James Paul Gee: Poor Writing exposes Racism

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 4.36.29 PMI am having a difficult time getting through this 2007 book by James Paul Gee because I am grossly distracted by Gee’s weasel words, e.g., it has been argued that… Why couldn’t he find the time (or a grad student for that matter) to find an actual reference to support his statements? What is worse than his use of equivocal language, is his use of equivocal language to make bold statements about Black students and their resistance to learning how to read!

“It has been argued that some poor urban African American children and teenagers resist learning literacy in school because they see school-based literacy as “white,” as associated with people who disregard them and others like them…In fact, they resist learning in school in order to privilege another identity that such learning would put at risk ” (Gee, 2007,p.55).

It has been argued by whom? Knock, knock? Professor Gee? Reference this charged statement please! Signithia Fordham (Blacked Out, 1996) maybe? Like Fordham, Gee’s social commentary is in regard to a forced hegemonic curricula, but unfortunately, his lack of reference exposes a peek at something that rings of racism.

Of point, who are the “they” he has “facts” about in the quote above? Did he really publish the phrase “In fact” about Black students without referencing where he got this “fact”? How could this slip past his editor? And, to whom is he referring when he writes “they”? Does “they” equate to all Black students in the mind of Jim Gee? For me, I think yes, he does. It reads like he is making a blanket statement (one that he is claiming to be factual) about ALL Black students.

I have the impression that Gee believes that all Black students resist learning. I also have the impression that he believes that each and every Black student has “another identity” that aligns with their Black culture. Okay, maybe I’ll buy it, but, not as a universal “fact,” as James Paul Gee implies. Unfortunately, I also have the impression that J.P. believes that this Black identity is antithetical to learning how to read—he even calls it a FACT.

Wait, what?!! Yes, there is racism here! Are we only seeing the tip of the iceberg?

  • Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. NewYork, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan. (chapter 3 Learning and Identity: What does it mean to bea half elf?)

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