"They Have Their Own Thoughts"1
A Story of Constructionist Leaming in an Alternative African-Centered Community School
Paula K. Hooper
Many children of color learn from an early age that there are doubts concerning their capacity to develop intellectually. Messages communicated from school (low ability placements in the primary grade), from peers (pervasive anti-intellectualism in their peer group), and the media (expectations of inferiority) all serve to impress upon them that they may not be up to the task of advanced studies. The lack of confidence engendered by the internalization of these messages shapes the meaning of any failure ("I guess this proves I'm not that smart") and undermines the capacity to work ("Why bang my head against the wall if I'm unable to learn the stuff anyway?") ( Moses, 1989, p. 437).
Constructionism . . . has as its main feature the fact that it looks more closely than other educational -isms at the idea of mental construction. It attaches special importance to the role of constructions in the world as a support for those in the head, thereby becoming less of a purely mentalist doctrine. It also takes the idea of constructing in the head more seriously by recognizing more than one kind of construction and by asking questions about the materials used ( Papert, 1993 p. 143).
In the passage quoted at the beginning of this chapter, Bob Moses describes how many school experiences convey messages of intellectual inability to children of color. He creates a very different type of school environment in order to counteract these messages, one that engenders confidence in children of color. His____________________