Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Empowering Education" - Shor


In "Empowering Education," Ira Shor argues that schooling should be more focused on student participation and empowerment rather than the memorization of facts and standardized knowledge. He believes that "to teach skills and information without relating them to society and to the students' contexts turns education into an authoritarian transfer of official words, a process that severely limits student development as democratic citizens" (18). By relating the subject material to the students own lives, their critical thinking will be more in depth because they are connected with the material rather than bored by a long, typical lecture. (Click here to see the advantages and disadvantages of these commonly seen lectures) Through this participatory approach, the students' educational experiences can be transformed through empowering dialogue. Resistance is seen so often in classrooms because the students are bored by or rejecting the standard mode of instruction. By encouraging this participatory learning model, students will become engaged with the material by having the ability to make connections to their lives, their families, their community, and the greater society. Being in control of the learning process holds students more accountable and makes them more likely to achieve greater understanding.

In the second chapter of the Shor article, he proposes a model to show how the participatory model can be applied in classrooms. The teacher is seen as the "problem poser" in this example. "Problem posing focuses on power relations in the classroom, in the institution, in the formation of standard canons of knowledge, and in society at large. It considers the social and cultural context of education, asking how student subjectivity and economic conditions affect the learning process" (31). Rather than following the traditional classroom lecturing routine, problem posing teachers use the students backgrounds, experiences, and opinions to shape the curriculum. By doing this, teachers and students are able to connect through sharing their opinions and learning from each other, rather than from a "central bank of knowledge" determined by the government. Everyone's point of view is explored in this model and the students express their understanding to gain more knowledge and understanding of how the material relates to themselves and how it plays out in society.

I really liked this article and the subject material that it focused on. I agree with Shor and find his model to be really interesting. Though this article took me all weekend to read since it was a little long and really hard to focus all my attention on it during my dance competition this weekend, I thought that this article ended our formal readings nicely by combining all the material we have explored this semester and laying out a plan to enact these teachings in our own classrooms one day. Empowering education was a really big theme in my high school, and I recall experiencing some of the approaches used in Shor's article in my high school classes. It was really cool to read about the different approach to classroom learning, and I liked how he provided such detailed examples.

I wanted to connect this article to Delpit because I feel that it really exemplifies the culture of power. Shor says that education is politics. It is not neutral, but it encourages the status quo or the domination of white, male culture being placed in the school curriculum, rather than the history of the oppressed and minority groups. This is because those in power and frequently least aware of their power and they are the ones who determine the rules of the culture of power. This is seen in the curriculum set by the government. Those that are in power in our society get to decide what teachers must teach, while those who are not in power are frequently left out or forgotten. However, Shor shows us how we can manipulate the curriculum by using the participatory approach to explore and question the required curriculum rather than accepting and memorizing it without critically examining it.

Talking Point: Has anyone been in a participatory, problem posing classroom environment before this class? How has your education and understanding of the material differed from typical classes?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome"


Christopher Kliewer, in "Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome," argues that traditional special education classrooms are segregated from the community, which makes students with conditions like down syndrome be seen as powerful contributors to society. Students with developmental conditions are commonly seen as being uneducable and therefore are placed in secluded classrooms and communities, which create unjust and frustrating situations for these people. Kliewer argues that by accepting all students through allowing children with developmental disabilites to learn in classrooms with a variety of different students, all children will be seen as valuable and respected for their individuality. Kliewer stresses that people must stop defining others by their conditions or backgrounds and accept them as an individual in order to have a truly democratic society. By doing so we can create, "actual educational arenas where all students are welcomed, no voice is silenced, and children come to realize their own self-worth through the unconditional acceptance of one another" (74). Kliewer analyzes, "the meaning of school citizenship for students with Down Syndrome as it relates to (1) literacy development, of central importance in experiencing school success, and (2) friendship formation, a possible consequence of being recognized as communally valuable" (74).

I feel that this article relates to August's, "Safe Spaces" article because they both speak of segregating certain people from society because of their differences. Sometimes people think that those with differences are less valuable then themselves because they have qualities that do not reflect the ideals of society, as seen in SCWAAMP and Delpit's "culture of power." Therefore, they try to keep these people secluded from society because they have these differences and do not know how to or do not want to interact with them. Learning to accept all these groups for their individualities will lead to a true democratic society, where everyone is valued and respected. Through encouraging this, each person will be allowed a sense of belonging in their community.

I think that Kliewer brings up a great point and tells a lot of inspiring stories. I never realized that special education classrooms are so segregated and how introducing those with disabilities to community programs and lots of different people can help their skills improve so much. I really learned a lot from this reading and thought that it was really interesting. 

Talking point: Has anyone experienced special education seclusion or inclusion in their high schools?

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Literacy with an Attitude" - Finn

For this post, I decided to do a reflection comparing my service learning to Finn's explanation of Anyon's study. This study focused on differences in the classrooms based on socioeconomic status. The results were labeled: executive elite, affluent professional, middle class, and working class. For my service learning, I am volunteering in a school that would fit into the working class category. Despite the results Anyon produced, my classroom does not follow her description. This may be due to the teacher I am working with or the school environment, but I am hopeful that this may be a sign that these types of unjust situations are becoming better.

"In the working class schools, the dominant theme was resistance" (Finn 12). This line did not describe my students or classroom in my opinion. "Knowledge in the affluent professional school was viewed as being open to discovery" (Finn 16). Though this describes the affluent professional school, I felt that this described my classroom environment much better. Also, Finn says "Control involved constant negotiation" (17). This also described the affluent professional school, but I found it very apparent in my "working class" school. The teacher is very concerned with negotiations and getting the students input on situations. She allows them to dialogue about problems they are having to find solutions or give consequences to students that deserve them.

I thought that this article, especially the Anyon study, related to Kozol's "Amazing Grace." Both spoke of the unbreakable cycle of poverty and social class and the struggle to change social classes since society is determined to continue the status quo. Finn said that these segregated schools teach students how to survive in their social class, not how to change it. The idea of continuing the family business or trade was described as keeping people in their rightful class. This is obviously unjust, but it is happening and making it so much harder for people to release themselves from their labeled social class.

Talking point: Does anyone else notice differences in their volunteering experiences or do your classrooms go along with the descriptions given in Finn's arcticle?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pecha Kucha

So far, I am doing pretty well on my Pecha Kucha. I am focusing on how whiteness is valued in our society through privileges and disadvantages based on racial background. I am connecting this to my service learning project and previous volunteer experiences, as well as my own schooling. I am looking at issues of race and how this is portrayed in the classroom. My main author is McIntosh, and I am working alone. I am connecting SCWAAMP, Delpit, Kozol, and Tim Wise's Racism 2.0 to my topic. I have the outline done and I know what information I am going to present in my project. I completed the brainstorming map and finished outlining my information on the 20 cards. I am feeling better about the project since I have a good grasp on what I am doing, but I am still a little stressed because I still have so much to work to still complete. I am also concerned about finding pictures/visuals for each slide, but I will continue to look and experiment. Hope everyone has a nice holiday!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brown vs. Board of Education - Hyperlinks

Brown vs. Board of Education was a 1954 Supreme Court case that ruled that separate but equal was not constitutional, specifically in terms of schooling. Previous to this case, schools and other places were allowed to segregate by race as long as the conditions were equal. However, there were rarely equal conditions for black and white children in schools. Brown vs. Board of Education made equal education law and with that ended formal apartheid. Tim Wise, in his book "Between Barack and a Hard Place" classifies this as "racism 1.0." This racism is classified by outright bigotry and ignorance to those of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. He does believe that we have ended this type of racism, as seen through the election of President Barack Obama. However, he believes that we are now a part of "racism 2.0," which he classifies as "enlightened exceptionalism." In our society, we see instances of racism 2.0. For instance, many people see the President Obama as an incredibly qualified president. They see him as transcending the norms associated with his race, which associates African Americans with less intelligence, more aggression and criminal behavior, and less-hardworking attitudes. Believing that these stereotypical norms exist is the basis of racism 2.0. Bob Herbert, in his article "Separate and Unequal," comments on this by saying "The election of Barack Obama has not made true integration any more palatable to millions of Americans" (2). Many assume that since America elected a black president, America had ended racism completely. This is far from true. Impoverished students are segregated from their middle-class counterparts by "residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom" (1). Even though the election of Barack Obama was a great step towards racial equality, these authors caution us by explaining the in depth racism that still exists today.

I found a Washington Post article from 2014 that explains Brown vs Board of Education's impact 60 years later. This article related to the Brown vs Board of Education website, Tim Wise interview, and Bob Herbert article. Though Brown vs. Board of Education desegregated public schools and made the "separate but equal" policy unconstitutional, Richard Rothstein states that this court case "was unsuccessful in its purported mission—to undo the school segregation that persists as a central feature of American public education today" (2). He goes on to explain that the court case only desegregated school; it did not properly integrate schools. Today, he says that the isolation of black children by race and socioeconomic class is at its worst. The achievement gap continues to remain between black and white children. He says that since schools are isolating these children, they are not benefitting as much as richer, whiter schools due to lack of resources and less parental involvement. Also, low-income housing complexes contribute to the isolation of these impoverished children, forcing them into the same schooling situations. We must first desegregate housing situations to desegregate schooling situations. Schools are more segregated today than in 1980, where "The typical black student now attends a school where only 29 percent of his or her fellow students are white, down from 36 percent in 1980" (3). Racism, though not the same problem today as during Brown vs. Board of Education, still has a major impact on all our lives and on our school systems.

I believe that this is another example of white supremacy, as seen in SCWAAMP and the McIntosh article on white privilege. This racial and socioeconomic segregation shows how white, middle class people have certain advantages over others in our society.

Talking point: All my classes, from elementary school to now, seemed to be predominately white. Did you have a different experience or does this racial segregation apply to your schooling as well?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Social Justice Event

Today, I went to a film presented by the Gender and Women's Study program for my Social Justice Event. There were only 2 people that came to view the film, including myself. This documentary was entitled "Killing Us Softly 4." It focused on the work of Jean Kilbourne, a long-time critic of media advertising. Kilbourne advocates for the just representation of women in the media, calling for an end to the harsh messages being sent to the public, especially girls and women. The film was about 45 minutes long and it focused on unpacking advertisements to convey the underlying messages and motives designed to dehumanize and objectify women. I was shocked at the extent of many advertisements described in this film. I feel like I have been manipulated to value these ideals through seeing these advertisements. It worries me that young girls are exposed to these unreachable ideals, which leads to so many mental and physical illnesses. I feel empowered after seeing this to start criticizing media and advertising more to expose these hidden messages.

All of us are bombarded with media advertising; the average person sees over 3,000 ads a day. While many people say they just ignore these unavoidable advertisements, the film explained that only 8% of the ad's message is processed consciously. Therefore, 92% of the messages are received subconsciously, where they influence us incredibly in our everyday lives. Advertisements stress the importance of beauty, youthfulness, and sexualization among all humans and objects, but most especially women. These advertisements cause girls and women to strive for flawlessness, which ultimately cannot be achieved. It actuality, the majority of photographs and images presented by the media are comprised of four to five women's bodies combined to form a "perfected" image of a women. Women and girls are subjected to these harsh messages that they are only valued for their appearance and body. They compare themselves to these photoshopped images, which can create low self-esteem, unrealistic body ideals, and eating disorders.

Our society values light-skin, blue-eyes, straight hair, sexuality, and extreme thinness. Many times in advertising, dark-skinned models are photoshopped to appear lighter-skinned and thin models are photoshopped to look thinner. Women are often turn into objects, which dehumanizes their value. Women are especially objectified as sexual beings created for men's pleasure. Women and girls are scrutinized by these advertisements, where they are placed in passive, vulnerable positions, while men are depicted as strong, confident. Men are not free from these hidden messages and objectification though. They are taught that they need to be tough, strong, insensitive, and masculine. However, they do not face the same harshness or consequences that women do. Popular culture teaches girls to aspire to, in a sense, disappear into nothing, the evidence being the fairly recent creation of sizes 0 and 00. Even more disgusting is the contempt and ridicule women face when they do not have this ideal body shape or appearance.

Kilbourne says that until we face the facts, nothing can be done about these dehumanizing messages and advertisements. In order to change the system, we must be aware of the situation, pay attention to the messages being sent, and realize that this is a public health problem that affects us all in a negative way. We need to change our environment by encouraging media literacy and critiquing advertisements and the media. We must show the advertisers that we are firstly citizens, not consumers. Our ability to have freely-lived, authentic lives depends on us taking a stand against this injustice. While I was watching this film, I saw many connections to the texts that we have read in class. Three texts that I think connect strongly with this film are Lisa Delpit's article, "The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children," Peggy McIntosh's article, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," and Linda Christenson's article, "Unlearning the Myths that Bing Us."

Delpit explains the "culture of power" in her article. She gives five dimensions of this culture of power by explaining that there are rules or codes that define this power system. "The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power. If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier. Those with power are frequently least aware of - or least willing to acknowledge - it's existence. Those with less power are often most aware of its existence"(24). These aspects define the culture of power. This is related to the advertising practices that are based on the culture of power present in our society. The rules for participating in the advertising world are based on thin, attractive, light-skinned, passive women. These codes are a reflection of what our society values - SCWAAMP - straight, white, able bodiedness, and maleness. These are all attractive qualities in our culture of power and these are subjected in media advertising. Sexual objectification (in straight couples), light skin, men, and thin able bodied humans are portrayed in these advertisements because this is what our society deems good. Teaching media literacy, or being told explicitly the rules of the culture of power, makes acquiring power easier by learning how to critique the hidden messages portrayed in these ads. Also, those who have these attractive qualities are least aware of its value to society. Those who do not have these qualities understand that they are not valued but are objects of ridicule.

Related to this is Peggy McIntosh's article where she explains, "Disapproving of the system won't be enough to change them"(6). Kilbourne stresses the same topic. Knowing about the messages of media advertising and claiming that one is against that idealized model is not enough to do anything. We must impose our beliefs on the advertisers by changing what we value in order to change our society. Also, McIntosh speaks about male privilege and white privilege in her article. She explains that while many know about the unfairness of our social system, those in power are not willing to give up their advantages. These privileges, as well as these advertisements, are influencing all our lives by keeping us in oblivious to the real issues. Being male and white gives one so many advantages, as seen in media advertising. Models are valued if they are light-skinned and if they are not, they are photoshopped to make their skin look lighter. Men are portrayed as strong and powerful, while woman are submissive and controllable to the man's desires. These privileges control media advertising and unless we change the power scale, it will just continue to just get worse.

Finally, Christenson's article sums this whole conversation up. The advertisements implied messages are the "secret education" that the media is instilling in us. In order to be aware of this secret education, we must teach and understand media literacy. Media advertisements "instructs young people to accept the world as it is portrayed in these social blueprints. And often that world depicts the domination of one sex, one race, or one country over a weaker counterpart" (126). We are influenced and manipulated by the images that we constantly see even if we don't believe it. "The stereotypes and worldview embed in the [advertisements] become accepted knowledge" (127). By becoming media literate, we can see the inequalities and unjust messages and understand that these stereotypes are not just. We must not be ignorant, but become aware of the "secret education" that we are receiving.