There are many ways to describe lessons we might learn from sociology and what it calls from us in terms of responsible action. The following quote, received from the “Quotation Of The Day Mailing List” on December 7, 2007, is an absolute classic:

As a result of careful listening to alternative points of view, I have myself come to a viable synthesis of perspectives. But both sides do need to be able to listen, and I contend that it is those with the most power, those in the majority, who must take the greater responsibility for initiating the process.

To do so takes a very special kind of listening, listening that requires not only open eyes and ears, but open hearts and minds. We do not really see through our eyes or hear through our ears, but through our beliefs. To put our beliefs on hold is to cease to exist as ourselves for a moment – and that is not easy. It is painful as well, because it means turning yourself inside out, giving up your own sense of who you are, and being willing to see yourself in the unflattering light of another’s angry gaze. It is not easy, but it is the only way to learn what it might feel like to be someone else and the only way to start the dialogue.

Lisa D. Delpit, “The Silenced Dialogue”

According to this link, it appears that Delpit’s article, “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children,” appeared in the Harvard Educational Review, 58: 280-298, 1988. There is also a blog post at “Linda’s Blog” that reviews and responds to Delpit’s article. Part of her summary goes like this:

The culture of power in our schools, Delpit states, comprises white and middle/upper-middle class students. These students tend to do better in school because, claims Delpit, they hold “cultural capital;” they already possess the discourse patterns and values that are reflected in our educational system. Students without cultural capital tend to struggle, according to Delpit, because they must learn new language codes and value systems, many of which are implicit. “When implicit codes are attempted across cultures,” Delpit explains, “communication frequently breaks down.” These students often find themselves being held accountable for knowing a set of rules that no one has taught them.

Delpit was also a MacArthur Fellow and is the author of Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom.

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