Make-Up Assignment for 6/6/13:
Connection Between Today’s Deficit Thinking about the Education of Minority Students (6/6/13) and Confronting Class in the Classroom (6/11/13)
Both Hooks and Valencia and Solorzano’s articles focus on issues of class, race, and social mobility. Valencia and Solorzano argue that “deficit thinking” attributes students not doing well in school to the fact that their parents don’t care or the “culture of poverty” has created negative attitudes towards school. However, they argue that this blames students for a situation that they did not create (Valencia and Solorzano, p. 125). They argue that most people think the cause of poverty is personal behavior and choices. However, they are ignoring the bigger picture. There are many causes of poverty and it is unfair to attribute all poverty due to personal laziness (Valencia and Solorzano, p 128). Valencia and Solorzano cite many reasons for poverty, including decreasing employment opportunities for people due to globalization and the outsourcing of jobs overseas (Valencia and Solorzano, p. 129). In fact, an article in the Washington Post called Five Myths About American Homelessness, published in 2010, sites a study in 2002 by the Urban Institute showing that about 45% of the homeless population had worked in the past 30 days. This does not show laziness.
When students from working class families enter college, Hooks notes that the “deficit thinking” that Valencia and Solorzano noticed does not stop. Hooks states that working-class students are silenced by “bourgeois values” and that their opinions are not being heard (Hooks, p. 136). Hooks notes that debating different opinions loudly can sometimes be looked down upon in the classroom but for many working class students, it is a way of getting actively involved in the content (Hooks, p. 140).
Though I liked these articles, I do have some criticisms. I wish that Hooks gave more specific examples about what types of values were important to working-class students that they felt were not reflected in the classroom. I also wish she gave some specific examples to remedy this instead of just the one about having students read a paragraph out loud. Though I agree with Valencia and Solorzano that “deficit thinking” prevents us from thinking about the positive qualities our students have, I do not agree that the term “at-risk” should never be used. I think it is important to identify when students are “at-risk”, not to put them down, but to acknowledge what they are struggling with and what specific supports they need to improve. Without identifying this, we are doing our students a disservice and depriving them of helpful services. Thinking of a student as “at-risk” does not mean they are viewed negatively, it is more a way of thinking about what they are struggling with and what supports they need to be successful.