Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Boler: All Speech is Not Free

Boler: All Speech Is Not Free

Boler argues two things, first that all speech is not equal and secondly, that it is the obligation of educators to require students to “critically analyze” all speech, including biased and racist hate speech directed at the marginalized groups by those in the dominant culture, or the culture of power.

In his first argument, Boler states that although all Americans are supposedly guaranteed the right of free speech by the Constitution, because of the ideology of the historically entrenched culture of power, all voices do not carry the same value, importance and “weight”. In fact, the marginalized group is deprived of their right to speak at all. His message is that although the words in the Constitution provide freedom of speech to all citizens, the dominant straight, white, Christian, able-bodied, male, property owners carry more weight with their voices, therefore having more power and freedom in our society. His solution to the inequity and disparity of speech in this country, is to adopt an “affirmative action pedagogy” that would acknowledge the voices of the marginalized group even if it means restricting the voices of the dominant culture. As we discussed in class, this is a very controversial issue, but as reparation for the harm done in the past, historically marginalized groups should be given privileges that help level the playing field in the future.

Second, he argues that to accomplish this goa, teachers must make their classrooms vehicles for critical analysis. All speech, including that of the dominant culture should be challenged and speakers held accountable for their statements. By so doing, classrooms become a place to not only teach the dominant culture about its offensive and ignorant belief system, but provide an opportunity for the marginalized culture to acquire “critical agency”, the tools to empower and defend oneself against hate speech and verbal abuse in the future.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Aria 6/9/09

Quote #1: “Because I wrongly imagined that English was intrinsically a public language and Spanish an intrinsically private one, I easily noted the difference between classroom language and the language of my home.”

Aria is describing what I see in my students who compartmentalize their birth language and their adopted language, trying to learn English in the classroom while they maintain their first language in their homes and cultural community. In the beginning of language acquisition, this silent period is the adjustment phase where students ease into the change they must inevitably embrace to be successful in America. As Aria describes his public and private language, he reveals his impending loss of the safety and security of home and culture embodied by his birth language.

Quote #2: “Matching the silence I started hearing in public was a new quiet at home. The family's quiet was partly due to the fact that, as we children learned more and more English, we shared fewer and fewer words with our parents.”

This is the saddest part of American assimilation, an all too familiar story for immigrants, albeit, an inherent factor for most. As many students become more fluent in their second language, their public language, they slowly lose the connection to their families which was nurtured through their common cultural language. Arias is reminding us of how hard it is to maintain allegiance to both languages, begging the question, “Is there any way to keep both languages viable?”

Question#3: “I would have been happier about my public success had I not sometimes recalled what it had been like earlier, when my family had conveyed its intimacy through a set of conveniently private sounds. "

This is a poignant moment in the assimilation of an immigrant into a new country. With melancholy, Aria expresses his loss of intimacy with his first language, the language he shared in the safety and comfort of his home with his family. This was the first language he heard spoken as a baby, the first language that nurtured him and helped to create his identity. However, growth means letting go of ones old identity to build a new identity. In his closing lines, Aria rebuffs the philosophy of bilingualists who say that English language learners lose their identity in the melting pot of America. Instead he believes that although English language learners lose some of their “private individuality”, by acquiring the public language, he/she earns a “public individuality”, which just happens to be the goal of a democratic education.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Carlson, 1997

Much like other authors we have read this semester, Carlson argues that those with the power in this country, the straight, white males, continue to marginalize the rights of others in the community who are unlike themselves, thus keeping them out of the center of power and on the sidelines. To attain this goal, Carlson's perspective is that gay and lesbian citizens are represented by the culture of power as not normal, having “deviant and pathological” behaviors This maintains the status quo of the privileged. He describes a public school culture as aiding and abetting this disenfranchisement by allowing a lack of discourse in the classroom about the differences and rights of gay people to self expression. As he reminds us, the formation of self is limited in part by the culture in which one lives. Without an honest and open discourse abut the differences and the rights of gay people, neither the gay person, nor the straight person will have the kind of education which leads to a true democratic community.

As he notes, in the last ten years their has been a trend toward “the notion of a community of difference and diversity”, however, he believes that public schools need to take a formative role in creating a dialogue to break the silence that holds back children from forming their identity without the cultural stigmas that prevents them from “becoming somebody” rather than a product of the normalized culture. Without an identification to a gay culture or community, gay young people will have no understanding of themselves in relation to others and their own construction of self. It will always be dictated by the culture of power. Also, without this dialogue, straight children will not be able to see beyond the stigmas created by the culture of power. This, Carlson argues, is the way straight men separate themselves from women and gay men. In a patriarchal society, it is necessary for straight men to view gay men as “feminized men”, akin to women, rather than their equals.

Carlson's “Now What?” is to have a public dialogue with the school districts and the local citizens to create a curriculum that exposes children to information that “clarify differences”. He believes that this dialogue is necessary as part of a multicultural education to protect the rights of minorities, in this case the individual freedom of gay and lesbian people and the creation of a true democratic community with the possibility of building a coalition among the citizens of the country.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Finn Argument

6/3/09 In chapter 2 of Literacy With an Attitude, Finn argues Jean Anyon's observation exceedingly well, that there are four types of educational experiences in American schools, those of the executive elite, the affluent professional, the middle class and the working class. Although the children observed in four schools in northern New Jersey were predominately white and had similar text books, there social class created a “startling difference” in the nature of their educational outcome.

According to Finn, the children in the working class school district were presented with a fact driven curriculum of following step by step directions. Teachers spoke disparagingly about their students, showing a pessimistic view of student potential. The main objective of the teachers appeared to be controlling the students movements and access within the classroom. The children's reaction to this learning environment was, according to Finn, “resistance”. Resistance came in the form of vandalism of school property, classroom disruption, and attention-getting behaviors. The results of these antics seemed to please the perpetrators of the pranks, creating an environment controlled by the students to retaliate for, as Finn calls it, “the mechanical and routine that denies their capacity for creativity and planning”.

Having slightly more optimism for their students, teachers in the middle class schools offered the idea that with hard work there was the “possibility” of success in the middle class working world, that is, good grades, a college education and a good job someday for those who followed the rules and regulations. According to Finn, these are the kinds of jobs, that would not offer an opportunity for creativity and self expression, but would afford them an opportunity to fulfill those needs outside of work. Most of the teachers were much like their students. They were raised and currently lived in the neighborhood of the school they worked in, seemingly connected to their students fulfilling the American dream.

However, students in the affluent professional school were offered what the middle class and working class school students were not afforded, an environment open to pursue “creativity and personal development.” Teachers encouraged free thinking, self expression and an opportunity to discover and make sense of personal experiences. As well as math and science skills, students were taught higher level concepts of economic development and government. Students learned independent thinking instead of following the directive of others. Besides giving the right answers, students trained in higher level thinking can answer the why and the how questions. Although individuality was stressed, humanitarianism was a key theme in the development of these young minds. These children were primed to become more than supporting roles in society, they would play a creative role in science, government and academe, acquiring social power and high incomes.

The pinnacle of educational expectations for American students is the executive elite. Their education, according to Finn, was sophisticated, intellectual and rigorous. Like the affluent professional schools, these students were taught by female teachers who were married to executives and business leaders in powerful positions in society, however, the students were considered a higher status than the teachers. Unlike the working class students, these students were given freedom and positions of control in the classroom. They were being prepared to be future leaders. As such, their social status and the inequities of society were allowed to remain in tact in their mind as the way things have always been, somehow making it right and expected to continue. These students were being prepared to be the brightest and the best, as Finn describes, “excellence.”

When analyzing the disparity in the four educational environments I found a striking resemblance to Bloom's Taxonomy for higher level thinking. As we remember from our education classes, Bloom's Taxonomy offers categories of questions that support deeper thinking as we ask our students questions. The hierarchy of thinking asks questions to ascertain knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. At the lowest level of thinking is knowledge or recall. These are the facts and data answers that the students from the working class schools are being taught to remember. Little more appears to be expected of them than rote memorization. In the hierarchy of expectations the next two levels of thinking are comprehension and application. These levels of thinking are slightly more sophisticated, similar to the middle class environment, because it asks students not just to remember what has been read or heard, but to describe and explain what is meant and use the information to solve problems. The fourth and fifth tier on the Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid are analysis and synthesis, requiring one to use logic and semantics as well as creativity and originality. This could be related to the affluent professional environment as students at this school were given an opportunity for discovery, self expression and creativity. Finally the pinnacle of the pyramid is evaluation, making decisions and supporting view, requiring understanding of values. The students of executive elite were given control over their environment in the classroom and the ability to make decisions about their learning. As these students were expected to plan and teach lessons in the classroom, they were becoming accustomed to being the decision makers for their future position in society.

As Finn described, in England at the advent of the printing press, commoners were prevented from reading by imposing a tax on pamphlets, thus preventing them from thinking about raising their standard of living and their place in the hierarchy of power. The culture of power continue to holds on tightly to the status quo and inequities remain for the working class.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kozol Reading


While reading Kozol, “Still separate, still unequal” I found Delpit's argument resonating within me. I was glad we read Delpit first, because Kozol's quotes and comments really clarified Delpit's argument for me. In particular was Kozol's dinner story on page 6 where he told of having dinner with wealthy parents who send their children to private school at the tune of $20,000 a year rather than to an inner-city school. According to Kozol, these are the same affluent people of power who ask questions like, “Can you really buy your way to better education for these children?” “Do we know enough to be quite sure that we will see an actual return on the investment that we make?” “Is it even clear that this is the right starting point to get to where we'd like to go” Yet these same affluent parents spare no expense to send their children to private schools at a cost that most young adults spend a for a year of a college education. Delpit quoted statements by middle-class educators, who said, “I want the same thing for everyone else's children as I want for mine.” This is very hard to swallow as I make connections to Kozol's reminder that so much money by so few is lavished on their own as they, the people with the power, consistently and strategically cut funding for inner-city schools programs, maintenance, professional support and salaries to draw the brightest new teachers to the ranks of education. “Tea Parties” and propositions around the country have cut funding for public schools, given education credits to parents who want to put their children in private school and continue to undermine the institution that gave the ancestors of this country a chance to better themselves, the public school system. Now that they are the ones in power, they are manipulating the rules to keep the wealth for themselves.

Delpit also said, “If you are not a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier” (pg. 25). Kozol reminds us of the importance of teachers in that role when he described the letters from third graders from the Bronx, New York (pg 4). 27 students sent Kozol letters asking for his help in making their school better. I was struck by the double negatives and word choice in the letters. As little Elizabeth wrote “It is not fair that other kids have a garden and new things. But we don't have that. I wish that this school was the most beautiful school in the whole why world.” As I read their letters, I was shocked that the teacher sent Mr. Kozol unedited letters that represented what he/she was supposed to be teaching in the classroom. Even Kozol planned to help the students edit their letters, but was swept away by their interest in him, his lifestyle and his dogs. Letter writing is, as is all writing, an opportunity for students to learn grammar, spelling and vocabulary, as well as appropriate social expectations in American society. Reading between the lines, I don't know if Kozol realized that he was sharing more than a touching letter from an inner-city school student. What I saw was one of Delpit's key points, that if teachers don't teach the code of power, where will students learn it. I was disappointed with the teacher in the Bronx school for failing to teach students the importance of speaking and writing with the accepted format in this country. Without knowing the grammatical expectation, inner-city students will continue to be shut out of the highest positions in the board rooms, court rooms and classrooms in this country. If that is their aspiration, children from the inner-city will be unfulfilled in their dream.

Finally, Delpit said that “Teachers are in an ideal position to play this role, to attempt to get all of the issues on the table in order to initiate true dialogue”(pg 47). However, Kozol notes that teachers are currently mandated through a “pedagogy of direct command and absolute control” (pg. 7), the inspiration of Skinner, creating robots, not the critical thinkers who could use their own voices to create understanding and make an important contribution to not only America, but the world. Unfortunately, this idea is all too close to the environment in which I work. Teachers in my district do not have the freedom to create student centered learning in the classroom. We are programmed, scripted and turned into the same robots that the “Big Thinkers”, the administrators and curriculum planners who hold the power, would have us turn our students into. When Delpit said that change must come from the top down rather than the bottom up, she included teachers in that order of power. Teachers no longer control the classroom curriculum and daily learning plan. Our teaching day is predetermined, minute by minute, teaching a schedule decided by politicians and administrators, neither of whom understand the unique makeup of my classroom.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Talking Points

Quote #1:“And I do not advocate that it is the school's job to attempt to change the homes of poor and nonwhite children to match the homes of those in the culture of power. That may indeed be a form of cultural genocide.”

It has been said that America is a “melting pot” where immigrants, in the process of becoming Americans, add their culture to create a blended society different from where they came or what they found when they came to this country. To become part of the American culture, it is possible to lose your culture of origin. Just as when yellow paint is added to blue paint to create green, you can never get yellow back again. It is forever green, until another color is added to the mix. As anyone who has ever played with paint knows, eventually you get a murky brownish black. When this happens with people, there is the potential for cultural genocide. That part of a person, their identity, including language, ideology, and tradition, are lost to that person forever. As well as being lost to the new immigrant, the cultures of those already in the mix have also lost their identity to become American.
As some Americans say, these new immigrants are in America now and have to speak the language and “be American”. This is historically the schools responsibility. It is not, however, the job of schools to unlearn a child's culture in the process of teaching him/her the skills to be successful in America. Unfortunately, this has been happening for generations in this country, as families lose the language of their origin as they learn English. Language is the glue of a culture. One of the first things a conquering nation takes from the invaded country.

Quote #2: “No, I am certain that if we are truly to effect societal change, we cannot do so from the bottom up, but we must push and agitate from the top down.”

Those people who are living outside the culture of power are not in the position to effect change. Like the “glass ceiling” that allows women to see the goal they want to achieve, but are prevented from reaching the pinnacle, by the people with the power, those same people who don't want to share or give up the power. As teachers we believe that education is the key to personal success and socioeconomic change for our students. Delpit states that that is not the case, that a student without power does not have the power to change the controlling forces of power and therefore their future.

Quote #3: “We do not really see through our eyes and hear through our ears, but through our beliefs.”

As we saw with the S.C.W.A.M.P. exercise and the diversity wheel, ideology and “social reality shapes our lives” (Johnson, 2001). When we listen with our eyes and ears, we are listening with our ideology, prescribed by the culture in power. Few of us are the perfect combination of the inner and outer ring of the diversity wheel, despite our attempt to find perfection in society. When we are reflective, most of us can find a time or place in our life where we felt denied the privileges of the culture of power. Feeling somehow connected to those without the code of rules and the culture of power, empathy may allow us to listen with our hearts and beliefs. Despite the ideology of the power of culture, most of us believe in in the basic right of humanity. That is what brings new immigrants to this country. As the one place in their new country, schools have the ideal place to truly listen with the empathy and humanity that we know is the right thing to do for our students.

IAT test

I was initially excited to take the IAT test. I enjoy learning about myself and often take Myers Briggs type test in magazines, etc. Once into the test, however, the rapidness caused me some anxiety. I felt my dexterity was being tested, not just my racial preference. I definitely became nervous when I couldn't keep up with the expectation. I was wasn't surprised by my outcome because I think the originators of the test hypothesized the typical response and might have been trying to prove it. I don't have much knowledge of test design. Only one course in undergrad Psych. The dateline video didn't surprise me because I do believe that humans have a preference for the familiar, maybe all species do. If I was raised in Africa, I would probably have a preference for Africans. As we discussed in class, I was left with the question, "Why is it ok for African Americans to have racial pride and not Caucasians? And is it cultural pride as opposed to skin color pride. I am certainly proud of my Irish heritage...especially on St. Patrick's Day, but I can't tell the difference between many Irish decendents and English or French etc. The discussion helps me to understand the difference between equality and equity, but I am optimistic for or society that we will evolve into a place where there will eventually be equality.