As I was reading this article, one of the things that really hit home was that people can have the best intentions in the world, but still be completely off the mark. This point was made clear last week in class when Dr. Bogad told the story about the teacher who went out and purchased the board for the student and it ending up being completely humiliating for that child.
Delpit poses the question: "How can such complete communication blocks exist when both parties truly believe they have the same aim?" As educators, we always have our students best interests in mind, but do we sometimes cause more harm than good? Both white teachers and teachers of color both want the same thing- for their students to be successful. However, there is a disconnect going on between the two groups. This point was made very clear when Delpit gave the example of an East Indian man that was interviewing for a job with an all-white committee. The white people, instead of acknowledging that they had power over the applicant, instead became more and more uncomfortable with it, and actually ending up becoming less helpful. Delpit believes that if we acknowledge that power it will lead to more honest, open and direct communication.
When talking about authority in the classroom, Delpit remarks, "Black children expect an authority figure to act with authority. When the teacher acts as a 'chum,' the message that is sent is that this adult has no authority, and the children react accordingly." This was eye-opening to me because when I think about an authoritative type of teacher, I immediately think of someone very strict, demanding, and does what he/she wants with no input from anyone. However, after I read this I began to realize that it might do my students some good if I were a little more direct in my instructions and expectations for them.
It seems like such a small difference to say "Put your scissors on the shelf," instead of, "Is that where your scissors belong?" As Delpit claims, the intent of both are the same, but one is much more direct and clear. As a white teacher in an upper-middle class school, I would probably use the second utterance. I never even considered that children of color may not see the authority in that simple statement and "perceive the middle-class teacher as weak, ineffectual, and incapable of taking on the role of being the teacher and therefore, there is no need to follow her directions."
Delpit talks a bit about diversity of language at the end of the reading. She says, "I believe strongly, as do my liberal colleagues, that each cultural group should have the right to maintain its own language style." In other words, who are we to judge people who don't speak or write in what she calls, "Formal English." I found the conversation between the black high school student and his black teacher to be extremely telling. They are talking about a book written in "Black English" and the boy is commenting that there is a right and wrong way to talk. The teacher asks who decides what's right or wrong, and the boy comments back, "I guess white people did." This anecdote relates perfectly with the title because is all other dialogue besides "Formal English" being silenced? This YouTube video on "Black English" is very relevant to the reading.