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The author responds. Are the kids indeed successful?

Posted By: Stanley Pogrow on October 18, 2004
The response by Ms. Acosta is a very thoughtful one and reflects a line of reasoning that celebrates students' native culture, funds of knowledge, etc. and reacts negatively to any implication that the students are disadvantaged or suffer from any sort of deficit.

Of the scholars whose work is cited, I am most familiar with the work of Heath who I greatly admire. She indeed spark the intellectual curiosity of her students by linking instruction to their cultural surroundings. This has often been interpreted as evidence that tying into cultural contexts is

However, I interpreted Heath;s work as proof that providing stimulating conversation is the key to intellectual stimulation. Indeed, the notion that students flourished ion their local cultural surroundings is an over-romanticized fallacy. In this case, in their home culture girls were not treated with respect, were not talked to intelligently or expected to think. Boys were discouraged from aspiring educationally.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to ask Dr. Heath whether in her work it was the conversation or the link to the local culture. She though for a moment and said that it was the conversation--and that any approach that provided sophisticated conversation would have the same impact.

When we first started HOTS I assumed that outside the classroom the students were more reflective. They were observed at play among their peers. We were surprised to discover that they were not at all reflective in that setting.

When we first started out I was also hesitant to use HOTS with Native American students as it might be contrary to their Native culture. It turned out not to be true.

Finally, the arguments about culture also ignore one unfortunate truth. The biggest cultural gap that students often experience is not racial, or home vs school. Rather, in this homogonizing culture, the biggest cultural gap is often between children of all types and the world of adults.

The bottom line is that schools must indeed respect the home culture and do nothing to demean it. Unfortunately, for large numbers of disadvantaged students, the home does not provide the needed emotional support to promote intellectual growth, and alas in many cases, to promote social growth. At the same time, most of these parents do indeed care and hope that the school will provide the potential for their children to be successful in the outside world.

The students do indeed have extraordinary strengths. The reality is that for most school is their only hope to bring those forth. My hope would be in so doing that students will come to appreciate and contribute to their own communities and cultures.
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 A constructive critique by Barbara Acosta on October 8, 2004
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