Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Know That Word

For a time -- and still to this day -- I dabble in the idea that I may like to teach. Education issues fascinate me. Once upon my education I remember hearing about The Perry Preschool study. You may have heard about it, too. It was considered a landmark study which examined the effects of high-quality early care and education on low-income three- and four-year-olds. Most riveting to me at the time I first heard about it was a story associated with the study's approach to testing. This group was one of the first to show evidence that educational testing was cultural. Do you know how?

The toothbrush in the refrigerator. When testers showed preschoolers in the study pictures of household objects and asked them to pair the pictures with related pictures they stumbled upon something I considered insane. While high-performing students outside the study would pair milk with the refrigerator, many children in the study paired the toothbrush with the refrigerator. After much questioning and classroom and in-home observation they learned that these children's mothers kept their toothbrushes in the refrigerator to guard them from cockroaches. Blech.

It unnerved me.

Considered a mistake in the classroom, the wrong answers were actually right. Culturally the children were making a reasonable and sensible pairing. So I had to chuckle when my child's teacher pulled me aside to let me know Cooper was doing really well in word recognition and had learned to identify many words by sight. But there was one word he consistently missed.

He aced worksheets that listed Apple, Nordstrom, Costco, McDonald's, Target, 24-Hour Fitness, and King Soopers. But show him Safeway and he would answer, "Starbucks." The teacher just couldn't figure it out.

Ashamed as I am, I have to confess it's the Bobo factor. You've seen them (and by them I mean me) sipping vente, skinny mistos, texting from smart phones, and listening to NPR while driving (no texting while driving) a fairly clean SUV to Williams and Sonoma to shop for $24 cherry pitters. The bourgeois bohemians -- or Bobos.

Every time I've ever pulled into Safeway's parking lot -- with kids in tow -- it's been to, "grab Starbucks" from the instore barista not grocery shop. Amusing stereotypes aside, my children are experiencing the cultural consequences of the information age.

PS -- Right now my husband is probably reading this and gagging. Sorry babe.


African Kelli said...

Bobo. I love it! And I hadn't heard of that story before. It is so good to think of cultural implications before making "right/wrong" judgments.

The Martell Family said...

What I wouldn't give to pull into Safeway! I really miss our neighborhood, Colorado, especially you guys! Any chance we could skype soon? Jack really misses Cooper.

laurel said...

Funny! I didn't know they had Safeways any more.