“The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children” and “Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries”

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Revisiting My Summer Reflections on Delpit… Delpit has stayed in my mind while teaching over these past few months and the comments below are all still relevant. 

In this chapter, Delpit discusses the “progressive” techniques and concepts that she learned in college, including holistic methods of integrating reading and writing, such as the writing process approach to literacy. The author maintains that black students do not advance with this method, and that the direct teaching of skills is crucial to their success. Do you agree or disagree with her argument, and why?

I agree with Delpit’s, “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children” whole heartedly. Delpit is able to articulate her point in a similar fashion to Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. They both deliver their argument with a proactive approach, rather than insulting, to bring light to this oppressive education trap that many educators have fallen into unknowingly. The way she structures her chapter is easy to understand and easy to learn from. She is right! Students need to be taught implicit and explicit rules of the language of power as a first step to a more just education system. 

Additionally, I firmly agree that student’s language should also be honored and used within the classroom and creative expression. The text states, “Children have the right to their own language, their own culture. We must fight hegemony and fight the system by insisting that children be allowed to express themselves in their own language style.” This mentality will give students a sense of self and self-worth. Instead of stifling their feel-good language schools should push for a more balanced system of expression. I learned so much from this chapter and will bring many of the ideas into the classroom. I enjoyed the metaphor of the feel-good language used at the village picnic versus the formal stuffy language used at a formal dinner. Giving students freedom of expression and also the tools to be successful in other languages is necessary for their future. 

Teaching skills is crucial for students who are struggling with the power language used in schools and jobs. The more direct and clear you are when teaching students skills, the better the result you will have. This is an error that I have made in the past when teaching, because I didn’t know better. After being in the teaching field you learn more about the people you are teaching, you learn their voice, their family, and their language. In a diverse school district, you will have to learn many different languages and you will have to learn about your students’ ways of learning. Using a variety of teaching methods, skills, process, and so on will lead to a less restrictive and more productive classroom. 

I now find myself asking questions that sound like:

-Does this sound like you after my suggestions?

-What word could you use here? I don’t want this to sound like me.

-I cannot hear you in this work. 

-I like that you are able to speak and write in two different languages (voices/dialects).

-I don’t want you to write like me. I want you to think and write like you. 

-Here are some ways to improve your writing. 

Peter Elbow…This man always makes me think, rethink, and reconsider the way I write, read, and teach others how to do so as well. “Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries” is an excellent think piece. I have a voice in my head when I read Elbow. His voice reminds me of a former college professor, Dr. Evans. Dr. Evans never gave us any answers, merely questions to consider, planting seeds of thoughts in our head.  

This piece pairs perfectly with Delpit in teaching educators and writers how to use and not use voice while writing and reading. Sample lessons and activities were flowing through my head the entire time I was reading. Elbow has encouraged me to give students the power to refine their own voice with balance and tools. The idea of giving students and writers tools to become better at argument seems to be a great place to start. Additionally, Elbow states, “To learn to speak or write better, we need also to work on being better persons.” (169) Our teaching, writing, and reading, should guide us into being better people. A simple statement with a profound impact. 

I was also reminded of the ONE time I had a student turn down my suggestions for revising her writing. I had never been so proud of a student. How brilliant she was to say, “I’ll consider it.” Ultimately, she went against my suggestions to keep her work authentic to her. I am currently trying to foster an environment where there is a comfortable struggle between student voice and academic voice. The Compromise section was by far my favorite section, “We both have to give in a bit-back down some-and work out a middle position of some sort.” (173) This struggle is both internal and external. I am fighting back the urge to correct everything my students do, and students are struggling to do what THEY want to do rather than what they think I want them to do. 

A few other pearls from this text:

Text or Voice (Written or Spoken)

Designing a voice in written text with fonts or handwriting 

Allowing voice to be removed from reading 

Letting the reader create the voice and interpretation rather than giving them yours 

Ear training for revision and writing

Using regular voice in writing and speaking 

Practice reading a text for homework in a voice one will understand 

Vary your reading and writing methods

Oh, Peter Elbow. You did it again. You did it in 2007, but I am just hearing your lens of voice and lens of not voice in 2020. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com