Critique of  Paper: Class Bias

©2000 S. Pauluk


Cesario begins her paper of the case presented by Feinberg and Soltis by stating what she sees as the main issue. This issue is whether or not the teacher (Marilyn) is treating the students she encounters in her accelerated sections differently. Cesario presents other puzzling questions, such as, why would a teacher knowingly do this since "most teachers enter the profession hoping to help students" and why did (Marilyn) "merely dismiss the facts" when presented with them by her colleagues? This reader found these questions to be intriguing but was disappointed when answers were not pursued by Cesario.

Cesario uses the works of Clabaugh & Rozycki to make an argument that challenges the authority of the two part-time teachers to bring such accusations to the attention of Ms. Todd. She believes that if this would be the reason for Mrs. Toddís refusal to listen to the two teachers that perhaps another authority, " someone they would both respect" may be helpful. This case does not give any more information as to the actions of the two young teachers. Since both seemed to be so concerned with Ms. Toddís actions it seems that neither would have stopped here.

Was it the duty of these two teachers to go to Mrs. Todd with their suspicions in the first place or were they out of their area of authority? This may have been another area that Cesario could have discussed. It seems to this writer that both Dom and Sarah needed to take their suspicions to "department head or the principal" to handle this situation from the start. Unless a colleague is in a peer-coaching or mentor relationship with another colleague, issues of this nature need to be brought to the attention of someone who would have the authority to investigate. This person could make the changes as needed.

Cesario continues her investigation of this case with a discussion of "a teacher dismissed on the grounds of incompetence for failing large numbers of algebra students." This reader would be interested in hearing more about this case and would like to see a source for this argument. Cesario also states that "parents and students have shown their support for this teacher," and the question that comes to this readerís mind is who are these parents and students? Are these the parents and students of, as Feinberg and Soltis put it, "the very rich?" It would be interesting information for someone who would be building a case for the presence of class bias. What do the parents of the "very poor residents" say about this teacher?

Cesario uses the conflict theory to continue looking at this case. She does a thorough job of showing how a situation like this can take place without objections by those in the situation. She continues this argument using the work of Sennett and Cobb. Even though, Cesario makes a strong case, the reader does not have enough information from the case presented by Feinberg and Soltis to know if Cesario is correct. The reader does not know how Domís student handles the treatment given to him by Mrs. Todd. Cesario uses the case of the "ladsí found in Willisí study to say that students that are faced with this situation may just give up and act as they are presumed to be by their teacher. There is no evedence in this case to show that this happened.

There may be other factors to consider that Cesario does not bring up. Perkinson discusses the inferior educational system of Black Americans. He talks about the lack of resources and backgrounds of these children. This may be the same situation for these students entering Mrs. Toddís classroom. They may be lacking the background knowledge that is so pertinent to the study of English. It would have an effect on these children having the capability to compete with other students who do have strong educational backgrounds.

Cesario goes on to discuss the issue of tracking. Again, she gives a good historical perspective and discusses the effects of tracking. Even though she does a good job, it seems that this is one area that could be eliminated from this paper. This writer does not believe this was a case about tracking but more about how a teacher handles students from different backgrounds found in his/her classroom.

Another area that would be worth discussing is the first paragraph of this case study. When Feinberg and Soltis wrote "Over the years, her seniority has given her the right to avoid poorer students (in both senses of the term) and teach only the seventh- and eight-grade accelerate sections" what were they trying to say? Was that a slam on this practice, that no one will deny does exist in American education, or was it their way of saying that the entire school had issues with class bias? A paragraph discussing this idea would have been worth adding to this paper. It would have been important to discuss the need to change this thinking. The exact opposite needs to be true if the system is to improve. The best and brightest teachers need to help the neediest of students as well as the brightest.

Cesario looks at the work of Perkinson on school choice. He believes that some issues in schools are "undecidable" and that choice through the private sector could be an answer. Cesario disagrees with this argument because she believes that public schools need to learn how to "understand and resolve controversy" and this would be a way to move forward. Even though this reader agrees with this argument, she was disappointed with this being the only conclusion. Cesario used so many different ideas throughout this paper and this reader was interested in seeing how she would use all of them to approach a teacher like Mrs. Todd. This information may have answered the question given by Feinberg and Soltis. That question was, "What, if anything, could you do as a teacher to safeguard against an unconscious class bias? The answer to this question would be of great interest to this reader.