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The Skin that We Speak
Transcript of The Skin that We Speak
The book was published by The New Press on June first of 2003.
There were over 1,010,783 copies sold since 2010.
The book consists of three sections:
1. Language & Identity.
2. Language in the classroom.
3. Teacher Knowledge.
Each section looks at crucial educational issues.
Section 1-Language and Identity
About Lisa Delpit
Lisa Delpit received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Education in 1993 from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She currently holds the Benjamin E. Mays Chair of Urban Education Leadership at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. Joanne Kilgour Dowdy is the Assistant Director at the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy and assistant professor at Georgia State University. (Erin, 2010)
The Skin that We Speak
Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit and Joanne Dowdy
The first chapter begins with Drowdry's narration. She speaks about one of her experiences growing up. She narrates how her mom always pushed her to speak British which to her was appropriate English. Her mom used to remind her daily to "curse in white, meaning speak right" because her audience was white. At the time Dowdry was growing up in Trinidad, she was middle school and African American.
One time following her mother's advice she said "over there" with a British accent among her African American and that day she realized the difference between the fantasy of her language and the reality. She was playing cricket with her friends when she hit a ball over a fence. As the other children looked for the ball, she announced "Over there." Her enunciation was perfect. The others just giggled and laughed. Any of the other children would have said "Ovuh dyuh"--sensible, given the language of the island. This incident left an mark on joanne at a young age (Erin, 2010).
Section 2- Language in the Classroom
In this chapter, Lisa Delpit describes how her daughter's experience at school gave her insight into what could be done in American schools for students who do not speak Standard English (SE). Her premise is that schools need to be more welcoming to what children do bring to the classroom and honor the places from which they come.
The author Lisa Delpit narrates the story of her daugter Maya. Maya was assisting a merely white population middle school and since she was African American she was always being excluded from the groups. She suffered from verbal attacks from other kids. She was always being told that she wasn't pretty because she didn't look like the rest of them and that her lips were huge. This cause Maya to not feel welcome and hurt her feelings and self esteem, Maya would came home and tell her mom "Maybe if I were prettier I'd have more friends." And when Maya asked her mother if she could have plastic surgery to make her lips smaller, Delpit knew she had to act. She was later transferred to a public school in which the population was merely black and she learned to speak "black" or Ebonics which its often seemed as inappropriate. Her self esteem increased and she was much more confortable and happier. She wasl later comeing home with phrases such "She be all like, 'What ch'all talkin' 'bout?' like she ain't had no kinda sense." Which helped Depit come to the conclusion that we as educators must accept our students no matter what background they come from (Delpi, Dowdy 2008).
About Joanne Kilgur Dowdy
Dr. Joanne Kilgour Dowdy was recently assisted Kent's University and was recognized for her book, "Conversations with My Sisters." She received the 2009 American Educational Research Association Narrative and Research Special Interest Group's Outstanding Book Award.Her book consists of a collection of interviews with tenured, African American female professors in Northeast Ohio and their experiences in obtaining a Ph.D. and working in academia. (Erin, 2010).
This chapter Judith Barker her students are urban teenagers that come from diverse backgrounds and low to moderate income levels. The students are viewed negatively because they have low test scores and poor formal English skills. Baker says that her classroom is a place for helping students better their skills in the use of standard English. She has a theory that "there are at least three forms of the English language that most Americans need to learn" (p. 51) in order to be successful in society. The three forms are
•"home" English or dialect--language that is used in the home
•"formal" or academic English--language learned in school, through the media, and possibly in well-educated families
•"professional" English--the language of one's job or profession (p. 51)These three forms are what make up what Baker calls "trilingualism." (Erin, 2010).
Section 3- Teacher Knowledge
In chapter six Asa Hilliard III discusses Language, culture and the assessment of African American children. He explains why we cannot separate the historically oppressed status of African American children and the educational assessments used to measure their language abilities. He starts discussing how teaching and learning are dependent upon a common language between teacher and student and how language is a feature of culture. All cultures have language and children learn to speak the language of their culture. Teaching and learning are also aspects of culture and therefore not exclusive to any group or groups (p. 89) (Delpit, Dowdy 2008).
What can teachers do?
Teachers must accept all different tongues in the classroom, including but not limited to dialects or slang English and role model the acceptance behavior.
Teachers can use these dialects to her advantage and learn the different tongues that the children speak and maybe help them learn each others dialects.
Teachers should modify their lessons to fit the dialects of all students and include them in the lessons so that all student can draw connections and learn from each other (Delpit, Dowdy 2008).
We inherit our identity growing up. This identity is created based on
our background experinces and surroundings. This identity its not
permanent and it can be molded or altered by ones choice. If we chose to
change our identity we never forget our roots and mother tongue we just learn
to act different and in a way that its acceptable by society.
The ones that chose to not make this alteration are hindered by society and
some how excluded. In the book Dowdy makes it very clear about the results
of not allowing other dialects in the classrooms besides from standard English
which its also a dialect by not viewed as such. FI we as educators incorporate
these dialects into the classroom they can be used as an asset for all students
to expand their different tongues.
Erin, O (2010) The skin We Speak Reflection. Retrieved on July 19, 2010 from:
Delpit, L. D., & Dowdy, J. K. (2008). The skin that we speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom. New York: New Press.
In the book Delpit & Dowdy discusse the research and writings done on "Black English" and "Standard English". They try to help us realize how much harm we are causing the children by not promoting their dialect in the classroom, and making them feel as if the only appropriate language its Standard English. We all have a different skin color and the book helps us realize how there is much more to learn from as see behind every child than only the color of their skin.
By Misuky Loya