Sunday, July 4, 2010

People Like Us

I had lots of fun playing the games and watching the clips. Well I guess the American notion of non class is just a dream.... Moving from class to class can occur, but it seems so marginally. And you must understand the rules and codes of power!!!
When viewing the character's short clips, I was struck by the absolute arrogance of
joef.jpgHis book title Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self Important History of the Baby Boomer looks like one sarcastic manifesto. Who is the self important baby boomer?I'm so sensitized to the sarcasm and arrogance on television! I lived in Italy and I liked watching under the Tuscan sun!....

It was interesting to hear LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM's
lawrencef.jpg(author of Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class) take on upward mobility and the accusation of "selling out and abandoning your background and your history".
The furniture game has an interesting premise, the things we buy do say a lot about us! I think more lifelike visuals would have made a greater impact.

Literacy with an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest by Patrick J. Finn

Talking Point: Argument
This author, Finn argues that student's social standing predetermines educational outcome. He outlines distinctions between the two types of education in America, powerful literacy, which empowers, and functional literacy which is produced by a domesticating education. He cites a multitude of theorists, a few appear here:
Aronowitz and Giroux identify three kind of intellectual qualities of teachers, Hegemonic (maintain existing order), critical (social critics, apolitical, represent the status quo) and transforming." Transforming intellectuals,..are self-consciously critical of inequities in our society". They see teacher's role as empowering students to become "agents of civic courage" that will make "despair unconvincing and hope practical". WOW-isn't that the kind of educator you want to be?
Freire made literacy desirable. He convinced the illiterate poor in Brazil of the value of literacy by showing them its power to "secure justice". They could relate. They struggled, they knew they would continue to struggle, they could see its direct applicability in their life, Freire made it real. Cleverly beginning with leaders in the community, he demonstrated through his culture circle that, "The more advanced a people's technology is, the greater the power they have to transform the world. Education, technology, and power are closely related". Through pictures, he came to a discussion and conclusion with his poor students. "Power is partly derived from advanced technology, and advanced technology relies on literacy. The lesson..:The literate are powerful and you're not. What are you going to do about it?" His students came to "want what the teacher has", namely an education and were cooperative. His goal was consciousness raising or "conscientization". Ultimately Freire's focus was on empowering those within their current class to affect change and not social class border crossing.
Anyon's describes differences in social class groups. I was taken back by the startling reality of the concrete differences between the very rich and poor. I couldn't help but notice the focus on adherence to rules and conformity when educating the poor. Anyon identifies three discretely "dominant themes" in each of the classes. Working class schools theme was resistance (they identify the teacher with oppression, "the hated one" and resist attempts to join camp), middle-class schools theme was possibility (hard work yields a good job), affluent professional schools theme was" individualism with a minor theme of humanitarianism", and the executive elite school was excellence.
Recognizing the importance of dialogue, Finn discusses the "discipline game" he uses to acquaint his students with the differences between dialogue and anti-dialogue (identified by the Study Circles organization). Anti dialogue limits dialogue, as educators we want to avoid this! The discipline game is practice in negotiation, with the added benefit of understanding "that teachers cannot accommodate students' requests without having their own needs met", and "of the parallels between good negotiating and dialogue and bad negotiating and dialogue".
Finally Peterson, a Freirian, and Bigelow and Christenson had students examine their own oppression, identifying with others oppression, employing dialogue and demonstrating for real, political activism. They recognize that creating an awareness of oppression in those oppressed without teaching and demonstrating action will lead to "cynicism and despair".
I am so inspired, I think I'll take a look at Peterson,Bigelow and Christensen's publication Rethinking Our Classrooms for some more ideas on social justice in the classroom.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid adapted from The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America

Jonathan Kozol: Talking Points: Questions: Thinking out of the Box

1) How would you, given access to whatever resources you requested, balance the playing field (should I say power field?) in one school in the Bronx, optimizing teaching and learning? How long do you think it would take?

2) Noreen Connell, the director of Educational Priorities in New York said,"When minority parents ask for something better for their kids", "the assumption is that these are parents who can be discounted. These are kids who just don't count-children we don't value". How could you, given access/influence to power brokers and limitless resources, change that statement to "clearly these children count".

3) What recourse do teachers have when asked to acquiesce when their building principal or administrator forces an absurdity on them? What kind of change could we engineer, political, legal, monetary etc. to encourage teachers to expose dubious practice or to encourage compliance of educators/administrators to honor children's time in school as a "perishable piece of life itself?"

The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children

Talking Points: 1) Connections 2) Quotes
In her book, Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, Lisa Delpit presents a disturbing view of reality. She invites us to take a glimpse of a black special education teacher teaching in a black community, a black educator teaching a multicultural urban elementary, and a black principal in graduate school. Their commentary on communication with white people has a common thread. "They won't listen", "they listen, but they don't hear","They don't really hear me,.. What you have to say about your life, your children, doesn't mean anything." The silence that Delpit speaks of is an intentional decision of the non dominant educators to stop engaging the dominant culture educators because they disagree so fundamentally with how white people educate poor and black children. As there is no voice of those in the trenches actually teaching the poor and minorities, thus no dissension, white educators deduce that agreement in how to teach children of non dominant cultures has been reached. Recall the words of Johnson, "The trouble around the difference is really about privilege and power-the existence of privilege and the lopsided distribution of power that keeps it going". Silence is certainly lopsided....
Delpit asserts, "Children have the right to their own language, their own culture. We must fight cultural hegemony and fight the system by insisting that children be allowed to express themselves in their own language style. It is not they, the children, who must change, but the schools. To push children to do anything else is repressive and reactionary." Strong words... Delpit recognizes the necessity, like Johnson, to speak plainly about the power game that exists in U.S. education today. She states "I prefer to be honest with my students. I tell them that their language and cultural style is unique and wonderful but that there is a political power game that is also being played, and if they want to be in on that game there are certain games that they too must play." But she underscores her statement of reality with the understanding that playing the game doesn't mean agreeing with it. Delpit offers examples of teachers who use two forms of communication, the power code formal English and the informal, heritage English. Codes of power are important to understand for students. It is critical for instructors, the conduit of code, to understand how their communication is received both directly and indirectly. Delpit comments on a particular method of "de-emphasizing power", an indirect form of communication by white educators that is understood by white children of the dominant culture as a way to meet the student in a less threatening way, but by children in the non-dominant culture is understood as a request with alternative choices.
She writes of the culture of power and similar to Johnson's "luxury of obliviousness" states that "those with power are frequently least aware of-or least willing to acknowledge its existence". Like Johnson, she sees the solution to leveling the power playing field coming from those in the dominant position, "I am certain that if we are truly to effect societal change, we cannot do so from the bottom up, but we must push and agitate from the top down."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Making Room for One Another by Gerri August

Talking Points: Extended comments Jenn
Talking Points: Connections (Johnson)
There's so much to do! :)
All the world's a stage and circle time is no exception! What happens if the teacher/playwright messes up? Society isn't transformed! Students won't be active agents.... Students could be marginalized. Yikes! These manuscript chapters are not for the faint of heart. Truly heavy responsibility, no? Lots to learn.
Jenn, you asked "What can we do to ensure that students feel safe talking about their families and other social issues?"
I think that is exactly the point of Gerri August's qualitative research. We are introduced to a new dialogue as teachers. Bahktin's concepts of dialogicality, both dynamic and designed, offer a big hint. Prepare. Even dynamic or spontaneous dialogicality requires forethought. Know where you want to go. If creating unconditional acceptance is of primary importance, subscribe to creating that learning atmosphere. How? The mini tutorial is key. Mini tutorial? Yes, "Zeke's pedagogical road not often taken", the narratives in Zeke's kindergarten. Zeke is adept and we can learn, among others, how to encourage, transform, intervene, refocus, explore, suggest, validate, deescalate and save face.
I agree that " a teacher's orientation to difference has academic consequences". "Zeke had established an environment in which diversity in all its forms were acknowledged and valued." "Patterns of oppression and privilege are rooted in systems that we all participate in and make happen....If we have a vision of what we want social life to look like, we have to create paths that lead in that direction" Johnson (2006) (p.85) More paths, more practice, then we'll make progress in making room for one another.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson

Talking Points: 1) Argument 2) Quotes
Johnson argues that privilege and power as they relate to the differences of gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and social class are responsible for causing "injustice and unnecessary suffering". His goal? " To change how people think about issues of difference and privilege." Ultimately, so "we can change how we act" and "become part of the complex dynamic through which the world itself will change." A lofty goal. He claims, that "We are, both individually and collectively, stuck in a kind of paralysis that perpetuates the trouble and its human consequences." He presents a diversity Wheel by Loden and Rosener and points out the unchangeable personal attributes in the center of the wheel, the things that people can't change. The outer wheel contains attributes that can change. Although the inner and outer wheel's characteristics are all subject to discrimination, the differences at the center of the wheel are more apt to produce difficulties associated with power and privilege.He states that his book has the "potential get us unstuck", by examining the problem's origins and our affiliation/connection to the problem. Johnson asks those in the dominant culture to quell their defensiveness and to be receptive to the idea of a paradox in power delivery, namely that for each individual or class empowered, there is an individual or class disempowered. "Privilege is always at someone else's expense and always exacts a cost. Everything that's done to receive or maintain it-however passive and unconscious-results in suffering and deprivation for someone". He then makes it clear that for the power to be equitably shared, the individuals currently in power must be willing to not only start the dialogue, but to share their power.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Talking Points:Hyperlinks (LOTS! revised... )
Just finished spending time on the GLSEN site-

Significantly More Teens Think 'That's So Gay' is Wrong as GLSEN's Ad Council Campaign Enters Second Phase

It made me really think..... When I was very young I was introduced to the word faggot or fag. Honestly, I did not know the homosexual connotation. I thought it meant dork or jerk. My world was small and was limited to a few friends down the street and my family. It wasn't until I got much older that I realized those words were referring to a sexual orientation. How do slurs get incorporated into common vernacular? When they are widely accepted. No one wants to be a joke.

"The 'Think Before You Speak' campaign has started an important conversation among young people," Byard said."While we still have a long way to go before widespread use of anti-LGBT language becomes a thing of the past, hopefully this campaign will force more and more people to confront the real consequences of the words they use."

Well, I wanted to know more about the boy who committed suicide as a result of bullying. Specifically, the legislation that addresses anti-bullying behavior.
Go to
I explored a few websites to find out specifically what happened to the child. I wanted to know if he had been exposed to all kinds of taunts and if the gay community, objecting to specifically anti gay name calling, decided to carry the banner. Several accounts did specifically site the taunts as being wholly or largely ones comprised of anti gay sentiment. Most accounts mentioned that the child did not identify himself as gay.
As evidenced in the following article:

Mrs. Walker specifically addressed the types of taunting both her child, Carl and another victim of suicide, Phoebe Prince endured.

Next, continuing exploring the anti bullying theme further ( a theme near and dear to my heart), I explored the following article:
"GLSEN Announces No Name-Calling Week Creative Expression Contest Winners"

I was delighted to see that the contest includes educating young children about name calling. Changing attitudes is more difficult as people become entrenched in their prejudice.

I was delighted to see that the contest includes educating young children about name calling. Changing attitudes is more difficult as people become entrenched in their prejudice.

From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America- A National Report on School Bullying
reveals the dark side of bullying in schools in 2005. 65% reported bullying, 39% for appearance, 33% for their sexual orientation.22% of the GLBT and 7% of non-GLBT say they don't feel safe in school. The surprise for me was that only 85% of teachers considered it their obligation to keep kids safe, with only 73% of those "strongly endorsing this view". How can kids feel safe when the individuals with position power don't agree on their role. No wonder kids perceive a climate of indifference.

I then followed a link to:

had some interesting articles, among them "A Ban on Gay Blood Donation to Continue..."
As a health professional, the article peaked my interest. As a researcher, it drives me crazy when people make claims and don't back them up with data. The controversy is over a ban on allowing gay males to donate blood. Because the incidence of aides is higher (no data) in this population, despite protestation, there continues to be a ban. Supporting their argument, "Technology currently in use by blood bank can detect HIV up to seven days after the individual has been infected and all available data also shows that the error rate for these tests is low." So what about the initial seven days, and how comfortable are we with the error rates being low... Not zero? (no data)...

I hopped over to a twitter post about children with lesbian parents from USA today.

Results of Gartrell's study are online and will be published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

An excerpt from the article follows:

Between 1986 and 1992, Gartrell and her colleague, Henry Bos, recruited 154 prospective lesbian mothers as they were considering artificial insemination, or once they were already pregnant.

As the children have grown, the researchers have been periodically checking in on them, and the latest follow-up included questionnaires completed by 78 children when they were 10 and again when they were 17. The study also included an interview with one of each child's mothers to assess the child's psychological well-being.

The results were then compared to a group of age-matched children from traditional families."Compared to the traditionally reared teens, adolescents with lesbian parents rated significantly higher in social, academic and total competence, according to the study. The teens with lesbian parents also rated significantly lower when it came to social problems, rule-breaking and aggressive behavior than teens raised in more traditional families."
Awesome! Such positive information.

Then to educator material, I explored:

The abstract was well written and is intended to be
"a guide for employees who confront sensitive issues involving gay, lesbian and bisexual students."
I read the post and wanted more, so I read the PDF in its entirety.
What I discerned was that the publication actually addresses something not directly mentioned in the abstract. In attempt to stem evangelists from influencing students to attend ex-gay ministry and transformational ministry meetings, they were advising a position congruent with acceptance of homosexuality, free speech, and respect for their view and opposed to the religious freedom of the individuals with a different view, indeed a view that considered homosexuality as sinful. Separation of church and state was mentioned. No mutual respect, just mutual exclusivity.
Why can't we just get along???