Thursday, April 23, 2015

Social Justice Event - "Blogging Dissent Under a Dictatorship? Alternative Art and Civil Society in the Era of Renewed US- Cuba Relations"

   My history class today was in the Forman Center, where we had to listen to a Cuban Dissident, Blogger, Writer, and Photographer, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (Disclaimer: his blog is in Spanish, so you would have to translate it, unless you do know Spanish) talk about Cuban Society. As soon as I  read the description of the event, I knew that I would be able to connect it in some way, shape, or form, to our class, our authors, and the themes we have been talking about all semester long.

The first thing he started talking about was his photo blog. He noticed that the more pictures he posted and talked about, other Cuban citizens who were living abroad began asking him to go to certain places in the city of Havana, and take pictures of certain things and places. The more he did this, he began to cross the line of what was accepted in his society, what was allowed and what wasn't. The first connection I see here is with Delpit. Fidel Castro, the dictator of Cuba, has very much established the Culture of Power. Every single citizen knows the rules and the things they can and cannot do. His blog, his pictures, challenge this culture. He talks and posts about things that are not supposed to be talked about. I guess this would also kind of be an "Anti- Johnson" moment. Where Johnson talks about how things are bad but nobody talks about them, here you have an author talking about them knowing that he could get in trouble for these things. The Culture in Cuba is designed to keep every single person where they are. The status quo is designed to stay exactly where it is, and not change. I think this is very much something that Finn would agree with. Finn's idea has to do with education, but I think you can make an extension from education, to society very easily.

One topic he talked about that really intrigued me was the topic of the Embargo in Cuba, and the importance of United States to Cuban society, and how seriously reliant Cuba is on the United States. He made a point of saying how the definition of
what a "Civil Society" really is, is totally different in Cuba than it is in the States. I did not know this, but the Cuban embargo is seriously harming the Cuban economy. I would not say that Cuba is a poor country, but it is not extremely wealthy either. The embargo is forcing Cuba to rely on mostly themselves for any source of money. But they cannot survive on this. Maybe this is a stretch, but I see a connection to Ullucci here, specifically the Bootstraps Myth. Because of the embargo, most Cubans don't have an option besides just working as hard as they can to hopefully become successful and move up in society. However that will not happen because moving up in class and becoming wealthy is more complicated than just "picking yourself up by your bootstraps and working hard" and just becoming richer. This is why it is a myth. And, what i learned in this talk, this is something that most Cubans do not like. They realize that they cannot function the way they would like without the help of the United States, the European Union, etc. Here is a pro/con list about the Cuban embargo if you want to learn more about it, and its effects.

Before 2008, Cuban citizens were not able to buy and sell their own phones, their own houses, their own cars, or get their own licenses. Again, I think this is definitely a connection to Finn. Those who could not have these things were meant to never get them. Those who could get them, were lucky to be able to have them.  The government didn't even allow all of its citizens access to the internet. But, when they finally did let citizens have internet, the Cuban Government made sure to keep an extremely watchful eye on everything that they did. In 2009 he was harassed by Cuban security agents. Dressed in plain clothes, these agents forced him into a car, without an arrest warrant, and beat him...Later on, the Human Rights Foundation made a comment saying it was a "blatant attempt by the Cuban government to silence independent thought and speech". For anyone who wants to learn more about the topic of racism in Cuba, here is an article from the New York Times:

One last thing that he mentioned that really struck me was how much racism goes on in Cuba. 65% of the population in Cuba is white, according to Cuban censuses. Outside sources, however, say that only 25-35% is white. That being said, the discrimination against non-whites is rampant. In his talk, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo talked about how he was arrested one time, but was eventually released because not only was he well known throughout the country, but because he was white, while another Cuban dissent blogger, just like him, but she was: a woman; not as well known; and lastly, she was black. They did not release her in a timely manner like they did with him.  Black Cubans, more often than not, "have a very low political, economic, and judicial representation in contrast to the numerous prevailing black penal population. This situation is never publicly manifested by the government but it is a component of Communism's subtle politics of segregation". This can definitely connect to McIntosh, because of all the white privilege all over the country, and for the most part, based on everything I heard today, most of the whites in the country do not even realize it exists.

Overall, this was a really interesting talk to listen to. It was shocking to see all of the things that Cuban citizens have to go through. So many of the things that we, as Americans, have are things that Cuban citizens would fight for tooth and nail. It's crazy to see how many things we take for granted. I know that I definitely take the internet, and the fact that I'm allowed to research anything without fear of the government coming in and taking me to some place with a hood over my head, or the fact I have my own phone, and can buy my own car or my own home when I choose to. But in Cuba, the citizens couldn't do any of those things for years, and even now, when they can, they are being carefully watched all day long.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Shor, "Empowering Education"


"People are naturally curious. They are born leaders. Education can either develop or stifle their inclination to ask why and to learn" ( 12).

I couldn't agree more with this quote. It is our job as teachers to embrace our students natural curiosity and to satisfy it. We as teachers are the ones who, more or less, determine how curious our students are down the line. If a student loves to ask questions and know about everything in elementary school, but he has a teacher who is simply there just to teach the information and nothing else, and get mad when a student asks a deeper question, then he is going to remember that for as long as he is in a classroom. They might decide that college isn't for him, based solely on his education experiences growing up. On the other hand, if the student is always asking questions, and he is getting lots of feedback, he might realize that he loves learning. Personally, I think that is one of the most important roles that we play as teachers. 

"Through these practical choices, the politics of the classroom are defined, as critical or uncritical, democratic or authoritarian" (14).

Lisa Delpit, and the culture of power say pretty much the same thing. Whether these decisions and choices are good or bad, is irrelevant. The making of the choice, is what it so important. By making those choices, the rules inside the particular culture of power are made. Those who are inside the culture of power are expected to follow the rules. Now, the more well defined the rules are, and how well the choices are made, influences how well the students behave inside the culture of power. If the rules are explicitly defined, then the students will follow them. A really good example of this is the student who isn't doing what he is told, but the reason he never stopped is because the teacher never said "Stop what you're doing, and do this instead", they said "Is it really time to do that?". The student might be confused, but they would never think they were doing something wrong because all they got asked was if it was time to be doing that. 

"Are students asked to think critically about the material and to see knowledge as a field of contending interpretations, or are they fed knowledge as an official consensus?"  (15)

Reading this, I couldn't help but think of the activity we did in class where we were given a worksheet on the article and told to find the answers, based on "tracking" and "literacy with an attitude". I can definitely see a connection to Finn and Oakes here. I think this is a huge issue in schools today, because some schools do a lot of critical thinking about the material in the classroom and told to offer their opinions about things rather than simply stating some facts, but a lot of schools still just are given questions where all they need are to put the facts. It isn't a matter of which education is better at which school, because the material being taught could very well be the same across the board. It is just a question of how we are measuring the knowledge of our students. Does asking them questions like "what is the authors name?" give them the same level of understanding as "what was the authors message while writing this piece, and what makes you think that? 

"School funding is another political dimension of education, because more money has always been invested in the education of upper class children and elite collegians than has been spent on students from lower income homes and in community colleges"(15). 

I think this is huge issue, especially today. With the new PARCC testing being rolled out into the Rhode Island schools this past year, and with participation tied directly to how much funding they are eligible to get, it is so important to talk about this topic, but nobody seems to be doing any talking about it. Another example of this would be the fact that starting soon, Rhode Island College will get a large portion, if not all, of its state funding based on its 4 year graduation rate. The more students we have that graduate in 4 years, the more money we will get from the state, and tuition will stay down. The less amount of students that graduate in 4 years, the less money we will get from the state, and the only way to compensate for that is by increasing tuition. This seems a little counter-intuitive to me, because if you want to increase 4 year graduation rates, wouldn't you want to first lower tuition so that more students would be able to attend, and be able to take more classes at a time so they will get out of here in 4 years? If that happens, then the 4 year rate would go up and we would get the funding anyway...I see a connection to Johnson here because nobody seems to be talking about this issue, either because they don't want to , or because they don't know how to go about it. "It's like our collective house is burning down and everybody is tiptoeing around afraid to say 'fire'"(15).

 Talking Point: Really interesting video about Urban Education and Empowerment of our students by Christopher Emdin

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kliewer, "Reconceptualizing Down Sydrome"

Extended Comment:

I am doing an extended comments blog post based off of Kaileen's blog post.

Kaileen, as always, your blog posts are always so detailed and well done. I thought that this one was my favorite out of all of your other blog posts, not only because Special Education is your major, but because of how personally this relates to you and your life. I liked how you included a definition of what Down Syndrome is genetically, and then also included a link to learn all about it. I personally did not know there were more than one kind of Down Syndrome. I used to think that it was all the same thing.

 The story you included about your best friend, Haley was touching and inspiring, and the fact that your school had a class where you, a "regular ed" student could go in and work with the Special Education students is simply amazing. I think more schools need to do this all around the country, never mind the state. I think it is extremely important for the "regular ed" students to see how the  Special Ed students learn, even if your major isnt going to be Education when you get into college. One thing I noticed in that story was that you said their classroom was in the basement. In my middle school, the Special Education classrooms were all in the basement separated from all the other students, classrooms, and other teachers. All the gym, art, and music classes were all segregated as well. When I got to high school, it was a slight change: the Special Ed classroom was on the first floor, instead of secluded in the basement (all other classes were mostly on the 3rd floor, so it was still bad, but not as bad as before). The one improvement, though, is that the gym classes were inclusive. Some of the gym classes made a point to mix their class with the Special Education classes. I think this is a great step in the right direction.

The connection that you made to Johnson was spot on. I also agree with you that we need to accept the differences and talk about them so that later on there will be no more problems. Schooling children with disabilities in the correct and equal way is what will help kids become successful and noticed as individuals, not just there disability.
I think this quote is excellent. A students disability does not define who a student is, nor should it! Sure, it is a part of them and makes them who they are, but that should  be something to be celebrated, not stigmatized.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Finn, "Literacy with an Attitude"

Relfection/ Quotes:

Image result for patrick j finnOkay. I think this might have been the hardest reading to get through by far that we have read this semester. Not only was it incredibly long, but Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick J. Finn was so dry and factual that it was just so hard to get through. However, that being said, once I actually got through the article, I thought it was a phenomenal read. From the very beginning of the reading, the first thing that struck me was that he actually referenced authors and readings that we read for this class and made some of the same observations and connections that we did. It was surprising to me, but at the same time, I thought it was really cool. In the very first chapter, Finn makes reference to Kozol's first book and how he drew heavily on Kozol as an influence for writing his own book.  The next reference he made didn't stand out to me at first, until I read it over a few times for it to finally sink in:
Image result for patrick j finn"I was schooling these children, not to take charge of their lives, but to take orders...I had assignments on the board when the students entered the classroom, and so there wasn't a moment when they didn't have anything to do. I didn't say to an errant student, 'what are you doing?' I said 'Stop that and get to work.' No discussion. No openings for an argument."  - This definitely reminds me of Delpit, and in fact, she had the same discussion in "The Silenced Dialogue" in which she says that students  were more likely to understand and respond to a direct order, rather than an instruction formed as a question. It definitely relates to the culture of power, because by doing that, he was giving them the tools they needed to survive and flourish in the culture of power.

One thing I liked, in the beginning of the reading, is where he is talking about how he ran his classroom. I agree with him, and also think it is important to balance out the actual curriculum work that is tedious and hard, with some lighter fun activities. I immediately connected this to my service learning because the teacher I am with always spends the first 5-10 minutes of class joking around with the students and talking about random things giving them a chance to unwind and get more comfortable in the classroom, and it also gives them a break because he is the only teacher who does that for them. By doing that, he says that their performance in class always goes up and that when that "fun time" is over, they know that they need to stop messing around and get to work - and they do.

When Finn talks about his experience when he was going to graduate school - and connecting it to him now teaching at graduate school, particularly when he talks about "How would this work in my classroom?" I thought it was a brilliant thing to think about and how to judge and rate lectures. To a certain extent, i'm sure each and every one of us studying to be future teachers do the same thing. We all have had bad teachers, whether they are in high school, middle school, or even here in college where we think to ourselves "wow, I would not be this kind of teacher" or we've had great teachers and think "wow, I like this teachers approach" or any kind of thought like that. I think that kind of thinking is crucial to being a teacher, because you should know, or have some idea, what kind of teacher you do want to be (or what kind of teacher you don't  want to be).

"...knowledge was presented as fragmented facts isolated from wider bodies of meaning and from the lives and experiences of the was often evaluated in terms of whether the steps were followed rather than whether it was right or wrong...When a girl realized what they were making, she raised her hand and said she had a faster way, the teacher replied "No you don't. You don't even know what I'm making yet. Do it this way or it's one working-class school, one teacher commented that she skipped pages dealing with math reasoning because they were too hard, while another said that those kinds of pages are for creativity and that they are extra." -  This reminded me a lot of Ullucci, because the whole argument in that reading was the vast difference in education of students of poor backgrounds versus wealthy backgrounds and how students are taught very differently and treated differently because of that background. Students in poor backgrounds are often thought of as dumber and that they can't handle the same amount of work or the same material as wealthier students.

One thing that really bothered me when reading this was the discussion about why the fifth grade teachers do the things that they do, and why they teach certain ways. When they replied with "the students are too lazy" or "they don't know anything so you cant teach them much" I couldn't help but be angry. That is exactly what a teachers job is: to teach students what they don't know, and to help and reinforce the things that they do know so they have a deeper understanding. I've said this in previous blog posts but it seems to keep coming back: A student is a student, no matter what. Just because they come from a lower socio-economic background, doesn't mean you should teach them at a lower level. Another point that I found very intriguing was the varying definitions of "work" in each of the schools visited. It was something I never thought of before.

"President Kennedy once said that he hoped a person's chance of becoming president was not determined on the day he became baptized" -I thought this was a really interesting quote to have put in the article. I never would have thought to compare a Catholic becoming president to Children's expectations being determined for them the minute they got into kindergarten, but it is completely true. Just as someone's religion has no effect on whether they should become president or not, someones background should have no effect on how they are taught in schools or what kind of schools they should go to.

Towards the very end of the reading, there is some in depth connections with Christensen. Finn is talking about how Christensen had her classes try and observe what goes on in their classes and identify the relationships between the students and the teacher. the result? boys were treated smarter than girls. The boys were given more in depth explanations, while the girls were given simple answers; The boys were told to do most of the work by themselves, while the girls had the help of the teachers. I think that this definitely relates to the Christensen article that we read a few weeks ago, about gender roles and stereotypes.

Talking Point:  what did everyone else think of this article? even though it was extremely long, I thought it was my favorite to actually read out of all of the ones we have read so far.

Pecha Kucha Update

For my Pecha Kucha, my main author is going to be Delpit, because my service learning has clearly shown me how the culture of power works in a classroom, and how telling the students the rules of power helps them attain that power.  My other connections are going to be August (because I have a student who is transgender in one of my classes I am teaching), possibly Finn and Shor, and Johnson.  I'm not quite sure yet how I'm going to tie Finn and Shor into my Pecha Kucha, so I might not use them if i can't figure that out. For Johnson, though, his connections were apparent from the very beginning. In my service learning, all of the teachers I have been with have always made sure to tell the students things. "Say the words". It might be a little anti-johnson because the whole point of that article was that we are aware of problems in society but we choose to say nothing, however in my classes, the teachers are very aware of the problems and they always do their best to make sure that the students are also aware of those problems. I am still working on my Pecha Kucha. I know pretty much what I want to say, I just have to now figure out where i'm going to put it and how it will all fit together.