Monday, April 20, 2009

Talking Points #10 Power, Privilege, and Difference What Can We Do? By: Allan Johnson

Johnson argues that "removing what silences them and stands in their way can tap an enormous potential of energy for change." By this I believe he means that the oppressed need to be able to voice their struggles in their way that has an immediate impact on our society so that they may have an equal voice and privilege as straight white men.

1. "Just as privileged groups tend not to be aware of privilege, they also tend not to be aware of how it happens from one moment to the next. Developing that ongoing awareness is a key to becoming part of the solution."

I feel that this quotation contributes to Johnson's question of "What can we do?" As a straight white male, I receive privileges that others do not and I am not always aware of it. However, I am starting to gain awareness and I have practiced training my mind to think like Johnson and other authors we have read. In my last post, I took a picture of the current Rhode Island Senate which is all white people and mostly men. I feel I am training myself to notice these unfair and unbalanced things and by doing so, Johnson would agree I am becoming part of the solution. My contribution to the solution as a straight white male is self awareness. I need to continue to notice things that are unfair and unbalanced. The truth is that change can occur when oppressed peoples' points can get across to the rest of us. And it is also true that straight white men need to open their eyes and see the need for change in order for anything to happen because we are the ones who control the engine for change.

2. "Healing wounds is no more a solution to the oppression that causes the wounding than military hospitals are a solution to war. Healing is a necessary process, but it isn't enough."

My impression is that older people in the dominant group seem to think that now is the time to let the wounds heal and that our work is finally done. Women can finally vote and get jobs and Black people do not have any disadvantages anymore. They even have a Black President now. We are all equal. I really think that this is what older people in the dominant group believe. We have done so much research in this class that goes against this. In two of my older posts, I posted about the large percentage of Black people in jail compared to their smaller population percentage. I also posted about the insane suicide rate for gay people in today's world. This is unfair and unbalanced. The battle for equity is not over. We have been making remarkable progress, but, it is not time to sit back and let things heal. Today with a Black President who's motto is "Change We Can Believe In" strikes me as the best time to keep plugging and striving for change and equity in today's world. This is why I feel this is such an important quotation. I feel strongly that this is the view of many people and it honestly scares me. I believe their are still many objectives that need to be completed. For example, I really hope in my lifetime gays will have the right to marry. I think that the dominant group is putting their feet up on the desk and saying that they have done enough for people who are not in the dominant group lately.

3. "Make noise, be seen." "Find little ways to withdraw support from paths of least resistance and people's chice to follow them." "Dare to make people feel uncomfortable, beginning with yourself."

I like how Johnson offers these solutions to the problems we face in today's society. There are little contributions we can make in the fight for equity. In my opinion, any little thing done to help resolve this issue, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. I find myself not laughing at at racist jokes and more importantly, not bringing them up when I feel I have a chance to. I have tried to pay attention to how I conduct myself in the presence of others and how my privilege effects me. I know it it is true that men feel more comfortable chiming into conversations when they are not called on and take up more space. I caught myself jumping into a discussion in my Statistics class starting with the word "And." Like anything else, practice makes perfect. The more I reflect on my actions and how they are influenced by my privilege, the better able I will be to "level the playing field" and take a step toward the solution.

I liked this article and how it offers solutions to today's complex social issues. I am just trying not to repeat myself in my reflections. I have written pages upon pages of reflections from authors we have studied and I feel like I am mentally exhausted from it. I am glad that I chose to put so much into figuring out all of our articles because these issues will all be prevalent wherever I go and now I have more tools in my toolbox to deal with them.

Another Christensen Argument Picture of RI Senate 2008-2009

I had a unique experience of being selected to be a part of a group called College Leadership RI. Last Friday we had our commencement in the State House. I noticed this picture on the wall, so, I took a snap shot with my cell phone. Even though it is a bit blurry, it is still possible to see all the white faces in the picture. Furthermore, the picture is predominantly men. By having this picture hanging up in the State House, it portrays who has the control influenced by the codes of power. The people in the picture do not equally reflect the population at large today. It reminded me of Christensen just because she would argue that people need to be trained to be able to pick out these sterotypical pictures. I picked it out and just wanted to post to my blog..

Monday, April 13, 2009

Talking Points #9 Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome By: Christopher Kliewer

Kliewer argues that we have to learn to get along as individuals and as citizens based on relationships built on mutual respect because all people have value. This is extended to anyone with disabilities because as a member of society, their presence is just as important as everyone else's.

1. "So what," she continued, "if you don't fit exactly what your supposed to? You know, it's not like I fit many people's idea of what a teacher's supposed to be like."

This reminded me a little bit about how our class is run. We are not evaluated by a midterm and final exam. I really like that this is the way our class is run. I fear the words midterm and final. In our class, we are graded on many different things. Mainly, we are graded on whether or not we make an honest attempt to read information and spend time to write our thoughts down in connection to other authors. I get a lot out of this class and it is not run like every other teacher. Most of my classmates agree that they like how we get to read and interpret readings and offer our thoughts on the subject. I feel like kids with disabilities should be judged this way too. It is still possible to tell if a kid with a disability actually tried on an assignment. That is the proper way to grade. In gym class, we were not graded on how well we played basketball and how many points we scored. That would be unfair to us. This is similar to grading students with disabilities on the quality of their output. The quality of students' effort should be the rubric for scoring.

2. "The more closely the ordering of words in a problem parallels the order of symbols in the equation, the easier the problem is to solve and the more students will like it. Seeing mathematics as a way of understanding the world, of illuminating a phenomenon, as a kind of conversation or enterprise into which even a young person can become meaningfully involved is a rare occurence. And yet, how can genuine understanding ever begin to come about with such an attitude?"

I have found this method of using steps and matching symbols is the easiest way to teach kids math. I have seen in textbooks not that next to each question it says "see page ..." and it gives students a step by step process to solving problems. This has always been the easiest way for me to learn math too. What separated me from most other students is that I would sit there and play with the problem and try all sorts of different methods to answering the same question. I love to explore issues and see them as multifaceted whenever possible so that I can grow as a learner. There is a down side to this method. I have seen students struggle so much with math when they have to really think about a question and it is not straight forward. This is why word problems are always seen as "the worst." It requires the learner to recognizes things out of their usual context. So, as Gardner argues, how can we have a genuine understanding of math when it is delivered to students in this step by step manner. They are losing out on all the connections between math and the real world when they see it on a worksheets without meaning. Furthermore, when they see these problems out of context they have so much trouble figuring out what to do. Gardner also proposes expaned ideas to learning in schools that more closely relate to the real world. I really like and agree with the need to include his seven ideas in the curriculum. For example, I really like number seven. If kids can be taught to deeply understand their self and their choices, we may be able to teach some students to stray from crime and other violent acts. It will give people a way to see just how much thier choices affect other people. This would be a good place to have a handicapped person talk about how other people's choices have affected him or her and will allow students to think deeply about how they make decisions in the future.

3. "Colleen Madison agreed with Shayne that no child was inherently an intellectual burden to a classroom; in fact, she argued, each student contributed a unique and potentially valuable dimension to the web of relationships that formed a school community."

This quotation from the reading really meant a lot to me that someone else feels the same way I do. School should first and foremost, teach its students about the people that make up the world and teach students that it is only when all different types of people are accepted and respected for the value they have that we can have peace and happiness in the world. I love that our class is diverse because I get to learn first hand from many different types of people. As long as we can respect and value the opinions of others, we can learn so much about who they are and their place in our community. Working together is very important and learning how to work and cooperate with a divers group of people makes the workplace so much more productive and easy. I just wish this quotation could serve as a common rule of thumb for all people so that we can learn not to judge others so quickly. There is so much to learn from people different than ourselves and if more people had that same view I feel like this world would be so much more fun for everyone.

I had a little bit of trouble finding Kliewer's voice in his article. There are so many examples about what other authors think that it is hard to see exactly where he stands. This article did remind me about Johnson alot. From a young age, I was always taught not to stare when I saw disabled people. This is a good rule of thumb for a young child. No one likes to be stared at. However, I am older now and as Johnson would argue, we need to practice "saying the words." I have been so used to ignoring disabled people by not staring that I have ignored talking about disabilites in general. I always have to think of the proper speech used and I have to be careful not to offend anyone. It is an uncomfortable feeling similar to the feeling to talking about orientation, race, and sex. As a straight white male, I have felt a lot of this discomfort in class because I feel guilty that I have so many "given" opportunities over others. I am not disabled and also feel a little guilt about that too. I talk to the "man in the wheelchair" who works in Donovan and I am always extra tense around him being careful not to talk about his handicapp. This is the same feeling of discomfort I get when talking about issues of race. I should be able to act normal with him because in all truth there is no reason for me to get so tense around him. Maybe one day I will work up the courage to act normal around him and maybe even one day talk about his handicapp and talk about how it affects his life today. practicing saying the words is the key to relieve that unnecessary tension.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Diversity Blog Entry

I watched the Vagina Monologue play for my Diversity event. It was a very interesting play and was the actresses had a great performance. While watching, I jotted down some notes so that I could try to make connections to the authors we had already read, and the authors I would be reading in the future.
At the beginning of the play, a woman came to the front of the stage to talk about Vagina Monologues and gave us a preview for the show. Immediately after that, another woman came to the front of the stage to replace her and she spoke entirely in Spanish. This connects to Collier because Collier would agree that we need to provide for students' first language skills so that they can more easily learn English. So, by the woman speaking in Spanish to the audience, she is accepting the ESL who know Spanish. By doing this, Collier agrees these Spanish speakers in the audience will more easily understand English and may also understand the rest of the play better.

Another example I noticed from the play was a story about a young woman who was very attracted to her neighbor who was a stunning and beautiful professionally dressed older woman. She was very nervous about this because in our culture, this attraction of a woman to another woman is not accepted by most people. One night the older woman had the younger woman come by for dinner. The young woman's mother was fine with this and thought that it would be "harmless." They had a sexual experience that night. The point I am trying to make is that this was something that the young girl had to keep as a secret because it is frowned upon in our society. This is exactly what Carlson argues about gayness being marginalized. Gayness is "pushed to the margins" in our culture because in the center lies White, male, and heterosexual. This young girl is a product of our culture marginalizing gayness. Carlson argues for "normalizing" gay students so they do not feel this "closeted" and invisible feeling.

Throughout the play, I could not keep track of the number of times they said vagina. They had to say it at least two hundred times during the couple of hours I was there. The first time the audience heard it, everyone looked around and giggled. Vagina is a word that people barely ever use. Johnson would argue that we need to explicitly talk about issues like "saying the words" in our culture. There are too many words in our culture that we are afraid to say and Johnson argues that we need to practice saying those words so that we can have a world where people are treated respectfully and equitable. I always have to think about what I am supposed to say before I say it. This is especially true when I am talking about sexuality, gender, and race. There was even a part of the play where a girl did about twenty-one types of orgasms on stage. The play is an example of how much the media really controls us. There are so many ways in which the media teaches us how to think and act. That is why everything was such a shock and made the audience giggle. Everyone turned to their neighbor to see how they released their feeling of shock and discomfort. It did not bother anyone that they said vagina and faked orgasms on stage. The audience was just not used to seeing and hearing things like that in public because the media never allows that to occur. Johnson would agree that we can only talk about issues once we learn to say the words. If you cannot say the words, how can you talk about it?

Relating to Carlson's gayness issue:

"A Global Movement to End Violence Against Women and Girls"

Fear of the V Word

Monday, April 6, 2009

Talking Points #8 Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work by Jean Anyon

Anyon argues that, "Differing curricular, pedagogical, and pupil evaluation practices emphasize different cognitive and behavioral skills in each social setting and thus contribute to the development in the children of certain potential relationships to physical and symbolic capital, to authority, and to the process of work. The way teachers evaluate students from affluent backgrounds in classrooms compared to students who are from less fortunate backgrounds is a strong indicator of their placement in jobs because more fortunate students are taught how to succeed and less fortunate students are taught obedience.

1. "Don't cut it until I check it." vs. "Don't cut into your clay until you're satisfied with your design."

I found this strikingly similar to my experience in Roger Williams Middle School. The students have had a "project" that involves simple arithmetic in reducing each body part by one-fourth to create a "mini-me." They have to draw ovals for each body part on scrap paper and then cut out each part. The students who were actually participating in the project could not figure out how to do it. The teacher yelled at the students as loud as he could with step by step instructions and then said, "Don't cut it until I give you permission." This concept is important in showing the lack of freedom for working class students to explore. They are regulated unlike more fortunate students who are privileged and given the opportunity to work things out themselves.
I found another example in the article in how control is another issue that limits working class students and promotes more fortunate students. "While strict attention to the lesson at hand is required, the teachers make relatively little attempt to regulate the movement of children at other times." This privilege is allowed for fifth graders in an Executive Elite School but is not allowed at Roger Williams Middle School with seventh and eight graders. Students are extremely regulated here. They are not even allowed to carry back packs in the school. It disgusts me.
"Social studies projects, for example, are given with directions to "find information on your topic" and write it up. In my experience in Roger Williams Middle School, I found that my tutee had a similar boring project. He had to write a letter to James Madison as if he was someone who was meeting him at a congrrgation. The teacher wrote out simple directions with simple guidelines such as, "Ask James Madison questions like, How was your trip here? and How was the weather?" It barely involved any creative thought and examination. The teacher was very much in control of how creative the student could be with the letter, and at the same time, did not challenge the students as much as it could have.

2. "I want to make sure you understand what your doing-so you get it right." vs. "She discusses two-digit division with the children as a decision-making process. Presenting a new type of problem to them, she asks, "What's the first decision you'd make if presented with this kind of example?"

They are missing the elements of analyzing, questioning, and exploring. I found that this quotation relates to another quotaion in the article. "The products of work in this class are often written stories, editorials, or essays, or representations of ideas in mural, graph, or craft form." I remember many primary sources I read in middle school and then secondary sources about that same primary source. I was taught how to find biases and learned how to make decisions regarding what information I chose to accept and reject. It allowed me to make a decision in regards to what I was learning. I know I have benefited from learning in a decision-process manner. I have had the advantage of learning how to make educated decisions from going to an Affluent Professional school and today I am a young supervisor of a small group of college students. Students from working class schools are being trained to be workers and being eveluated on being right or wrong. In the work force, there are two ways to do a job: the right way, or the wrong way. If you do your job the right way, you get to keep working your working class job and if you do your job the wrong way, you have to find a new working class job. This is my impression of what message is being delivered to students. They need to learn other ways besides being graded right and wrong and learn how to explore their own thoughts and ideas just like important people in society have the privilege of doing today.

3. "By Thanksgiving, the children did not often speak in terms of right and wrong math problems but of whether they agreed with the answer that had been given.

This notion of being right or wrong compared to generally agreeing on something is part of the "hidden curriculm" mentioned in the article. This is an important point because for the executive elite school, they are getting a hidden training for the real world of executives. When important decisions are made, executives and high ranking officicials gather in meeting rooms until they generally agree on an answer. This is how all major problems are handled for politicians too. They vote and argue for and against on different bills and try to come with a majority to agree on something. Just getting it right would be part of the hidden training done in middle school. To go along with this, students are given plenty of training that teaches them to wrestle with difficult concepts and form their own educated and well-thought out opinion. For example, "Social studies also invokes almost daily presentation by the children of some event from the news." In my seventh grade classroom, we had to read the paper every Sunday and report on a world event. We had to put it in our own words, look up words we did not understand, and explain our interpretation to the class. There is training done for fortunate students like me that carry over to the real world.

I'm sure it was not hard for you to tell this was my favorite article. I am very much for equity for students in America. It is not fair that some students still get such an advantage over others in education. I was lucky enough to go to a very nice "college prep." school and I want to use that advantage to help teach less fortunate students the hidden curriculum and the codes of power so they can be successful in the world. I want to constantly work on a curriculm that accomodates all cultures and benefits all students who have the passion to learn.