Unethical Teaching: How Perceptions of the Poor Negatively Shape Outcomes and Why Assumptions of Race and Class Must be Challenged

Dorothy Day                    Photo via http://www.catholiceducation.org/


By: Halina Shatravka

This winter I decided to volunteer at an organization I saw listed in Fordham’s Dorothy Day Center newsletter teaching inner-city, public-high school kids. Great, I thought — I went to a New York City public school, so I know a bit about these kids and the backgrounds they tend to have.

I attended a day-long orientation in a high-rise, Times Square building with carefully-selected minimalist decor. Most of the students in attendance were from other private institutions. Briefly, we went over what they deemed to be”safe” and “accessible” words to use with these students, who, it was implied, might not understand a certain vocabulary.

This is where I began to sink in my seat with horror: the most pressing reason for my own desire to leave high school was because of this very “dumbing-down” of material, and I knew other students at the time had felt the same. I found this lack of challenge and underestimation of students part of the very destructive, cyclic nature of underperforming public schools. The boredom and apathy regarding academics in many students, I think, arises out of such models. I swallowed my horror and tried to refresh for the next segment: maybe it will get better. Maybe the program will redeem itself. It didn’t.

Next, we went over a few “teaching” methods, like using cookie-cutter, congratulatory remarks for students’ participation or “sharing out” of answers and experiences.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.