Notes on the Concept of Deficit Terminology

Posted on June 29, 2012 by

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Fennimore, Beatrice Schneller. 2000. “Breaking the Bonds of Deficit Terminology” Talk Matters: Refocusing the Language of Public Schooling. Teachers College Press.
  • The power of education is diminished drastically when perceptions of the challenges or diversities of childhood lead to presumptions of deficiency or unworthiness…assumptions directly interfere with feelings of efficacy, respect, and hope on the part of many educators (p.76)
  • “Saying someone is inferior is largely how structures of status and differential treatment are demarcated and actualized.  Words and images are how people are placed in hierarchies, how social stratification is made to seem inevitable and right, how feelings of inferiority and superiority are engendered (MacKinnon 1992:  p.31)
  • Imagine…a person who, having met a prospective marriage partner, poses a discree inquiry about him or her to a mutual friend.  If that friend responded that “s/he has limited verbal ability, poor motivation, familial tendencies toward criminality, poor impulse control, inability to delay gratification, low intelligence, and a highly disorganized social experience, the prospective relationship would almost certainly would be abandoned!  The unattractive description would far outweigh the inclination to explore unknown possibilities (p.81)
  • Multicultural education supports expansive affirmation of diversity as a desired attribute of a democratic society as it upholds respect for common humanity as the hope of the world society (Irwin 1973) (p.88).
  • 2 Activities to enhance Understanding:
  • 1)  Bias journal:  Designate period of time (4 weeks) when you are attuned to bias statements.
  • 2)  Interiews of educators.  Locate two or more educators who experienced undergraduate preparation in the late 1960s or early 1970s.  Ask them to recall images of culturally deprived children to which they were exposed.  What kind of field experiences did they have, and how were the skills and behaviors of their students interpreted?  Have they changed the way they think and talk about less-advantaged children?
Posted in: Notes