Thursday, May 5, 2011

Social Justice Event

After hearing that the social justice event that I would be attending was going to be based around the film twilight, I was more than apprehensive.  Once I then found out that the speech was to be given by the same woman who had come up with the theory of "SCWAAMP", I was much more interested than I had thought I originally was going to be.  I walked into the event to find something that I had half expected walking in.  This of course being the first part of the event, which was a speech focused on the challenges in Women's and Gender studies classrooms.  I am in no way attempting to be sexist in my saying this, but I had an inkling as to what the general topics of this part of the speech would be, and I was sure that it would include several different instances in which women are mistreated and/or underappreciated within society today. 
                As I had presumed, this was the main focus in the beginning, but to my surprise my own views were explained to be a part of the problem itself.  It fit directly under the category of "Resistance to feminist theoretical perspectives".  I instantly realized what I had been doing, becoming even more interested after the fact that views such as my own were exposed right there in front of me.  Any and all prior perspectives that I held were cast aside, and I gave even more attention to the speaker.  As she progressed, she explained the importance of Gate Openers and Resistance Breakers.  This was a concise list of ways in which states can overcome, and work on exploring other individual's values.  Such topics within the list included:  Exploring and deconstructing theory, encouraging student ownership of values and beliefs, and also challenging students to "unpack" their knowledge.  
                The next part of her presentation consisted of an almost overwhelming breakdown and analysis of the three twilight films, focusing on how they involved gender roles, as well as attempted to keenly apply examples of race within the characters in the films.  When she first said that the rest of the presentation was a breakdown of these three films, I had no idea as to what this would actually be.  I once again had my doubts, but none the less was interested in seeing exactly what this would be.  Overall, I found this part of the presentation to be very interesting.  I had never actually paid enough attention to the films to be able to make such inquisitive accusations as to how ethnicity and gender roles were so clearly incorporated.  For me the twilight series was simply something I had to sit through in order to please my girlfriend.  The presenter's  perspectives into the film were extremely in depth, going as far as to describe the in accurateness of the traits involving a specific Indian tribe with the movie.  I started off not thinking that this could amount to anything meaningful, but in turn came to realize that movies need to be looked at closely like this in order to gain every aspect hidden within the film itself.  I am, usually the king of such breakdowns, but have never attempted one for these movies, sticking mostly to horror films.
                However, my favorite part of the entire presentation was the part in which the presenter began to speak of the several classes that she herself teaches, mostly involving woman's rights.  I wasn't surprised at all at hearing that these were the type of classes that she taught.  She went on to explain that over the years, several students will become very involved within this class, and are able to gain a strength thy never had before.  She said that there have been countless instances in which a female student will go directly to her and completely open up about an issue, such as domestic abuse or any other problem such as this.  I realize the amount of strength it must take to actually tell someone of your problem, either due to extreme fear or even immense amounts of nervousness.  I could see from the way in which she presented this point that she was very proud of the fact that her class gave these individuals the strength they needed to confront their fears.  Getting a sense of gratification as a teacher is what it is all about, and it is the exact same feeling that I one day hope to achieve.

Random Blog #2

It was in 1996 that the Oakland School Board in California attempted to pass an Act in which a secondary language would be added throughout the school systems of Oakland.  Lessons, as well as all books, would be printed in both standard English, as well as this new form.  This new form of course being none other than Ebonics.  Ebonics is otherwise known as African American Vernacular English, and is basically a slang version of the standard proper English that is spoken every day. 
                A group of researchers conducted an experiment in which inner city high school students took two different exams.  The first exam was in standard English, while the second exam was in Ebonics.  Post experiment data concluded that the high school students from the inner city scored higher on the test that was given with the Ebonics.  As a result of this, Ebonics was beginning to be pushed down the throats of school boards left and right, the most famous being Oakland, California, who really had intended on incorporating the language within their curriculums. 
                Before I give my take on this topic, I would like to start off by saying that I am in no way racist towards any individual group of ethnicity, nor do I ever intend on being so.  people are people and that's all there is to it.  Now, when it comes to Ebonics I was appalled to see the modern English that I have always studied so closely, in order to learn every correct formality within the language, was being completely tossed aside for this new wave of a slang version.  All proper mechanics and rules had be negated and thrown out the window, making way for this extremely informal language.  At first I thought the fact that an actual school board was attempting to use this language within their school system was a joke, but I slowly saw how serious they had been about it at the time. 
                In the Webster's Collegiate Dictionary of the English Language, I was able to find a quote within the introduction to the dictionary that completely agreed with my feelings towards Ebonics.  " Not included in the concept of slang are dialect, profanity, and the so called four letter words once taboo in polite-society, now increasingly accepted.  It is also important to recognize that most slang is colloquial in nature in that it occurs in speech much more frequently than in writing."  With this being said, it is perfectly fine to use whatever slang/dialect an individual desires, when he or she is in a casual environment.  However this is very different when t comes to ether a formal setting, an educational/institutional setting, as well as within the workplace (also somewhat depending on the job itself).  What it all comes down to in the end is the ever so beautiful concept of Culture of Power.  One should be allowed to speak whatever slang or even language they desire, but they are taught within the education system the correct practice and use of Standard English, as this is the language that is the dominant force within our society today and will continue to be so for centuries to come.  Let me know what you think on the issue.

Random Blog #1

We have already gone over this exact issue in class during the exercise in which we were to choose a side on a certain issue, and then accordingly stand somewhere along the line in between the two opposing walls of either yes or no.  One of the issues that we went over really stood out to me, and made me feel strongly irritated with the way in which some of the students felt on the subject.
                 The issue I am referring to is the one about parents opposing their young kids working on an arts project for thanksgiving, where they create feather headdresses and stereotypical pilgrim hats, to symbolize thanksgiving.  Many students who agreed with the opposition of such an activity brought about the points that these are merely stereotypes and that children should know the truth.  Here is my point on this, which I had already briefly touched upon during the exercise, but since have had much more time to dwell on. 
                There is a reason why particular parts of history are changed when being taught to young children in schools.  The reason being primarily that the children are at too young of an age to fully understand the actual concept, and also that the material itself is too graphic and dark for such young children.  There are no negative side effects that I can think of that come out of being taught these small white lies as a child.  I myself was one of these children who was taught a condensed version of such topics as Thanksgiving and more specifically Christopher Columbus.  Columbus himself is a glorified murder who's greed far exceeded that of all of his men. 
                Once children become the appropriate age, they are informed that they weren't told the truth on these specific lessons, and then are taught the real accuracies.  At this point, the children are able to comprehend the fact that they weren't told the truth previously, they can exclude all information from before, and then can move on knowing the facts as they did happen.  Someone at the time had commented that by condensing the history lessons for younger kids, that we are in turn lying.  Well. if you were to consider this a lie that should not be told, then while you explain to these kids the truth about their history lessons, you should just go head and tell them that Santa Claus isn't real, and that it is actually the child's parents who put money under their pillow in the exchange of a tooth.  Let me know what you guys think.

Education Is Politics

Ira Shor, the author of this article, basically lays out the guidelines to an ideal teaching environment, in which the teacher and the students coexist as one force that depend on each other to successfully flow.  Shor explains that the role of a teacher is to be democratic in the sense that her or she runs the classroom, as well as directs the curriculum.  The author also notes that it is key to create an atmosphere within the classroom that is open and successfully promotes class involvement.  If a student feels comfortable walking into a classroom, that student is more likely to be involved and interested in the lessons within that classroom.  This comfort ability is key to a successful and well functioning class.  A prime example of this is obviously FNED.  I know this is true for the majority of you as well, but I personally am always really comfortable stepping into class and knowing that I will be able to have my say, and then people will in turn respond creating good conversation and debates.  Open debates such as these have always been something I thrive on, and I enjoy standing up, even if it's against others, and being allowed to put my two cents in.  Everyone in this class is respectful of one and other and allows each student to have their say, paying full attention when it is their turn to speak.  So far at RIC, I have never been lucky enough to be in such an involved class as this.  If more classes could be like this (especially within the high school level), I feel there would be alot more students who would become more interested and comfortable with the certain curriculums.  I hope to one day run a classroom half as good as the way in which our FNED class is run, because I want students to become involved and feel the comfort ability that it key to great success.

scene from my favorite movie, plus i was the only classroom example I could think of

Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

                As I had said before in my review on tracking, every student has a different mind and a different learning process.  The same can be said about children with down syndrome.  Even though they are directly affected by the disease, Kliewer argues that incorporation of some of the students into a normal classroom would be a good idea.  He argues that it would allow the child with the syndrome to feel more normal than ever, as well as giving them an equal learning chance as the so called normal students of the institution.  It can also be a beneficial experience for the rest of the students in the class, who will be able to experience the disease head on, allowing them to incorporate the student as well as help them along their way.  The only direct downside I can see with this is taunting and teasing.  It's hard to believe that this would ever happen, but in my experience taunting of mentally retarded or disabled students is a reality, and a pathetic one at that.  The only fights I was ever involved with in school were because of me stepping in and stopping someone from taunting either a mentally retarded student or a disabled student.  It is one of the only things I cannot tolerate, and I feel affirmative action is the only way to resolve it.  Any person rotten enough to commit such an atrocity deserves to be dealt with through the use of force, I don't care what anyone says, I will not let that go unpunished.  Getting back to the main topic of the article, I was fortunate enough to have a close experience to this hear on the RIC campus this semester.  In my regional Geography course, one of the students (Mark) is a disabled student who is in a motorized wheel chair and is accompanied by a student aid who helps him to be organized for assignments, as well as takes careful notes for the student who is unable to do so for himself.  It is honestly amazing to see this in front of me, and how accomadable the school has been to help Mark out in such a vast way.  His prescience in the class is definitely felt in a great way, and everyone is very generous and accomadable to him whenever needed, which is great to see.  it is for these many reasons that I fully agree with such an incorporation as was mentioned.   I feel as if this incorporation would be beyond beneficial for both the student his or herself, as well as the class as a whole.  Everyone deserves the same chance as one another, no matter what.

Tracking: Why Schools Need To Take Another Route

Tracking is the term used for the division of students within a school based upon performance, or level of educational ability.  The author of the article (Oakes), argues that this division within schools, has a significant toll among students.  many of these students feel less of an intellectual than those students who are placed in a higher up section, and the affects can be really depressing.  Oakes views this whole tracking system as a form of segregation within schools, that is churning up a much unneeded sense of helplessness for those kids who are being grouped in the lower learning groups.  For me, the tracking system is way different than this.  Since middle school, every year the entire grade was tracked based upon the difficulty level of the classes, and how well each student is able to perform as an individual.  Based off of past grades and experiences, the students are placed into corresponding groups that match their academic level and provide the challenge that some students need.  I completely understand where Oakes is coming from when he speaks out on how this system segregates kids and causes problems, but I think overall that the system is too affective and important to be wiped out.  For many of the smarter students, they have tried their hardest and deserve to be in higher classes, where they will be challenged to a certain point that seems fit to them.  Many kids belong in the lower classes either because of a struggle in prior years, or because the lower classes are needed to help the student focus easier and move on successfully.  If a student feels left out of a certain level class, then he or she can work towards moving up to a higher level the next year.  I know in my high school, we were always allowed to pick which difficulty level we wanted to go into, and then simply had a teacher sign off on whether or not it was a good choice.  What it all comes down to in the end is that no two students are the same.  Every student has a different ability level, and should be grouped according to that ability.  Segregation unfortunately is an effect of this system, but in no way does that infer a flawed system, or even one that needs to be stopped.