Lisa Delpit
Lisa D. Delpit is an American educationalist and author. She is also an Eminent Scholar and Executive Director of the Center for Urban Educational Excellence at Florida International University in Miami, Florida and Felton G. Clark's first Distinguished Professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Early Years

Lisa Delpit spent her childhood years on Lettsworth St. in "Old South Baton Rouge," the first black settlement in the city. The house in which she lived as a child was built next to the "Chicken Shack," a community restaurant that her dad started, she was told, with $0.46 in his pocket. Much of her young life was spent in the kitchen with her dad. Delpit recalls a Baton Rouge where her mother could not try on a hat in the department store and where black children were unable to attend school with white children. She remembers black nuns who told her 'Act your age, not your color' because of the then internalized views in society concerning black people. At only the age of seven, when her father died of kidney failure because he had no access to a dialysis machine, Delpit remembers the local hospital having a separate ward for colored
Colored is a term once widely used in the United States to describe black people and Native Americans...

 patients. She recalls: "When I was growing up, my mother and my teachers in the pre-integration, poor black Catholic school that I attended, corrected every word I uttered in their effort to coerce my black English into sometimes hypercorrect standard English forms acceptable to black nuns in Catholic schools. In elementary school, I diagrammed thousands of sentences, filled in tens of thousands of blanks, and never wrote any text longer than two sentences until I was in the 10th grade of high school". In spite of Delpit's light skin, freckles and reddish hair, her emergence from childhood to adolescence brought with it a changing world; one accompanied by a different view of Baton Rouge. Due to these changes, Delpit eventually became one of the first few frightened black students from "good" families to integrate St. Anthony's High School, one of the Catholic high schools she attended in her hometown. Currently, as an author, educator, and mother, Delpit continues to cross lines and challenge the status quo as she engages in discourse and advocates for educational practice geared towards students of color.

Her Journey Through the Education System

Delpit attended Antioch College
Antioch College
Antioch College is a private, independent liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, Ohio, United States. It was the founder and the flagship institution of the six-campus Antioch University system. Founded in 1852 by the Christian Connection, the college began operating in 1853 with politician and...

 in Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, which was known at the time for its radicalism. After she obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, she was eager to utilize the progressive teaching strategies in her first teaching position at an inner-city open elementary school in Southern Philadelphia. The students were 60 percent poor black children from South Philadelphia and 40 percent white children from Society Hill. Delpit recalls: "The black kids went to school there because it was their only neighborhood school. The white kids went to school there because their parents had learned the same kinds of things I had learned about education." Dissonnance arose in Delpit's teaching when she realized her strategies did not work for all her students; her white students zooming ahead while her black students played games and learned to read, but only much slower than the white kids. Later on, when Delpit attended Harvard Graduate School of Education to pursue her Master's and Doctoral degrees in Curriculum
See also Syllabus.In formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university. As an idea, curriculum stems from the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults...

, Instruction
Instruction may refer to:* Teaching, education performed by a teacher* Instruction , a single operation of a processor within a computer architecture...

 and Research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

, she came to understand the importance of students learning to write in meaningful contexts. Delpit went on to explore the novel views acquired about culture and learning by way of a fellowship
Fellowship may refer to:* An academic position: see fellow* A merit-based scholarship, or form of academic financial aid* Fellowship , a period of medical training after a residency...

 she received which facilitated her work in Papua New Guinea. This easternmost part of New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

, the second-largest island in the world, served as a natural laboratory for Delpit, who spent approximately one year on the island evaluating school programs for the local government and conducting her own research.

Throughout her career, Delpit also functioned in a variety of other roles. As scholar, she served on the Commission for Research in Black Education (CORIBE). She also worked as teacher and Professor at Georgia State University
Georgia State University
Georgia State University is a research university in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Founded in 1913, it serves about 30,000 students and is one of the University System of Georgia's four research universities...

 GSU and later assumed the capacity of Professor at Florida International University College of Education
Florida International University College of Education
The College of Education at Florida International University, located in Miami, Florida in the United States is one of the university's 26 schools and colleges and was founded in 1965...


As an African-American researcher, Delpit's emphasis has been elementary education with a focus on language and literacy development. She has also been concerned with issues relating to race and access granted to minority groups in education. Below are some of the themes explored in Delpit's work.

Granting Students Access to the Culture of Power

In one of her most heavily cited works, The Silenced Dialogue, Delpit argues the focus on process-oriented as opposed to skills-oriented writing instruction reduces the chances for black children to gain access to the tools required for accessing the "culture of power", which she describes as follows: (1) Issues of power as being enacted in classrooms; (2) Codes or rules established for participation in power, lending credence to the existence of a "culture of power"; (3) Rules of the culture of power being a reflection of the rules adhered to in the culture of those who have power; (4) Understanding explicitly the rules of a culture of power as fundamental to acquisition of the power of that culture; and (5)Tendency of those within the culture of power to be least aware or willing to admit that a culture of power exists. Delpit explores stances taken by teachers towards black children within the classroom and emphasizes how essential it is for teachers, both black and white, to communicate effectively with black students if they are to achieve academic success. She concludes the skills/process debate is fallacious because it subscribes to the view that black and poor children can be categorically organized. Rather, she asserts the need for equipping black students to communicate across cultures. She believes teachers can play a major role as they give a voice to people and to children of color.

Preparing teachers for Cultural, Linguistic and Ethnic Diversity

In Lessons from Teachers, Delpit emphasizes the importance of teachers altering practices in urban schools. Among the principles identified are the need to teach more and not less content to poor children, ensuring children access to conventions/strategies necessary for succeeding in the context of American society, connecting students' knowledge and experiences from their social contexts to knowledge acquired in the schools and acknowledgement and recognition of students' home cultures. Delpit asserts these principles challenge teachers to revolutionize education by counteracting the negative impact of stereotypical values attached to students of color in the American system.

Developing Open-mindedness and Eliminating bias of the “Other”

In Educators as "Seed People" Growing a New Future, Delpit discusses the significance of educators taking on positive attitudes towards students of color. She highlights the importance of looking beyond standardized test scores and scripted instructional programs if one is to truly educate all students. Delpit maintains educators can no longer continue to question whether low income students of color are capable, but must instead create rigorous and engaging instruction based on the students' cultural, intellectual, historical and political legacies. She asserts eductors have much to learn from pre-integration African-American institutions in which Black intelligence is affirmed and which provide students with the motivation to achieve.

From "The Interview"

"If teachers make judgments only according to the tests being inflicted on the children by the schools, then they can misunderstand their children's brilliance."

"Many liberal educators hold that the primary goal for education is for children to become autonomous, to develop fully who they are in the classroom setting without having arbitrary, outside standards forced upon them.This is a very reasonable goal for people whose children are already participants in the culture and power and who have already internalized its codes."

From "The Silenced Dialogue"

"We do not really see through our eyes or hear through our ears, but through our beliefs.”

“To put our beliefs on hold is to cease to exist as ourselves for a moment — and that is not easy."
“It is painful as well, because it means turning yourself inside out, giving up your own sense of who you are, and being willing to see yourself in the unflattering light of another's angry gaze.”

“It is not easy, but it is the only way to learn what it might feel like to be someone else and the only way to start the dialogue.”


  • Outstanding Contribution to Education: Harvard Graduate School of Education (1993)

  • Recipient of the American Education Research Association CattellAward for Outstanding Career Achievement (1994)

  • Recipient of the Antioch College Horace Mann Humanity Award (2003)

  • Award-winning author of “Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom”, “The Skin We Speak” and “The Real Ebonics Debate”

Selected Works

  • Delpit, L. D., & Kemelfield, G. (1985). An evaluation of the viles tok ples skul scheme in the North Solomon’s Province.Statistics, 15(4), 168-170.

  • Delpit, L. D. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people's children. Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280-299.

  • Delpit, L. (1990). Language diversity and learning. In S. Hynds & D.L. Rubin (Eds.), Perspectives on talk and learning (pp. 247–266). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

  • Delpit, L. D. (1992). Acquisition of literate discourse. Bowing before the master? Theory Into Practice, XXXI(4), 296-302.

  • Delpit, L. D. (1992). Education in a multicultural society: Our future's greatest challenge. The Journal of Negro Education, 61(3), 237-249.

  • Delpit, L. (1994). Seeing color: A review of White teacher. In B. Bigelow, L. Christensen, S. Karp, B. Miner, & B. Parkerson (Eds.), Rethinking our classrooms: Teaching for equity and justice (pp. 130-131). Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.

  • Delpit, L. (1995). Teachers, culture, and power: An interview with Lisa Delpit. In D. Levine, R. Lowe, B. Peterson & R. Tenorio (Eds.), Rethinking schools: An agenda for change, (pp. 136-147). New York, NY: The New Press.

  • Delpit, Lisa. (1995). Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York, NY: The New Press.

  • Delpit, L. (1996). Skills and other dilemmas of a progressive black educator. Harvard Educational Review, 56(4), 379-386.

  • Delpit, L & Perry, T. (1998). The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language, and the Education of African-American Children (Eds.). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

  • Delpit, L. & Dowdy, J. K. (2002). The skin that we speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom (Eds.). New York, NY: The New Press.

  • Delpit, L. D., & White-Bradley, P. (2003). Educating or imprisoning the spirit: Lessons from ancient Egypt.Theory into Practice, 42(4), 283-288.

  • Delpit, L.D. (2006). Lessons from teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 57(3), 220-231.

  • Delpit, L. D. (2011). Multiplication is for white people: Raising expectations for other people's children” (soon to be released).
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