I recently finished reading Lisa Delpit’s, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. If you work in education, or have any interest in education reform, I strongly recommend that you read this book. If you are from a white, middle-class, mainstream American background (like me), it will probably make you feel uncomfortable at times…but you will walk away with valuable insight into how cultural differences affect children of color in our education system.
The book pushed me to reflect on my own experiences with culture. As a white, middle class American, I’m admittedly hard pressed to come up with a time when my own cultural background placed me at a serious disadvantage. But surely as a second langauge learner, I’ve experienced this…or have I? Sure, I occasionally encountered cultural misunderstandings and communication breakdowns along the path to becoming bilingual. But to be honest, even my study abroad program was designed around the needs of foreign (typically American) students.
Upon further reflection, I realized that my only experience with true cultural conflict (where I experienced a distinct disadvantage due to my backgorund) came from an ususual source….my experience with music. I started singing in my church choir in 3rd grade. In high school I became further involved with my high school’s chorus and musical theater program. I took both voice and piano lessons throughout my teenager years. In college, I didn’t think I would have enough time for musical endeavors….but after a friend found out that I could sing, he invited me to check out a gospel choir of which he was a member.
I had never sung with a gospel choir before. To be honest, I wasn’t even that familiar with gospel music. At the first rehearsal, I tried to pretend I didn’t notice that I was one of the only white students in the group (I was still in my color blind mindset then). But after hearing that group sing….WOW….how do I sign up?!? Continue reading