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.