Readings on Writing (p. 181-188)
“The Politics of Teaching Literate Discourse” by Lisa Delpit
In “The Politics of Teaching Literate Discourse,” Lisa Delpit attempts to explain the current trend among teachers and writers about discourse acquisition as it pertains to the poor and colored races. Delpit argues that many teachers today do not try to teach to minorities or, at least, they do not believe they can. Delpit states that her interest in this topic began as she was reviewing an article by James Paul Gee. She contests that though she first agreed with much of what Gee had to say, after careful review- she found two main issues with his claims. Delpit disagrees with Gees claim that if not born into a dominant discourse- it is (or nearly is) impossible to enter. She also disagrees with Gee’s argument that a person born into one discourse with certain values will have a difficult time joining a different discourse with different values. To counter these claims, Delpit provides several examples of overcoming oppression among the poor and colored in ways that contradict Gee’s arguments. (These include bell hooks and nearly an entire class of poverished African Americans who grew up around the 1930’s). Finally, Delpit offers suggestions as to how teachers can incorporate new teaching methods to reach out to outliers. She suggests that teachers should acknowledge home environments, but not in a limiting way. Also, they should understand that some students may choose to avoid classroom teaching in order to stay true to themselves- and thus, teachers should try to incorporate aspects of the students’ home discourses into the “mainstream” discourse. Lastly, Delpit wants teachers to recognize (and try to minimize) the “discourse stacking” that occurs in today’s society.