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?