Book Review                                       Online Exculsive

Multiplication is for

White People   

Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children     

by Lisa Delpit, The New Press, New York, N.Y., 2011, 256 pp., $26.95 hardcover


Anger is a powerful emotion. However, when its causes are clearly outlined and supported, that awareness can lead to change.

Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit, professor of education at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., is based on her experience and knowledge as a mother and an educator. Delpit is angry with the educational struggles of African-American students, especially those who are poor and living in urban areas.

To make her case for the educational injustices, Delpit reflects on various reform efforts, such as NC LB, standardized testing, Teach for America and charter schools. These programs were designed to help struggling students of all races, yet have fallen short of expectations. The author believes African-American students have been hurt profoundly by these serial “reform” movements.

The author further illustrates systemic problems by including examples of how her own daughter struggled in various schools, and Delpit believes the struggles were a result of low expectations for minority students. History has demonstrated that urban areas do not attract or retain the best teachers, further eroding the educational experience for those students.

Delpit believes problems with student expectations and performance are due to cultural disparity. She blames teachers who do not understand the culture, interests and experiences of their students.

The solution she offers is for teachers to assume the role of “warm demanders.” Such teachers expect a great deal from their students and convince them of their abilities, while helping them to reach their potential in a structured and disciplined environment. The image evoked is of a stern but loving grandmother who pushes just enough.

Although readers would benefit from more specific examples of precisely how to achieve this level of professionalism and expertise, the book does provide a starting point for teachers with struggling students or students whose cultures differ from theirs.

Reviewed by Edythe B. Austermuhl, superintendent, Deerfield Township School, Rosenhayn, N.J. 


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