The Right To Choose
I remember it from my childhood, the commercial for Tootsie Pops. The question has been answered here. Today, I am wondering, how many positive interactions does it take to convince a student to change his current course of action?
In chapter two of The Trouble with Black Boys, Pedro Noguera examines structural and cultural explanations of behavior. The structuralists believe that "individuals are...products of their environment, and changes in individual behavior are made possible by changes in the structure of opportunity" (24). This thought process means that "...holding an individual responsible for his or her behavior makes little sense since behavior is shaped by forces beyond the control of any particular individual" (24).
On the other hand, the culturalists explain behavior "as a product of beliefs, values, norms, and socialization. Cultural explanations of behavior focus on the moral codes that operate within particular families, communities, or groups" (25). As a result, the culturalist believe that unless we chance the "culture of poverty," any money or programs offered to schools of poverty will fail.
When I examine the behaviors of my school, these two philosphies battle for top dog. I recognize that without the societal structures--affordable housing, access to healthcare, or an honest venue to be heard--many of my students will continue to approach school with hopelessness. Why bother if the man is trying to hold them down? But while I recognize that structure affects my students, I see the need to affect the culture of poverty from which they come. Unless parents value education or students make better choices about how they live their life, success will continue to elude them.
And so the question becomes important. What does it take on all levels (halls of the school to halls of Congress) to address the structure and culture of poverty stricken schools? How many times do we have to demonstrate that we are truly concerned with them before our toughest students make the choice to improve their behavior?
And for me and you, the classroom teachers, to what extent can we influence our most disaffected students?