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Archive for September, 2009

racity race race

I’m reading someone’s dissertation. Part of my job is faculty mentorship, and it’s not like I haven’t done this for other Writing Centers before, so I had no problem saying that I’d do it.

And it’s not that I regret helping somebody out; it can be really frustrating to go for months without feedback and just keep writing, writing, writing because what else are you going to do?

But I’m a little frustrated with this writer’s use of race. It’s pretty obvious (and not only from her literature review, but just in general) that she hasn’t read a lot of anything about the way race, power, and learning interact. One of her unstated assumptions is that integrated classrooms with multiple ethnicities are really difficult to teach writing to in K-12. And while that may be true on a very basic level, I wouldn’t say that simply having students of multiple races in a classroom always negatively affects test scores. And no, that’s not explicitely said, but it’s sitting right there, taunting me behind these paragraphs.

So I’m working out a gentle way to note that I’m sort of uncomfortable with it all. I’ve asked lots of questions so far, mainly pertaining to class. After all, if all the students in a single school live in the same neighborhood, and their parents have similar jobs and income level, is race as much of a factor in their achievement as you’re saying? Is it fair to assume that? Is there any way to find out if non-white students are really the ones blowing this school district’s MEAP scores? (There, I said it, and it’s implied all over the place.)

At the same time, I wish she’d spend more time elaborating exactly why race matters so much. Without saying why it matters (and she’s white) it seems like an inherent prejudice. On the other hand, if she spent time in her lit review going over some critical race theory, if she considered what power structures in the school district and even at the state level might hold these students back, if she did that–well then her study could be held up as one way teachers could fight those structures and THAT would be a cool argument.

As it stands, it feels like she is in quiet agreement with governmental powers that say these students do poorly on standardized tests, can’t write, and that that is a problem. And it makes me feel skeezy.

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