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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Safe Spaces" by Annemarie Vaccaro, Gerri August, and Megan S. KennedySa

CONNECTION...and a little reflection:

1) Although LGBT issues have necessarily affected my life on a personal level, they are part of everybody's lives. Nobody can deny that problems have arisen from the LGBT movement and, therefore, nobody is free from the burden of solving those problems. It is in this sense that Safe Spaces directly relates to the issues discussed in Johnson's work, Privilege, Power, and Difference. Johnson stated that we as individuals are connected to the problems that arise from our society's structures and that the comfort of the privileged groups comes at the expense of the comfort of more marginalized persons. Johnson also said that the realization that every individual is involved in these types of issues "is the only thing that gives us the potential to make a difference." The suicides of the people mentioned at the beginning of the Safe Spaces piece let us know that solving LGBT issues is a task that requires the attention of every member of the human race. I believe that any judgment regarding unalterable characteristics (race, sexual orientation, gender, etc.) stems from the insecurity of the one judging -- whether its conscious or not. We're all insecure and enjoy remaining within our comfort zones, but I think Safe Spaces and the Johnson piece help us understand that if we can all try to expand our comfort zones and become more secure individuals, then many of our society's problems might not exist...or may not be as prevalent.

2) Safe Spaces was also very much so related to the Rodriguez piece. Both pieces acknowledge the fact that teachers must be more aware of how to properly deal with the issues discussed in the respective articles. In Rodriguez's piece, the nuns did not fully understand how to properly incorporate his first and second languages through practices like code-switching. In the same sense, teachers must also understand how to properly consider the impact of school on the social and psychological development of youth. As Safe Spaces says, teachers must create environments that do not have exclusionary attitudes and beliefs toward LGBT members. The curriculum of our schools must also incorporate LGBT topics within its classrooms. Teachers should strive to create a classroom environment where members of the LGBT community do not feel different from those who are heterosexual. Just as shying away from a student's first language may be detrimental to his or her ability to learn English, shying away from LGBT issues in the classroom also has negative consequences to the members of that community.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Aria" by Richard Rodriguez


I chose to do a reflection about Rodriguez's work because it caused me to do a great deal of thinking for a couple of reasons. It was interesting to compare and (mostly) contrast his experiences in school to my own. Not only weren't there any ESL students in any of my classes preceding college, there weren't even any in entire elementary, middle, or high schools that I attended. Growing up, I don't think I even realized that there were students the same age as me struggling to communicate with their peers and teachers. I was unaware that being in a classroom where linguistic problems do not arise was a privilege. I had no idea the struggle that many teachers and students were going through due to these types language barriers. What really stuck with me was what Rodriguez said at the end of his piece. He talked about the relationship between the two types of individualism: private and public. Rodriguez stated that one gains public individualism at the cost of private individualism. He discussed how his assimilation into his school reduced the amount of communication done at home. That assimilation process must have been painful for him. In order to become a successful part of society in the U.S., Rodriguez was forced to sever certain cherished aspects of his family life. He described how he missed speaking Spanish at home with his family because it provided them with a type of private communication that everyone was comfortable with. He also noted negative changes in the behavior of his parents. I never had to distinguish between public and private communication. Looking back on my days at Catholic school, it seems as if the two were merged together. Everything that was expected of me at home was also expected of me in the classroom. I never had to make too many distinctions between private and public interaction. My parents never had to do without certain cultural traditions to ensure that I was successful in the public sphere. I had it much easier than Rodriguez did, although I was unaware of it back in the day. To paraphrase Johnson, the comfort that I felt being taught in English-only classrooms my entire life came at the expense of someone else's comfort. Rodriguez's piece further opened my eyes to the fact that my experiences growing up were vastly different than those of many others. I am grateful to be taking this class because I already feel that it is turning me into a more empathetic person, and I truly believe empathy is something that is greatly lacking in the world today.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation" by Jonathan Kozol

QUOTATIONS: The three quotes that I used are in red

This excerpt from Jonathan Kozol's book was powerful. As Kozol retold a conversation he had with a seven-year-old boy named Cliffie from the South Bronx, I felt a strong sense of compassion, as well as guilt. I couldn't help but feel as though the level comfort that I had growing up in a middle-class, suburban neighborhood was undeserved. Kozol's and Cliffie's vivid descriptions of the conditions in the South Bronx were eye-opening to say the least. Because of those descriptions, I chose to use three quotations from Kozol's work as the basis of this blog post.

Quote #1:
The first quotation from Kozol that I picked conveys a strong sense of the fact that many people from higher social classes often hold poverty-stricken communities to a certain level of disdain. This quotation came from a conversation Jonathan Kozol had with Cliffie's mother regarding a waste incinerator that had recently been placed in the South Bronx. Cliffie's mother explained how the burner was originally planned to be built in Manhattan, "but the siting of a burner there had been successfully resisted by the parents of the area because of fear of cancer risks to children." Does that mean the parents of the South Bronx were not equally concerned and did not resist equally as hard? Of course not. It simply means that the powers-at-be do not see the residents of the impoverished areas of their city as important. The opinions and health of the South Bronx residents did not matter as much because the residents of Manhattan made more money (Kozol stated that in 1991, the median household income in the South Bronx was only $7,600). It is saddening to know that children are born into surroundings that constantly remind them that they are regarded as unimportant. As teachers, we are expected to be unbiased and demonstrate how each individual is equal. In an environment such as the one Kozol describes, that is a tall order to fulfill because every other aspect of these children's lives suggests otherwise. The organization of our society makes it clear that everyone is, in fact, unequal. We are surrounded by elements that are designed to created insecurity and as a result of that insecurity, humans have forever done wildly unjust things to other humans.

Quote #2:
The second quotation that I chose came from the same conversation Kozol had with Cliffie's mother. She explained how people from different areas come to the South Bronx to dump their unwanted goods. She stated, "People who don't live here come and dump things they don't want: broken televisions, boxes of bottles, old refrigerators, beat-up cars, old pieces of metal, other lovely things." Once again, this quote exemplifies how, often times, people from higher classes disregard the wants, needs, and feelings of   those citizens residing in poverty. Just like Quote #1, this quote represents how higher-class citizens often possess the notion that people of the lower-class care less (or should care less) about the sanitation of their respective neighborhoods. It also reemphasizes the neglect our government has for certain groups of people and the notion that people are judged most heavily on their income.

Quote #3:
The third quote I chose also exemplifies how the many of the powers-at-be often show disregard for the well-being of our current poverty-stricken population. The quote also comes from Cliffie's mother while she is explaining to Kozol how 3,000 homeless families had been relocated to her neighborhood within the span of a few years. She doesn't understand the rationale behind the relocation, saying, "This is the last place in New York that they should put poor children. Clumping so many people, all with the same symptoms and same problems, in one crowded place with nothin' they can grow on? Our children start to mourn themselves before their time." By including this quote in his book, Kozol once again stresses the fact that poverty-stricken communities are treated with total disregard. The quote shows how those in positions of power have not made an effort to solve the problems within many neighborhoods within cities across the country. Instead, as seen in the South Bronx, the problems have only been perpetuated.

The three quotations that I picked, while only a small segment of the Kozol piece, encompass the main idea that children who grow up in environments like the South Bronx have to overcome much more than children born into higher classes. Kozol's conversation with Cliffie and his mother showed how poverty-stricken communities within the United States are often an afterthought in society. Like Jonhson stated in the first article, "The trouble we're in privileges some groups at the expense of others." Overall, this excerpt from Kozol made me realize how important money is, especially Quote #1.
A good documentary about social injustice and a
lot of what we've been discussing in class.

Money never ends.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Intro, yo.

What's up? My name is Pat Brindamour and I grew up in East Providence. I am 21 years old. I am a junior and majoring in secondary education and history. I am the youngest of three and so far I have enjoyed life. I went to Bishop Hendricken and I played baseball there. I do not play anymore but I would definitely enjoy being a coach. I don't have too much free time between school and work. I am employed as a part-time maintenance man at Providence Country Day School, which is in East Providence. I enjoy many different types of movies and music. I am also a fan of stand-up comedy. Sometimes I run pick-up basketball games with my squad. I used  to play basketball in elementary and middle school. This is the first education class I have taken but there seems to be a great group of folks up in here so I am looking forward to the rest of the semester and getting to know everyone.