Sunday, March 30, 2014

Literacy with an Attitude: Quotes

This week’s reading, Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick J. Finn, was definitely challenging for me. Most of the time I know what I want to write about and focus on for my blog post, but this week was different. I found myself highlighting a lot, learning a lot, but at the same time feeling overwhelmed and rereading much of the article. So after much reading I have decided to do a quotes blog for this week
“Literacy is not seen as dangerous among the working people and unemployed of the United States is that we have developed two kinds of education. First, there is empowering education, which leads to powerful literacy, the kind of literacy that leads to position of power and authority. Second there is domesticating education, which leads to functional literacy, literacy that makes a person productive and dependable, but not troublesome”.
This quote really caught my attention. Throughout the article we learn about the differences between the elite schools and the working class schools. “The working class children were learning how to follow directions and do mechanical, [and] low paying work” meanwhile the “executive elite children were learning to be masters of the universe”. This gap in education is what makes the pattern go in this country, how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Is not that the working class children are any less smart than the elite executive children, what is happening is the way in which they are treated and taught. How there are different expectations for each group according to their social and economic status.  If we keep the system as it has been, then the cycle will continue on, and as Finn mentioned, the working class children will just learn the domesticating education, which benefits the elite, and most importantly that prevents the working class from realizing the injustice in the education system which prevents them from receiving an equal education, just like the one the upper class children receive.
“I say if they thought about it, because Freire understood a fundamental fact bout the lives of the illiterate Third World poor, they don’t think about it. They are so submerged in their daily lives that they have little or no awareness of the possibility for change.”
As I read the article and reread many parts of it, I just couldn’t get over Paulo Freire. His way of viewing literacy and the importance for illiterate people of Brazil to learn how to read, is amazing. His technique was the most fascinating. This quote was just one that I had to write about. It reminded me of Kozol and Mott Haven. The people there were so stuck in dealing with their problems, that they forgot there might be a way out. That what was happening to them was not a thing to do with fate, but it had to do with a broken system, and they had to fix it. This was happening in Brazil, and it is happening now in our country. As well as Freire, I believe that education and literacy is a tool that can help to initiate a revolution for equality and “today we understand that many social setups are possible [and that] roles and rules can be transformed so that there is greater justice and equity”.  Just like Paulo Freire did, if we teach our youth about the injustices taking place, and how they are going to part of it, perhaps there will be a greater desire to learn and to make a change. I think it is important to let them know. From what I can see in my Service Learning classroom children are so stuck in their own struggles that it is up to us to help them realize what is happening, perhaps even their parents. I can say from experience from working with tutoring Latino children, their parents are so busy working two jobs, or getting used to this country that they also don’t realize the possibility for change. Following Freire’s example, working on the literacy of adults can make a huge change, and here we could make a change happen by not only working with the literacy of our youth but of parents as well.
This is a video of Paulo Freire. He is just great.
“In the working class schools, knowledge was presented as fragmented facts isolated from wider bodies of meaning and from the lives and experiences of the students. [A] teacher in one working class school commented that she skipped pages dealing with mathematical reasoning and inference because they were too hard”
This is another quote I had to write about. Maybe because it made me so mad that I just had to talk about it. As mentioned before there shouldn’t be different expectations from different students simply because they come from lower or different social and economic classes. In the elite executive schools, they were learning to be creative and to be the “masters if the universe”, and there is no reason why in our schools there is a different standard and method of teaching towards students who don’t belong in the upper classes. This again reminds me of Kozol, and the idea of a broken system. How our education system is not equal for everyone, and how this inequality plays a role in the way students view themselves and in the knowledge they receive, which can later shape their future.
For discussion points, I would like to talk about why, why our education is the way it is and how us as future can do as much as possible to help change this. I was personally thinking to follow Freire’s example and even help minority parents learn more English and be more literate in it so that they can have more power in helping to have a more equal education system.  


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Brown vs. Board of Education : Reflection

Before I even get to discuss the material for this week, I just have to say that I felt overwhelmed and sad at the same time. I always knew there was inequality in the school system, and I learned about it even more as I went through public schools myself. I always knew it was not fair, but now reading the article, and exploring the website, as well as watching the videos, just made everything more real, and more sickening. For this week I decided to do a reflection, perhaps this way I can express in a hopefully organized way all that I felt when I went through the material for this week.

I went through the steps in order, exploring the website first. When I read about the exhibition and the importance of Brown vs. Board of Education, I felt proud that after a long time of fighting the nation had to come to realize the necessity to stop the cruelty of “separate but equal”. I loved to read that “the African American freedom struggle soon spread across the country [and that] the original battle for school desegregation became part of broader campaigns for social justice”. I do think that this was a stepping stone for further improvement in the treatment that African Americans received. Yet, then I went to watch videos. Tim Wise, is great, and a true example that blacks and minorities can have allies that help them out as much as possible even if they are not from the same race. He made so many good points that it was hard to just choose a few. His central idea was the election of Barack Obama, he does acknowledge the importance that this had, but it is not enough. I agree. I feel that his election was great; I mean we have talked about the Obama Effect, and the importance that black children can finally see a president that looks like them. In my middle school, his election was a big deal. I felt proud, I am not black, but I felt proud. My art class turned into a gathering area for anyone who wanted to see the historic moment. My teachers who were black were crying. I could feel their happiness, and they explained to us the hardships their families faced because of their skin color, and now seeing a black president just helped heal those memories a bit. My black schoolmates had papers taped to their shirts that said “Obama”. It was a nice day, a day of joy, and as I think about that day I feel what I felt in that moment. I can see my classmates on the tables chanting “Obama!”, and the vivid image makes me believe more than ever the power of having a role model to up to, but as Tim Wise said, that is not enough.  

He was “cautiously optimistic” about the effect of Obama’s election, because as he said that the chances of an average black person getting to where Obama is, are not high. He made it clear when he said that for instance a “vice president wouldn’t have been accepted if he went to five schools in six years”, because we live in “an unequal opportunity society”. On his reference to Brown vs. Board of Education, he said that those important events just remind us “to keep an eye on the price and remember how much work is needed to be done” and I agree. It would have been great if the decision of the Supreme Court would have solved all the problems, but sadly that’s not the case. We still see segregation in schools till this day as Bob Herbert makes it clear. But most importantly, as Tim Wise said “racism has never been an excuse, it is a reason, it is an obstacle,[and[ it is not the only reason” why blacks and minorities cannot achieve what whites have been able to do. This idea of privilege and power reminds me of Johnson, who states the idea that the ones that have power are the ones that least acknowledge it. A clear example is when Tim Wise mentioned that in 1963, two out of three white Americans responded that blacks had equal opportunities in housing and education. We can’t oblivious, and as power and privilege existed then it also exists now and we can’t ignore it.

This education segregation sadly didn’t stop with Brown vs, Board of education as Bob Herbert makes it clear as well. Reading this article just made everything clearer. I knew about the inequality but reading about it just made it more real, and it made me reflect about my own school years. As Herbert said it is “very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty” and these are the schools that minorities attend. I can really reflect to the idea that inequalities are still taking place. I went to school in Providence, and attended public schools. My experience was great, because I got to see many things I wouldn’t have been able to see till now. Yet, it is true, the poorest cities and school districts have such low performing scores because of poverty, and the lack of help. It was amazing if we got new books, most were used and a lot in bad condition. It was rare if we had a smart board. The schools were old. We could see the cracks on the walls and computers were rarely used. I saw my classmates receive reduced or free lunch, and struggle every day, and that’s why as I read Bob Herbert’s article in all came back to my mind. It was hard to attend a public school in Providence, because as I read the article I could see that my schoolmates and I were part of education segregation. Because we lived in a poor city, we were confined to poor schools and the consequences that come with it. Perhaps if we went to others schools we could have done better, as the “long years of evidence show that poor kids of all ethnic backgrounds do better academically when they go to school with their more affluent — that is, middle class — peers”. As I mentioned, reading the website for Brown vs. Board of Education, made me proud, and believe that people wanted to end “separate but equal” all together, but Bob Herbert’s article made me realize and reflect that that’s not the reality. Currently, “schools are no longer legally segregated, but because of residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom” inequality that shouldn’t exist still does.

This video is another prove of the inequality that still exists, as students try to have their FIRST EVER integrated prom.

The points that I would like to talk about in class, are just the reasons why racism isn't over. Our feelings about it and the actions we could take to help change this at least a little bit.

Friday, March 14, 2014

In The Service Of What: Extended Comment

This week’s article “In the Service of What?” by Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer was quite interesting, because it made think of different aspects regarding service learning that I didn’t think of before. While reading it I got see and think about the three domains that make it up which are the “moral, political, and intellectual” domains. Most importantly this article really made me think about my own service learning experience at Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School for FNED. As I read the article and reflected on my experiences I was confused on how to put my ideas together, but looking at the blog posts my other classmates had posted really helped me out, especially Sarah’s blog and therefore my blog post this week will be an extended comment based on what she posted. I just have to say that I really liked reading her post and the way she connected the article to events in her life such as being part of the Special Olympics in her town. She simply did a great job!
This is a video that talks about the impact that Inspiring Minds or VIPS have in our community, most specifically in Providence.  
In her blog post Sarah did a great job connecting the article to her own life, and especially to experiences that have influenced her in wanting to “become an Elementary Education Major with a focus in Special Ed”. One of the main points that she makes throughout her post is that “Kahne and Westheimer are large believers in the idea that service learning should be able to teach you something, [and also how] they believe that in order to get the most out of your experience with service learning, you need to put yourself in the perspective of people that you are working with”. I can’t express enough how much I agree with this point that she made. In the article we were able to read about the “Two Service Learning Cases” in which both stressed “the importance of compassion for those in need, and encourage[d] children and young adults to find ways to help” and as much as both cases did show how help is provided to people in need, I do believe that if we do not put ourselves in the place of the people we are helping then we are not really creating a long lasting lesson or change. The clear example of this is Ms. Adams’ students. Her students were able to build a complete experience because they began “their work with a systematic and critical analysis of the causes of homelessness and of the strategies employed to prevent it”. I feel that by being informed of what can be some of the causes of homelessness and reading about the struggle that those people go through makes students and others in general want to help out in a more genuine way.

I have to say that reading Sarah’s post made me want to find out more about the Special Olympics in her town. I was glad to read about the great experience she had and the impact that it had in her to the point that it influenced her in deciding a major. I feel that sharing experiences with special needs children is what caused that impact in her, rather than if she just read about disabilities. For instance in my case, my best friend is blind, and seeing her struggle and the way she deals with her blindness makes me want to her out as much as I can, and not only her but every single person that I can. Now when I volunteer at camps for blind students I do it because I have a bigger desire for it not just because I want to be an altruist.

Additionally, another main point that Sarah made was that she thinks that “everybody should be involved in service learning at some point in their life; and [that] it is important for high schools and middles schools to make service learning a graduation requirement”, and once again I agree with her. I think it’s important to have teachers like Ms. Adams, that create opportunities for their students to be informed about a certain aspect of our society that needs help, like homeless people, and find ways to help out. Therefore, I think it’s great that throughout our nation more and more states are requiring service learning or community service hours to their students as a school or graduation requirement. “For example, students in Atlanta must complete 75 hours of volunteer service to graduate, [and] Maryland now requires that all high school students perform 75 hours of community service prior to graduation or participate in an alternative district program approved by the state”.
Service learning is a great tool that students should be able to experience in order for them to learn and see things they would not been able to see otherwise, like the upper middle class students that went to perform at a poor elementary school nearby. Just like those students learned that “that people can be different” or that rumors can be false regarding certain people or neighborhoods, anyone else should be able to experience that.

What I would like to discuss in class would be if my classmates and I would have been able to choose another place to do service learning or community service at, what place would we have chosen and why. I wonder if they would be like Ms. Adams’ or Mr. Johnson’s students.