Kids from different economic backgrounds behave differently in classrooms. For example, working-class kids are less likely to ask for help from teachers than are their middle-class counterparts. And when they do ask for help, they’re less aggressive about it. That’s according to a study that followed students from the third grade through the fifth, published in the journal American Sociological Review. [Jessica McCrory Calarco, Coached for the Classroom: Parents’ Cultural Transmission and Children’s Reproduction of Educational Inequalities]
Part of the difference in how kids act comes from the guidance they’ve gotten at home. As a rule, working class parents coach their kids to work out problems on their own. And if the kids did ask for help, it was in subtle ways—like sitting quietly with a hand raised. Middle class kids? Their parents urged them to be proactive, even to interrupt their teachers for help.
The result is that teachers were more likely to attend to the assistance-seekers and louder class-participators. Which left working class kids behind and magnified inequalities. So the working class child’s behavior, which they and their parents see as “respectful,” could impair their success in the classroom. And prevent them from joining their classmates in higher social classes.
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