Annette Lareau discusses in her fine book, Unequal Childhoods, how parents with money use “Concerted Cultivation” as a weapon to make their kids well-rounded and aggressive in society and to challenge adults and teachers and doctors by “speaking up” when they feel they have been wronged.

Poor and middle class kids, Lareau argues, are taught by their parents to be respectful of authority and to go with the flow. Lareau’s book discovers the kids who do better in school are those who “fight the system” while the other, poorer, kids suffer by being ignored and pushed aside.

For my style of teaching I tend to appreciate public university students over private college students because public university students are usually first generation college students, they respect you by default and you get the feeling they are there to learn. Private college students, in my experience, are upper class, more defiant by default, more challenging just to be opposite and they are less interested in learning and more prone to just “doing time” to get to the end of the degree.

Have I broken a covenant by appearing to prefer students who don’t challenge everything I say because they were raised to challenge authority? Have I wounded a covenant by seeming to prefer a passive student over an aggressive one? All covenants are intact and holding water! My argument cherishes an established set of morality and manners in the classroom. I am invigorated when students challenge ideas but only when they have an idea of their own to set against the norm.

I am engaged by students who don’t quite yet know what they think and, in order to feel comfortable, they sit quietly and drink in all the thoughts around them but only when they then speak up and contribute to the discussion. I do not, however, believe one student has higher rights over another merely because of right of birth or parental involvement was greater and the rules of how to play the game of getting ahead in life were taught every day in the bassinet. All instructors know the most dynamic students sit in the front row so they can interact with you without any other students blocking their view.

The front row students know all the answers and they love being the “go to” people while the rest of the class searches for the answer. Front row students are there to prove a point and to take home the learning. Instructors must reach beyond the front row and grab deep into the back row and pull those students into the discussion.

We must help those back row students sit in the front row of our minds because those students have been stuck in the back all their lives by teaching apathy or by social conceit or by economic standing and we are required to bring them around to the front for a better view of life and for acceptance by invigorated peers.

The back row is only a matter of proximity and should never become a state of being. It is the mission of every instructor to offer a hand up to all students who need a lift, but one must pay special attention to find ways to actively include students who may have been taught it was their place not to be heard or valued or appreciated and to give those students equal voice in the classroom where we all hope that experience will one day translate into a higher voiced standard of equality outside the university.

25 Comments

  1. Perhaps I had the best of both worlds. My parents taught me to be respectful, but I vividly remember instances where I was not being treated fairly, and my mother stepped in. Maybe that’s where I learned to notice that there are battles worthy of fighting.

  2. Hello Carla!
    If your mother stepped in on your behalf you were a child of “Concerted Cultivation” because poor parents refuse to step in as advocates for their children. Those parents don’t want to be perceived as making trouble and they defer to authority: The instructor, doctor, legislator, etc… are all right by merely by default of perceived higher position.
    Thanks for the tip on :mrgreen: at WordPress.com, but he is not given the high resolution Smilies treatment that the “new” Smilies get into the pick window. That is not only unfair, but morbidly sad! ❗

  3. Well, we weren’t poor, but we definitely weren’t rich either. I suppose we were tucked in that middle class.
    My husband grew up in a rather financially deprived home, and his mother was just as likely to fight when he had been treated unfairly.
    I realize you’re speaking about the majority here, but I guess I can once again consider myself to be the exception of the rule.
    I get what your saying as well. The students who wish to merely blend with their surroundings are the ones who should be pulled out of their shells, and I applaud you for doing so. Speaking as a student who did make a bee line for the back row! 🙂

  4. I’m not going to get too into the who “how best to parent” idea because not being a parent I tend to piss people off. If I hear one more time “when you become a parent it’ll be different” I’m going to act like a child 😉
    I just wanted to say…I was a back row student…well except in my scriptwriting class.

  5. Hey Robin —
    I don’t find it a worthwhile argument if you aren’t a parent you can’t address what benefits or wounds children.
    That’s like saying if you haven’t been president you can’t criticize the president or if you aren’t a man you can’t write a male character. Rubbish, I say!
    At least you and Carla are in the front row here. Yay! :mrgreen:
    Students who sit in the front row usually do better than those who don’t even if they aren’t as good a student because most instructors have an easier time favoring students they see every day and students who actively react to what they teach.

  6. It’s curious how most parents usually have a rigid and narrow view of what’s best for children except when it comes to their own. Unfortunately, this blog has proven that time and again in more than a few of the comments left behind here.
    Some of the most brilliant minds in education over the Ages were childless but they still devoted their careers to bettering the lives of children through education and socialization. They achieved those successes through: Empathy, Imagination, Caring, Research, Service, Teaching and Thoughtfulness.

  7. I’ve had the interesting and sometimes painful view for the past nearly 3 years of watching 2 parents fight over a child. I’ve certainly learned a lot in the process and it shocks me how clueless and selfish many parents can be.

  8. Yep, I think many parents don’t or can’t learn that. I think to become a parent it’s something you need to really think about (for a long time) before taking the plunge. It seems most people take more consideration with buying a car than having a child.

  9. I take marriage and kids extremely seriously…maybe too much who knows. I know everyone to knows me realizes that whenever (and if ever) I take either of those steps that I’ve thought it thru a lot.
    I think maybe my cats are all the children I need. Hell Aurora is like having a bratty teenager in the house.

  10. I get a lot of compliments on my pictures…even from non cat lovers. They are my children and I treat them as so 🙂 If only I could truly catch their personalities on camera…although then you’d see Aurora threatening to bitch slap me.

  11. I could potentionally have an entire blog on them but I think I’d enjoy it more than anyone else.
    I’ve been meaning to post about a book I found: Your Cat’s Just Not That Into You : “What part of Meow don’t you understand?” It’s a book I need to read.