Deficit Thinking

Deficit thinking is a catch-all term for various theories that conjecture that lack of student achievement in urban schools is the fault of the students' races, cultures and/or socioeconomic status. The proponents of these theories offer many justifications for their views, but they share one commonality: they place blame for underachievement on the oppressed, rather than on the societal structures and institutions that do the oppressing. Deficit thinking therefore contributes to processes of social reproduction by creating self-fulfilling prophecies about the academic capabilities of students.

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Valencia, R. & Solórzano, D. (2004). Today's deficit thinking about the education of minority students. In O. Santa Ana (Ed.), Tongue-Tied: The lives of multilingual children in public education (124-133). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.