>> the students and teachers themselves. Not to mention that critique
>> is also
>> socially positioned: there are many critiques, from many
>> viewpoints. Not the
>> stuff of a planned curriculum, I think.
>> Remake teacher habitus:
>> In how long? the 2-3 years of most teacher preparation programs? when
>> teachers are in their early 20s or older? Or for serving teachers
>> who are in
>> their 40s or older? Bourdieu's model of habitus argues that core
>> dispositions, which include those towards values as well as
>> practices, arise
>> over the lifespan, and if changed, do so on a timescale of decades.
>> Some of
>> us culturally inherit a belief in Conversion Experiences, where in
>> a matter
>> of days or minutes, people suddenly see the Light and are Re-Born
>> with
>> totally changed habitus (Paul on the road to Damascus). I find
>> Bourdieu's
>> model applies more frequently.
>> I respect Allan's years of work to improve social justice and
>> valuable
>> learning in schools, and in research on education. He has
>> accomplished so
>> much that I take seriously his arguments and recommendations.
>> Seriously
>> enough that I wanted to respond to those points where I perhaps see
>> things a
>> bit differently.
>> JAY.
>> Mike Cole wrote:
>>> Thanks for your summary and comments, Steve. I have been finding
>>> Allan's
>>> article difficult to grasp as a whole, perhaps because I am
>>> insufficiently
>>> schooled i Bourdieu and his relationship to other contemporary
>>> thinkers
>>> and
>>> Marx. If we could get a joint reading of "Forms of Capital"
>>> perhaps it
>>> would
>>> help. The use of many hypenated ""-capital that are in the
>>> discussions I
>>> participate in often confuse me as to their (often implicit) causal
>>> claims.
>>> Two, perhaps, useful small comments.
>>> One, I strongly recognized Allan's comment that the use of colour
>>> is "not
>>> the exclusive domain of any particular dominant class or colour of
>>> male
>>> patriarch, followed by listing of various forms of domination that
>>> occur,
>>> among other ways,
>>> ""not just white upon black and brown, but yellow upon white,
>>> black upon
>>> black."
>>> In the Liberia of the 1970's, and I suspect now, color was not the
>>> characteristic upon which racism was organized. I was classified
>>> along
>>> with
>>> President Tubman using the same term, an amalgam of "civilized,
>>> rich,
>>> powerful, to be feared, etc."
>>> and people from Monrovia spoke of the people among whom I worked as
>>> aborigines. I have seen similar phenomena in Japan vis a vis
>>> Koreans and
>>> from Allan's broad experience, he must have seen every possible
>>> combination
>>> of distinction used as a form of essentialized racism.
>>> Second, re school practices that offer solutions. Little to argue
>>> with
>>> there
>>> other than the manifest inability to get such an ensemble of
>>> practices
>>> instituted. I can add on practice, however, at an explicitly anti-
>>> racist
>>> school my kids attended. It
>>> was manifested in a producation of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy
>>> gets
>>> blown
>>> out of Kansas a white girl and appears again in Oz as a black
>>> girl, but
>>> her
>>> identity has manifestly/symbolically not changed: an explicit,
>>> institutionalize rejection of skin color as a phenotypic marker of a
>>> distinction that makes a difference.
>>> Apropos of the enormous challenges remaining after the election and
>>> Michael's comments earlier today, a story in the NY Times today
>>> about the
>>> southern state of Alabama explains that many democrats could not
>>> bring
>>> themselves to vote for Obama, although rejecting Bush, as a result
>>> of
>>> which
>>> a pretty nasty law forbidding adoption of children by non-married
>>> couples
>>> passed. A great deal has remained the same (ditto here in
>>> California),
>>> including the very important illusion that assembly line workers
>>> at Ford
>>> are, and are supposed to be, part of the middle class.
>>> I hope others will help enlighten me and others concerning the
>>> important
>>> issues
>>> raised by Allan and your commentary. If you could get folks to
>>> follow you
>>> and lead a discussion of forms of capital, that would be great.
>>> mike
>>> On Sat, Nov 8, 2008 at 9:27 PM, Steve Gabosch <>
>>> wrote:
>>> I've been reading over and thinking about Allan Luke's paper, Race
>>> and
>>>> Language as Capital in School: A Sociological Template for Language
>>>> Education Reform, which is posted on the lchc site here:
>>>> I heard Allan speak at an AERA conference a few years ago. He
>>>> gave an
>>>> impressive talk and was well-received. Wikipedia has a little
>>>> article on
>>>> him here:
>>>> Luke's paper discusses how to view, critique and synthesize a
>>>> variety of
>>>> existing strategies to end racial and linguistic discrimination
>>>> in the
>>>> school systems, using Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital,
>>>> and field.
>>>> First, a little on the theory behind the paper. My take on Luke's
>>>> analytical framework goes in two directions.
>>>> On one hand, I like aspects of the way Luke uses the concepts of
>>>> habitus
>>>> and capital to describe issues of racial and linguistic
>>>> discrimination,
>>>> and
>>>> strategies to overcome it in the school setting. He uses these
>>>> concepts
>>>> in
>>>> ways that reveal **descriptive** and **analytical* power when
>>>> looking at
>>>> the the individual and intersubjective levels of racism and
>>>> linguistic
>>>> repression, and they prove useful to him when he generalizes about
>>>> different
>>>> strategies to overcome discrimination, oppression and cultural
>>>> repression
>>>> in
>>>> the classroom.
>>>> On the other hand, I see problems with the concepts of habitus and
>>>> capital
>>>> to the extent they are used as more than just metaphors and are
>>>> mistaken
>>>> for
>>>> having sociological **explanatory** power. I suppose this is a
>>>> kind of
>>>> "the
>>>> emperor has no clothes" kind of perspective on my part, but I'll
>>>> take the
>>>> risk and be blunt: Bourdieu's theory of social and cultural
>>>> capital
>>>> strikes
>>>> me as little more than offering new terms and metaphors to describe
>>>> things,
>>>> but not explain them. In other words, while his theory about
>>>> "capital"
>>>> adds
>>>> some new ideas on how to do the "what does it look like" side of
>>>> analysis
>>>> and description, it adds little or nothing on the "why does this
>>>> or that
>>>> happen" side.
>>>> Perhaps Luke's paper and his use of the concept of cultural and
>>>> social
>>>> capital could spark a discussion of Bourdieu's article "Forms of
>>>> Capital"
>>>> sometime. I have some thoughts on something I think I see Bourdieu
>>>> doing.
>>>> I see him **compressing** together different levels of reality,
>>>> such as
>>>> the
>>>> socio-economic, the socio-cultural, and cultural-psychological,
>>>> thereby
>>>> losing a handle on the generative/emergent cause and effect
>>>> relationship
>>>> between these different integrative levels. These levels operate
>>>> under
>>>> different developmental dynamics and time frames - while at the
>>>> very same
>>>> time, they interpenetrate and inter-transform one another. Both
>>>> of these
>>>> aspects are vital for theorizing, describing, analyzing and
>>>> intervening
>>>> in
>>>> any aspect of social reality.
>>>> What I see Bourdieu as doing has similarities to, but is
>>>> different from,
>>>> reductionism. I call it "compressionism." In some ways,
>>>> according to a
>>>> view I am developing, compressionism is the opposite of
>>>> reductionism.
>>>> Both
>>>> reductionism and compressionism can offer interesting insights and
>>>> metaphors
>>>> in the short term, but both can also quickly become one-sided and
>>>> obfuscatory if used mechanically and exclusively. These two
>>>> approaches
>>>> tend
>>>> to overstate one aspect or the other of the complex relationship
>>>> between
>>>> integrative levels. The solution must be to see and understand
>>>> both
>>>> aspects, and all sides of the thing being investigated.
>>>> Compressionism
>>>> and
>>>> reductionism (and lots of methodological -isms - structuralism,
>>>> functionalism, relativism, etc.) can be used as helpful tools for
>>>> thinking
>>>> and asking questions - but are not so helpful, in my opinion,
>>>> when used
>>>> as
>>>> methods to draw conclusions with.
>>>> Bourdieu's "Forms of Capital" can be found at:
>>>> Now to some commentary on the content of the paper.
>>>> Luke's articulate and potent discussion of discrimination and
>>>> oppression
>>>> regarding racism and linguistic repression creates the impression
>>>> that an
>>>> explanation is being advanced. But on closer examination, I
>>>> don't see
>>>> an
>>>> explanation in this paper. Just a description. And a solid,
>>>> outspoken
>>>> one,
>>>> may I add, which I appreciate. This is perfectly okay - science
>>>> is about
>>>> both explanation and description.
>>>> Luke applies his descriptive framework to various strategies that
>>>> are
>>>> being
>>>> tried in various schools to overcome aspects of discrimination. He
>>>> analyzes
>>>> each approach in terms of habitus, which I found interesting.
>>>> Increased
>>>> descriptive power leads to sharper analysis, which leads to better
>>>> questions, which leads to deeper explanations, so this is a good
>>>> road.
>>>> Generally speaking, the concepts of habitus and what could be
>>>> metaphorically called "personal capital" seem to help fill a need
>>>> in our
>>>> language to point to and describe, in precise terms, an
>>>> individual's
>>>> accumulated and practiced cultural and historical connections. I
>>>> am
>>>> thinking that once we get clearer on the explanatory limitations
>>>> of these
>>>> concepts, we can better harness their descriptive strengths.
>>>> Luke offers
>>>> examples of how to effectively use these descriptive strengths in
>>>> his
>>>> paper.
>>>> I'll finish up my little commentary on Luke's paper by quoting
>>>> snippets
>>>> from his summary of suggested solutions. Luke is offering some
>>>> interesting
>>>> ideas for synthesizing a variety of approaches into something he
>>>> calls a
>>>> "whole-school" approach. Many ideas I have heard on xmca, at AERA
>>>> conferences, etc. are contained in this summary.
>>>> a) ... recognise and evaluate the cultural capital that students
>>>> bring to
>>>> school.
>>>> b) Change the lingua franca of the school field: depending upon
>>>> community
>>>> and student aspirations, it would provide a balanced program of
>>>> English
>>>> as a
>>>> Second Language and/or bilingual program ...
>>>> c) Change the regulative rules of interaction in the school
>>>> field: ...
>>>> complement and reflect student cultural and community practices of
>>>> exchange
>>>> and gifting, paralinguistics and gesture and turn-taking.
>>>> d) Revise the curriculum ...
>>>> e) ... engage students with a broad analysis of how social fields
>>>> discriminate, their rules of exchange, and who they historically
>>>> have
>>>> included and excluded.
>>>> f) Remake teacher habitus ...
>>>> - Steve
>>>> _______________________________________________
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>> --
>> *Jay L. Lemke*
>> Professor
>> University of Michigan
>> (on leave 2008-9)
>> _______________________________________________
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