In the book The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen J. Gould (1996) discusses the culture behind biological determinism (i.e., the belief that the disparity in status among various groups arises from innate biological differences). He criticizes the practice of measuring intelligence as a single quantity, something that had become a common practice in the United States.
In the United States, intelligence testing became a device of power and its use led to the Immigration Act of 1924, which primarily restricted the entry of people from Southern and Eastern Europe due to their tendency to score low on the test. Unbelievably, immigrants were frequently tested in English when they arrived in the United States. Even worse, many were rejected based on the perspective that they had a dull and unintelligent appearance.
How does any of this relate to multicultural psychology?
In the modern society, people are tested all the time and certain cultural groups tend to perform worse than others on standardized tests. The end result of a poor score is not deportation; however, a poor score could limit access to higher education and other resources. In elementary school, poor test scores might even lead to negative labels and tracking, which could change the life of a child.
There is no denying that there are cultural differences with regard to education and testing. However, there are some parallels between what happened to the immigrants and what often happens to different cultural groups as they appear for aptitude or achievement tests. Many are so unfamiliar and confused when they go for testing that they are beset with anxiety. In such situations, the people are totally unfamiliar with the format of the test and the language.
In your response, address the following:
- Analyze the impact of test familiarity and general language comprehension on standardized testing. Do certain cultural groups have an advantage because of cultural practices and exposure?
- After taking a moment to conduct an Internet search on the scholastic assessment test (SAT) scores by socioeconomic level, describe why the socioeconomic level correlates with performance. Is there a culture associated with different socioeconomic levels?
- Analyze whether it is fair to compare the performance of cultural groups that do not speak English with those that have a good command over the English language.
Gould, S. J. (1996). The mismeasure of man. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
In the United States, there are cultural subgroups that do not speak formal English in their home environment. The method of speaking is more than a difference in accent; it is considered a dialect. Numerous people view these dialects as subordinate ways of speaking. Some individuals who have been raised in a home with Ebonics, for example, try to shuck (eliminate) their learned speech patterns as they age and progress through the educational system and socioeconomic hierarchy.
Consider a highly educated and competent African American man named Doug Perry who grew up in a household where his mother spoke grammatically incorrect English. Perry has a business degree from a prestigious university and is successful. He writes effectively, using good mechanics when writing; however, when Perry speaks, he often makes grammatical slips in areas such as subject–verb agreement. He does not even notice the slip most of the time until someone, such as his wife or a colleague, corrects him. His experience, the anecdotal findings of others, as well as research studies have shown that dialectical patterns are difficult to change.
This discussion question focuses on US dialects such as Ebonics. The first thing to consider is how children who speak Ebonics are treated in the classroom. Should they be penalized for mechanics as they learn to write? Do you think that correcting the children in a harsh way or telling them that the way they speak is wrong would make them feel negative about their ability and familial culture?
In your response, address the following:
- You are aware that different ways of speaking are usually associated with distinct cultures, and many argue about the value of preserving these ways. Should Ebonics be preserved, or should we work to eliminate it? If we eliminate it, would it bring about significant cultural changes?
- Anecdotal evidence and research studies (e.g., Drivonikou et al., 2007; Pixner, Moeller, Hermanova, Nuerk, & Kaufmann, 2011) show that when bilingual people switch from one language to another, the brain areas accessed are often different. In addition, the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis proposes that people who speak different languages have distinct cognitive processes. It is clear that Ebonics is a dialect and, therefore, it is not a distinct language. However, it is different from standard English in many ways. Is Ebonics different enough from standard English to bring about changes in thought patterns? Justify your answer.
- Consider how fluency (the rate of speech) changes when you are talking to different people. Some people give you positive feedback as you talk, and they seem to be in sync with your thoughts. When this happens, your fluency increases and the conversation flows. Consider the reverse of this phenomenon in an academic setting. How might a teacher who is judgmental and negative toward a child’s use of Ebonics affect his or her ability to communicate?
Drivonikou, G. V., Kay, P., Regier, T., Ivry, R. B., Gilbert, A. L., Franklin, A., & Davies, I. R. L. (2007).Further evidence that Whorfianeffects are stronger in the right visual field than the left.Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, 104(3),1097–1102.
Pixner, S., Moeller, K., Hermanova, V., Nuerk, H. C., & Kaufmann, L. (2011). Whorf reloaded: Language effects on nonverbalnumber processing in first grade—A trilingual study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108(2), 371–382.
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- Cite any sources in APA format.