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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Literacy With An Attitude

When first reading Patrick J. Finn's Literacy With An Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest, I found myself thinking back to the Normandy schools that were discussed in the last week's audio.  I feel like Finn is the prototype teacher that should have been teaching in the Normandy school district when they began attempting to reform and improve it. The way he talks about motivating and educating the students in terms of "control" is perfect and logical.  "I had work assignments on the board when the students entered the classroom, and so there wasn't a moment when they didn't have anything to do.  I didn't say to an errant student 'what are you doing?' I said, 'stop that and get to work.' No discussion. No openings for an argument" (4).  This is simple, but a seemingly effective strategy with children; when there is opportunity for boredom, there is usually opportunity for poor behavior.  Likewise, including extra credit assignments is always motivating for such students as well; the work is not required or forced, so if they attempt it, it cannot hurt, but it there is a major chance it will help them.
I found the few pages dedicated to Anyon's studies of the working-class, middle-class, and affluent professional schools rather interesting, but not unexpected.  It seemed to be almost as I would expect from experience or observation myself, unfortunately.  I wonder what would come of the working-class and middle-class students if some educators from the affluent professional schools were placed in them.  "In the affluent professional school, work was not repetitious and mechanical, as it was in the working-class school; it was not knowing the correct answers, as it is was in the middle-class school; it was being able to manipulate what Anyon termed symbolic capital" (17).  The children in this school were able to answer what 'knowledge' is, make choices on their own, and think as an individual.  They understood answers and context of the material presented to them because it was taught in a passionate way, rather than "because the book says so".  One step further, the executive elite school was academic, intelligent, and rigorous. "In the executive elite school the children were developing a relationship to the economy, authority, and work that is different from all other schools. They learned grammatical, mathematical, and other vocabularies by which systems are described. They were taught to use these vocabularies to analyze and control situations. The point of school work was to achieve, to excel, to prepare for life at the top."
I couldn't agree more with Finn's argument that when students begin school in such different systems, the odds are set for them.  A student in the working-class school is not likely to excel in the same way as a student from the excel or elite schooling.  It is very sad, because many children in the working-class schools probably possess the necessary tools and skills to excel, but do not have the opportunity with such poor educators.  My favorite quote from this reading may very well be when Finn states, "I'd like to hope that a child's expectations are not determined on the day she or he enters kindergarten, but it would be foolish to entertain such a hope unless there are some drastic changes made" (25).
I thought Finn's writing was full of knowledge and information, however, it was definitely not as 'spicy' as our previous readings.  While I enjoyed the information he presented, I found it much easier and more engaging to read more opinionated and casual texts such as last week's audio, or such as Johnson's piece.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Problem We All Live With

So far, The Problem We All Live With with Ira Glass and Nikole Hannah-jones was my favorite "reading" if you will.  While it was audio, I felt I took a lot more away from it, being so casual in conversation, and carrying so much history through various people's telling of their own stories.  I felt extremely engaged the entire time.
It is clear from the prologue and the first parts of Part I, that Nikole is very knowledgable and experienced in the subject of integration with students and why it works.  At first, I was somewhat questioning it, because sometimes, it is out of peoples' control of what school districts they live in.  However, once Nikole told her side of why it works from her own personal experiences as a child, I found myself strongly agreeing with her.
When Nikole spoke of Nedra Martin and her daughter, Mah'ria Martin, a star student from Normandy, the town and district in which Michael Brown lived, I was appalled.  It is truly sad to hear how much of a mess school systems can be, and that these children are almost set up for failure as soon as they enter them.  It is clear that such school systems need to have improved and educated teachers and administration hired immediately.  As if it is not clear enough, I think the fact that Mah'ria's case speaks loud enough in advocacy: the fact that she, at age 12, had thought ahead to bring her breakfast invitation because she was used to her school "screwing up".
I felt so happy to hear Mah'Ria talking of how welcoming the children and administration were at Francis Howell after the parents' committee meeting! Hearing her speak of her new friend Britney also was so heartwarming!  On the contrary, to hear Rihanna's story of being called a 'nigger' by a white child is heartbreaking.  The fact that these children were smart enough to walk away from such situations and speak so highly at such a young age is inspiring to me.
Listening to the exchange between Nikole and the most recent superintendent for Normandy, it gives me hope for the current and future students.  I think bringing in teachers to coach is a step, however, after hearing Nikole's multiple reasons and experiences through both her and all the students transferred to Francis Howell, I strongly agree that integration is the answer to these problems.  As I said before, this was very engaging and entertaining, and hearing it through children's perspectives and experiences was heartfelt and gave me a much better idea of situations rather than just reading about them through research or opinions.  It also gave me a better idea of the background of integration; and a little bit more knowledge to what I was questioning in my last blog post in regards to wondering if students and families in certain districts had "choices" of schools.  I would love to hear or read more from Nikole Hannah-Jones.
I have to say that it is quite ironic this is our reading for this week, following Beyonce's controversial halftime performance at the Super Bowl this past Sunday, a quiet political protest against police for a very similar situation that Nikole speaks of with Michael Brown.  As someone who was there live for the performance, I immediately thought of our discussions in this class, and have had so many thoughts on it. I thought to myself just how fitting this was for our class, and that had I not been enrolled in this class, it may have come as a more of a shock to me.  However, after this controversial performance, I have watched the rise of racism and anti-racism videos, posts, and blogs outpour from my social media networks.  I wanted to leave off my blog post with a very interesting article that a friend of mine, who is of color, posted last night on her Facebook wall.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Colorblind is the New Racism: Raising Awareness about Privilege Using Color Insight

First, I apologize that I am posting this blog rather early, however, I will not have extensive access to a computer or internet as I am leaving for California on Thursday and will not be back until Wednesday evening. When beginning Colorblindness is the New Racism by Margalynne J. Armstrong and Stephanie M. Wildman, I felt almost guilty that I fell under the category they first were mentioning in the beginning, because as I have said already in class in regards to the subjects of our previous readings, I never really think about or see race, and that I do not think badly about those of other races.  However, I do acknowledge that racism is a problem, yet I certainly do not agree with certain points that the authors bring up as unequal.  For instance, Armstrong and Wildman bring up that public education in the United States is one example of the process of attempts to attack privilege that serve to reinscribe it.  They argue that white students are generally afforded the best educational opportunities in the United States, while these benefits elude many students of color (64).  I was confused with this claim, because unless I took it wrong and they are talking of something else, I was under the impression that families decided where their children go to school and provided educational opportunities, and if income or finances are an issue, there are services for that (like I said, I feel like I might have taken this out of context or in the wrong way, but it was just my thought).
While I agree that colorblindness is a thing, because I feel completely colorblind at times, I am not quite sure if I can see why colorblindness as educators in the classroom is necessarily a bad thing.  If there are no issues in the classroom, amongst educators, or amongst children, with race, why should it be brought up? I feel that is almost like the saying "if it's not broke, don't fix it".  By bringing up a nonexistent issue, I feel it could result in creating the issue and making it therefore present.
Armstong and Wildman also ague some similar points to Allan Johnson.  They discussed a section on developing color insight, which they said "color insight begins by considering the different contexts that participants in a discussion of race bring to the table. Individual concepts of race may differ and cause concern that one's views may offend others. This fear leads to a tendency to avoid discussing race altogether.  Color insight requires a commitment to not sweep race under the rug, but rather to name its presence and to examine its attributes from multiple perspectives, including the operation of privilege" (69).  This quote relates to when Johnson described putting yourself in categories on the "diversity wheel" (pictured above).  Furthermore, Armstrong and Wildman then take this one step further and present a "power line" chart for identifying privilege, which reminded me of the SCWAAMP we did in class.
This reading was very interesting, although there were times I found myself re-reading a lot of lines to understand or regain focus.  It lost my attention a few times, however, I did notice after researching the authors a little bit that they have both written various other articles, such as this on race and wealth disparity.