Sunday, October 26, 2014

"The Silenced Dialogue" Revisted

“They want to ensure that the school provides their children with discourse patterns, interactional styles, and spoken and written language codes that will allow them success in the larger society” (29) 

School is initially designed to suit children that are raised by families that are apart of the culture of power.  They already assume that children are equipped with information they will need to thrive in society.  Due to this assumption, the curriculum revolves around what its like in a classroom setting rather than emphasize what they need in the real world.  Instead of learning the rules and codes to get ahead, the children that come from lower class families are set a part.  Families that are not apart of the culture of power fear that their children will fall behind even more than they are at the start of school. School systems need to acknowledge that school is not just about academic knowledge but also knowledge for the real world.  Not every student will understands the rules and regulations that are valued in society.  As said in Delpit's work, these children already understand how to be diverse now they just need to make sure they understand how to act in white dominant world. 

“In other words, the attempt by the teacher to reduce an exhibition of power by expressing herself in indirect terms may remove the very explicitness that the child needs to understand the rules of the new classroom culture” (35) 

        Teachers will not use their power to the best of their ability because they fear that they will be too over controlling. The teacher will avoid using direct instructions in the classroom and will appear to be less authoritative to the children. This makes it very difficult for students to learn the expectations of a teacher.  Without a sense of authority, students will not be able to create a relationship with their teacher that will motivate them to learn. Instead, students will have no respect for their classroom or teacher and try to take over the class. In order to use authority properly, teachers must give clear directions to follow and always makes sure to command rather than be indirect. The authority will give the students a better understand of what not to do in class and in their work. In the classrooms I tutor in, the teachers really use their power to the best of their ability.  The teachers use a firm tone when teaching and instructing the class. The students respond extremely well to the authority and know what to do at all times of the day.  
“Students must be taught the codes needed to participate fully in the mainstream of American life, not by being forced to attend to hollow, inane, decontextualized subskills, but rather within the context of meaningful communicative endeavors; that they must be allowed the resource of the teacher's expert knowledge, while being helped to acknowledge their own 'expertness' as well; and that even while students are assisted in learning the culture of power, they must also be helped to learn about the arbitrariness of those codes and about the power relationships they represent."(45)
 Delpit summarizes her entire piece in this one quote.  Essentially, Delpit acknowledges that there is an unspoken issue of students failing to succeed in society because they have not been properly taught how to.  But Delpit does not believe that the rules and codes of power need to be forced and imbedded into their brain. The proper resources, opportunities, and experiences will gradually show them what expectations need to be met in order to progress.  Delpit believes they can use their own experiences to spark their initiation into society.  But a teacher will help to guide them in the right direction.   If the student is denied these aspects then they will have a hard time trying to keep up with everyone else.
"There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a 'culture of power'" (25).
 This is one of the five aspects of power that Delpit mentions in "The Silenced Dialogue".  This provides a good understanding of what the culture of power actually means.  When you obtain the culture of power, you know what skills you need in order to gain such privileges. Delpit infers that the culture of power knows the appropriate ways to talk and write in a social setting. You know exactly what is expected of you in formal and informal atmospheres.  A child that comes from the culture of power will understand the manners they need in school. They will know how to respectively speak to an authoritative figure. Their families teach them the codes and rules of power in order to meet a particular standard in order to have a successful life.
"I suggest that schools must provide these children the content that other families from a different cultural orientation provide at home" (30).
I think Delpit is trying to suggest that all cultures should be represented in the classroom.  You should not try to separate the children that are not from the privileged group.  They are equally capable of learning what the culturally powered students will learn.  There is no need to alienate them from others just to teach them the rules of power.  Instead, you can teach both the rules of power as well as the rules and codes found in other cultures.  This way every student will essentially be on the same playing field. Every student, no matter what class or race they associate with, will be well equipped with the skills they will need in any situation. In doing so, the classroom will be able to accommodate every student for what they need to learn and become an effective role in society.
To help with this blog, I found a power point  and a blog that helped to narrow down the key points in Delpit's work.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

In the Service of What?- Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer

Growing up in a city that is based upon “townie pride”, I have been very familiar with service learning.  From elementary school all the way to high school, my education has always revolved around giving back to the community.  Service learning is effective in helping those that are in need hopefully, preventing a community’s misfortunes from reoccurring, and also providing "rich educational experiences for students" (2).  However, it seems that service learning has become more of a requirement “to promote giving rather than to provide the kind of understanding needed for the development of caring relationships” (7). “In The Service Of What? The Politics of Service Learning” discusses how service to a community is a useful learning tool if done effectively.

The article discusses two cases of service learning projects.  In one case, a 12thgrade teacher tells his students to pick their own volunteering project that will help them learn about their community and help others. These students picked projects that helped them to interact with people on either a direct or indirect level.  Although a student was helpful in creating kits for the homeless they were not able to analyze the situation. Mr. Johnson’s class was promoting “civic duty”.  Civic duty is an obligation that a citizen owes to help their community.  The student was helping the homeless for the time being; however, they did not put into consideration the reason behind their poverty.  By analyzing the situation, the student could further their service learning project to help prevent their community’s poverty.
Kahne and Westheimer stress that service learning is not just a civic duty. In order to create an effective experience for the student participating in the act, they must really get in touch with their projects. Mr. Johnson’s class was doing their job to help out but did not look at their acts of kindness on a deeper level. They “provided token amounts of needed aid yet never identified or responded to structural problems” (9).  You need to do more than just give back.  I have always enjoyed taking part in volunteer opportunities. I remember when I was little I would leave Santa a letter on Christmas Eve to leave me money to donate to the poor.  As I got older, I would always participate in volunteer works from my church. Every week I donate a canned good to our weekly collection and always help to collect the parish's donations from all of the masses.  It has always provided me with a rewarding feeling to give to the poor.  I always thought that donating and collecting the donations was a good enough deed. I was only providing a temporary fix-the donations provide them with what they need for only a certain amount of time. Just like in Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace, the volunteers would come every week to "volunteers arrive here twice a week to give out condoms and clean needles" (Kozol 12). The volunteers were making to sure to help prevent STD's and other diseases but they were not putting a stop to prostitution or drug addiction.  

After reading further into Kahne and Westheimer's work, I realized that it becomes hard for students to look at the bigger picture of their service learning projects because they have not experienced it.  I have never truly been able to understand how it feels to loose their home and survive off of donations because I was never put in that situation. "In the Service of What?" explains that you have to "diminish the sense of 'otherness' that often separates students-particularly privileged students-from those in need."(8).  If you are able to eliminate the barrier that social status may provide then you can have a different insight on their life.  By allowing yourself to be on the same level as those you are helping, you are able to see how to effectively participate and help your cause. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us

Growing up I always loved to watch Disney movies.  I was an extreme girly girl (I still am, despite having two older brothers) so I loved to watch the princess movies.  I always had a strong liking to The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  Why did I like them so much? Well, in my head I always thought that they were the most beautiful.  I found their stories to be the most interesting and their appearance was very pretty. At a young age I had already learned what was valued in society without deliberately being told.

In “Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us”, Linda Christensen explains that children’s books, cartoons, and movies having hidden messages that secretly teach them the rules of society. Any form of media that children are exposed to have contributed to sexism and racism.  Children stories depict the role of men and women- how they are supposed to act, a certain appearance, and their duties in life.  And it is very rare for a fairytale or children’s story to highlight a character or a different race.  Christensen’s article proves that all of these stories fall under S.C.W.A.A.M.P.  All the princesses are beautiful and thin.  They are damsels in distress but then they end up living happily ever after. The princes are always handsome and fit.  And the men are always there to save the day.  These stories have taught us from the very beginning “how to succeed, how to love, how to buy, how to conquer, how to forget the past and suppress the future.” (128).  Our childhood stories have underhandedly provided us a lesson about the rules and codes of power. We have been unknowingly striving for success and happiness because of the childhood stories we were exposed to. 

1. "Life in plastic, it's fantastic!": Barbie dolls have become such an iconic figure to any girl.  I always loved dressing my Barbie's up in all different outfits.  I would always pretend my dolls were going on dates or hanging out with friends. I spent hours acting out these elaborate scenarios. Young girls become so fascinated with the lifestyle of these dolls that it has effected how they feel about themselves. "The barbie syndrome starts as we begin a life long search for the perfect body" (136).  We look at Barbie's as these perfectly proportioned figures with such beautiful features.  Girls will feel the need to fit this particular mold and go to extreme measures to do so. Eating disorders and body image issues can occur because they want to have the perfect body.  But what we don't realize is that Barbies are not realistic. Recently, people have discovered the real life proportions of a Barbie doll. In the article, How Barbie's Body Size Would Look Like In Real Life, Barbie would be six feet tall with a 39" bust, 18" waist, and 33" hips. The makeup of her body would not allow her to hold up her head, walk properly, or have enough room to hold all of her organs. This article describes how the figure of a Barbie doll is in no way ideal, realistic or functional. Barbies have provided us with a false impression of beauty.  Girls have associated Barbies with beauty and perfection but have not realized that we have been idolizing an unrealistic figure.  

2. "Shine bright, shine far, don't be shy be a star": I'm sure many of you can recognize those lyrics.  Those are the lyrics to the song "Be a Star" from the Disney Channel movie "Life Size". In the Disney movie, a young girl accidentally brings a popular doll to life. When the doll, Eve, comes to life she has to try and live a human life.  The doll version of Eve was successful in everything that she did.  She assumed that everything she did in real life would come naturally to her but it didn't.  She could not understand why she was struggling with everything. This relates to Christensen's article because it shows how the idea that you "'win' because of their beauty and their fashion attire" (133) is not true.  Eve realized that having the perfect business suit and heels did not help her secretary skills. And wearing the stereotypical housewife attire did not prevent her from burning her cake.  It was not her appearance that would bring her success but the actual hard work and skill she put into it.  Beauty does not entail that things will easily get handed to you in life, you have to work for things.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A "Safe Space" to Reflect

Schools are all about designing an atmosphere that promotes student learning.  Any teacher would vouch that there needs to be a comfortable relationship between the student and the teacher as well as their peers. To create a “safe space”, the classroom needs to value every student’s beliefs and background.  In the modern society we live in, a classroom’s safe space is becoming dangerous because the LGBT community is not exactly being welcomed into classrooms.

LGBT youth has a hard time feeling comfortable in their classrooms because not many of their peers have been exposed to homosexuality. Their parents may not have talked about the different types of families and their teachers are not quite sure how to go about explaining it to them.  It doesn’t mean they don’t support homosexuality- they are just unsure of how to go about it.  Teachers have been trained to “ teach their students the status quo; they shrink from challenging dominant social patterns and expectations, especially in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity.” (85). 

I have experienced situations like this many times at the school I work at.  One afternoon the kids were eating their lunches and I was going around helping kids open their lunches. While I was helping a little one open their applesauce, I overheard the end of a conversation at another table regarding their parents.  One of the girls was talking about what she did with her moms last night and one of the boys was so confused that she said “moms”. The boy kept saying, “So you have two moms? But I have a mom and a dad.”  One of the teachers I work with said she just changed the subject because she knew that he would be stuck on the topic and wouldn’t understand it.  When I think back on it now, she could have simply explained that there are all different types of families. But instead she decided to move away from the topic all together.  Although the boy was only four years old, I think he was capable of understanding it in simple terms.  I think she felt uncomfortable introducing him to information that his parents had not yet discussed.  And maybe since the boy was not making fun of his classmate, their was no need to press the issue any further.

I don't necessarily think my co-worker was wrong in denying the boy of this information but I definitely think it could have been a teachable moment. Teachers silence the issue because they struggle with ways to expose LGBT youth to their students. "Safe spaces" discusses that avoiding the issue all together is not the way to go about it, you will not be teaching your students to accept it. "You can't validate an experience you never talk about" (98).  We need to integrate sexuality and gender roles into the class curriculum in order to better represent the LGBT community and inform other students.  The kindergartner Zeke introduced homosexuality by reading books about different types of family units.  He made sure to express that "positive values of love and caring were well associated with same-sex couples and their families" (90).  My co-worker could have used a similar approach of integration and interpretation to teach the boy about the girl's family.  If you imply that her family has the same positive values and morals as his family, he will not think that they are so different.