[Marxism] Class and the "parenting gap" : NYT

Sayan Bhattacharyya ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com
Sat Dec 16 21:23:51 MST 2006

The following letter appears in Sunday's New York Times magazine:

"Class structure needs to be attacked head on"

What It Takes To Make a Student

Paul Tough's article (Nov. 26) on closing the race and class gaps in school
performance usefully looked beyond what schools do to what parents do and to
the enormous gaps in parent-child communication among middle-class and
poorer families, in vocabulary, in the ratio of encouragement to
discouragement and in promoting questioning and critical discussion, rather
than simple obedience to orders.

But what lies behind this "parenting gap"? Might the poor and less-skilled
working-class parents be replicating with their children what they
experience on the job — limited opportunities to develop a wide range of
skills, demands for simple obedience rather than discussion of what to do
next, an authoritarian environment of bosses and managers full of "negative
communications" and the frustrations of low pay, low recognition for their
work and pervasive powerlessness?

Longer school hours, intensive tutoring and more quality pre-schooling may
reduce the school-performance gap between the economic classes, but they
cannot eliminate it. Schools are asked to overcome the effects of a system
of stratification in which some people do the thinking and give the orders
while other people are expected to simply obey orders and perform repetitive
tasks out of fear of losing their jobs, while raising families on very low
incomes. Schooling by itself cannot destratify a class society; class
structure keeps reproducing itself. It needs to be attacked head on.

Allen H. Barton
Chapel Hill, N.C.

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