This confirms something that I've strongly believed for years: that, in our attempts to contextualize material for students from racial and ethnic minority groups, we must continue to uphold high standards and believe in the students' capacity to achieve. One of my pet peeves with old-school liberal approaches to social work was the "White Man's Burden" attitude that these well-meaning workers carried around with them. When you assume that the people you're working with are so far "beneath" you that they're never going to amount to anything without your help and guidance, you demean them and diminish the opportunities for them to live up to their potential. Look at the dramatic difference in results when poverty relief organizations shifted from giving handouts to making microfinance loans that could help people start businesses: the latter approach gives the aid recipient much more responsibility -- and assumes that he is capable enough to handle it. As a result, organizations like Kiva are making more of an impact in fighting poverty than traditional charity ever did.
... teachers who see students from an affirming perspective and truly respect cultural differences are more apt to believe that students from nondominant groups are capable learners, even when these students enter school with ways of thinking, talking, and behaving that differ from the dominant cultural norms. Teachers who hold these affirming views about diversity will convey this confidence by providing students with an intellectually rigorous curriculum, teaching students strategies for monitoring their own learning, setting high performance standards and consistently holding students accountable to those standards, and building on the individual and cultural resources that students bring to school.
We have to take the same approach with our students: we are investing knowledge in them, and expecting them to manage it responsibly and produce a useful return on the investment. We can learn how to make the most of our students' experiences so that we can help them grasp the material more readily -- but ultimately they are responsible to use that knowledge, and we have to show them that we believe in their capacity to do so.