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If We Don't, Who Will?

Probably many of you feel like you need to re-parent your students. It's a dangerous psychological space to inhabit in my case. In many cases, I can't possibly bridge the divide between how my students have developed and mainstream, middle class, American cultural expectations and competencies. However, if I don't, who will?

Gallagher poses this question to persuade me to give up "a bit of the traditional curriculum" to make room for "learning how to apply reading skills in the real world" (196). I find that my curriculum tips the other way. My students have been in mostly packet based programs or special courses like "skills lab" to help them learn to navigate the world of work or renting or balancing a checkbook. What I fear they lack is what Ruby Payne and other researchers call cultural capital, an exposure to great thinking, literature, and art that would allow them entry into conversations with others who possess this capital, usually their teachers, employers, and others who have significant influence over their long term well-being, and that would help them "read the world" with its myriad allusions and references to cannonical pieces of culture.

Gallagher would not suggest that I abandon exposing my students to cultural capital, but I feel I need to stay aware with my population that "reading the world" requires a healthy dose of both classics, or traditional curriculum and real world communications.

Comments

I will defend the classics because that was all that existed when I went to high school.

As I left Lynn today, I said, "I'm going to Walter to blog and google." When I was on this campus as an undergrad, those actions and words didn't exist. We navigate through this world by knowing when to change the sails. I think the classics teach us that.

Like you, Jen, I felt something was missing in Ch9 and it is this notion of "cultural capital." I agree that it is part of our job to help our students gain that capital. I think that's what I was thinking about when I commented on Lynn's (or was it Joan's) entry about juxtaposing classic texts with more contemporary/pop culture texts (e.g., The Simpsons) to both engage students and to show how those cultural references work. You don't need to read all of Shakespeare to appreciate the ways he has influenced our language and our understanding of family relations. And, that ability say the name Shakespeare with confidence does matter.

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