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Language Use - Alexander and Harold


Emily W

on 23 October 2012

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Transcript of Language Use - Alexander and Harold

Liz Baker,
Christina Bartson,
Shaina Robinson,
Emily Wu Language Use - Alexander and
Harold Alexander
Williams Different strategies of sociolin-
guistic style produce disadvan-
tages and advantages in children's schooling success, interactions with institutions, and social repertoire. About Alexander 9 years old
Only child of a middle class African American couple
Tall, thin male
"Winsome smile" and "charming manner," "active" and "inquisitive," "gets along with everyone"
"Verbally playful," initiates jokes and banters with his parents
Attends a diverse private school; parents (especially mother) always ensure that he is not the only black student in the group The Importance of Language Use in Middle Class Families Harold
McAllister About Harold Lower class; lives in the projects in Lower Richmond
African American
10 years old
Large shoulders and stocky build of a football player
Attends Lower Richmond Elementary School
2 story apartment has roaches, no phone due to budget constraints and broken refrigerator
4 children household although he lives with mother and his older siblings live with grandmother
His mother, Jane McAllister, receives public assistance and is looking for work; receives and uses food stamps
Money in short supply, family doesn't spend on services like dental care, trendy clothing, trips to hair salon Language and Family Ms. McAllister is a capable moth who wants her children to be successful
Lower-class mother is different from middle-class b/c they have to worry about physical protection for children, so she does not worry much about Harold's vocabulary
She expects Harold to comply with her, and to not question he authority although she allows him to about certain things Alexander's Family Mother - Christina Nile - has a master's degree in liberal arts from elite college; high-level manager in major corporation, finds it hard to leave office ~6 because "that is when the West Coast is just getting warmed up"
Father - Terry Williams - earned his J.D. degree from well-regarded private university; trial lawyer in small firm, typically works from 5am-12am when preparing med. malpractice cases (2 wk periods) and works until 6pm during normal weeks
Live in largely black, middle-class neighborhood in major NE city
Large comfortable home, new Lexus, computers, cell phones
Earn more than $200,000 annually Typical Weekly Schedule Private school
Piano lessons
University choir practice
Sunday school
Church choir
Baseball, soccer, basketball, indoor tennis practice/games
Seasonal theatrical rehearsals for school plays and concerts
Summertime - sports camp Family in Terms of General
Relation with Language Enjoy “words for their own sake”
Language isn’t just functional, the family enjoys conversation
Ascribes “intrinsic pleasure” to language by discussing the meanings of words
Language is used as a mechanism of discipline (places emphasis on discussion to reach a conclusion rather than physical violence)
Extensive negotiating and bargaining and explanation with reasoning
As a result, Alex acquires large vocabulary/ reading skills Never yell or use physical punishment, prefer to use negotiation tactics
Negotiating: “[Parents] use reasoning to bring about a desired action, and they often explain why they are asking children to do something.” (116)
Democratic parenting - parents actively involve children in decision making, but especially in matters of health and safety, Mr. and Ms. Williams use directives instead of discussion/reasoning
P. 119-- example of Alexander demonstrating his large vocabulary and understanding of the words (the conversation about plagiarism) Language Strategies “Middle-class children tend to bargain, using reasoning to secure small advantages” (127) example: on page 127 Alexander bargains for extra chips to eat
“Alexander frequently attempts to systematically refute his parents when he disagrees with something they say” (127) Concerted Cultivation Parents consider Alexander’s many commitments “an essential component in his overall development” and fully support his involvement
“Talking fosters the development of children’s knowledge and opinions.” (110)
In middle class families, discipline = reasoning
“Parent-child dialogues can boost children’s vocabulary, preview or deepen knowledge of subjects taught in school, and familiarize children with the patterns of verbal interaction that characterize the classroom and other dealing with adults in organizational settings” (111)
“Children of middle class parents have a sense that they are special , that their opinions matter, and that adults should, as a matter of routine, adjust situations to meet children’s wishes” (111)
Benefit of middle class status =“transmission of exceptional verbal skills that enable children to make special requests of adults in positions of power”
Use reasoning skills, to customize advantage Emerging Signs of Entitlement Alexander’s mom teaches him that he has a right to speak up
Demonstrates his skills at the doctor’s office (his mother first has him prepare questions then during the visit he interrupts to ensure that his questions are addressed) (124-126)
“Alexander successfully shifts the balance of power away from the adults and toward himself. The transition goes smoothly. Alex is used to being treated with respect. He is seen as special and as a person worthy of adult attention and interest. These are key characteristics of concerted cultivation” (126) Ultimate Results Alexander is better prepared to participate effectively in social interactions, especially those involving adults. He has a more sophisticated grasp of language and has a broader vocabulary than poor or working class children his age, and he is able to self-advocate to benefit himself (we see this at the doctor’s visit and when he negotiates with his parents)
Alexander’s “capital” as a result of the Williamses’ child rearing:
Larger vocabulary (prerogative and plagiarism)
Can customize situations/negotiate to maximize his own advantage
Exposure to a broader knowledge about topics that interest him
Learned to defend an argument with evidence (his father is a lawyer) Other Important Passages A commitment to a strategy of concerted cultivation is sometimes physically and emotionally exhausting for parents, yet this does not seem to lessen the appeal of this approach to child rearing among the middle class. (120)
Concerted cultivation can lead to role confusion, particularly over the amount of power that children have in the family. Within short periods of time... there are radical shifts in the status that Alexander’s parents accord him. At times Alexander is treated similarly to adults... his opinions are solicited, he is given a “vote” in family decisions, and he even gives his parents orders. In other moments, however, he is treated as if he is a very young child. (131)
[The strategies used in concerted cultivation are highly effective] in the United States today because our society places a premium on assertive, individualized actions executed by persons who command skills in reasoning and negotiation (133) Family Life Unlike Alexander, Harold has close relationships with extended family
Cousins = Runako and Guoin
Sleeps in same bed (occasionally) with Runako; plays basketball with Guoin
Cousins practically live with Harold and his sister, Alexis
Older children take care of younger
Hank (father) vists regularly does not discipline Harold; much older than Harold's mother and has daughters older than her
Lives off of food stamps; Harold always asks before he eats
Children in house desperately want money yet Harold never makes his desires known Race Projects = predominantly black as are areas around it except one lower-class neighborhood that Harold does not venture into
City = racially segregated
Harold's main interaction with people outside his race = teachers/children at school
His mother does not care about racial issues as much as overall care of children in general Organized Activities Harold is usually laughing, like his very lively family members
Despite lack of organized activities, he is resourceful and good with dealing with children younger/older than him; uses leisure time much to his own liking and rarely seems exhausted
When Harold plays outside with friends within his own age, his quiet demeanor changes to one where he s vocal and assertive
Does not develop ability to challenge authority or deal with work-related routines
Is in speech therapy Language and Harold Harold rarely questions authority yet he has free reign when it comes to activities
Harold has emerging sense of constraint
Distrusts adults in part because of his lack of sophistication when it comes to language use
In the real world, people are expected to question authority, have large vocabularies, and critical thinking skills; this is difficult for Harold Natural Child Growth Ms. McAllister provides natural child growth.Stresses food, clothing, good supervision.Block captain, sprinklers.Attends parent teacher conferences, doctor’s app., Hank buys Harold clothing, makes dinner for Harold, siblings, and cousins.Does special activities with children.Called DHS on her sister Jill.Physical safety is imp. Ex: steer clear of adults w/problems, packaged Halloween candy only.Protective attitude towards field-workers.High School diploma that she is very proud of. Expects children to complete each grade.
"Overall, Ms. McAllister is seen by family members and neighbors as a capable mother and a good citizen" (146) Language Use Among Peers Language use is free flowing - p. 151
Adults cannot intervene
P. 152 - competitiveness leads to more language use Directives and Threats Children do not talk back. Responds to commands wordlessly - pg. 153
"One unintended consequence of this approach is that poor and working-class children do not develop the same range of verbal skills that their middle-class counterparts acquire" (154)
Pg. 155 - physical punishment is part of their lives Emerging Signs of Constraint McAllister's show signs of distrust towards people in authority in dominant situation
Ex. teachers, doctors
Mother is vague, does not understand certain terms. Does not advocate for child w/ teacher. Ultimate Results Harold has more autonomy over schedule and is resourceful. However, this does not transfer over into the world of schools and the workplace
Institutions in a way are set up more so for children who are from middle class families - ex. they develop larger vocabularies whch are critical for the SAT Important Passage “Harold has neither the language nor conversational skills that Alexander takes for granted. He is unfamiliar with questioning and probing, and he has no experience making special demands of persons in authority. The result is an emerging sense of constraint. The positive aspects of Harold’s upbringing – the ease he displays with his peers, his resourcefulness in creating games and organizing his own time, his respectful attitude towards adults, his deep connection to family members – are rendered nearly invisible in the ‘real world’ of social institutions,” (140).
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