The Myth of the Word Gap: Ideological Obstacles to Equity in Education

Dr. Judith M.S. Pine, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

In the presentation, Professor Pine will explore the consequences of the widespread claim that children in poverty struggle in school because they are exposed to fewer words in their homes. Often falling under the heading of the “word gap” or “language gap”, these claims have been reported in the national press and have become the basis for programs aimed at reducing equity in K-12 education. Professor Pine will argue that the word gap claim is at best an oversimplification of a serious situation, misrecognizing crucial elements of the problem. However, this myth fits well into an existing structure of ideas shared by many of those with influence in education and in government. Solutions based on “language gap” theory may, by playing into a shared set of stereotypes, reinforce rather than reduce the inequity experienced by poor children in the K-12 school.

Date of Lecture:
Wednesday, May 3, 2017