white privilege and writing

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Susan Naomi Bernstein wrote “Writing and White Privilege: Beyond Simple Skills” in 2004 and it was published by Duke University. Bernstein claims that English-speaking children outperform non-English-speaking children in Basic English skills. She claims that the disparities are due to cultural and socioeconomic factors. Bernstein contends that most schools view the requisite skills as an indicator of a student's accountability, and so they have become the basis for instruction, with standardized assessments used to determine student achievement in these skills. However, since non-English students mainly migrants and colored students have a limited understanding of these skills, they score poorly compared to their counterpart white students. The result of these test has differentiated non-English speaking people from the white with them being viewed as “others.” She proposes that the only way to help the non-native English speaking students to have a good score in the test is to engage them in imaginative writing.


Bernstein uses experiences and poem to help her audience to understand the difference in performance in Basic English skills between whites and other races. She argues that the love for an easy and quick solution among the whites explain why their children have high performance in basic skills. Bernstein uses the experience of 9/11 terrorist attack in the US to explain the social injustice such as ethnic and racial harassment between the white and other races. The author manages to bring out the social, economic differences that exist between the white race and the non-natives as well as people of color. She argues that the most disadvantaged in the society particularly the migrants and colored students are the victim of low standardized scores. To explain the inequality, Bernstein uses poems to demonstrate the perceptions of the non-English speaking students and those who are economically disadvantaged. The audience of this poem is educators and students. Bernstein aims to show that the standardized testing is not justifiable in social, ethnic and racial divided schools settings. She also demonstrates that the difference in the understanding of fundamental skills may also affect teachers who carry out the tests. Bernstein proposes that imaginative writing can non-English speaking students to improve their standard scores.


Bernstein, Susan Naomi. "Writing and white privilege: Beyond basic skills." Pedagogy 4.1 (2004): 128-131.

October 19, 2022

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