"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Poverty: The 600-lb. Gorilla in the Classroom

"We need to worry whether the more important keys to school reform are up the block, in the shadows, where the light is not as bright. If we do choose to peer into the dark we might see what the recently deceased sociologist Elizabeth Cohen saw quite clearly: That poverty constitutes the unexamined 600 pound gorilla that most affects American education today (cited in Biddle, p. 3, 2001). I think we need to face that gorilla."

David C. Berliner, Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform.

Posted by Judy Rabin.


  1. What do you think Berliner means when he writes, "poverty restricts the expression of genetic talent"? I can't wrap my brain around that statement.

  2. I think it means that when a child grows up in poverty, he or she might be restricted from ever fully realizing his or her true potential because of limited opportunities and resources. I suppose Berliner believes there is such a thing as genetic talent or inherited talent such as musical talent, etc.


  3. Inherited talent sounds a bit more clear I guess. Genetic talent sounds like a misnomer, too serendipitous for me. Does musical talent skip generations like baldness or color blindness? I don't know, probably a careful balance of the nature versus nurture discussion. I think occassionally these types of intrinsic gifts inherited through, "geneitic talent", can overcome and find an outlet. For example, Langston Hughes and other Harlem Renaissance artists. I don't want to make exceptions to the rule, b/c unfortunately I also realize that there is a growing disparity in the allocation of resources to properly educate children and nurture thier talents. This correlates to the article I recently read, but its gaze was on the lack of diversity in urban school settings.

  4. Anonymous4:27 PM

    My problem is with the word "occasionally" because it is not enough to break the cycle of poverty and truly offer children the opportunities they deserve. I agree that we need to face the issue of poverty in the classroom and address it. Every child deserves to learn.