Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Empowering Education: Education Is Politics" by Ira Shor

In "Empowering Education: Education Is Politics," Ira Shor believes when there is change in power relations in the classroom through problem-posing and mutual dialogue between teachers and students, students become more engaged in their learning. This is what he calls an empowering education, which he defines as a "student-centered program for multicultural democracy in school and society that approaches individual growth as an active, cooperative, and social process, because the self and society create each other" (15).

“Education is a social experience for tens of millions of students who come to class with their own dreams and agendas. Sometimes cooperating with and sometimes resisting the intention of the school and the teacher” (13). 
A traditional classroom is portrayed as a teacher standing in front of the classroom, leading the classroom with students sitting in row. However, I believe the best learning happens when there is open discussion in the classroom and there is mutual dialogue between teacher and students. Shor goes on to say, "Education is more than facts and skills. It is a socializing experience that helps make the people who make society" (15). An empowering classroom offers students to share their own ideas and their own experiences which then allows each child to learn from each other. Students need to know that their opinions matter and each one's voice is powerful.

 "If the students' task is to memorize rules and existing knowledge, without questioning the subject matter or the learning process, their potential for critical thought and action will be restricted" (12). 
I received good grades throughout high school, however I have to admit that most of it was from memorization. For example, I am now having trouble with math because in high school I found myself memorizing the information I needed to know for the exam and then forgetting it. Due to not developing my knowledge, I am now suffering what I should have already known. Teachers must engage critical thinking in the classroom. I can relate this to our classroom, we are not required to memorize the articles but to critically examine each one.


"Most kids like the sound of their home language better...We talk about why it might be necessary to learn Standard English...Asking my students to memorize the rules without asking who makes the rules, who enforces the rules, who benefits from the rules, who loses from the rules...legitimates a social system that devalues my students' knowledge and language" (53).
This reminded me of Delpit's "Rules and Codes of Power." Delpit suggests teachers should create opportunities for more than one language in their classrooms. Not as a substitute language but as an alternative language for expression to make the students feel welcomed in the classroom. I have witnessed this in my Service Learning. Out of the eleven students in my SL classroom, about five of them are Hispanic and my teacher allows them to speak Spanish when they cannot pronounce words in English or when they have a hard trouble explaining something.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome" by Kliewer

“The challenge is to erase negative attitudes about people with developmental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes and break the barriers for people with disabilities," (71) says Christopher Kliewer in his chapter Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome. Children are not only being segregated depending on their social class, but also if they have a disability. Kliewer believes students learn more when combined with other children who have different learning abilities. In this chapter, he focuses on ways schools should avoid isolating children with down syndrome in a different classroom. Students with disabilities should not be educated differently. Children with special needs have to be nurtured and given additional attention, however; when they learn in a mainstream environment, students get the same education and learn from one another. As Kliewer mentions, "Vygotsky found that the culture of segregation surrounding people with disabilities actually teaches underdevelopment of thinking through the isolation of children from socially valued opportunities" (83). Like Lindsey Dickinson says, the high school we attended segregated the children with disabilities and placed them in a separate classroom. I know the students received great individual attention and were able to participate in many different opportunities such as selling snacks during advisory and grocery shopping. What I did not like was how the teacher spoke to the children. I remember a child with special needs always sat down with my friends and I at lunch until a teacher pulled him away and told him he couldn't talk to us because we distracted him from eating his lunch. I was very distraught because the teacher rather have wanted him to eat by himself instead of socializing with people. Many people look at a child with down syndrome and do not actually see the child, they see the disability. Each child should be recognized for their individual uniqueness. Children will disabilities and children who do not have a disability are no different from each other. Kliewer's excerpt reminded me of Allan Johnson's idea of "we must say the words." Both authors state we have use the word to realize and notice the problems in order to fix them. This way we are recognizing the existence of the problem in order to raise attention and think of solutions to solve it. I also found this excerpt to be very similar to Jeannie Oakes article on tracking. Kliewer and Oakes believe mixing students that come from different social classes and have different learning abilities will benefit their education. Why should students with different learning abilities deserve to be taught in a certain way, while others enjoy the benefits of high-quality work?  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Literacy with an Attitude" by Patrick Finn

Dividing students into different classes depending on their levels of ability and social class is segregation. In "Literacy with an Attitude" by Patrick Finn, he discusses the evolution of literacy. According to Finn, there are two kinds of education, there is "empowering education, which leads to powerful literacy, the kind of literacy that leads to positions of power and authority." The second kind of education is "domesticating education, which leads to functional literacy, literacy that makes a person productive and dependable." He believes the rich get empowering education and powerful literacy while the working class and middle class receive domesticating education and functional literacy. Schools are not providing the same opportunities for each student. Children are placed in their classes determined by class. He notes when working class children get empowering education "you get literacy with an attitude."

When Finn says, "people who have the power to make changes are comfortable with the way things are" made me think of Delpit's culture of power. The fifth idea of the culture of power is "those with power are frequently least aware of or least willing to ackowledge its existence." Finn goes on to say that "it takes energy to make changes, and the energy must come from the people who will benefit from the change." I thought about the idea that "those in the power of culture" because Finn and Delpit believe that control in the classroom needs to happen, otherwise children will walk over the teachers. Finn being controlling and telling his students what he expected of them was a way to make sure that the students knew the "rules and codes of power" in his classroom. Finn approach his students not saying "What are you doing?" but instead he would say "Stop that and get to work." No matter if a child is poor or rich, he treats everyone equally. He also explicitly addresses how he wants his work done and makes his assignments easy so the students who have trouble can still get the work done.
Finn looks at the issues of the effect of education and segregation of social class, which is one of the many social issues in education today. Schools should provide the same opportunities and the same skills to each child instead of limiting the education each individual receives. Like he says, "education rather should focus on a powerful literacy--a literacy with an attitude that enables working-class and poor students to better understand."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brown v. Board of Education

“Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group...Any language in contrary to this finding is rejected. We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, 1954, was the reason segregation in schools "ended". This case started off with a young African American girl named Linda Brown was forced to walk six blocks to her elementary school due to racial segregation. Because of the color of her skin she was denied to attend a white school that was closer to her. This was the beginning of abolishing segregated education.
I decided to use Emily Prisco's blog as the center of my own. The goal of this civil rights movement was to abandon racial segregation and racism however, like Emily says, "We have made many strives and improvements since the Brown v. Board case, however, we are facing old and new issues of racism in today's society." She goes on to write, "If a person from a different race does not dress in a certain way or come from an elite academic setting then our perceptions of their being and opinions are inadequate. We do not fully accept an individual from a different race unless they do not fall under their stereotype." I completely agree with Emily because although individuals were separated based on their skin tone and race, individuals are now separated by their social class. We attempt to eliminate racism and segregation, yet it is still present in our society. "Brown v. Board worked to eliminate racial segregation in public schooling but now it has evolved into an economic segregation," says Emily.
Tim Wise, the author of Between Barack and a Hard place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama, believes white privilege and discrimination against people of color still continue. He relates to Obama by saying, "I don't think we want to have a society, where in order to be a successful person of color you have to bring it the way Obama brings it." Just because our president is black does not mean that racism has been defeated. Though he is the first African American President, what he does and the money he makes does not reflect on other African Americans. Emily points out from Wise's interview, "we have not reached a level of racial equity until people of color can be just as mediocre as white people."

The issues that Bob Herbert raises shaped how I think about Brown v. Board of Education. Herbert explains that a way to improve the education of poor children is by "getting them away from learning environments that are smothered in poverty." He goes on to say that it is not about the culture or race of the students that matters but rather the "improved all-around environment of schools with better teachers, fewer classroom disruptions, pupils who are more engaged academically, parents who are more involved." This shows that regardless of the Reconstruction Amendments that were intended to extend the rights of African Americans, the framing of Brown v. Board case is still relevant in today's society. 

Emily relates by saying, "People believe that by separating the schools based on family income is beneficial to their learning...We are depriving these students of the education that they would receive at a higher income school because we can not provide them with what they need for academic success." What if the students we work with at our Service Learning schools in Providence did not come from diverse backgrounds? What if we worked at other towns other than Providence, such as Barrington or Lincoln? Would we receive the same experience at a non-urban educational setting? 

We are still separate yet unequal likewise to what Herbert mentions, "we are still trying as a country to validate and justify the discredited concept of separate but equal schools."