GSE Publications

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version

January 2002


As methodological pendulums swing wildly and politicized education reform climates grow hot then cold, as teachers change their books and their seating arrangements, as laptops are issued, as blackboards change to whiteboards, and even as the complexion and language backgrounds of students change dramatically, a certain feature of classrooms may change very little. It is likely that certain students, those who have always struggled through school, will continue to do so. From one perspective, this persistent inequity in the classroom is rarely affected by policy changes because inequity is handed down from societal injustice at large. While certain critical theoretical perspectives on education (e.g., Freire, 1970; Giroux, 1992; Hooks, 1994) investigate, theorize, and practice education by first analyzing injustices outside the classroom, a linguistic anthropological perspective combines this awareness of larger societal patterns with a close look at how the particularities of interactions shape who gets to learn inside a classroom. Linguistic anthropology provides analytic tools to investigate and critique interactions inside, around, and relevant to these classrooms. The promise linguistic anthropology holds for education, then, is in the analytical insights it provides into the relationship between larger sociocultural patterns and the (re)production of inequity, on the level of person-to-person interaction, inside the classroom (Philips, 1993).


Postprint version. Published in Linguistic Anthropology of Education, edited by Stanton Wortham and Betsy Rymes. Copyright © 2003 by Praeger Publishers. Reproduced with permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. Westport, CT.



Date Posted: 15 December 2008