Journal of American Indian Education

Volume 2 Number 2
January 1963


Riessman, Frank, The Culturally Deprived Child (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962) 140 + xv p. $3.95.

This book should be required reading for all teachers of Indian children even though the groups which are discussed are not Indian. The author is involved with the numerically larger groups such as the urban Negro, but there is much here that increases our understanding of all culturally deprived children. Perhaps the following five excerpts will indicate the general drift of the book and increase the reader's interest in knowing the context from which these selections are taken:

In 1950, approximately one child out of every ten in the fourteen largest cities of the United States was "culturally deprived." By 1960, this figure had risen to one in three. This ever increasing trend is due to their rapid migration to urban centers. By 1970, it is estimated there may be one deprived child for every two enrolled in schools in these large cities.

To sum up: effective education of the "one in three" who is deprived requires a basic, positive understanding of his traditions and attitudes. One of the most important attitudes to understand is that of the disadvantages toward education itself.

Deprived children need respect rather than "love" from their teacher. The teacher need not be a substitute parent! Love is not a major issue in the deprived home; it is not used as a discipline technique, and the child generally does not feel that he must win love or that he can lose it. Respect, on the other hand, is something that the child is not likely to have received in the culture at large. This lack of respect is closely connected to his feelings of alienation and resentment. Too many people (in society at large) deprecate him and laugh at him. He himself knows that he is ignorant. He needs a teacher who will stand by him, someone on whom he can depend. For him to be accepted despite his initial hostility and defiance is paramount.

The greatest block to the realization of the deprived individual's creative potential appears to be his verbal inadequacies. He seems to have enormous difficulty expressing himself verbally in many situations.

Understand the culture of the underprivileged, including the positives. This is not the same thing as recognizing the economic difficulties and general life conditions of the educationally deprived. Most informed people are cognizant of the "deprived" side of the picture.

The teacher of Indian children will find much in this small, readable book which rings true when applied to their students. Perhaps this will suggest to some, as it does to this reviewer, that pedagogical devices-no matter how expertly applied-will not correct the educational shortcomings of our Indian population. With this recognition may come attempts to remedy the basic causes of these deficiencies.


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