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!