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) (www.ourdocuments.gov, 1) (www.pbs.org, 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 (www.pbs.org, 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…” (www.uscourts.gov, 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” (www.pbs.org, 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

(www.pbs.org, 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” (www.uscourts.gov, 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.

        

 

 

    

Sunday, March 13, 2016

In The Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning by: Joeseph Kahne & Joel Westheimer

        In the article "In The Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning" the authors, Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer make the argument that many educators, legislators, business owners, and reformers maintain the same ideology around the implementation of service learning. These individuals claim that service learning opportunities improve communities while refreshing the classroom experience for students in hopes of promoting self-esteem, higher-order thinking, the use of multiple abilities, and instillation of active participants throughout the community in order to foster authentic learning experiences based upon curriculum concepts that aim to respond to the communities' needs. On the other hand, Kahne and Westheimer mention that the fundamental question: In the service of what? has been neglected to be answered by these service learning supporters. Kahne and Westheimer's goal throughout the article is not focused on replacing consensus with conflict, but to provide awareness around the numerous ideological, political, and social goals that service learning opportunities in schools can promote.  


         Many schools across the state of Rhode Island promote the implantation of service learning opportunities for their students. Towards the middle of the article, Kahne and Westheimer quote John Dewey’s (a past reformer) opinion on service learning. Dewey states how he supports the concept of service learning opportunities since it embraced the "essence of a democratic education." He wanted students to be able to engage in service learning not only to recognize their academic abilities and commitments in the process of serving others, but to also use the opportunity as way to help students respond in meaningful ways with the hopes of approaching societal concerns and implementing change. Many schools across the country, including Rhode Island have still adopted, what Khane and Westheimer call, “a new Carnegie unit” developed by the late Ernest Boyer of the Carnegie Foundation. This unit requires that all students take part in a volunteer/service learning experience within their school or community as a condition for graduation from high school. Today, this unit concept is known as a “senior project” or “service opportunity intention” depending on if you attend a public or private school.
 

-Questions/Comments/Points to Share:

     Since middle school, I have participated in numerous forms of volunteer activities and service learning opportunities as part of the requirements to be inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, National Honor Society, in order to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, as part of my religion class grades in high school, as part of my religion class junior year know as the Christian Action Program, and now continuing to partake in the opportunities in College. I have always enjoyed performing service and agree with Khane and Westheimer's argument that it can improve the community while providing a student with a rich educational experience that expands beyond the classroom. Many of my service experiences have contributed to strengthening my passion and decision making in the area of my major: an elementary/early childhood special education teacher. I have been able to teach religious education to different age levels for the past five years, assisted a preschool teacher at Monsignor Gadoury Elementary School throughout the course of my Junior year in high school, and most recently I am assisting a first grade teacher at Ella Risk Elementary School for this course. Many of these opportunities have provided me to discover what age group I am comfortable teaching, the amount of preparation that is needed to plan a lesson, how to help foster learning in children with disabilities, how to connect with the students, teachers, and sometimes parenting whom I am serving for, allows for hands on experience in my future career field while building my resume, helps me to discover the issues in our state and nation's educational system, and also makes me feel good about myself as a person and apart of my community. Even though I agree that volunteer/service experiences are important, have also been aware of the flaws that exist. Most of my service experiences and I am sure the experiences of many other young individuals is not completed out of the "goodness of our heart," but instead for the achievement of a "good grade" or in other terms, for us to receive something in return. Secondly, similar to Kristof's argument, the opportunities to participate in volunteer/service learning programs are simply not available to everyone in society. I am sure many students who attend Lincoln, Cumberland, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Johnston, Westerly, Barrington, Burrillville, North Kingston, East Greenwich, etc. had the opportunity to partake in service opportunities. In contrast, many students living in Central Falls, Woonsocket, Providence, Pawtucket, etc. do not have these programs available to them..... or sadly ARE the volunteer/service learning opportunities themselves. Lastly, the concept of senior projects in different high schools across the state I feel is becoming increasingly distorted. Instead of choosing a topic within your interest and using your intelligence to benefit the community in a positive way, it has become more of a  competition centered around "who has the bigger and better topic and can contribute the most money and gain the most publicity." I never had to complete a senior project, since I attended a Catholic high school, but when conversing with my friends at North Smithfield High School I would hear about some of the elaborate projects students were completing that I felt really missed the mark and were causing stress and anxiety on other students who felt their ideas simply were not "good enough." I guess you can go back to the question that Kahne and Westheimer proposed advocates were neglecting to answer: In the service of what are we completing these opportunities for?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth by: Gerri August

         After reading Kamryn's response to August's Safe Spaces, I decided to center my blog response around hers. I agree with Kamryn's comment that you can connect this piece to Leslie Grinner's SWAAMP. August suggests that adults in our society "unconsciously promote heterosexism whether it be at the bus stop, on the soccer field, dinner table, or local grocery store." It is also promoted within our classrooms, especially during the early ages of childhood when the unit on families and relationships is taught by teachers. Grinner starts her acronym SWAAMP with the letter "S" to represent our societies value of straightness. The "American Dream" is centered around the idea that a picture perfect house with a white picket fence is occupied by a family consisting of a mom and dad and their two or more children. Kamryn also included Augusts point about classroom walls being described as permeable. According to August, the classroom gives an impression of being dichotomy, but in reality is permeable to students and teachers- allowing them to carry in their personal experiences and carry out their classroom experiences upon leaving. August and Kamryn express the consequences of the permeable classroom as sometimes less accommodating to students being able to express themselves and feeling safe when one feels different. August continues his argument by explaining that classrooms should "lay the foundation for an inclusive and safe society
where common interests and individual differences coexist." In order to achieve this, August suggests that teachers need to usher children from the relative protection of their family life, the "incubator", to the classroom that fosters new ways of thinking and behaving, the "outcubator." Lastly, Kamryn includes the names of the children documented in Augusts piece who have since died because of the injustice around the understanding of LGBT. Kamryn, I completely agree with you.... No person should have go through the pain of feeling invisible in this world to the point where they believe the only way to be happy again or feel accepted is to die. It is uncalled for and needs to be changed.   

 

-Questions/Comments/Points to Share:


         If we were to discuss the topic of LGBT about ten years ago, it would be drastically different from our conversation about it in the present. Even though LGBT is still a controversial topic for many people to discuss, their have been some major gains in our society to promote its acceptance over the past year (i.e. media portrayal, Caitlyn Jenner, and Supreme Court decision on legal same-sex marriage). It is nice to acknowledge these gains surrounding the LGBT topic, but August argues that we are still a long way from acknowledging and supporting the LGBT population especially in the classroom. I believe that people are afraid to face this topic because they do not really know about it. If we educate the public with more positive images and information about LGBT, I think it will help to promote an acceptance especially within our younger generations.

Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us by: Linda Christensen

           By scrolling through the channels on the television, reading a novel at the coffee shop or to children before bedtime, roaming through the movie isles at Target, and spending time on social media sites, Linda Christensen warns us in her piece, Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us, that our society's media teaches humans a secret education. From movies, television series, cartoons, books, magazines, newspapers, music, to websites each category of media is responsible for what Christensen claims of "colonizing [our] minds [to] teach us how to act, live, and dream." In Nicholas Kristof's piece, he states that Americans like to gloat about America being a "land of opportunity" where there are people and companies who make it in society and others who do not. The media industry is dominated by many known companies today, ranging from news stations (FOX, NBC, MSNBC, CNN) to authors (John Green, Nicholas Sparks, J.K Rowling, Susan Collins) to websites (Facebook, Twitter, Buzz feed) to movie producing industries (Universal, Disney, Sony). Many of these companies' employees sought out the "land of opportunity" to get to where they are today, though Christensen believes they are responsible for manipulating our population's morals. Many of these media companies portray hidden messages against race, social class, persuade their one-sided-opinion, violence, and more. Christensen believes it is important for Americans to identify this secret education now, so change can begin with generations to come. Below are some examples of what Christensen warns about a secret education:

1. The Political Message of The Hunger Games by: Rachel Bitoun


  Today's media is filled with hidden messages waiting to be uncovered by the reader or viewer. When the first book of the Hunger Games series was released September 14, 2008 many Americans quickly became immersed in the new series similar to Harry Potter. According to Rachel Bitoun, within the story of the Hunger Games there are references to political turmoil, traumatic violence, social class inequality, and environmental issues. As Christensen states, a "secret education" making its way into the minds of many American teenagers.

2. A Cinderella Story Movie Trailer (2004)

 
 
    In 2004, A Cinderella Story was released in the movie theaters and latter made into a DVD. This movie is a modern retelling of the classic Disney fairy tale. Within the movie, even within the trailer, one is subject to the stereotypes of "cruel stepmothers and stepsisters," the "fairy godmother character" that grants wishes or in this case fixes the main problem, the "handsome guy" that everyone wants to be their prince, the "popular clique" that gets in the way, the geeky side-kick/best friend, and the "hard-working, proper, ignored girl" who dreams of a "happily ever after" in the end.
 

-Questions/Comments/ Points to Share:

           I agree with Linda Christensen: there is a hidden education portrayed in media these days that is responsible for brainwashing or determining one's thoughts, actions, and feelings. Many stereotypes are depicted in different types of media, while gender, race, beauty, economic status, and violence are depicted and targeted. Even though I am aware of some of these issues in the media now, I still think the analysis of some movies, t.v shows, books, and more are a little exaggerated. If we want to change to occur, I believe it is worth having a conversation about these issues and monitoring media exposure with younger children or using it as a learning experience by explaining the content being consumed.      

 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Aria by: Richard Rodriguez

          When we think about the use of language in our country, we automatically refer to the language of English; what a majority of our country's population speaks. Even though a majority of our nation communicates through the use of English language, this has not always been the case throughout our country. During the 19th century, the population of America boomed due to an influx of legal immigrants allowed in through Ellis Island from several different countries. Many of these immigrants brought a mixture of their ethnic cultures to America, creating the notion to develop a "melting pot." In Richard Rodriguez "Aria,"  he (just as many other immigrants apart of the 19th century) explains how he had to undergo a process of "American Assimilation" mostly by adopting the English language. The comfort of speaking Spanish diminished over time in Rodriguez's life as English was introduced and forced upon himself and the members of his family so they would not feel like outsiders in America's society.    

            In a personally similar experience to Rodriguez fifteen years ago, I experienced the language barrier Rodriguez describes and the process to "assimilate" or "fit in" culturally depending on your geographical location. In mid September of 2001, my father and I prepared ourselves for a trip to Ireland to visit family. My cousin was getting married to her fiancĂ© and asked me to be one of the three flower girls in her wedding ceremony. When we arrived in Dublin, Ireland after a long, delayed trip, my cousin picked us up from the airport and drove us to her childhood home (more like a cottage). Upon arrival, we entered inside and were greeted by many members of the family. Most of my relatives in Ireland speak English with a thick Irish brough, that is usually easily understood. The native tongue of Ireland is Gaelic, but is rarely spoken throughout the country of Ireland; although it is still taught to school children. Even though it was somewhat easy for me (at the age of five) to comprehend the questions asked by my Irish cousins, the part of this experience that correlates to Rodriguez revolves around the language barrier and abrupt assimilation between myself and my two cousins, Pierre and Patrick, who are of Irish (father's side) and French (mother's side) descent. My cousins Pierre and Patrick were visiting from Paris, France (their home) to attend the wedding as well and are fluent speakers in English and French. Throughout the entire beginning of my stay, never once did I hear Pierre or Patrick speak French. Then, one day while the three of us were playing with toys together, my cousins got mad at each other and started yelling at each other in French. Confused and stunned, I looked at them puzzled trying to figure out what on earth they were saying and amazed at the different words spoken from their mouths. Immediately following the quarrel between the two boys, their grandmother Nano appeared in the frame of the door way scolding them. She told them that it was not appropriate to speak to one another in French in front of me, since I was a stranger to languages other than English and language in general to my age. My cousins then apologized and continued to speak to me in English. I never hear a word in French again after that day.          

          Rodriguez points out in the beginning of his memoir that he felt like an outsider in the classroom when he was unable to interpret questions and commands spoken to him in English by his teachers. He welcomed the idea of acclimating himself to learn the English to improve his performance in the classroom, but as English crept into his knowledge and his families and made them feel more "welcome" in American society the Spanish dialect disappeared eventually for good. The underlying message Rodriguez is trying to convey to his readers is the question of: Why can't multilingual people put their ability to greater use in education or other industries, rather than abandoning it to feel apart of society? Lisa Delpit stresses that we should be direct and explicit when speaking to children, due to community and culture contexts. Similar to Rodriguez, she believes that "Children have the right to their own language, their own culture. We must fight cultural hegemony and fight the system by instituting that children be allowed to express themselves in their own language style. It is not they, the children, who must change, but the schools. To push children to do anything else is repressive and reactionary."

-Questions/Comments/Points to Share:

         In our society today, if you can not speak English your considered an outsider that has a harder time surviving in society. Almost everywhere you go today, everything reads and speaks primarily in English. What about our Spanish speaking population, Portuguese, and Italian? What about people who communicate through technology, sign language, or even braille? What are we doing to make it easier for them? In my opinion, very little. If you only speak Spanish, you usually have to ask for a Spanish speaking translator/representative at hospitals, colleges, schools, restaurants, stores, etc. making it impossible and sometimes embarrassing to get things done. Media pokes fun at sign language interpreters showed on the news to translate important messages administered by governor's or the President, but what if you are deaf and rely on these people to be able to partake in government actions or find out what to prepare in an emergency situation? How many places have braille on their walls or specific menus in restaurants for these customers? How much money does it cost to be able to purchase a tablet that can download a communication system for children who are bound to survive on a trachea or recently suffered from a stroke and are learning to communicate all over again? Just because these people do not/do have access to English doesn't mean they should be treated different or have to abandon their native tongue. These different languages should be used to benefit society in many different ways.    



Sunday, February 7, 2016

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by: Peggy McIntosh

           The author, Peggy McIntosh, argues that Caucasian individuals are taught not to recognize white privilege in comparison to males being educated to disregard male privilege. McIntosh states that white privilege is characterized by an "invisible, weightless knapsack of unearned assets varying from special provisions, to visas, to clothes, to blank checks, and more that can count on being cashed in." McIntosh supports this view of unrecognizable white privilege by taking the time herself to list daily effects of white privilege somewhat more attached to skin-color rather than class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location- even though all of these factors can be intertwined in her opinion. Some of the points that stood out to me included:

  • being able to be in the company of people of my race most of the time
  • I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race
  • I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider    

  • I can be pretty sure that an argument with a college of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
McIntosh then continues her argument by stating that if her skin-color is an asset for any educated move she wanted to make, then America is not such a free country after all. She shapes the word privilege as seeming to be a favored state earned by birth or luck, but simply it confers dominance over one's race or sex to empower certain groups (i.e. white people and men). McIntosh concludes by leaving us questioning whether or not individuals will become truly distressed or outraged about unearned race advantage and conferred dominance and what we will do to lessen them or if we will just ignore the question similar to men and the unearned male advantage.     


-Questions/Comments/Points to Share:
    I found it interesting how McIntosh compared white privilege to male privilege. White people in the United States are definitely prioritized compared to other ethnicities, but McIntosh also raises the issue of the masculine sex also being prioritized over females. In our society today, issues around equal pay between men and women have become a problem, the controversial issue around companies offering payed maternity leave (also the question of extended leave for dad's as well), women are put down in the eyes of some people if they return to work instead of being stay-at-home mothers (this can also be flipped when dads choose to be the stay-at-home parent), many leaders or CEOs are men instead of women, men pay less for living necessities over women, and more. Which issue is worse, white privilege or male privilege..... or both?

U.S.A., Land of Limitations? by: Nicholas Kristof

       In this New York Times article, Nicholas Kristof expresses his fear of the world becoming an increasingly "socially rigid society our forebears [once] fled." He supports this fear by quoting examples of class gaps and summarizing his best friend, Rick Goff, life struggles. After concluding the article, there were three quotes that stood out as interesting to me:

 
1. Kristof quotes Senator Marco Rubio in the beginning of the article, stating that America has "never been a nation of haves and have-nots" but rather "a nation of haves and soon-to-haves, of people who have made it and of people who will make it." Ever since America was created our nation has pressured its self to be at the top. This quote states that America offers multiple opportunities to obtain the top rank and promote change, such as the race into space to land a man on the moon and return him safely back to earth during Kennedy's presidency or Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech and efforts to one day have black children and white children play together. Kristof stresses within this quote that not all people are "privileged" enough to have access to achieve these opportunities.
 
2. Kristof includes a quote from Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist, who concludes that "the chance of a person who was born to a family in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution rising to the top 10 percent 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; It happens, but not often." Even though an American individual possesses the capability to be creative, intelligent, and prosperous in his/her lifetime, it is very rare for an individual to carry out a successful life. The individuals success is instead dependent upon their ethnicity, parents financial income, and access to quality education and living materials.
 
3. Towards the middle of Kristof's article, he includes statistical information stating that "77 percent of adults in the top 25 percent of incomes earn a B.A. by age 24. Only 9 percent of those in the bottom 25 percent do so." Kristof also quotes Tim Wise's comment about American's opinions on this statistical information by saying that Americans display an "increasingly vituperative narrative of cruelty to those at the bottom." Americans with Bachelor's degrees at the top of financial status are quick to judge lower class people with only an Associates degree or no degree at all as being lazy. What about the cost of college across America these day? The cost to maintain a stable living environment for a family? The time and stressful schedules to manage with multiple paying jobs to support oneself, family, and education? Before people are quick to judge the lower classes of people as "lazy" maybe they should take into consideration these factors first.      
 
 

-Questions/Comments/Points to Share:

      America is recognized as the "land of the free" or "the home of the brave" or, according to Kristof, "the land of opportunity." For some people these titles are true, as for others its viewed as a lie. During my lifetime I never had to worry about not having someone at my house to take care of me, wonder if I would have food for dinner, have a short supply of clothing or shoes to wear, question whether or not I would be given a quality education, or even wonder If I would be able to afford college. I am apart of the 77% of adults in the top 25% of incomes who will go onto graduate with a Bachelors degree, not because I worked hard to achieve good grades but ultimately because I am white and have the necessities (food, clothing, shelter, technology, learning materials, financial stability, etc.) needed to. Meanwhile if you are other nationality other than Caucasian, not able to afford quality education, have trouble providing for yourself and family because you could not land a job due to not having access to quality education, live in areas of high poverty and crime, and more then you are viewed as the poor class of America who is considered "lazy" and sometimes dangerous to the "privileged" upper class, who wants no obligation in helping you since they think they have worked hard to get to where they are today...... but did they really?      
 
 

Monday, February 1, 2016

All About Me!

Welcome to my FNED 346 Blog!

Let me share a few things about myself:






I am the oldest child in my family out of four girls. My sisters are triplets and are five years younger than me. Two are identical, while the third is fraternal. This is a picture of each of my sisters footprints taken after they were born.

I enjoy hanging out with my best friend Heather during my free time. This picture shows the two of us enjoying ourselves at a concert.
During the summer, I like spending time at the beach. This is a photo of the sun setting over the beach I vacation on in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  


I love my job at Dr. Day Care Smithfield! I have been working at my center for a little over a year now as a substitute teacher's assistant. I am grateful for having the opportunity to work with children in many different age groups, such as infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and sometimes school age children.