Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ira Shor - Empowering Education - (Quotes)

In his book, Empowering Education, Ira Shor examines the educational system today. Shor feels that the traditional teacher driven model that focuses on transmission of knowledge and memorization of facts provides a disservice to the students. Shor also feels that "education is politics". He believes that even though teachers may feel that today’s curriculum is politically neutral it is really the opposite. He explains, “Education can either develop or stifle their inclination [students] to ask what and to learn. A curriculum that avoids questioning school and society is not, as is commonly supposed politically neutral. It cuts off the students’ development as critical thinkers about their world. If the students’ task is to memorize rules and existing knowledge without questioning the subject matter or learning process, their potential for critical thought and action will be restricted.”  Shor goes on to describe that a curriculum that encourages questioning is key. He states, “Not encouraging students to question knowledge, society, and experience tactically endorses and supports status quo.”

Shor, like Finn, feels the current model of education places too much value on docility and obeying authority, which in turn creates a theme of resistance from the students. Shor goes on to explain “Education can socialize students into critical thought or into dependence on authority, that is, into autonomous habits of mind or into passive habits of following authorities, waiting to be told what to do and what things mean.” Shor and Finn both believe that by telling students what to do and not telling them why they are doing it is creates this resistance from students, and they then take less interest in their learning. Shor believes that curriculum should encourage student questioning.  He explains why questioning leads to empowered education, “In a curriculum that encourages student questioning, the teacher avoids unilateral transfer of knowledge. She or he helps the students develop their intellectual and emotional powers to examine their learning in school, their everyday experience, and the condition of society. Empowered students make meaning and act from reflection, instead of memorizing facts and values handed to them.”  Shor feels that students today are not receiving empowering education. Many of the students are resisting education because they are being told what to do without being able to question why they are doing it; therefore they do not feel like they are truly involved in their educational process.

Shor feels that in order to get our students to invest in and value education we as educators need to provide our students with empowering education. Shor states that empowering education is, “critical-democratic pedagogy for self and social change. It is a student centered program for multicultural democracy in school and society. It approaches individual growth as active, cooperative, and social process, because the self and society create each other…The goals of this pedagogy are to relate personal growth to public life by developing strong skills, academic knowledge, habits of inquiry, and critical curiosity about society, power, inequality, and change.” Shor goes on to explain that the first step in creating empowering education is participation. A participatory pedagogy gets students interacting and allows them to feel involved in their learning. It allows them to feel as though their voices are heard and that decisions are mutual, not strictly teacher driven.

Shor also feels that emotional elements are also important aspects of empowering education. He believes that traditional education can produce negative emotions due to teacher center politics and competition. Shor states, “The difference between empowering and traditional pedagogy has to do with the positive or negative feeling the students develop for the learning process…The authoritarian traditional curriculum itself generates bad feelings which lead many students to resist or sabotage lessons.” Shor explains that empowering education can do the complete opposite through participation. He explains, “In contrast, an empowering educator seeks a positive relationship between feeling and thought. He or she begins this search by offering a participatory curriculum. In a participatory class where authority is mutual , some positive affects which support student learning include cooperativeness, curiosity, humor, hope, responsibility, respect, attentiveness, openness, and concerns about society.”  When students have positive emotions about school, they are motivated more to succeed. In turn students achieve more.

The next value Shor discusses in empowering education is problem posing. Shor explains, “Another means to engage students in critical and mutual learning can be found in the third value, problem posing.” Shor explains how teachers can use problem posing in a variety of disciplines to teach content knowledge but to also teach students to question aspects of the teachings. He states, “What students and teachers reinvent in problem posing is their relationship with learning and authority. They redefine their relationship to each other, to education, and to expertise. They re-perceive knowledge and power. As allies for learning and for democracy in school and society, they stop being adversaries divided by unilateral authority and fixed canons.” Shor feels that problem posing can tear down the walls between students and teacher. It can, like participatory and affective values, create a dialogue between the students and the teacher then will create a desire to learn form the students rather than resistance. The students will be able to relate the content area to their society, making it much more relevant to them. 

Shor goes on to explain that problem posing is also multicultural, another important value of empowering education. He states, "Empowering pedagogy develops classroom discourse from the students' cultural diversity...When problem posing situates itself in the language and perceptions of students, their divers cultures are built into the study. When students see their worlds and experiences as problems posed... the power relations of study are allied to their interests. It becomes easier for them to understand the meaning and purpose of intellectual work. Studying is no longer submitting to a dull imposition of alien culture." When the students can relate the curriculum to their culture, it becomes something they identify with and want to learn about, it is not an 'alien culture' they do not care about but are forced to learn about anyways. 

This reading was a great choice for the final reading of the course. I felt it connected to not just Finn, but almost all of the texts we read in the course. As a teacher it made me want to provide empowering education for my students. I liked how Shor provided explicit instruction on how to create empowering education and also provided the rationale behind it. 

Making Room for One Another – Gerri August (Extended Comments)

In the chapters from her study Making Room for One Another by Gerri August, she examines a democratic kindergarten classroom. August’s research study specifically addressed “the classroom discourse experiences of children from non-dominant family structures [in a] democratic educational environment in which broad issues of difference were recognized and honored” (August, 9). August chose Zeke Learner’s kindergarten classroom (referred to as the ZK) because his teaching “practice aligned with the principles of democratic, transformative pedagogy” (August, 4). August focuses on one student from a non-dominant family structure in her study. In her blog Alison states,Her research primarily focused on the reactions of one specific student, Cody. Cody is a student of Cambodian heritage who was adopted by his lesbian moms when he was 5 months old. Throughout the time spent in Zeke’s kindergarten classroom, August learns through democratic lessons that Cody resists to mention anything about his two moms, even during a family unit. However, towards the end of her research, August realizes that the primary reason for Cody’s insecurity and not feeling “safe” to share family stories was not as much the fact that he had two moms, but rather his adoption.” I agreed with Alison’s description of the study. I also agreed with Alison that Cody’s main sense of resistance to share centered on his adoption and feelings of abandonment more than his coming from a non-dominant family structure (having two moms). I found this quite interesting, as I think Gerri August did as well.

In her blog, Alison chooses quotes from the August reading and describes their meaning relevance to the text.  Alison’s first quote discusses the idea of schooling as a democratic society. “But what if the purpose of schooling in a democratic society is not simply to transmit and reproduce the knowledge and culture of the present order but to evaluate social and political practices according to principles of democratic ideals and, further, to equip students to become active agents in the transformation of society.” (August, 2). Alison explains her reasoning for choosing this specific quote, she states “I felt this quote was extremely relevant to August’s text because it describes the key reason for her research in Zeke’s classroom. In other words, it states that schooling is not just about teaching the “knowledge” of society’s culture of power, but rather incorporating all cultures, beliefs, and ways of life into a curriculum that creates the best pedagogy for all students. Also, it prepares students for society, and informs them that all people have differences that need to be respected.” I agree with Alison, this quote explains why August chose Zeke’s kindergarten as the setting for her study. Zeke creates a democratic classroom, he doesn’t simply transmit specific information shared by the dominant culture to his students, he encourages students to examine and question it. As Alison states, Zeke “teaches them [the students] that it is okay to wear different clothes, be a different color, or even have a different family in society today.” This is why August chose the ZK because Zeke has a democratic classroom where students from all backgrounds feel respected, valued, and safe.

Alison goes on to explain how Zeke wanted to encourage students to not take what Johnson referred to as the “path of least resistance” but to create their own new paths. Alison explains how he did this. She states, “Zeke wanted to create an environment for his students in which all students were comfortable to talk about things that personally affected them. He wanted them to really think about these topics and try to put aside any subconscious influences that they may have already been exposed to.”

Alison then discusses how Zeke creates teachable moments throughout the day. She chose the quote from the text, “Zeke demonstrated how an awkward moment can be transformed into a teachable moment.” Alison chose this quote because throughout the study Zeke demonstrates the ability to turn awkward moments in the classroom as opportunities to teach the children. Alison explains one specific instance, “One example of this was when Jackson came into the classroom with shorts on that resembled pajamas, the students pointed to him and said that he was wearing pajamas. Zeke quickly takes this uncomfortable and embarrassing moment for Jackson and says “I’ve got a pair at home just like them.” Zeke then went on to explain that there are “many different kinds of people from many different kinds of families who may wear different clothes.” Zeke’s teaching moments like this one are what created his classroom to be a comfortable place for students who learned through Zeke how to respect each others’ differences.” Zeke also extended this lesson when he came to school wearing a dashiki. When one student noticed the shirt and said, “Hello, Indian,” Zeke turned this awkward moment into a teachable one. He “steered the class from a disposition the imposed inaccurate, burdensome assumptions on an individual who manifested difference to a humbler one, one that explored difference." I completely agree with Alison, Zeke creates a safe environment for his children with both planned and unplanned teaching moments.

What I found so interesting is that despite the safe environment, Cody still did not feel comfortable sharing about his family. Only after reading “Tango Makes Three,” did Cody finally feel comfortable to discuss his family with the class. Cody’s response to the reading of this book revealed that what August had initially thought, that Cody was unwilling to share because of his two moms, was not all true. He was more unwilling to share because of struggled with his feelings about his adoption. August explains, “The reading of “Tango” was a capstone event in two ways. First it wrested me from my uni-dimensional interpretation of Cody’s participation in the family unit activities…"Tango" resonated with Cody in a way that the more didactic “Who’s in a Family” did not. It enlisted his participation in Zeke’s family unit, transforming his self-censoring into self-exploration.” The reading demonstrates how influential a teacher is to the students. Zeke’s ability to create this democratic classroom with kindergarteners inspired me. He illustrated how a teacher can “stretch students’ ideas about the way the world works and what can work in the world.” 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dr. Phil Episode on right now about gender identity issues

Check it out on the OWN network. Dr. Phil discusses issues with two transgendered individuals. Very interesting and thought provoking!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rodriguez and Collier – Connections

Richard Rodriguez and Virginia Collier both examine bilingual education in America. However, they describe the issue using very different approaches. Rodriguez gives a personalized account of his experience with bilingual education and the effects it has on him as in individual; while Collier provides guidelines for educators on how to effectively teach multilingual students English.

In “Aria” Rodriguez describes his struggle to learn English as a Spanish speaking child. He describes his feelings as though English was a public language, while Spanish was more private. He discusses his feeling of the loss of closeness with his family as he becomes more confident in his English. He describes how as the children became more fluent in English, the dialogue between parents and children lessened. Rodriguez describes the bitter sweetness as he becomes fluent in English and experiences “public success.” He explains, “ I would have been happier about my public success had I not sometimes recalled what it had been like earlier, when my family had conveyed its intimacy through a set of conveniently private sounds.” He feels that learning English and becoming assimilated into public society, despite its drawbacks, was a necessity.  Rodriguez concludes that the loss of his private identity by learning English and becoming assimilated into public society allowed for him to achieve his public individuality. Rodriguez’s account of his experiences with learning English was powerful to me because it was told from his point of view as a child. I felt I gained a better understand of his (and most likely many ESL students) of the complicated aspects of learning English as a second language.

In “Teaching Multilingual Children,” Collier examines the challenges bilingual teachers face. Collier stresses the importance of an appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values the students bring to the classroom. She provides guidelines that serve to give teachers a better understanding of how to effectively teach English to second language learners.  The guidelines are as follows:
1. Be aware that children use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language.
2. Do not think of yourself as a remedial teacher expected to correct so called “deficiencies” of your students.
3. Don’t teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language.
4. Teach the standard form of English and students’ home language together with and appreciation of dialect differences to create an environment of language recognition in the classroom.
5. Do not forbid students from code-switching in the classroom. Understand the functions code-switching serves.
6. Provide literacy development curriculum that is specifically designed for ELL.
7. Provide a balanced and integrated approach to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

I felt that Collier provides an excellent guide for teachers that are faced with the challenge of not only teaching English, but also teaching literacy skills as well. She gives rationale behind each guideline and explains how and why to teach that way explicitly. If I was going to teach a student English as a second language I would certainly refer to her guidelines!

After reading these articles, I was able to make some connections to other authors and readings from the course. Both articles relate to Delpit and her concept of the “culture of power.” Ultimately students are learning English because it is the language of those in power. I feel as though Deplit would agree with Collier and Rodriguez that students should be taught English in order to be successful in our society. Deplit does agree with Collier that teachers should value and appreciate the students own language and culture, and also agrees that students should be taught the values of the “culture of power” in order to be successful in society today. Deplit explains, “To imply to children or adults…that it doesn’t matter how you talk or how you write is to ensure their ultimate failure. I prefer to be honest with my students. I tell them that their language and cultural style is unique and wonderful but there is a political power game being played, and if they want to be in on that game there are certain games they too must play” (The Silenced Dialogue, 40).  While they agree in some ways, Collier has a more idyllic perspective on the issue of education children of color; she feels that, “The key is the true appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values that students bring into the classroom.” Delpit takes a somewhat of a harsher standpoint than Collier. Deplit states, “They [colleagues] seem to believe that if we accept and encourage diversity within classrooms of children, then diversity will automatically be accepted at gate keeping points.” While they have somewhat different ways of thinking, I feel as though Collier, Rodriguez, and Deplit do agree on the aspect that students need to be taught the values (for example, the English language) of the “culture of power” in order to be successful within it.

Another connection I was able to make was between Collier and Finn. Two of the seven of Collier’s guidelines focus on literacy. While they examine different issues surrounding literacy, both Collier and Finn feel as though students of all ethnicities and classes need to be taught the importance of literacy. In “Literacy with an Attitude,” Finn explains the power of literacy. He states, “...literacy and school knowledge could be a potent weapon in their [working class] struggle for a better deal…” (“Literacy with an Attitude, xii). While Collier looks at ELL students and Finn at working class, the both send the message that literacy is power. Collier explains that ELL students need literacy to be successful in society. She states, “Many transitional or ELL programs do not emphasize the backbone of school success, academic literacy. On the false premise that English oral competence is all an immigrant child needs to compete with native English speaking peers, too many ESL or ELL programs fail to provide a literacy curriculum for their unique needs. This curricular cheats immigrant students, since literacy is indispensable for lifelong success.” While they are discussing of different groups of students, Finn and Collier feel as though the students not only need to be shown the importance of literacy, but need to be taught it in an empowering way, so they can achieve powerful literacy. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Meyer – Gender Harassment in Secondary Schools (Questions)

Bullying of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered students in schools is a major issue today. Organizations such as Stop Hate, GLADD, Human Rights Campaign, and American Civil Liberties Union are fighting to obtain equal rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered individuals and to stop bullying of GLBT students in schools. Meyer discusses this issue of gendered harassment in schools. Her in-depth study analyzes teachers’ perceptions and responses to incidences of gendered harassment in secondary schools. In her study, Meyer examines why teachers fail to respond effectively, or at all, to gendered harassment. Meyer looks at the interaction of external and internal factors, and how they relate to teachers’ responses or lack of responses to gendered harassment. External factors include institutional influences such as administration, curriculum demands and work load, teacher education, and written policies, as well as social influences such as perceptions of administration, interpersonal relationships, and community values. Internal influences include personal identities and teachers’ own experiences in school. While Meyer states that these factors can motivate teachers’ to fight against gendered harassment, the study found that the barriers significantly outweigh the motivators. Meyer feels that by gaining a better understanding of the problem we can work towards effective solutions to reduce gendered harassment in schools. I find it crazy that this type of bullying is accepted in schools. Just because students do not fit into the SCWAAMP gender norms, does not mean they don’t deserve to be treated equally.  Bullying of any type should not be tolerated, and as teachers we have to fight for the rights of all of our students! This study raised many questions to me as I was reading it.

1. Why are sexual and homophobic harassment an accepted part of school culture, and why do staff rarely intervene to stop it?  The study showed that teachers are less likely to intervene in cases of gendered harassment than any other form of bullying. Meyers feels it is linked strongly to societal norms and gender roles. Straightness is valued in our SCWAAP culture,  it is the dominant ideology.

2. How does the interaction of external and internal influences shape how a teacher perceives and responds to gendered harassment? Meyers explains that the interactions of the external and internal influences can explain the wide variety of perceptions and responses to gendered harassment. There is a lack of consistency among educators in how to deal with this issue. Teachers are responding to gendered harassment based on their personal experiences, their administrations, the community they live in, their work load, and many other factors that differ from teacher to teacher and school to school.

3. How much does the administration and the teachers’ perception of the administration effect how the teachers respond to gendered harassment? Many teachers in this study felt as though they did not receive support from administration when dealing with issues of gender harassment. The teachers in the study felt their administration could not be bothered with these issues. I found this discouraging. My mother is a principal and I know that she takes issues of bullying of any kind seriously. She has school wide anti-bullying programs and tries not to respond to certain types of bullying and not others. I hoped that was the norm, but I can see from this study it is not.

4. Why is there such a difference between how administrators deal with racial harassment as opposed to gendered harassment?  The teachers in the study display frustration that other types of bullying are dealt with immediately and firmly, but gendered harassment cannot be bother with.

5. How do other intuitional factors such as curriculum demands and workload, education and training, and school and school board policies effect how teacher respond to incidents of gendered harassment?  Meyers found that many teachers felt their work load and curriculum demands made it difficult for them to take the time to deal with gender harassment. Many teachers in the study also felt like they did not have the training or education to deal with it properly. Teachers in the study also felt as though they did not have a clear understanding of the school’s policies.

6. How do social influences (perceptions of administration, interpersonal relationships and community values) effect how teacher respond to incidents of gendered harassment?  While administration directly plays a big factor in how teachers deal with gendered harassment, the perception of the administrators does as well. The perception of the administration shapes the schools’ overall culture and effects how teachers deal with this issue. Relationships with administrators, colleagues and parents all played a part in how teachers responded to gendered harassment in this study. The values of the community played a large role ion created the school climate and culture. However, even though the schools in the study came from varying communities they reported the same obstacles when dealing with gender harassment issues.

7. How does individual personal identity and own experience in school effect how teacher respond to incidents of gendered harassment? The study found that the main motivating factor for teachers that did respond to gendered harassment was personal identify and experience. Teachers who were GLBT or who had experienced bullying in school were motivated to take action against gendered harassment. This leads in the next question.

8. How can we raise awareness of educators who have not felt discrimination or exclusion from dominant culture? Since personal experience and identity are the biggest motivators in taking action against gendered harassment, the big question is how can these educators get others who have not experienced gendered harassment to be aware of it and respond to it? Meyer does not provide us with a clear answer to this question, but does stress that like all of the other social issues we have discussed, awareness of the problem is the first step in creating a solution. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stan Karp – “Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can we do About it?” (Argument)

In “Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can we do About it?” Stan Karp argues that there are a variety of people bashing the public schools for a variety of reasons.  Karp focuses on the idea that many of the individuals that are bashing teachers and public school are proposing education reforms are doing so to serve their own agendas. Karp discusses the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” and how it uses “charged images and rhetoric to frame issues in ways that serve particular reform agendas.” “Waiting for Superman” and other individuals are promoting business models and market reforms propose to get rid of the bad teachers that they say are causing the public school to fail. “Waiting for Superman” bashes public education and teachers and proposes charter schools, merit pay, and test based accountability as a solution to the problem. Karp feels that the idea that public education and its' teacher are failures has led to unsuccessful reforms with focuses on test scores, firing teachers, closing and reconstituting schools, and funding through competitive grants.  Karp believes that much of the education reform today has underlying political and monetary motives.

According to Karp, the teacher and public school bashing has led to test-based accountability where teachers are being fired based on students’ test scores. The teacher terminations are occurring without addressing the underlying issues that may contribute to the low test scores. Karp feels that these issues, not bad teaching, are the major factors in low standardized test scores. For example in Central Falls, the entire high school staff was fired because the school had low test scores. No one addressed the fact that it was the only high school in the poorest city in the state and that 65% of the students were English language learners. Karp feels as though America needs to address these underlying issues that are hindering student performance in standardized testing, such as poverty, race, and language in order to “fix” the public education system. Karp believes that test based teacher evaluation and compensation systems (paying teachers to raise test scores) can seriously damage public education and the teaching profession. Karp argues that these plans will hurt, rather than help support teacher effectiveness. Karp also examines charter schools (which are being seen as the new “magic reform”) and how they have a much higher turnover rate and lower pay for teachers, but obscenely high pay for administrators. He also explains they are not held to the same standards as public schools. He feels that charter schools are a way for investment opportunities for those who see education as a business.

With all of these issues going on what can be done? Karp disagrees strongly with “Waiting for Superman” that super teachers can eliminate the achievement gap with scripted curricula and super teaching powers. Karp argues that in order for the achievement gap to be eliminated that issues such as inequalities of race, class and opportunity need to be addressed. Karp explains that while teacher evaluation and improvement are issues that must be addressed, test based accountability and merit pay are not the type of teacher evaluation systems we need. Karp feels that comprehensive teacher evaluations that incorporate testing but are not solely on based student test scores, can help teacher effectiveness. He gives the example of the professional growth system in Maryland, where teacher evaluations involved test scores, student outcomes, classroom performance, professional responsibilities, advanced degrees, and other factors. The evaluations also provided specific plans to improve struggling teachers’ practice and performance, by working closely with well-trained teacher coaches for a two year period. Karp believes evaluations and plans for improvement such as this can improve teacher performance much more successfully than test based accountability and merit based pay. Karp goes on to point out that “in some respects public education is the most successful democratic institution we have and has done far more to reduce inequality.” However, Karp acknowledges that racial and class inequalities are still the major issues in public education, as well as in society as a whole. Karp concludes that the public schools reflect what is wrong with democracy and we must fix that in order to fix public education. 

This was a very interesting article to read. I agreed with many of Karp's points. As educators we are constantly being judged by people who do not know much about the education field. I like how Karp pointed out the factors that can contribute to low test scores and that it does not necessarily have anything to do with the quality of teachers. I agree with Karp that educators do need to be evaluated from a multidimensional approach with a plan for improvement. I wish that public education would steer away from putting so much value and emphasis on test scores. 

Stan Karp - Video - "Who's Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can we do About it?"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Partick J Finn – Literacy with an Attitude (Hyperlinks)

In "Literacy with an Attitude," Finn discusses the evolution of literacy and education in America. He explains why literacy of the working class is not seen as dangerous because we have developed two kinds of education, empowering education and domesticating education.  Finn believes that empowering education leads to powerful literacy, which leads to positions of power and authority, while domesticating education leads to functional literacy which makes a person productive and dependable. Finn feels that working class and middle class receive domesticating education while the rich receive empowering education.  He goes on to state that when working class students experience empowering education you get “literacy with an attitude,” hence the title of his book. The videos below highlight some of Finn’s points about literacy.

In “Literacy with an Attitude,” Finn discusses the results of a study by Jean Anyon.

Anyon's study examined fifth grade classes in five public elementary schools, ranging from working class to wealthy. The study illustrated Finn’s point that type of education a child receives will shape the type of adult he or she will become. Anyon found that the theme in the working class school was resistance.  The students were taught to obey. They were given little decision making opportunities. Students were told what to do but not why they were doing it. This teaching created the resistance. The schooling prepared them to perform working class jobs. The middle class school had a theme of possibility.  The students viewed the priority in school was to get good grades in order to go to a good college, and ultimately, get a good job.  Creativity and self-expression were not deemed important. These students developed the skills needed to perform middle class jobs.  The affluent professional school had a theme of individualism and humanitarianism.  Creativity, thinking for one’s self, and the process of discovery were valued.  The teaching style involved negotiation rather than direct orders. The work was not mechanical and repetitious.  The students developed skills that prepared them for creative, intrinsically satisfying jobs with high salaries.  Finally, Anyon found the theme of excellence in the executive elite school.  These students were taught self-discipline. They were prepared for life at the top, taught to become “the master’s of the universe”.

In “Literacy with an Attitude,” Finn focuses on the discrepancy in education that the various social classes are receiving. Finn feels as though not all children in America are being provided with the same opportunities in life, due to the type of education they are receiving, and this education is determined by class. Working class students are provided a different type of education than their wealthy counterparts. In this lecture “Making Literacy Dangerous Again,” Finn answers the following questions from his text:  “Is education different for the working class than it is for those who are expected to achieve powerful status in the community?” “Is our current educational system an institution designed to maintain the status quo of social inequality?” and “Is education neutral?”

"Literacy with an Attitude" and Finn's examination of Anyon's study were again eye-opening to me. Finn looks at class and its effect of education, which is just one of the many social issues in education today. I look forward to learning about the social issues and becoming part of the solutions!

Interested in books by Finn:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Talking Points - Other People’s Children – Lisa Delpit Blog Format - Quotes

        In “Other People’s Children,” Lisa Delpit examines the issues of race and power in education. She begins the piece with quotes from individuals in the education field who have attempted to discuss these issues with their colleagues without success.  In each of the examples, the individuals feel un-heard, and ultimately stop talking, hence her title of the first section, “The Silenced Dialogue.”  Delpit explains, “The saddest element is that the individuals that the black and Native Alaskan educators speak of in these statements are seldom aware that the dialogue has been silenced. Most likely the white educators believe that their colleagues of color did, in the end, agree with their logic. After all, they stopped disagreeing, didn’t they?” The way Delpit used real life scenarios was quite powerful. As a white middle-class person, I have to admit I am somewhat ignorant to the issues of race and ethnicity. After reading the scenarios it made me ashamed to be identified with the all knowing and un-hearing white race. This quote described the frustrating experiences of the individuals of different races trying to have honest discussions with their white colleagues.  While I have not experienced colleagues of different races coming to me with idea and arguments, is it possible that this is the case because they are so frustrated with their experiences with other white people that they do not even want to try anymore? This quote and the scenarios shared by Delpit made me interested to read further.
       Delpit goes on to discuss how we must un-silence this dialogue in order to best educate students of color. She acknowledges that often times white individuals in education do not have bad intentions, and they often believe they have the same goals in mind as their counterparts of other races and ethnicities. Delpit goes on to ask, “How can such a complete communication block exist when both parties truly believe they have the same aims? How can the bitterness and resentment expressed by educators of color be drained so that the sores can heal? What can be done?” Educators of all races want their students to be successful, but the problem lies within the miscommunication and the silenced dialogue between them.  It is important for white educators to be open and not defensive to the dialogue, in order to better educate all of their students. As white educators we must also acknowledge the frustration and resentment from both educators and students of color. Until we do this, the dialogue will go on being silenced and nothing will change. Delpit goes on to explain the five aspects of power and their relevance to the discrepancy between views of the white and non-white educators.

        Delpit’s fifth and last premise resonated with me, as I am sure it did with many white educators.  The fifth premise states: Those with power are frequently least aware of - or least willingly to acknowledge – its existence. Those with less power are often most aware of its existence.  Before beginning this class and reading Johnson and Delpit, I honestly never thought of the “culture of power” or that I was in power just for being white, and it is an uncomfortable subject.  Delpit explains this perfectly, “For many who consider themselves members of the liberal or radical camps, acknowledging personal power and admitting participation in the culture of power is distinctly uncomfortable. On the other hand those who are less powerful in any situation are most likely to recognize the power variable most acutely. My guess is that the white colleagues and instructors of those previously quoted did not perceive themselves to have power over the non-white speakers.” While they may not be aware (or do not want to admit it), this power does not exists. Delpit feels that those in power must admit it, as uncomfortable as it may be, in order to deal with the issues it creates. The example Delpit gave of the East Indian interviewing for a job with an all white committee, illustrated this point. The white committee, while wanted to be helpful, became so uncomfortable at the idea that they had power over the interviewee, that they did not help the man at all. Had they acknowledged the power and instructed the interviewee explicitly in what they were looking for, rather than becoming more and more indirect and vague as a result of being uncomfortable, the interview may have gone completely differently. Delpit’s main point in that is the unwillingness to acknowledge the culture of power and to try to lessen the power differential, by not addressing it will only do everyone a disservice. 
       Lisa Delpit then goes on to discuss literacy instruction and she examines the direct program instruction Distar. I found this part particularly interesting because at my school, Distar is the primary curriculum used.She states, “Perhaps the ultimate expression of explicitness and direct instruction in the primary classroom is Distar. This reading program is based on the behaviorist model in which reading is taught through the direct instruction of phonics generalizations and blending…The liberal educators opposed the methods – the direct instruction, the explicit control exhibited by the teacher. As a matter of fact, it was not unusual, (even now) to hear the program spoken of as “fascist.” While this discussion of Distar and direct instruction were not major points in Delpit’s writing, I was drawn to this quote and the examination of Distar because I use it each day in my classroom. Delpit uses the example of Distar to examine curriculum and methodologies of teaching in regards to students of color. It was interesting to me to see the idea behind the curriculum and the criticisms about it. In my school Distar is used as a one on one instruction method which is not the way in was intended to be used. While it is not used as it was intended in my school,  I have never thought about it as giving the teacher the ultimate control and it was strange to see that people thought that. 



Monday, May 23, 2011


My name is Brigette. I live in North Providence. I bought a house here last year with my fiance. We have done a lot of work to it and are still not done, but I love it!  I am a special education teacher at the Groden Center. It is a private special needs school in Providence. I have worked there for about 4 years. My classroom currently has 5 students but will soon have 6 (well actually 7 for the summer). The school operates year round. The students in my classroom range in age (from 8 to 11 years) and abilities. My students are diagnosed with Autism and have behavioral challenges. I am getting my Master's in severe/profound special education. This is my last class before the internship! I love children and enjoy working with students with special needs. When I am not working or in class I love to eat great food and watch movies and trashy reality TV, and work out on my new elliptical machine.