In Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson," what is Miss Moore trying to teach the children in telling them, "Where we are is who we are"? Do any of the children learn it? At the end of the story, what does it mean that Sylvia is going "to think this day through"? What are your thoughts on Miss Moore's style of teaching? Does it work for the children?

In saying "where we are is who we are," Miss Moore means that one's environment influences one's identity. She implies that living in a low-income community is shaping the children's development and limiting their potential. She has encouraged the children to expand their familiarity with other parts of New York. While they initially will probably feel out of place, they can learn to feel at home there as well.

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Miss Moore, a college-educated young woman, is spending some time in a low-income neighborhood where Sylvie and her friends live. They are all African Americans, but Miss Moore is not from the community. She is involved in a service project working with the local children. Starting from the conviction that the children are poor and have a limited understanding of the wider world, she aims to educate them about the differences between their community and other, wealthy areas of New York.

Miss Moore’s statement, "Where we are is who we are," refers to the connection between environment and identity. For the most part, she is referring to the effects on the children of growing up in a low-income, segregated community among other African Americans. She feels that the children’s potential for self-realization is being inhibited by living in this community and that they will benefit from seeing first-hand the great disparities in wealth in the city.

Sylvie carefully thinks over Miss Moore’s ideas, but she cannot agree that they are poor. The field trip to the fancy toy store, FAO Schwartz, in mid-town Manhattan gives her food for thought, but she continues to resent Miss Moore’s condescending attitude. In contrast, Sugar parrots the messages that she knows Miss Moore wanted them to learn, but it seems doubtful that she has processed the meaning.

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