Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Promising Practices Reflection

The 2014 annual Promising Practices event took place on November 1st at Rhode Island College. It was a rainy day, but it all became worth it as I attended two very different workshops, and then listened to an amazing keynote address given by Dr. Christopher Emdin.
My first workshop was titled "Idea to Implementation". It was hosted by RIC sustainability coordinator, Dr. James Murphy, as well as STEM Director for RIC, Dr. Carol Giuriceo. The workshop primarily spoke on the idea of having more outdoor classrooms, and how this can relate to STEM. One concept was to have an outdoor classroom at the RIC bee education center, which I had no idea existed until this conference. Dr. Murphy also wears the hat of the college's beekeeper as well. Now this idea of putting a classroom near this area is interesting, due to the fact that it would be outdoors and therefore be a fresh environment for students to learn in. It could also attract the students from Henry Barnard to come and learn a lesson outside. They spoke on how this idea can be implemented into lesson plans and curriculum. In terms of the STEM aspect of this project, it can produce culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy, allowing the students to become fully immersed in the lesson, and teach them about things outside of the classroom. Culturally responsive curriculum was a big point mentioned numerous times at this workshop. Dr. Giruiceo also mentioned that there is a low number of females currently involved in STEM. An interesting point, and it makes you wonder why. It is an interesting field with broad topics to explore and delve into. These outdoor classrooms would be designed to attract more students to STEM. It would rely on students personal interest, and could include various instructional strategies allowing the same lesson to be taught numerous ways. It is also a very informal environment, which can in retrospect, give the students a sense of freedom, as opposed to being in a classroom.
My second workshop took place in a classroom in Henry Barnard, and was titled: "Using Technology in Early Childhood Classrooms." Two current teachers at HBS, Mrs. Jessica Noris and Ms. Michelle Nonis were in charge of the section. The idea was to show the various new forms of technology being implemented into classroom learning, giving a greater sense of ease to transition between lessons and hold students attention for a longer period of time, especially at that grade level. This is not to say that you can fully rely on this technology either, as every now and then it will crash or not work. You should always have a backup plan. Generally, they offered some various websites conducive to more effective learning for the students.
Now to the keynote address given by Dr. Emdin. Dr. Emdin spoke on this idea of Hip Hop education, which allows students a great sense of freedom on how they can and should be able to learn. It opens up a whole new set of possibilities for students progress through schooling. He also spoke upon race, and said something that I found to be so interesting and profound. "We are more segregated today than we were pre-brown vs. board of ed. If you go to the Bronx and go to the schools in the area, you won't see a single white kid anywhere. Now if you go up to Chelsea, you won't see a single black kid." This truly struck me because he is absolutely right, and it is something that you generally don't think about or seem to notice, but just because you don't notice something doesn't mean that it isn't there. Dr. Emdin's invigorating personality and charisma made for such an electrifying speech that culminated to a well deserved standing ovation. His opinions were certainly controversial, but generally were received extremely well by the crowd. What an amazing event.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Empowering Education--Shor

Ira Shor penned an interesting read this week which talks about the reasoning behind going to school, and why children should question this reasoning. Shor, who himself grew up in the Bronx, has made his upbringing from a working class family a huge component in everything that he writes. In terms of "Empowering Education", Shor attempts to establish a point of being able to question the education you receive, and why you are forced to receive it. The National Writing Post summarized the book as such: "Empowering Education by Ira Shor, which conveys the notion of knowledge not as a commodity to impose on students but rather as a problem posed to them for mutual inquiry toward social change. To empower students, Shor offers a methodology using problem posing, "desocialization," and dialogue in classes that are student centered but not permissive or self-centered. He refers to Paulo Freire's pedagogy with students in Brazil, and his own work with students at the City University of New York."
This comes to bring up some good points, namely, education being viewed as a commodity.
We have to understand that education is a service that is offered to help enhance the knowledge children receive, and to bring about new concepts or ideas they may not have known. This idea of stepping into the unknown is what should be questioned. Shor states on page 12: "In a curriculum that encourages student questioning, the teacher avoids a unilateral transfer of knowledge." I think this is huge, because I feel as though a lot of the curriculum established today does not include these types of methods. Many teachers can teach the same course to four different classes and repeat the same thing over and over again, but that is boring! There needs to be some sense of diversity to allow the students to think critically and question why they have to. I think in today's school environment, too many teachers, parents and administrators teach students to believe that teacher's word is law. They have taught them 1-5 of Delpit's rules and codes of power, which in itself it certainly admirable, but does not allow for these kids to challenge these rules! Recently in FNED, we were given a quiz on a reading from a previous week, and the quiz was so simple, our professor was surprised when we did not question her giving us this. We all fell into this trap that we are expected to do what we are told to do. Now, this is not to say that we must dispute every exam given by every teacher, but we should not be afraid to question their thoughts or concede that we have a different idea. It is such a fine line that one must walk upon, because the student has the chance of facing a hefty consequence for taking this risk. But taking this risk is empowering and enriching the educational process! It should be more of an open discussion with a facilitator rather than students listening to what a teacher says and going by that at all times. Every student is intelligent with some sense of rebellion inside of them. Again, I am not saying to be Braveheart and fight to have an education that stands alone from the other versions, but do challenge the thoughts of your peers and teachers! Even if what you say is wrong, you can find out why it is wrong and why they are right. Students shouldn't dread coming to school. Winston Churchill  once said: "I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught." It is time for a change; for the betterment of schooling, education and the students themselves. There will be a difference if someone tries.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kliewer--Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

Christopher Kliewer penned quite an interesting read this week regarding the concept of the image of down syndrome, and ways we can work to essentially redo the images projected with it.
Down Syndrome, and for that matter any disability, are not viewed as an individual who can achieve full possible potential, and are viewed as an abnormality in society. However, the people judging these individuals with disabilities as abnormal have no basis to pass judgement along, as many of these individuals are not disabled, and know nothing of what it is like to live with any form of a disability. Early on in his book, Kliewer mentions a young girl named Mia Peterson, a young girl who has felt that her disability has segregated her from opportunities her non-disabled peers were able to ascertain. Mia stated: "I started to notice that I didn't like the classes I was taking called special education. I had to go through special ed. almost all of my life. I wanted to take other classes that interested me. I had never felt so mad. I wanted to cry." (Peterson , 1994 pg 6.) To think that individuals such as Mia were not afforded the same opportunities most people are is sickening. We have no idea the learning potential these children can have. Today, Mia co-leads a study on communication skills and people with down syndrome with Professor Laura Meyers, a member of the faculty at UCLA. Immediately, this makes me think of our SCWAAMP activity, where we identified that survival of the fittest is still looked upon as a prestigious sentiment in the United States. It is shameful, as some of these students could be brighter than some who have no disability whatsoever. Students that take special education courses these days, as far as what I saw in my own high school, are students with severe disabilities, such as to the point where they cannot care for themselves for day-to-day activities. Searching the internet, I found this really interesting chart which shows the percentage of students with a documented special need or disability, and are placed in general classrooms. At the top, one category pushes all disabilities together and says "All students with disabilities". In schools that allow 80% or more of these students into classrooms, 60% of the students with disabilities actually go in, meaning 40% were unable. This is remarkable. How many times when you are in class can you identify another student with a disability? Almost never. That is because a lot of the time, these disabilities are something internal, such as a developmental delay, or behavioral issue, or being deaf. However, if there were to be a student in the room with a disability that was visible, such as down syndrome, then they would immediately be looked upon as different in some way. There is something even today that disallows students with these disabilities to be looked at as any regular in society, and this needs to be reconceptualized. They are among us like any other individual is, and should be treated as any normal member of society. Can you tell which child in the picture below has a disability? I can't either.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Literacy with an Attitude--Finn

Patrick Finn has written one of the more interesting reads as of late. He describes how the socio-economic status of children in schools often lead to segregation, and the multiple reasons of why they are supposedly segregated.
Finn describes his own personal teaching experiences, and how he had to start from "the bottom" to prove himself to his fellow teachers. He described how the school he was at was segregated based on "reading level", with students being spread among 15 classes, 8-1 through 8-15; 8-1 being the highest and 8-15 being the lowest. He talked about how the lower classes tended to have fewer students, allowing for more concentrated and individualized attention. However, he also mentioned how some of these classes often were used as punishment, where higher reading level students would be sent in for behavioral issues. This is wrong for a number of reasons. One being that the students currently in the class would be made to feel that they are also in the class based on behavior, when it is actually based on their reading level. It also showed the level of respect in a way that other teachers had for these classes, and for the teachers themselves. However, a crucial element Finn discussed was his teaching method. Often time, Finn would use clear and direct orders to the students, as this was the message he was trying to convey. If someone did something negative, instead of saying "what are you doing?" you would say "stop and get back to work". The more direct viewpoint allows the students to have direct authority and learn to take orders and make them better listeners. While I agree with being more direct, I disagree with the way he goes about it. After hearing Dr. Chris Emdin speak at promising practices, these children should not be shut down while trying to produce their ideas. If they are misbehaving, that is another story, but if they are trying to express themselves and give ideas in a different way, there should be no reason for them to be told to stop or be quiet.
Finn is certainly a direct speaker throughout the text, telling explicit ways to address students and how to engage in classrooms.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Racial Preference--Wise

Tim Wise, an anti-racism activist and writer, pens quite an interesting read regarding racial preference, and how this idea of inequity among race is still present today.
Racism has deep roots that run through the American bloodline, and even with the gains and goals achieved in the 20th Century with improving the way racism is shown, it is still prevalent today, even more so. When Brown vs. Board of Education took place in 1954, the pivotal and monumental case made it unconstitutional for schools to engage in segregation based on racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, it occurs to most people that segregation is more engaged with today than with some cases pre-brown vs. board of ed. Dr. Christopher Emdin, the keynote speaker at RIC's annual 2014 Promising Practices conference, made a fantastic point when he said: "If you go to a high school in the Bronx, all you see is black kids, where if you go to a high school in Chelsea, you won't see a single black kid." I found this interesting, because it seems that we are being segregated based on socio-economic values rather than race. While I believe segregation was made more clearly noticeable in the 20th Century, with various sighs specifying "whites only" or "coloreds only", segregation is still very much alive today. In the case of racial preference, we can't deny it exists either. Wise mentions in his article how certain students can earn points for coming from different backgrounds, such as being below the poverty line, or being a high-attaining student with rigourous AP or honors curriculum. He believes whites are more inclined to get points like this because they have had a greater number of opportunities for them to achieve things like this rather than black kids. Again, I think this is really interesting, and we can even tie this into Johnson's notion of white privilege, and how we need to push away from this to achieve a more equated and balanced world. Even Kozol who believes that racism is not the fault of any individual person but of a larger system, and how there is this cycle of inequality that give insight into the problems. There are certain poignant questions we should be asking, such as what can we do to help this problem lessen? What can schools do? What can the government do? What can white people and black people do? All of these questions will eventually determine the fate of segregation, and how powerful of a force it will remain for the years to come.    

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"The Silenced Dialogue", Delpit Revisited

In the hunt for five quotes to pull from Lisa Delpit's extraordinary piece, I could find none more suiting than her five rules and codes of power that she lists clearly on page 24 of her article. The first quote being: "Issues of power are enacted in classrooms." This is something I certainly agree with, as in my service learning I have witnessed such powers be exposed whilst in the classroom setting. Most prominently, you are able to see the power the teacher demonstrates over the students. This power is something that appears to be contested more and more as students rise from elementary school, to middle to high, however the fact remains that while in the classroom, the teacher is indeed the one with the power. Think about it, they preside and instruct a class of sometimes 15-20+ students at any given time, and expect that when students come into school in September, they come with this knowledge that they are expected to obey, and file into this basic rule and code of power prevalent in the school system.
     The second quote from Delpit is: "There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a 'culture of power'". Delpit's reference to to this culture of power is referring again to the people who are in these positions of power, be that politicians, police officers, or even teachers. In order for these individuals to contain and remain in this culture of power, they need to abide by certain codes or rules that allow them to be in it in the first place, more specifically, ways of communication. The way we communicate is our portal into the mind of another human. We probe for answers, opinions, guidance and more from other beings, and these codes of power include being articulate and precise with what we say and how we say it, and the same principle again can be applied on a personal note to my service learning experience thus far. Being in an elementary school, the presence of a teacher is always massive in the classroom, halls, cafeteria and office, and the way they communicate their rules and rituals to the students are always clear and precise, so that potentially one day, a select few of those students may be admitted to this culture of power that Delpit so often seems to refer to.
    Delpit's third 'rule' states: "The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power." This is the rule where Delpit and I tend to disagree. This rule suggests that the children with a middle-to-upper class upbringing will naturally do better in school, as opposed to students who are in a lower class upbringing, because the culture of power is designed for people only in that middle-to-upper class category. I disagree, and in fact believe that the culture of power is slowly shifting more and more into the lower classes favor. We look at ethnically diverse schools across the country, and see the percentage of each race in the school, how many students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and how they may perform learning-wise. Remarkably, in my own personal service learning experiences, the students I have worked with and met have confided that they aren't wealthy by any means, yet their grades show that they are doing remarkably well, some even doing better than kids with that middle class upbringing. While students in that middle class upbringing may be given more of the tools to use to be successful in school, it does not necessarily mean they use them. How does that old phrase go again? "You can lead a horse to water."
     The fourth rule states: "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier." This easily ties into schooling, in the sense that when children are told something directly and with confidence, they will abide by it. For example, if  eight-year old Sally is misbehaving in class, and Mrs. Johnson says: "Sally, can you please try to focus on what we are doing instead of making a mess on your desk?" It does not seem effective, especially to a student at such a young age. Sally will continue making a mess on her desk, and Mrs. Johnson will begin developing a migraine. However, if Mrs. Johnson had said: "Sally, clean that mess up and pay attention to what we are doing, otherwise you are going for a time out." Sally immediately cleans her mess and pays attention. Why was the second method more effective? The ability to communicate directly and clearly with the student shows authority, and allows for structure to build.
     Finally, the last rule states: "Those with power are frequently less aware of--or least willing to acknowledge--it's existence. Those with less power are often more aware of it's existence." Once again to apply this to a classroom setting, the teacher rarely will say: "listen to me because I am the powerful one in this room." MOST OF THE TIME, you will hear the STUDENT say: "you have to listen to her, she's the teacher!" They have recognized that there is a certain standard of power that has been established, and that they are the ones without power. This rule has always been remarkable to me since I first read Delpit, because it was never something I truly thought about. When I led my high school band as a Drum Major for two years, I never thought of myself in a position of power, but simply acted in my position of power. I am sure President Obama doesn't go to bed each night (well at least most nights) saying how he is the most powerful man in the world, he simply just goes and attempts to do the job he's elected to do.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"In the Service of What?" Reflection

     I simply had to choose the option of writing my response as a reflection due to the fact that I am currently involved in numerous service learning projects, and have the opportunity to discuss them in conjunction with Kahne and Westheimer's text. I thought it very interesting how they explained service learning to be a way to "improve the community, invigorate the classroom, [and provide] rich, educational experiences for students at all levels of schooling." (pg 2) I fully agree with statement, and can say that it is truly a rewarding experience being able to watch children grow and develop as if they were your own students for that small portion of the week you are there. Being in this setting, and walking into the school each week, being able to perform in a different role or capacity rather than just as a student, is something fresh and exciting.
     Looking at this from a different viewpoint, for the past 13-14 years, we have been molding ourselves into products of the schooling system. We were the proverbial sponges soaking up the knowledge that our teachers would lay in front of us each day, so to have the experience of being able to essentially flip that around is rewarding. It is almost our way of being able to give back to the profession that made us who we are today. It also allows us to open our eyes to another side of schooling, such as was the case with one of the service learning cases discussed in the article, in particular Mr. Johnson's case, where one of his students for their project worked in a center for babies whose mothers had high levels of crack-cocaine in their bloodstreams during pregnancy. That would be an extremely different experience from my own of course, as I am dealing with young children, but at the same time there could be similarites. I am unsure of how many of the children I deal with could come from a family who have had issues or problems such as these. It is interesting to think about the comparisons and how this project could in some ways relate to my own.
     This article also focuses a lot on the differences between the moral and political aspects of service learning, and how the two can coincide with one another. I do believe that both categories certainly have a place in education, the moral side being the teachers personal connection with the students they have, and the political side there to make sure that personal connection doesn't get too personal. What I mean by this is that by having these two codes of power (which ironically fit into Delpit's concept of the Culture of Power), we have a balanced learning environment. This politcal domain, as our authors call it, allow students the opportunity to learn in a democratic environment, and not be tethered by personal connection.
     These service learning experiences are very rewarding to everyone that has the opportunity to participate in it. They can teach life-learning lessons, and give inspiring teachers the opportunity to have a small taste of what being a teacher truly entails.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us

Linda Christensen has penned quite an interesting read with this 2003 article that delves into the controversy not only surrounding the inequalities of race and sex, but how these inequalities can be traced back to cartoons, and how the mass media played a pivotal role in shaping and manipulating the minds of children. I found this particular article to be very interesting, because I think I can speak for a majority of the US population when I say that many of us grew up watching cartoons.
Cartoons were the pinnacle of every Saturday morning in my household. I would always wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed to turn the TV on promptly at 8am to where I would be graced by the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and other rambunctious characters that made any five year old's Saturday special. However, at an age now where I can look back at certain cartoons such as these, and going through the various topics we are currently discussing, it turns my mind on for analysis and discussion, wanting to poke at the meaning behind the characters, the roles they played, and how this can tie into reality. I truly enjoyed Christensen's viewpoint of how media can truly sculpt the minds of the young so easily. A piece of the article I truly enjoyed came on page 128: "Many students don't want to believe that they have been manipulated by children's media or advertising. They assure me that they make their own choices, and that the media has no power over them--as they sit with Fubu, Nike, Timberlands, or whatever the latest fashion rage might be." I believe this is such a crucial point; it shows that the students truly believe that they aren't manipulated by the media, but they are wearing the latest fashions advertised by it! When we truly think on it, the media is one of the most influential communicators in the known world today. Everything from cartoons, to commercials, movies and the news are broadcasting 24/7. It is truly a phenomenon, how we allow the media into our homes on a daily basis for entertainment and information. It also shows the influence it has upon us. Most children these days are glued to the TV screen, looking for their favorite shows or films. The media, whether we would like to recognize it or not, plays a massive role in our daily lives, and has molded many of us into the people we are today. We take obscure social cues or hints from watching movies, or attempt to replicate an act only a superhero or secret agent could perform. This idea of mass media, especially today in 2014, has definitely taken over many of our lives. Even looking at students on our own campus at RIC, almost everyone you see walking by is on their phone or laptop, browsing Facebook or texting, or just looking for the dress they saw someone else in about 10 minutes prior. This ties into Christensen's main point(s), how we need to take action to prevent this from happening, otherwise this mass media will become part of Lisa Delpit's idea of culture of power, or will become a "safe space" for some looking to get away from life, such as Gerri August describes. The media is a powerful weapon, one that can mold the minds of anyone watching. We, as a people, need to learn to control it, and not have it control us. TV, especially from the 20th Century can certainly establish gender and race roles in a way that would be unacceptable by today's standards. When we think back to cartoons, we must take up Christensen's points: are there female characters; are there non-white characters' what roles do they play; are they important to the story; are they looked upon as different? All of these questions play a key factor in how cartoons have been shaped over the years. Think back to shows like "Bugs Bunny" or "Tom & Jerry". Were there black or female characters? Many a time, Bugs Bunny would actually dress in drag, and while this got a massive laugh (from myself included), it shows a stereotypical representation of Drag Queens or even women in general. There was a male character portraying the female. Again, I believe this also ties into numerous points Christensen has made. The changes cartoons have brought about over the years constantly are trying to adapt with the ever changing reality we find ourselves in, and not just cartoons but media as well. The more updated media becomes, the less manipulated I believe we will become.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

August's "Safe Spaces"

     Dr. Gerri August, currently a member of the Rhode Island College faculty, has penned a very straightforward and concise read regarding the many issues that the LGBT community faced at the time this article was written, and continue to face today.The article breaks down some of the key reasons as to why there is such a struggle with the tremendous outpouring of individuals who now identify as LGBT, or who always has identified as LGBT, and have had concerns with coming out. August's article breaks down two key components that go into making this situation a hassle for everyone: curriculum & communication.
     The curricula currently used in classrooms today, especially in classrooms in the 20th Century, reflect a classic point of view on the LGBT community, where the topic simply is not discussed. Page 85 of August's article states: "...the traditional curriculum typically ignores the experiences or contributions of LGBT people." This is a sad point to think upon, due in part of the fact that there is so much that LGBT people have indeed contributed to our society. The amount of progress made today shows perseverance and determination, and the will to go on. Currently, there are 19 states in the United States that allow and have legalized same-sex marriage; a remarkable achievement thinking how at one point, the LGBT community could not even identify themselves as such. Back to the topic of schooling, even the years I was in middle and high school, I was fully aware that there was an LGBT community, however, the subject of sexual orientation was never formally taught in classes. At my high school however, there was a club called the Gay-Straight Alliance which allowed kids who may or may not have identified themselves as LGBT to come and talk in a safe and welcoming environment. Very slowly, we can begin to see that the LGBT community becomes more and more accepted in the world today. That being said, we cannot at the same time neglect the parts of the world that wish not to respect the lifestyle. It can be this disrespect or hostility toward the topic that can cause a number of things, including bullying, self-consciousness, and suicide. A short statistical article posted in 2013 shows that about 30% of all completed suicides have been related to sexual identity crisis. It also shows that people who identify as LGBT are more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe in the environment they are in. This again ties to curriculum, and gives the possibility that maybe if the subject was given more thought and attention in schools nationwide and worldwide, that the LGBT community would be more accepted and feel more comfortable in a school environment.
     Something that truly struck me about the topic of communication was the story of young Marcus, who was given a trip to the principal's office as well as an in-school suspension for using the word "gay" to describe his parents. He was not using this term in a derogatory manner, but instead to describe that he has two moms. I was astounded by this, as the teacher then said "I feel that parents should explain things of this nature to their own children in their own way." I immediately was drawn back to Rodriguez' Aria, and how he was continuously told to speak English in class, and how his parents needed to help him develop this skill. The teacher essentially cuts the student off from being honest or truly thinking critically, which should not be allowed. Communication is one of the most powerful tools a human being has, as words are some of the most powerful conveyors of feeling and emotion. Tying back to the LGBT community, there needs to be more effective communication in schools between teachers and students on the topic of sexual orientation, and how it can have an affect on the daily life of an individual who identifies as LGBT. If the subject was looked at more carefully and with more compassion, we will begin to realize that everyone is equal, love is equal, and there are no bounds when it comes to gender. We cannot fall into certain social conventions and stigmas that disallow LGBT people the right to love to. We must work toward the prevalence of this community, and make this truly a free and equal country to live in, and while I myself do not fall into this LGBT category, I believe in equality and fairness for all.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rodriguez' "Aria"

Generally, the word aria  can be related to a musical melody or operatic piece. Merriam-Webster also defined it as "a striking solo performance". I believe that this is exactly the point behind Rodriguez short article. As a foreign boy growing up around children and adults that were fluent English speakers, you can imagine the discomforting and awkward feeling he must have not being able to speak or fully understand the language that is being spoken around him. It is not an easy thing to be thrown into the mix and be expected to learn a language so easily. In many ways I felt bad for Rodriguez, as the only real comfort he had when he was younger was when he would be at home, speaking his native language with his family. A few mind blowing facts to know is that today, while English may be considered by some to be the universal language of the world, it is not the most spoken or most popular. It actually is not even the second most popular! According to numerous ethno-related websites, English is the third most popular and most spoken language on earth with only 335,000,000 speakers. Above English in second place is the Spanish language, with 406,000,000 speakers, and at the top of the list is Mandarin Chinese, with almost two billion speakers worldwide! Now, considering that there is roughly seven billion people in the world, and the English language only falls out of the mouths of 335,000,000 people, that is less than 5% of the global population that speaks English, and roughly 6-7% of the population that speaks Spanish. This is incredible, because it just shows how popular the Spanish language is, and what an important language it is to have in your repertoire. However, Rodriguez is essentially stripped of this greatness when he enters a classroom. Going to a catholic school, it is understood that you know the English language fluently and proficiently. Rodriguez even states on the first page of his article that "it would have pleased [him] to hear [his] teachers address [him] in Spanish when [he] entered the classroom." I feel as though he did not want to break out of this comfort zone that had contained him for so long. I think that this piece can be tied to a point Lisa Delpit makes about the culture of power. I think that speaking English, as it stands today, already gives you an edge on being a contender to enter the culture of power. It means that you will be noticed by employers, that you will have an edge in the fast-paced environments of today, and that you will stand out from the other people like Rodriguez, where there may be a language barrier. However, being bilingual is actually something that is praised in our world today. Bilingualism shows an astute ability to accomplish something that only about 30-40% (estimate) of the current population are able to do. Truly remarkable. I believe that is the point Rodriguez is trying to make, no matter where you go, never lose your roots and never forget what you have already learned. With the way the world is constantly changing, being bilingual is truly a gift, and is needed more and more in the work force of today.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack"

Peggy McIntosh's article on White Privilege takes an in-depth look at how the matters of race and gender have a major effect on the culture and society in modern-day America. McIntosh wrote this piece in 1989, a time of great animosity in the world, with the conflicts in what was the Soviet Union, a Presidential shift in the United States, and the increasing struggle of various races throughout the world. McIntosh has identified herself, as posted in the hyperlink above, as a feminist. This proves useful in her article, as she points out the various disadvantages the female gender has in this world as opposed to the males. She mentions on the first page of her article that "males are taught not to recognize male privilege." I found this statement interesting, because it is something that I had never actually given thought to. The male population in the world was, and in many ways still is the presiding gender in most subjects, including governmental leadership, business and organizational leadership and management, among other things. An incomplete list of women who hold an executive position was put together here, showing how only 5% of major corporations in the United States are or were under the leadership of a female. Ursula Burns, who is the President and CEO of Xerox, is listed as Forbes 2014 22nd most powerful woman in the world. She is also regarded as one of the first African-American CEO's in the world. She gained in this position in 2010. This is a major achievement, not just for females but for African-Americans as well. This shows the direction in which the world is turning, and while I understand what McIntosh's thought process is with this subject, I disagree now when she states that women are at a severe disadvantage. Women are slowly and surely gaining all the power and glory that men currently have, and while I cannot argue that the male race is still ahead, the female race is not far behind. If anything, the American population seems to be behind. With female heads-of-state in Brazil, Chile, Germany and more, America seems to slowly be falling to the category of being one of the few only countries to yet have a female president. Furthermore, we must look at other statistics and facts that America seems to have trouble in, and many of these we could attribute to inequality of gender. (Please be aware this video contains strong language) I think this video, while a dramatization, provides factual based evidence as to why America is so far behind. This may seem slightly off topic, but in actuality, it ties directly into gender and racial inequality in America. This can be seen on pages two, three and four of McIntosh's article where she lists various reasons why she believes racial inequality is so prevalent, and what she can be guaranteed based on her skin color. The most prominent one for me is number 15: "I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group." This is something that I believe can be tied to Jonathan Kozol's "Amazing Grace" article, where he visits the struggling community of Mott Haven, and attempts to shed light on the dangerous and destitute situations that are ensuing there. I think by Kozol's presence there, he speaks on behalf of a percentage of the population that has not forgotten about areas such as Mott Haven. He is representing the white race by being there and spending time with those children. I truly believe it ties into McIntosh's article and main point, the gender and racial inequality is prevalent, and needs to be changed. I also believe that we are still working toward that today, and by doing this, we are on the path to a more peaceful and successful America.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jonathan Kozol, Amazing Grace

Jonathan Kozol's "Amazing Grace" article goes in depth to show the struggle of the hundreds, if not thousands of men, women and children who live in the South Bronx area of New York, and more specifically, the area of Mott Haven. Kozol refers to Time Magazine on page five, who identifies the area around Mott Haven as "the deadliest blocks in the deadliest precinct of the city." Kozol states "If there is a deadlier place in the United States, I don't know where it is." The author goes deeper into this, explaining some of the back history behind just why these neighborhoods and areas have deteriorated as much as they have. On page four, Kozol mentions that two thirds of the homes in these areas are owned by the City of New York. They are looked upon as a residence for people who are poor, on welfare, or cannot support themselves or their families. Kozol also mentions on that same page about the severe drug addiction that plagues the area, and how many of these drug users are also stricken with HIV. Kozol's main focus in this article seems to be on the children, and the deplorable living conditions they are placed in. For some time, Kozol focuses on a boy named Cliffie, a seven year old chipper lad who happily takes the role as his tour guide through the streets of Mott Haven. Cliffie makes it to Cypress Avenue with Kozol where he then says: "Do you want to go down there?...they're burning bodies down there!" Kozol then goes on to say that "the place Cliffie is referring to [is] a waste incinerator [that burns] 'red bag' products, such as amputated limbs and fetal tissue..." It is remarkable that this seven year old boy seems unaffected by this thought of bodies being burned, but it shows that these kids have been through and have seen much worse. Connecting to Kozol's choice of the title, this idea of amazing grace seems to stem from the deep belief in God and the effect that religion has on the residents of Mott Haven, and the affirmed believe that there is a higher plan for their lives that God has yet to show. This can be seen on numerous pages, but surely on page eight as well, where Kozol states: "Unlike many children I have met in recent years, he has an absolutely literal religious faith." These people, especially the children, are taught to take religion seriously, as this is their saving or amazing grace, to believe in something you cannot see. Being a Roman Catholic, I can relate. Many people attempt to contest Catholicism with scientific evidence and what they believe to be factual, but religion is all about believing in what you cannot see, but imagining that you can, and that some day you will. I think with this article, Kozol attempts to tie all of this together, and tries to show that religion is held on a prestigious pedestal, even in the poorest of places. (The picture shows modern day Mott Haven.)

A Little About Me!

Hi everyone! My name is Branden, and this is my first time blogging. Right now, I am in my second year at Rhode Island College, and am majoring in Music Education. I have loved music since I was in kindergarten. Once a week our music teacher would come into our class with a keyboard or trumpet and have us sing along or even play sometimes. When I was given the opportunity to play an instrument starting in 5th Grade, I just couldn't turn it down. I started playing the saxophone, and I loved it! I would go home after school, whip it out, and make my parents endure this horrible noise when I was just starting out. Needless to say, I continued with it through middle and high school, and now am looking at a career in music! It's a dream to be a high school band director, and that is the goal I am hoping to achieve! I took this class, not just because it was a requirement, but because it seemed genuinely interesting, seeing how schooling in our society is today versus the 20th Century. Outside of class and RIC, if I am not working, I am spending time with my family and friends, and just enjoying life!