Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Empowering Education" by Ira Shor


1) "Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream."

This first hyperlink is to a documentary directed by Acadamy Award-winning film maker Alex Gibney. In the documentary, Gibney examines the vast differences that can be seen on two different Park Avenues located in New York. One Park Ave. is home to more billionaires than anywhere else on the planet. Just miles away, another Park Ave. in the Bronx is home to extreme levels of poverty, much like some of the other cases we have examined over the course of this semester. The film focuses much of its attention on one staggering fact: the 400 richest Americans control more wealth than the 150 million Americans in the bottom fifty percent of the economic ladder. As Shor points out in his piece, our educational system reinforces many of the economic disparities seen in everyday life. This documentary reemphasizes just how significant and scary those disparities truly are. The two Park Avenues, both located within the same city, seem as if they are two entirely separate countries. Shor explains that this increasingly significant difference is largely due to the educational system in the US and how stereotypes are often perpetuated within their hallways. Those with money are able to send their children to schools that employ the very best programs and educators. While those in the lower classes must make due with whatever is allotted to them.

2) "Why You Should Opt Out Your Children from State Testing" by Ira Shor

In this other piece by Ira Shor, he explains that  the current form of state testing does nothing to benefit students enrolled in public schools. Shor states that public schools are in a state of destruction due to the looting of school funds by charter schools and testing companies. Shor asserts that the constant, mundane style of state testing that currently exists "makes the best years of our kids' lives into a digital hell." According to Shor, these tests are useless and expensive and something that the students in private schools do not have to go through. The tests also fail to examine a multitude of factors that can alter a child's test scores, including family income. Shor explains how SAT and ACT scores, as well as high school and college graduation rates, are directly linked to family income.  Shor accurately describes the system of state testing that currently exists within public schools as a "commercial machine invading and destroying public schools."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome" by Christopher Kliewer


This week's reading was eye-opening to say the least. In many ways, it challenged a great deal of the notions I had learned regarding people with intellectual disabilities. I've always been under the assumption that the type of segregated schooling that disabled children receive was necessary and beneficial. A friend of mine has an older brother with down syndrome (I'll call him John) and I can remember vividly how people used to treat him totally different from everybody else. While everybody loved him and treated him with the utmost kindness and enthusiasm, it is this type of extreme, transparent distinction between those with and without intellectual disabilities My older brother actually went to school with John when they were very young. My brother and John became good friends and, at the time, my brother was completely unaware of anything "different" about John. I always found that interesting. When children are at the earliest stages of their education, those with and without learning disabilities are placed in the same classrooms and it often goes unnoticed. But as we get older, the differences are made known to us for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is the way in which students with disabilities are completely separated from the rest of the student body population, almost as if they are not actual students. I think this type of segregation leads to a great deal of discomfort surrounding intellectual disabilities. I remember being unsure of how to treat John aside from attempting to match his enthusiasm and to try to cover up the fact that I was out of my comfort zone. Looking back at how everybody used to treat John, I realize that I was not the only person who was unsure of how to treat him. I think this sense of uncertainty arises from the fact that children with intellectual disabilities are handled so much differently in school than the rest of the students. I think it's vitally important that we begin to understand just how much people with intellectual disabilities can contribute as working folk who think, feel, and respond in ways that are the same as people without any disability.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pecha Kucha Update

At this point in the Pecha Kucha process, I feel as though Ana and I have a solid foundation to work off of. We have decided to use Delpit as the main piece to focus the rest of our presentation on. We also have examples from Johnson and Collier to use for supporting arguments. Ana made connections to our class discussions with a couple of stories from her SL project. One of the biggest concerns I think there will be is to split our presentation time up evenly. We're going to have to be very efficient during our presentation. We each must say what we want to say in roughly 3 minutes and 20 seconds. That doesn't seem like a whole lot of time, but then again, it may seem like forever when I'm actually presenting. I think it's just going to boil down to preparation and most definitely no procrastination (easier said than done, though). With the amount of work Ana and I got done this week, I am feeling confident.
"The 7 P's"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brown v. Board of Education/"Stuck Between Barack and a Hard Place" (edit)


The material we had to look through this week was really interesting. Civil rights issues have plagued our country since its founding. As we all know, great strides were made toward closing the racial gap in the 1950s and '60s, but as the video and article showed, much more must be done. The materials from this week raised many issues, some of which we have discussed at length over the course of this semester, which is why I opted to focus on these connections in this week's blog post.

Connection #1 - 
I first noticed how much the Tim Wise video, as well as the New York Times article, were related to Johnson's article. In Privilege, Power, and Difference, Allan G. Johnson put a great deal of emphasis on the fact that the privilege of one person or group comes at the expense of another. Johnson explained how it is much easier for those who are privileged to put their heads into the sand and ignore that a problem even exists because they don't feel the direct side effects of that problem. In a similar fashion, Tim Wise explained in the video from this week that, while overt forms of racism (Racism 1.0, as he calls it) are nearly nonexistent, an underlying and equally as dangerous form of racism (Racism 2.0) still rears its ugly head every single day in our nation. Just as Johnson's issues surrounding privilege were easy to ignore, Racism 2.0 can often go unnoticed, which is the characteristic Tim Wise finds so dangerous to the fabric of our society. Racism has always been an issue that white people have downplayed. Wise explained how in 1962, nine of ten white American adults stated that African-American children had the same opportunities as white children. Both Johnson and Wise both agree that we cannot continue to deal with these types of issues in the manners in which we have been. We must address issues regarding undeserved privilege head-on.

Connection #2 - 
I also think the Tim Wise video related to Delpit and the culture of power. Tim Wise discusses the danger that lies within making the assumption that in order for African-Americans to achieve success on the same scale as whites, they must act in accordance with President Obama. While initially this notion may seem to reject Delpit's culture of power theory, I think it teaches a valuable lesson that will further the success of the black community far more than teaching young African Americans to follow what Obama does (or did) to a T. Tim Wise explains that the proper thing to teach minorities is that they should strive to reach the point where racial divides do not exist and are not even thought twice about. Wise explains that that is true equality and power. While Obama's life may seem like a great guide for young African Americans to follow in order to break down racial barriers, true equality will only be achieved when a black person who "went to Indiana State or Michigan" has a serious chance at becoming president. Tim Wise teaches the true keys to power for young African Americans.

Connection #3 - 
The final connection I made is between the NY Times article from this week and the Rodriguez article. Rodriguez attributed his success to the fact that he was forced to speak English at home, not just in school. As Rodriguez became more proficient in English, he began interacting with other students and his teachers. In other words, he became more integrated within the culture of power. This shows that the more one is immersed within the culture of power the more successful they will be. The NY Times article calls for a similar type of immersion into Delpit's culture of power. The article explains how minority students would benefit greatly by being placed within schools with "higher privileged" students. In other words, by being exposed to the culture of power on a daily basis, the racial gap that exists within our country would naturally close and issues of racism would eventually cease to exist.

  Tim Wise Documentary on Youtube!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"In the Service of What?: The Politics of Service Learning"


For this week's blog entry I chose to write an extended comment about Ana's post. Ana based her blog on three quotes from Kahne and Westheimer's piece. The three quotes that she chose were ones that I also found to be very important or interesting. The first quote was, "Altruism can be best appreciated as an experience rather than an abstraction." Ana, I also believe that helping the situation is more important and effective than learning about it, although, as you stated, both are important in their respective ways. I think both ways of learning can go hand-in-hand with one another. A good way to incorporate both the altruistic and abstract forms of learning, educators could discuss the problems at hand prior to, during, and after the students' service learning projects, much in the same style as this class. I think both styles of learning are important because some students learn through abstract ideas, while others are hands-on learners.

I found your comments about the second quote you chose to be really thought-provoking. I thought it was interesting how you said that your high school was more interested in girls not getting pregnant or boys not getting arrested. I feel like this is the case in a lot of public schools throughout the country. As we have learned, many children who reside in inner-cities do not have adequate food, clothing, school supplies, or other resources. I imagine it could be difficult to encourage students who do not have enough to help those who have even less than they do. But nevertheless, regardless of your situation, there is always somebody worse off than you and I think anybody can receive that benefits that come along with helping those in need. My high school required us to do community service and I still volunteer at the same food pantry I did back then. It is a truly rewarding experience.

I especially liked the third quote you picked, Ana. It sends a powerful message, stating that service learning removes the uncertainty and nervousness that surrounds interacting with anything that falls outside of our comfort zone. I liked the connection you made with the Johnson article. You made a very good point in stating how Johnson says that ignorance prevents us from helping the less fortunate. This article tells us that service learning can help everyone become less ignorant in regards to community service. It says how we all could learn a thing or two from this hands-on style of learning and that by incorporating a service learning aspect to the curriculum of our nation's schools, the world could start to become an overall better place.

Side note:
For me, this article raised the question, "Why is there even poverty in the first place?" Of course, while the purpose of the article was certainly not to set out to find an answer to this question, I couldn't help myself from asking it after I let this piece sink in. While providing assistance to the less fortunate undoubtedly creates a better (I couldn't think of the right word to use) society, it is only a small part of the solution to end global poverty. Fundamental changes must be made to every aspects of every society throughout the world before the issue of poverty is eradicated. I just don't know what those changes are. I found another excerpt by Allan G. Johnson called "Why Is There Poverty?" from The Forest and The Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise. In it, as you'd expect, he examines the causes behind the issue of poverty. You can read it here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us" by Linda Christensen


I chose to focus on the main argument Christensen posed in this piece because the strong attitude she had regarding the images children are exposed to in cartoons and other forms of entertainment that are witnessed in everyday life. Linda Christensen argues is that the images we are exposed to growing up are designed to support the stereotypes woven into our society. Instead of using their influence to eradicate society's ideas of the ideal character, media executives prey on the insecurities that these stereotypes help mold. As Christensen explains, the stereotypes created by these images becomes engraved in our society's makeup and are virtually accepted as truth. Christensen asserts that "industrial produced fiction" (Dorfman) shapes how we act and how we feel. It forms our character. The repeated patterns of a dominant race, sex, body type, class, or nationality become subconsciously intertwined among everything else we hold as fact. As a result of these patterns, it becomes increasingly more difficult to distinguish between that which we have found to be the truth based on our own accord and that which has been unknowingly fed to us as the truth. Christensen explains that we must closely examine ourselves, our surroundings, and our upbringings in order to understand the extent to which these kinds of images shape our understanding of the world. Christensen also asserts that all types of persons must be represented throughout the images we are exposed to. For instance, she describes the story of Cindy Ellie as one that "celebrates the beauty, culture, and language of African Americans. It also puts forth the possibility of cross-race alliances for social change." What she explains here is that the images we expose our children to have the power to influence the way our society behaves and can uproot outdated and exclusionary norms. Christensen did not end her description of Cindy Ellie on a positive note though. She labels the story as one that promotes the notion that women have two options: "Happiness means getting a man, and transformation from wretched conditions can be achieved through consumption -- in this case, through new clothes and a new hairstyle." So while Christensen praises Cindy Ellie's usefulness as a tool to promote racial equality, she goes on to exemplify how many of the issues surrounding our culture's stereotypes are rather numerous and deep-rooted. In other words, Christensen's Cindy Ellie description represents how these are issues that cannot be eradicated quickly and easily. To conclude her argument, Christensen explains to the readers that, while it is easier to ignore the fact that all of our personality's are shaped by such far-removed sources, we must work toward exposing our children to images that are far more inclusive of all walks of life.

I was looking up new children's toys and books to get a feel for how things have changed since Christensen wrote this piece. I think much has changed, especially in respect to gender stereotypes. I came across the Let Toys Be Toys campaign on my search. The campaign strives to remove "Boy's" and "Girl's" labels from toys and books.

There's a lot of books nowadays (like this one) that challenge
traditional stereotypes that are commonly found within our society.