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!