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Reinterpreting Ms. Bronzic's Intentions

kconrad's picture

Like we’ve continuously read in class readings, student success is so often determined by how closely a student fits with, or can adapt to, the dominant social culture. This often means that the success of students from minority cultures is pre-determined for them, although that seems not to be the case in classroom like those discussed by Dance in Tough Fronts.  


Dance says, “Regardless of the degree of gangsterlike posturing or amount of mainstream cultural capital her students bring to the classroom, Ms. Bronzic sees in each child the ability to acquire mainstream cultural codes. She views it as her responsibility to make the dominant “culture of power” accessible to all students. For example, similar to the poetry assignment described above, creative writing assignments on fictional books allow for a variety of personally meaningful responses - including street-based experiences - from students while simultaneously reinforcing standard English writing skills... As argued by Lisa Delpit, ‘If [a student is] not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier.” (p. 81-82)


I was really intrigued by this paragraph, and I was left thinking about the blurred lines between validating a minority culture, and making accessible a culture of power. I had been thinking about these two actions (and their attached intentions) as separate and distinct, although now that distinction is less clear. The above quote implies to me that the goal of Ms. Bronzic is to open her students up to the culture of power, to guide them as they eventually learn to maneuver through it, and the use of the students’ own cultural knowledge is a means to that end. This seems problematic to me: I would think, given our understanding that the dominant social culture is, to an extent, an arbitrary and stratifying construction of the behaviors, language, etc. we decide are “right” in a given context, that its reinforcement would not be an effective long-term strategy for providing equal opportunity. Instead, I have been giving more thought about how to recognize and validate students’ minority cultures as equally legitimate. However, I understand that doing this on its own, without exposure to the dominant culture, does not necessarily offer students the resources that they realistically need to navigate through the dominant culture, and may only contribute to isolation in some instances.

So, I think that making the two approaches compatible might give the students the tools to operate effectively within the culture of power so that in the long term, they will be able to break down some of those cultural binaries in the future. In addition, focusing equally both on making the dominant culture accessible and validating the minority culture, I think, can help to build the rapport necessary for students to feel the crucial trust that Dance goes on to emphasize. To me, these seem perhaps more likely intentions of Ms. Bronzic’s described activities, and I feel that Dance’s analysis reduces those activities to more of a unilateral perpetuation of the culture of power.