Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gran Torino

I feel the need to blog because last night I watched the movie Gran Torino and it made me think of Delpit! The main character in the movie (played by Clint Eastwood) is a grumpy old American white man named Walt. He is a Vietnam War veteran who lives in a neighborhood once occupied by whites, but now mostly occupied by Hmong families. As the movie progresses, (despite the myriad of racial slurs he expresses toward the people in and around his neighborhood) Walt develops a relationship to the Hmong family that lives next door to him. The teenage girl who lives next door invites Walt to a party at her home. One of the first things he does upon entering the house is to tap a boy on the head (which is a major taboo in Hmong culture) and receives dirty looks from almost everyone in the household. Directly following that, the teenage girl EXPLICITLY explained to Walt some of the Hmong cultural codes, including why he shouldn't touch Hmong people on the head. After this, he was better able to relate and coexist with her family. Walt returned the favor by helping the girl's brother act like a "real man." Although, Walt was not as explicit as the girl had been, he helped the boy be able to communicate effectively in the "culture of power" in order to obtain a job.
Despite hearing some shocking racial expressions, which were surprisingly mostly ignored by Walt's neighbors, I thought this was a really great movie. Be careful though, it's kind of a tear-jerker at the end!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Boler Talking Points

In the article All Speech Is Not Free, Megan Boler wants us to realize that due to the social inequities in America, all voices and perspectives are not heard and treated equally. She writes, “Power inequities institutionalized through economics, gender roles, social class, and corporate-owned media ensure that all voices do not carry the same weight.” In general, people think more highly of the “unbiased” voices of people who come from the “culture of power” and are not readily willing to accept the perspectives of people who populate the “marginal” society. We are less likely to see “marginalized” people’s perspectives reflected in our society (especially in the media).

Boler proposes, “an ‘affirmative action pedagogy,’ a pedagogy that ensures critical analysis within higher education classrooms of any expression of racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, ableism, and classism. An affirmative action pedagogy seeks to ensure that we bear witness to marginalized voices in our classrooms, even at the minor cost of limiting dominant voices.” Boler wants to see instances of “hate speech” challenged by teachers and other students. She wants not only the voices of the “culture of power” to be heard, but people who have less power in our society. She wants to give the “marginalized” people an opportunity to speak up so that their experiences and opinions can be heard and respected in the classroom.

Boler states that although there is no clear-cut way to implement an “affirmative action pedagogy,” there are two different ways “within an educational environment, articulation of injurious views can, if handled ethically, provide the target of hate speech with opportunities to speak back and thereby develop a sense of critical agency.” In the first way, a teacher can create an environment where critical analysis makes students accountable for their claims. A student may voice his/her hostilities against a group of people, but then other students (particularly members of the marginalized groups) will be given the opportunity to voice their opinions on the issue as well. This provides a chance for both sides of the issue to be analyzed by the class. In the second way, a teacher may totally ban “hate speech” in the classroom and all students are expected to side with the marginalized groups in society. This gives only the perspective of the marginalized groups a voice. Boler claims that some dominant voices must be silenced in order for marginalized voices to be heard.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rodriguez Talking Points

In the article Aria, Richard Rodriguez (a native Spanish speaker) tells the story of how as a child he was taught in English. His teachers encouraged English speaking at home in order to get Rodriguez and his brother and sister more acquainted with the language. Although he quickly became comfortable as an English speaker in school (which he calls his "public" identity), his family life did not continue to flourish as it had when they spoke Spanish. Rodriguez and his brother and sister failed to talk as much with their parents because their familiar family language, what Rodriguez calls their "private" language, was lost. Rodriguez's parents had difficulty understanding their children in English, so the children found it easier to refrain from talking to them rather than sending a misunderstood message. Rodriguez makes it clear that maintaining the native language at home is an important part of life for a child who's native language is not English. Rodriguez mentions bilingual education at the end of the article. The following links are related to the topic of bilingual education.
Article on bilingual education :
Video promoting bilingual education:
Video of debate on whether bilingual education is effective:
Video on The International School- bilingual education for native English speaking students:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Carlson Talking Points

I would like to connect Dennis Carlson’s text “Gayness, Multicultural Education, and Community” to the writings of both Lisa Delpit and Patrick Finn. Carlson presents the dilemma today’s public schools have with accepting gayness and welcoming it into the curriculum.

Traditionally, public schools leave gayness out of curriculum, they have denied gay teachers the right to a job, and they have allowed verbal and physical abuse aimed toward gay students and teachers to take place. Gayness has essentially been “silenced” in schools by their history of phasing gay people out of teaching careers and ignoring that these people even exist. This reminds me of what Delpit called the “silenced dialogue.” Just as black educators have been silenced by whites, gayness has been silenced by predominately heterosexual public school officials. Public schools avoid textbooks that mention gays and teachers avoid dialogue that may lead to a discussion of homosexuality. School officials and teachers are afraid to upset community members by including any type of curriculum that involves homosexuality. Therefore gay people remain silenced and ignored within school communities.

Carlson believes that, in order to break the silence, there needs to be a “democratic multicultural education” provided in public schools. This education would need to include schools and educators willing to challenge the social norm, educators and community members letting go of stereotypes, teachers becoming comfortable discussing gayness in the classroom, a curriculum which provides students with a way to relate to gay people and their struggles, and an opportunity for all people (including students and community members) to have their voices heard regarding this issue. Like Finn, Carlson recognizes the importance of empowering dialogue being used as a teaching tool in the classroom. Carlson encourages gayness to be a part of classroom discussion in the context of human rights and caring for others. In this way students may be given the opportunity to “build alliances” and recognize the struggles that gay people face.

In this article, Carlson also recognizes “the need to forge a democratic multicultural curriculum in ways that maximize public participation.” He wants gay people to be involved in curriculum development so that their perspectives can be properly addressed. This relates to the views of Lisa Delpit when she includes the need for black community members to be a part of the curriculum development for black children.

In these ways, Carlson, Delpit, and Finn all want the same things for children. They want an empowering education for all children that includes the perspectives and cultures of all students and community members.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Finn Talking Points

In "Literacy with an Attitude" Patrick J. Finn argues that, in general, children of working-class citizens are educated to become working-class citizens themselves, while children from middle-class families are educated to obtain middle-class professions, and the children of affluent professionals are educated to become affluent professionals.

Students of low income families receive an education where they are given simple tasks and they are expected to follow procedures. These children are not given the opportunities to be creative, make decisions, and have meaningful conversations in their classes. They also tend to resist being taught.

Children from middle-class families value education a bit more because they understand that good grades can lead to good colleges which then lead to good careers. The possibility for them to become middle-class workers motivates them to succeed in the classroom. However, their education is lacking a connection to their life experiences and opportunities for them to show creativity.

Affluent professional children are given an extremely different education which includes many opportunities for them to show creativity, make decisions independently, and conduct real experiments. Their education is closely connected with their life experiences and they are provided with a happier learning environment. They also learn to value themselves and each other. They receive an education that empowers them to make decisions, take a side, and defend their beliefs (what Finn describes as "literacy with an attitude").

Finn promotes the teaching strategies of Paulo Freire, who encourages real dialogue in the classroom. Freire sees classroom dialogue as a conversation between teacher and students on a particular topic without the teacher trying to persuade the children to see things a certain way. The teacher must temporarily suspend his or her beliefs in order to let the students determine their own feelings on the topic. Freire's literacy program consisted of "dialogue, conscientization, and literacy." And the students were motivated to learn in order to become empowered.

Finn also provides the educational model of Peterson, Bigelow, and Christensen as a guide for teachers to follow. This model includes providing a curriculum that relates to the lives of the students, promoting critical thinking, encouraging students to get involved in acting upon their beliefs, and learning based on first-hand experience. Finn adds his own portion to this model as well. He claims that, along with all of those parts, "powerful literacy and school discourse" should be taught explicitly in the classroom.

In conclusion, Finn wants working-class children to be able to receive the same type of empowering education as the affluent professional children receive. He thinks this can be done by explicitly teaching powerful literacy, promoting real classroom dialogue on issues that the children experience in their own lives, encouraging students to take a side on power issues, and having them collaboratively work together in order to make changes and break out of the "status quo."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kozol Talking Points

Although I sensed a very negative tone from the beginning, Jonathan Kozol’s article was truly eye-opening for me. I had no idea that this racial segregation even existed in schools today. I also could not believe that some of the horrific school conditions Kozol described are still true in the United States. He tells stories of holes in the ceilings of schools where rain comes in, rats living in schools, and district-wide scripted programs being implemented that are so focused on procedures, rubrics, and standards that the teachers aren't able to develop a real connection to their students. And all of these schools are populated by a majority of poor black and Hispanic people. The children from these schools even feel as if they are unwanted.
While I was reading this article, there were many questions that came to mind. I found myself being a bit skeptical of some of the points Kozol made because he did not provide factual evidence for some of his claims. Here are the questions I had:
*Could it be that the reason some schools are dominated by a black and Hispanic population is because the makeup of the general population in the area the schools service is mostly made up of blacks and Hispanics? Kozol says the parents of white students pay for them to go to school elsewhere, but I can't imagine that is true or even affordable for most white families. I'm sure it is true in some cases, but I would have liked to see some numeric facts to back up this claim.
*If the white people in the neighborhood can afford to send their children elsewhere, why can't any of the black people from that same community afford to send their children to another school? And although some may not be able to afford it, I assume the opportunity to attend alternative schools is the same for both white and black students.
*Kozol presents the argument that poor black children are not given the same opportunities for preschool as white children whose parents can afford to pay for two or three years of preschool before they go to kindergarten. While I cannot deny that children benefit from being exposed to a preschool setting before going to kindergarten, I can't imagine that all white people can afford to send their children to preschool either. What about the Head Start programs in these cities? I don't know that all major cities have Head Start programs, but I know many of them do and they are free. Having been part of a Head Start program, I know that these programs are also held to much higher standards than many preschool programs that people pay for.
*Kozol implies that the wealthy children are taught by more experienced teachers and poor children are taught by inexperienced teachers. Is this really true? I did not see Kozol's evidence to support that claim.
Maybe many of my questions are due to my obliviousness that situations like these even existed, but these are just some of his points I found hard to believe.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Delpit Talking Points

Lisa Delpit, the author of Other People's Children, argues that children can be best taught not by way of skills or process, but with a combination of methods including skills, process, and input from adult members of the culture of the children being taught. She claims that “the culture of power” is prevalent in all classrooms by way of textbooks, curriculum development, intelligence assessments, and teachers having power over students. Within her text, Delpit provides some wonderful examples of how effective teaching is implemented in some classrooms where children who are not part of “the culture of power” are in the majority.
Delpit begins her article by suggesting that there is a debate of whether teaching methods of skill or process are more effective in teaching children who are not part of the "culture of power." She argues that black teachers’ opinions on this issue are often ignored by white teachers, and therefore; many black teachers have given up trying to prove that their methods of teaching are more effective. White teachers tend to base their methods of teaching on research while black teachers base their methods of teaching on experience, which appears inferior to the arguments of white people, who make up "the culture of power."
Delpit suggests that there are implicit codes in “the culture of power” that people outside of our culture are not aware of unless they are explicitly expressed. She claims that white parents and teachers tend to give more implicitly expressed directions to children, while black parents and teachers give more explicit directions. This can become very confusing for a child who is black and in a white teacher’s classroom.
Lisa Delpit expresses that black parents want their child to learn different things in school than white parents. White parents want their children to learn how to become independent thinkers, while black parents want their children to learn how to become successful living and working in “the culture of power.” In conclusion, Delpit claims that people of different cultures appreciate different methods of teaching. They want to be able to maintain their own culture, while learning the codes of “the culture of power” in order to obtain credibility in a white middle and upper class society.