Cultural Code‐Switching: Straddling the Achievement Gap

Journal of Political Philosophy 22 (3):259-281 (2013)
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The ability of agents to “culturally code-switch”, that is, switch between comprehensive, distinct, and potentially conflicting value systems has become a topic of interest to scholars examining the achievement gap because it appears to be a way for low-income minorities to remain authentically engaged with the values of their communities, while taking advantage of opportunities for further education and higher incomes available to those that participate in the middle-class. We have made some progress towards understanding code-switching in sociology, psychology, and education, but the ethical and normative dimensions of the phenomenon have not been fully explored. In this paper, I take an initial step toward doing so by developing a moral psychological model of code-switching. On the basis of my analysis, I argue that code-switchers, if they are not to become ethically unmoored, must subsume code-switching under a comprehensive normative perspective from which they confront and resolve value conflicts. While my target in this paper is limited to code-switching as a means to bridge the achievement gap between disadvantaged minority students and white middle-class students in the United States, the analysis I offer can be extended to think about the moral psychology of biculturalism more generally.



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Jennifer M. Morton
University of Pennsylvania

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