Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Social Justice Event- Across the Great Divide: Crossing Classes and Clashing Cultures by Barbara Jensen

     For my Social Justice Event I attended a lecture presented by Barbra Jensen entitled Across the Great Divide: Crossing Classes and Clashing Cultures. Jensen, who is a community and counseling Psychologist and the founder of the Working Class Studies Association, opened up her presentation by calling on ten volunteers to demonstrate the distribution of wealth across America. Within this exercise, the ten students each started off by occupying one chair each. Next, six people were instructed to give up their chairs and sit on top of six other people already sitting in their own chair. Lastly, one individual who did not give up their chair is instructed to occupy all six of the empty chairs, including the one he/she is already sitting in. What is the point you ask of this exercise? Simple. This is how the wealth is distributed throughout America, unevenly, and unfairly, resulting in the publication of three distinct economic classes: working class/poor, middle class, and upper class/wealthy. Jensen defined the "working class" as people who work with their hands and minds in order to create something; while the "middle class" and "upper class" (she classified it as the "professional class") were made up of teachers, doctors, real estate agents, and more. Jensen then continued her discussion on class in America as a "culture," comparing two confirmation parties she attended. 

     One of the confirmation parties she attended was for her niece, who came from a "working class" family. At the party, the atmosphere was very casual- held inside a simple ranch style house with guests grouped together by age all wearing casual clothing. Jensen noticed at the party that everyone pitched in to prepared the food- a menu consisting of tuna casserole, ham and cheese sandwiches, kool-ade , and soda pop. The party was also very unstructured, carrying on until late hours into the night or when ever the guests felt ready to leave. Meanwhile, a couple weeks later, Jensen attended another confirmation party for family friend a couple miles away. When walking into the party, guests were greeted by a large, decorated house with a guest book by the door so guest could sign their names allowing for the host family to send appropriate thank-you cards out. Adults and children gathered all together throughout the house, with the focus on the young girl who had just received the sacrament of confirmation in the middle. Elegant clothing was also worn and the food was served to guest on formal silver platters, consisting of keesh, sliced fruit, a special home-made punch, and freshly growned brewed coffee. As for entertainment, the young girl shared her accomplishments and achievements with fellow guests and an artist was hired to draw caricatures. The party ended after three hours, and guests were greeted good-bye as they left.

     I found Jensen's example to be very interesting, since I was able to notice the many differences portrayed between each class. It made be think of SCWAAMP, Johnson, and Kozol, realizing that people conform to certain ideologies, are definitely privileged, and that it surrounds around the idea of an institutional problem rather than individual one. Today, we are currently seeing the greed that corporations are continuing to get away with, such as Verizon, causing individuals to strike in protest for benefits and higher wages to support themselves. On the other hand, their are a handful of individuals within the "upper class" realizing the unequal distribution of wealth and greed in this country, so they give back to individuals working hard for their share. This example just recently occurred within the Chobani company.

     Overall, I though Jensen's presentation was good, but I was disappointed in the manor of her presenting skills, feeling as if it took away from her message and wished it had been geared towards young people more as well. Jensen does have a website that talks about some of the books she has published and other information about her work as well. You can find it here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change by: Ira Shor

     'FNED 346- Schooling in a Democratic Society.....' We claim that our society is truly democratic. A nation created upon the basis of equality, freedom, and justice for all. A government established "by the people for the people." If this is what we claim to be true, then why are we educating students like robots to complete against each other, some already with an advantage since they are accustomed to Lisa Delpit's "rules and codes of power," for the coveted spot in society that will allow them to claim prosperity without the fervor to make a difference in the world? Ira Shor argues that the concept of 'schooling' in our nation can be defined as a "vast undertaking and mass experience in society, involving tens of millions of people, huge outlays of money, and diverse forces contending over curriculum and funding [which] converges schools, programs, and colleges [to have] each generation socialized into the life of the nation."  Where is the freedom within this context? or the equality?

    Shor continues his argument by urging America's teachers to inspire their students to question their schooling, a term that some students are familiar with as analysis or critical thinking. Unfortunately, the concept of analysis and/or critical thinking has become restricted, in some cases even eliminated from school districts, due to a "deficiency in school's curriculum" where the students are faced with the "task of memorizing rules and existing knowledge, without questioning the subject matter or learning process." Shor quotes Freire, who contributes this problem to an "education[al] [system] that tries to be neutral [to] support the dominant ideology in society"..... a direct connection with Leslie Grinner's SWAAMP. We shouldn't be following curriculums that limit interaction in the classroom as a "one-way transmission of rules and knowledge between teachers and students" as Shor states. Students should be allowed to collaborate with each other and foster learning through one and other, whether it be by discussion, debate, technology use, critical analysis essays, or more. When limit the learning experience of students based on traditional curriculum, textbooks, themes, tests, seat arrangements, grading systems, standardized tests, portfolio projects, rules and codes for speaking, choices on the cafeteria menu, what districts get federal funding based on efficiency and those who don't, what technology is accessible and acceptable in the classroom, all impact a students ability to foster creativity and learn to be critical thinkers. Shor states that in order to establish democratic schooling in our society we must "orient subject matter to student culture-their interests, needs, speech, and perceptions-while creating a negotiable openness in class where the students' input jointly creates the learning process."        

-Questions/Comments/Points to Share:

   Since this is the last blog post, I thought I would reflect on what I have taken away from FNED 346 in conjunction with Shor since this piece did a good job with helping me summarize my learning experience. Ever since I was in the second grade and about seven/eight years of age, I've always known that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. That being said, before I started college and this course, I always assumed that teaching consisted of a process that followed curriculum, created lesson plans, managing a classroom in a productive and organized manor, all while educating students about History, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Writing, etc. I've been able to come to the conclusion that this profession entitles much more than this. Ethnicity, economic status, sexual orientation, ideologies, politics/government, special education, Linguistics, equality, and more all play a part in the day to day life of a teacher, followed by teaching the basic subjects above. I've also come to the realization, and believe Shor would agree with me, that our educational system is corrupt. We describe education in our nation as an 'opportunity', according to Kristof, when in reality there are many more words that should be used to describe our education system, but we shy away from them since we are too afraid to acknowledge the problem, according to Johnson. I came across a video that I believe "hits the nail on the head" when it comes to defining an educators job in society. Check it out below.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome by: Christopher Kliewer

     In the beginning of Kliewer's piece, he introduces a young man named Jason Kingsley who describes the challenges of living with Down Syndrome. Kingsley states that people are knowledgeable of the fact that people with disabilities are able to learn and endeavor a full, rich life. On the other hand, the challenge is to eliminate the negative stigma towards people with developmental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes, and break the barriers for people with disabilities. Kingsley ponders  "how do we erase those negative attitudes [when] people without disabilities are judging us?"

     After reading Kingsley's question, I could not help but stop and pause. I completely understand where Kingsley is coming from, since I too face this challenge. When I entered into the third grade, I began having a difficult time in school especially when it came to grasping the concepts of mathematics. I used to spend hours at the table erasing problem after problem and eventually ending up in tears, since I could not figure out the answer and was fearful of receiving a "bad grade." As I continued my elementary schooling, I still struggled in mathematics to the point where my parents decided to have me tested so I could receive "extra help." As I entered middle school, course work stared to become increasingly difficult and made me become extremely anxious. It turned out via the testing results that I had a slight learning disability, causing me to take a longer time to process information and concepts I was learning. I was able to get help from my teachers and was offered extended time on tests and quizzes usually. In my middle school, the grades were divided into two different teams of teachers. One was known as the seventh or eighth grade team (depending on your grade) and the other was known as the bridge team (who taught both grades). I was apart of the bridge team for both seventh and eighth grade, and absolutely loved my teachers due to their unconditional support. On the other hand, I was always told by my classmates (some of which whom I thought were close friends) that the bridge team was known as the "stupid team" and that you were placed on that team since you were not advanced or qualified to be apart of the seventh or eighth grade teams. This statement always bothered me, as well as other students who were apart of the bridge team now contemplating the concept of themselves not being "good enough." Just because I was apart of this separate team of different teachers and usually took more time than the average student to complete and assignment does not make me "stupid," which I have come to the conclusion of now. As a young middle school student, that acknowledgment was hard believe at the time. When my teachers found out about this association being rumored throughout the school, they assured me and other team classmates that this was no the case at all, and our grades and awards that were achieved proved a point. As I transitioned into high school, I was able to work with a resource teacher through my four years who helped me to reach graduation tremendously. To this day, there are no words to describe how appreciative I am of her help and support. Even though I was apart of the academic support center in high school, I was able to achieve high and excelsior honor rolls, receive stellar grades, was awarded numerous awards (including a scholar ship), and graduate with the commitment of attending college in the fall. Still, students in my high school teased and joked around with each other, making comments about how academic support center was for "stupid" students and that they got the easy way out. All I can say is: how dare they. If they only knew what it was like to live your life with a disability.

    Kliewer's observation of Shayne Robbins' classroom was really inspiring for me to read, since she understood that not all children learn the same way. I love her quote, "So what, if you don't fit exactly what you're supposed to? You know, it's not like I fit many people's idea of what a teacher's supposed to be like." Kliewer continues to build on this point by going on to say that Shayne "recognized a child's nonconformity as natural human diversity; a source of strength that could be supported by the school community in order that it add a unique and valuable dimension to that community."  This point I feel is exactly right. These students just need that extract help or support system to instill their academic ability and can benefit others, whether its fellow students or even teachers, to learn from them.   

 -Questions/Comments/Points to Share:

  Recently while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across this open letter written by a young women who had dedicated her life to working with children diagnosed with autism. I feel that her message which she conveys throughout the letter connects with Robbins and Judith Snows' ideology. I encourage you to check it out.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Map The Authors Chart

The following link will bring you to my Map the Authors Document. The three authors I chose are: Kristof, Rodriguez, and This American Life.


Literacy with an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children In Their Own Self-Interest by: Patrick J. Finn

     Patrick Finn centers his argument around the concept of illiterate and literate Americans based on their education and how it limits their ability to become powerful leaders in society or low-men on the totem pole in an assembling factory job line. Finn states that we have created two types of education: the kind that empowers individuals to hold positions of power and authority and the kind that domesticates individuals making them productive and functional enough to depend on and not worry about. For my post, I decided to choose three quotes from Finn's piece and relate them to previous authors we have discussed in class.

1. "There were about four hundred eighth graders who were sorted by reading scores from highest to lowest and divided into fifteen classes , 8-1s being the highest, 8-15s being the lowest. But they didn't divide them exactly equally."

     This quote describes Finn's first job as a language arts and social studies teacher on the South side of Chicago at Carol Jason Banks Upper Grade Center. Finn states that children divided into these classes were "handled," and if they acted out they were sent into the lowest classes since most of these rooms could accommodate the students due to specifically lower numbers to give these lower-performing students more attention. After reading this quote, I immediately thought of Jeannie Oakes piece and the concept of tracking. Even though Oakes mentions the pros and cons of tracking, in Finns case this type of tracking is not benefitting any of the students, since class sizes are too large in advanced levels, teachers are tough to handle students instead of encourage learning, and disobedient students are moved into lower level classrooms distracting students who need more support to learn the material.

2. "I didn't say to an errant student, "what are you doing?" I said, "Stop that and get to work." No discussion. No openings for an argument."

"All of us -teachers and students-were locked into a system of rules and roles that none of us understood and that did not allow for much in the way of education."

    These two quotes screamed Lisa Delpit's argument to me after completely reading them. Delpit stresses that we have to be explicit and direct with students in order to get our message across or be understood. Delpit also stresses that if someone does not know the rules and codes of power, then it makes acquiring power harder to do.

3.  "When students begin school in such different systems, the odds are set for them. I'd like to hope that a child's expectations are not determined on the day she or he enters kindergarten, but it would be foolish to entertain such a hope unless there are some drastic changes made."

   This quote concludes Finn's chapter, and reminded me of Kristof argument. Kristof stated that even though American's describe America as a "land of opportunity" this is only true for small percent of people and not universally. Kristof further supports this argument by quoting that poor or working-class children "grow up in the kind of socially rigid hierarchies that our ancestors fled, the kind of society in which your outcome is largely determined by your beginning." What Finn is trying to say is that a child's opportunity in the future should not be determined by what model of schooling they are accustomed to.

-Questions/Comments/Points to Share:

   Upon concluding Finn's piece, I realized that there really are different "models" of schooling in society when looking back on my elementary, middle, and high school career. Just as This American Life spoke about the injustice of poorly performing school districts to highly performing school districts could be reformed through the process of integration, I personally think this whole "model" based method of schooling based on economic class, illiteracy, or ethnic background needs to be changed as well. Its not fair, but then again what really is?

Monday, March 21, 2016

This American Life: The Problem We All Live With by: Ira Glass & Separate and Unequal by: Bob Herbert

      Brown vs. Board of Education united five separate cases, each from a different state, concerning the issue of segregation in public schools. On December 8, 1953 the following court cases were heard
The Brown Family
at the Supreme Court level: Brown vs. Board of Education Topeka (Kansas), Briggs vs. Elliot (South Carolina), Davis vs. Board of Education of Prince Edward County (Virginia), Boiling vs. Sharpe (Washington D.C), and Gebhart vs. Ethel (Delaware) (, 1) (, 1). The Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, looked into the constitutionality of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and investigated if black and white schools were “substantially” equal to one another by reviewing psychological studies (, 1). On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court ruled on the court case Brown vs. Board of Education in Brown’s favor. Chief Justice Warren delivered the court’s opinion, stating “we conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal…” (, 1). The Supreme Court found the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause to imply that “no state has the right to deny anyone within jurisdiction equal protection of the law” (, 1). The Supreme Court also found that African American girls in segregated schools had low racial self-esteem, causing the court to conclude that separating children based on race creates dangerous inferiority complexes that may adversely affect African American children’s ability to learn

(, 1). About a year later, May 31, 1955, The Supreme Court ruled in a case referred to as Brown II to have states integrate their schools “with all deliberate speed” (, 1). 

        After reading along with the public radio recording of This American Life: The Problem We All Live With narrated by Ira Glass and following it up with Bob Herbert's article, entitled Separate and Unequal, I was utterly shocked, disgusted, and somewhat embarrassed to find out that the issue of "separate but equal" still remained an issue in many areas across our nation approximately 61 years later after our Supreme Court concluded it to be "unconstitutional." Once I finished reading, I immediately connected many points from both articles to previous authors Johnson and Kristof. Johnson's concept of "say the words" appeared multiple times in both readings, along with Kristof's idea that "America is considered to be the land of opportunity for only certain individuals."

        Johnson begins his piece, Privilege, Power, and Difference, by arguing that the American people do not seem to have a universal perception that ‘we’ as a human race are both individually and collectively paralyzed or stuck in a way that continues the trouble and human consequences we are all in. In order for America to so call “dig themselves out” of this trouble, he states that “ you can’t deal with a problem if you don’t name it; once you name it, you can think, talk, and write about it. You can make sense of it by seeing how it is connected to things that explain it and point towards solutions.” In other words, Americans must say the words rather than what Johnson describes as, “discredit the words or twist their meaning or turn them into a phobia or make them invisible.” Ira Glass from This American Life: The Problem We All Live With first interviews Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative reporter for The New York Times who uncovered the behind-the-scenes information around America’s educational system. Hannah-Jones would travel from school district to school district and report on how these districts were trying to improve the so called “bad schools.” What she discovered was that these schools always had the same ideas; ideas that they thought would work. Hannah-Jones realized that she needed to look more into this issue questing “all these different ways that we say [are] going to address this issue aren’t working, so what actually works? I find that there’s one thing that really worked, that cut the achievement gap between black and white students by half.” This one concept that Hannah-Jones found to really work was integration, but yet many people do not think to look to this concept as a way to improve our schools. Hannah-Jones commented on this by stating that “ I think I am so obsessed with this because we have this thing that we know works, that the data shows works, that we know is best for our kids, and we will not talk about it. And it’s not even on the table.” During the second half of This American Life: The Problem We All Live With, Glass introduces the Obama Administration’s education reformation program called Race to the Top. Hannah-Jones and another investigative reporter Chana Joffe-Walt discover from interviewing John Brittain, a civil rights lawyer who changed education in the state of Connecticut, that the Race to the Top federal register does not include anything on school diversity. When the two reporters sat down with Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, and asked why school diversity was not included in the programs federal register, he stated that “I think it would have been very difficult to get that through Congress at that point. Congress had to approve this. And there were other tools to try and get at this.” Hannah-Jones quoted a part of Duncan’s response to this question as stating “he said that they didn’t include it because it’s too toxic.” This then brings me to introduce Herbert’s article, Separate and Unequal, whom I felt summarized these two Johnson examples and Johnson’s argument perfectly by stating that “What [he] thinks is a shame is that we have to do all this humiliating dancing around the perennially uncomfortable issue of race. We pretend that no one’s a racist anymore, but it’s easier to talk about pornography in polite company than racial integration.”

        Kristof’s ideas in his piece entitled, U.S.A., Land of Limitations?, was the second connection I could make. Kristof opens his article by making the argument that many people like to brag of America being the “land of opportunity,” but according to Kristof this description of America is only true for certain people. Kristof quotes Alan Krueger to support his argument by stating “the chance of a person who was born to a family in the bottom 10% of the income distribution rising to the top 10% as an adult is about the same as the chance that a dad who is 5 feet 6 inches tall having a son who grows up to be over 6 feet 1 inch tall.” After the death of Michael Brown in 2014, investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones was impacted by the statement Brown’s mother, Lesley Mcspadden, made to news reporters right after being informed about her son’s death. Mcspadden stated in front of the T.V. cameras “You took my son away from me. Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many!” This then
prompted Hannah-Jones to look into Brown’s school district, Normandy School district that borders on Ferguson in the state of Missouri. Hannah-Jones discovered from the report of Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that Normandy High School received 10 out of a possible 140 total points when measuring academic achievement, number of students who graduate, and college preparation. Meanwhile, in the school district of Francis Howell (approximately 30 miles away from Normandy) they received a whopping total of 135.5 points out of 140. How is it possible for students in the Normandy School District to achieve acceptance into a quality college and graduate with the hopes of becoming a doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, CEO, etc. when children 30 miles over have an increasingly higher opportunity of making these dreams a reality? On the flip side of this problem, some states (such as Connecticut) have been trying to eliminate poorly performing schools by creating “magnet schools” that each specialize on a certain focus, such as astronomy or environmental science. Along with these magnet schools comes the job of Enid Rey, a Connecticut magnet school publicist, to “flip a long American tradition of one way integration” by enticing white students to attend the Greater Hartford CREC Magnet Schools. Enid Rey states that she faces the problem almost every day, even when grocery shopping, of angry Hartford residential families trying to “win” a seat for their children in these magnet schools, which is very hard to do. Rey states that “some of our suburban families come because they get free preschool. I mean, think about it. They could afford to pay. But if you get a magnet seat, you are going to get free preschool. And I think a factor that is also in the back of there is, if it doesn’t work I’ll just go back to my neighbor school. Right? If this whole thing just doesn’t work out for my child, or I don’t feel comfortable, I always have another option right? And they can experiment quite frankly. Not so much the case for Hartford resident families. This is it. This is their shot at quality.” Kristof concludes his article with the quote “more children in America live in poverty now than at the start of the financial crisis in 2008. They grow up not in a ‘land of opportunity,’ but in the kind of socially rigid hierarchies that our ancestors fled, the kind of society in which your outcome is largely determined by your beginning.” If students in poverty stricken communities across our country are not susceptible to the so called “equal” education we are claiming to provide, how are they going to grow up an out way the chances (according to Krueger) that “an N.B.A center is [born] to two short parents” if the opportunities do not exist.

-Questions/Comments/Points to Share:

      I began my post with a paragraph from a primary source analysis paper I had written on Brown vs. Board of Education last semester for my Political Science class and I would also like to share the conclusion I wrote for the paper as well, since the issue of “separate but equal” and concept of “integration” wreaks havoc on the education system in our state of Rhode Island:

       According to a recent article in the Providence Sunday Journal entitled Separate and Unequal, “Rhode Island public schools are among the most segregated in the country resulting in one fifth of the public schools to be more than ninety percent white, while fourteen percent of the public schools are more than ninety percent students of color” (Borg, Anderson, Parker, 1). Segregation continues to persist throughout the state of Rhode Island as the state’s population becomes increasingly diverse. According to the article, it is predicted by the year 2025 that youths of color under the age of eighteen will make up a majority of the state of Rhode Island (Borg, Anderson, Parker, 1). Experts are worried that this segregation will be a cause of failure in students of color, but some states still struggling with this issue are unwilling to discuss the social, psychological, and academic values that integration could bring.