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    a smug farewell..., 2009-01-15 17:39:37 | Main | did I hear that right?..., 2009-01-20 09:27:45

    false controversies:

    It's, uh, a little annoying that not until you're well over halfway through this long piece on John Ogbu's "new" theory that blacks underperform in Shaker Heights, Ohio schools because being a nerd is uncool is just the same as his old theory:

    Signithia Fordham is a professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester in New York who did research with Ogbu in the 1980s. It was that research that popularized the concept of "acting white," the notion that black students avoid certain behaviors like doing well in school, or speaking Standard English, because it is considered "white."

    Well, there's thirteen ways to interpret any hodgepodge set of subjective observations:

    Although Fordham did not want to comment on Ogbu's latest work, it is clear that her beliefs are almost exactly opposite from those of her former colleague. She believes school pressure to speak Standard English and "act white" is the very thing that makes black students fail. "What I found, the requirements in school compelled them to act in ways as if they weren't living in black bodies but who were essentially white or mainstream Americans," she says. "Kids found it difficult to deal with that and they found strategies to deal with it. They had to speak a certain variety of English in order to be successful. They had to buy into the ideas that dominate mainstream America. ... Black kids couldn't just be who they were."

    What kid can? To educate, to instruct, to impart, to bestow a quality, to change. What are we asking to change?

    A taste of the obvious:

    In Ogbu's work with other American minority groups, the anthropologist has identified a core distinction that he believes is central to academic success or failure. It is the idea of voluntary, versus involuntary, minorities. People who voluntarily immigrate to the United States always do better than the involuntary immigrants, he believes. "I call Chicanos and Native Americans and blacks 'involuntary minorities,'" he says. "They joined American society against their will. They were enslaved or conquered." Ogbu sees this distinction as critical for long-term success in and out of school.

    "Blacks say Standard English is being imposed on them," he says. "That's not what the Chinese say, or the Ibo from Nigeria. You come from the outside and you know you have to learn Standard English, or you won't do well in school. And you don't say whites are imposing on you. The Indians and blacks say, 'Whites took away our language and forced us to learn their language. They caused the problem.'"

    I kinda figured that out just from Malcolm X's description of Roxbury.

    Can somebody explain how one of these two narratives excludes the other? Should I be concerned that in the disambiguation of "emergent" on wikipedia there's no "emergent (sociology)"? I have no idea what I'm talking about, but you'd think that with all the obvious feedbacks in complex social relationships the idea applies that two or more self-reinforcing functions will combine to create a hierarchy in which participants have little awareness of those functions and offer falsely dichotomous interpretations of the same.

:: posted by buermann @ 2009-01-18 02:09:23 CST | link

    go ahead, express that vague notion

    your turing test:

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