Sunday, November 30, 2014

Empowering Education- Ira Shor

After reading the excerpt from “Empowering Education” by Ira Shor, I understand why this piece was chosen to discuss on our final blog post. From start to finish, I was able to connections to almost every reading we have done. I found that some of Shor’s main arguments can easily be supported by the arguments that our past authors raised in their own works.

In Shor’s piece, he argues that academic settings need to move away from traditional schooling because it is stifling the chance for students to become active and critical thinkers in their classrooms as well as in the real world.  Traditional classrooms only allow room for “one-way transmission of rule, and knowledge from teacher to students” (Shor 12).  Students are expected to go to school and become an active participant in their society but the education they are provided does not make them equipped to do so.  Classrooms revolve around monotonous lectures and stress the importance of memorizing facts.  These types of classrooms do not teach students to critically think about what their learning and come up with knowledge on their own. Shor suggests that we move to an Empowered Education where “students make meaning and act from reflection” (Shor 12).

Moving to an empowered education would mean that students would learn that it is acceptable to challenge the status quo. Shor believes that the current system almost applauds and supports the status quo which downplays nontraditional student culture and the problem of social inequality” (Shor 32). I found that this closely relates to Finn’s idea that “the status quo is the status quo because people who have the power to make changes are comfortable with the way things are” (Finn 3). The school systems are not providing students with an education that allows them to test what they know because they are not given critical and analytical skills.  They learn that “education is something to put up with” (Shor 26).  In an empowered education, students realize that they have the right to speak up and question the material given to them.  When Finn discussed the differences between the working class and elite schools, it was evident that students from elite schools valued creativity and expression of opinions.  Negotiation was a key component in their classroom and they were not being forced to conform to the rules. An empowered education is what is taught in the more elite schools but is lacking the lower class schools. Finn and Shor acknowledge that there is a deficit in education and skills based of social significance.

I found another connection that related not only to Finn but also to Kozol. “School funding is another political dimension of education, because more money had always been invested in the education of upper-class children and elite collegians than has been spent on students from lower-income homes and in community colleges” (Shor 15).  We give more attention to students that attend upper class schools because they know the skills that will make them successful. They are provided with the rules and codes of power that will help them to question and analyze society. Lower class schools receive less attention because it is believed they only need enough to make them successful for their environment.  Shor is essentially getting at the idea that Kozol proposed- traditional schooling contributes to the culture of power.  The traditional schooling found in poverty stricken school systems does not help to break the cycle of inequality but instead teaches “students to fit into an education and a society not run for them or by them but rather set up for and run by elites” (Shor 20). Empowering education would make it possible for students to have a voice in society and find their way out of poverty.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

Last week we focused on how segregation is still present in our schools due to social classes. This week we have moved to another way students are segregated in classrooms- disabilities. Students that are not able bodied or fall under categories in S.C.W.A.A.M.P. are pushed out of normal classrooms because people believe they have the same capabilities.  Christopher Kliewer advocates that although a child may have a disability it does not mean they should not have full citizenship in the classroom.  They may not develop or think the same as those with out disabilities; however, it does not mean one should “interpret a child's nonconformity to developmental theory as a manifestation of defect” (77).  The excerpt we read from Kliewer’s “Schooling Children with Down Syndrome” focuses on ways for schools to fully accept students with disabilities. In order to do so we must “erase negative attitudes about people with develop­ mental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes and break the barriers for people with disabilities.” (71).
"Don't Limit Me!"

I found that this video best put into perspective what Kliewer is trying to explain in his work. Megan Bomgaars discusses in the video all the achievements she has made despite having Down syndrome. She is explaining to educators and to even other students that her disability does not define who she is. She is capable of doing everything that those with out a disability can do.  People often believe “many who are capable of exhibiting significant understanding appear deficient, simply because they cannot readily traffic in the commonly accepted coin of the educational realm” (80). So schools put children with disabilities in segregated classrooms just because they do not high mathematical and linguistic skill levels.  They neglect the fact they have so much more to offer and these children interpret things differently.  Megan tries to explain in her video a lot of the aspects Shayne Robbin’s incorporates in her classroom.  Megan reflects on her school experiences- saying that she really benefitted from learning in “regular classes”.  She says “include me and all your students in your circle of learning”.  Essentially, you should not single out the student with the disability but instead incorporate his or her needs with the needs of every other student.  Shayne Robbins “broadened and strengthened the learning opportunities opened to all her children" (75) by fostering to the needs of every individual.  She built upon things the strengthen skills of her disabled students as well as those who were not. Throughout the entire video, Megan really hits a lot of the topics that are discussed in this weeks reading.  It really helps to understand the information by hearing it from someone who has experienced it.
Tim's Place - Breakfast, Lunch, Hugs
I also wanted to share this video with you because I think it is really inspirational. It shows that if we follow what Kliewer says about breaking down the barriers and letting those with disabilities be an active participant in society that they can offer so much.  We should not limit them.  Tim's story is truly inspirational! Tim said it best -"I do not let my disability crush my dreams. People with disabilities can do anything they set their mind to. They're special. We are a gift to the world"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Literacy with an Attitude- Extended Comments

After reading “Literacy with an Attitude” and making my own ideas about the text, I found that Jessica’s blog really related to my own thoughts. In this week’s blog post, I will discuss points from Jessica’s blog that I found really valid. 

Patrick Finn’s main focus is to identify that there is an imbalance in education amongst social classes.  Academic institutions are confining students to an education that will only bring them success in the social setting that they were brought up in.  The skills they are taught only limit them to certain opportunities, giving them no chance to overachieve.  Students that are brought up in middle and lower class families are the ones who are greatly affected in this literacy divide.   No matter what their level of intelligence may be, the student’s on the lower spectrum of society will never measure up to students that come from elite schools- “when students begin school in such different systems, the odds are set for them” (25).

Similar to Jessica, I noticed that a lot of the classroom experiences Finn describes correspond with Delpit’s work.  Jessica discusses the part of the text where Finn is explaining why he was able to manage his classroom so well.  Finn confesses that he made sure to have gain authority in the classroom because he knew the students respond well to authority.  Finn always gave the students commands on what to do and made sure to never phrase the command in the form of a question.  Jessica says, “We see Finn emphasizing what Delpit is trying to say in her piece – you need to say the words or it will not get done”. Finn successfully integrated the authoritative aspect of Delpit’s work into his classroom.  His principal often praised him for having such well-behaved students.  But I think Delpit can be found in manly more ways than one throughout Finn’s piece.

The teachers are misconstruing what Delpit means when she says students should explicitly be taught the rules and codes.  Take into consideration what Jessica mentions about the teachers in the working class schools.  In the working class schools the teachers make a lot of derogatory and strict comments to their students.  There comments are very demeaning and do not seem to support student learning.  Jessica says, “ These lower class students are the ones who need the right tools to succeed, and one of those tools is a teacher that is willing to help – not one that is doubting everything the child does or underestimates their abilities.” I agree with her 100%. And often times, I have experienced this sort of behavior from teachers at my Service Learning.  But I think that teachers working in these sorts of schools believe that this is the necessary tool that students will need to get by.  Finn mentions that teachers in working class schools “made every effort to control students' movement” (11).  They do not feel that the student is capable of making their own choices so they need to direct them in every aspect even if it is in a negative way.  These were the codes and rules that these students would need for their lifestyle.  Teachers assumed they did not have the work ethic to amount to anything successful so this was enough for them to get by.  When the students eventually go onto the real world, supposedly these skills will be sufficient enough for the jobs they will work at. 

In the middle and elite class schools, the teachers approached the rules and codes of power much differently. The amount of direct orders given in the classroom were very rare.  The teachers were very lenient in this aspect and relied on negotiation.  The students were not constantly being told what to do because the teachers believed they had enough knowledge and skills to accomplish tasks and assignments.  The assignments in the classroom were more thought-provoking and required more problem solving skills.  The students were given this work because it would provide them with skills that would benefit them in the jobs of their social class.  The middle and elite schools were providing students with the skills they needed to become successful in their society.

But the problem that Finn is trying to make is that their should be a universal curriculum throughout all school systems no matter what type of school it is.  Schools need to provided every student with the skills they will need to succeed in any situation or any job.  They should not limit the education to the school because they believe a child will only go so far.