Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lisa Delpit (1988): culture of power

Delpit, L.D. (1988). The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children, Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280-298

Summary by Barton & Yang (2000)

The "culture of power" represents a set of values, beliefs, ways of acting and being that for sociopolitical reasons, unfairly and unevenly elevate groups of people - mostly white, upper and middle class, male and heterosexual - to positions where they have more control over money, people, and societal values than their non-culture-of-power peers . The separation of people through these arbitrary marker results in a tiered society where set rules and ideological standpoints result in barriers for those not part of the culture of power. These barriers are a product of human invention, yet because they are legitimized by a caste-oriented society are often accepted as normal.

The "culture of power" and its effects are part of nearly every institution in the United States, including the institution of schooling. Delpit describes the "culture of power" in schools as having five aspects:

  1. Issues of power are enacted in classrooms,
  2. There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a "culture of power,"
  3. The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power,
  4. For those who are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier,
  5. Those with power are frequently least aware of, or least willing to acknowledge, its existence, and those with less power are often most aware of its existence.
Delpit (1988) argues that without making the rules for the culture of power explicit, those who are not familiar with the culture of power will lack opportunities for upward mobility, be perceived as deficient, inferior, or disadvantaged, and be viewed as the cause of society's problems.

Barton, A.C. & Yang, K. (2000). The Culture of Power and Science Education: Learning from Miguel. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(8), 871-889

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