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Paper #2

szhang01's picture

Sikun “Lamei” Zhang

                In school, it’s easy to tell the dividing lines for those who are “gifted” and those who are not with special classes for both the extremes (advanced classes for the “gifted” and additional classes for those who are below par). Just as Annette Lareau expresses in her book “Unequal Childhoods”, schooling is based on different kinds of capital. There is capital which is based on how much the family makes, and this capital is then invested into the children to give them cultural capital, which in turn, should come back as capital for the children. This ideology is overtly taught throughout most schools as what should be done for a child to be successful. Even I cannot escape from such logic because of how this educative world is run and taught. We are taught that those who are not only intelligent, but also talented in many other ways are the ones that have the “right stuff” to get them into law or medical school, or even the president’s chair. Just like the Tallinger’s Lareau interviewed, we have some discontent for this ideology, but we are in a continuous circle; we wish the system to be changed, but we are too afraid of failure to escape this flawed bureaucracy.

My school experience wasn’t any different than any other public school system. From an early age, we were separated by our cultural capital and intelligence. As the years passed, the same function was used on us to further separate us from those who were better and those who were the best. Even in class, although no teacher has openly said “Yes, this student will make it in the world while this one will not”, we could sense that more attention and care was placed on certain students whereas the teacher had given up hope on other students. This exact case has occurred to me during my freshmen year of high school. In my Algebra class, a handful of students and me were given extra attention because we seemed to be the only ones listening. The others, which were the majority of the class, were yelled at for their constant disruptions and lack of attention during the class. After a few months, it was obvious the teacher had completely given up on those students, believing that no matter how much attention was placed on them, they would not be able to get far in the class. This is where a conglomeration of pedagogical theories becomes mixed. Lareau’s theory had assisted the school in splitting the hundreds of us into those who belong in honors/AP classes, regular classes, and special classes. However, in this example of the teacher giving up on her students we see the introduction of McDermott and Varene’s theory on the three categories of seeing those who are so called “behind”. In this case, the teacher has seen these problematic students through the scope of deprivation. She sees that there requires further separating within the already divided class; those who care to learn are given the proper attention, whereas those who are fooling around are simply neglected.

The point of this example with the teacher and the neglected students shows that we can’t simply categorize an event in our lives as one theory. We are constantly guided and misguided by the ideologies of others so we can’t possibly pinpoint one theory as the cause of certain events. Granted, the teacher was probably aware of the capital and cultural capital of each student and already had an idea of how each was going to behave during class, but the final outcome of her openly giving up on those who were fooling around was completely based on her own personal beliefs. The separation of the students was based on limits set by the school, something that the teacher had little control over by herself. Only when both of these settings were overlapped could we see the effects of their inter-relationships and how they molded the students of the school.