Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Social Justice

In class on Monday, we discussed the effects that race has on people and our society. I did not say much during the class because I thought it was interesting hearing everyone's different views on the subject. I thought it was interesting when Professor Smith stated that being white and black is an experience. For white people, it is an experience of power and for black people, it is an experience of oppression. As she was explaining this point, I realized how different the experiences are between white and black people. I mean, if Oprah, one of the richest and successful women in the US, goes into a store and still gets followed by the store clerks, then obviously something is wrong. The problem in our society is that people see successful black people, such as Obama and Oprah, as the exception and not as the norm. I agreed with the statement made by Sleeter and Grant that "individuals need to learn to organize and work collectively in order to bring about social changes that are larger than individuals." I took this to mean that all people from different races, genders, and social classes need to work towards redefining the dominant culture. White people need to understand their privilege in order to comprehend where other people stand in our society to bring about change. They also need to relinquish their power by understanding what it means and not always acting on that privilege. I know this would be difficult for most people because everyone is looking out for number one and never thinks about how they are affecting other people. This is an important step in order to bring about change in our society. I also agreed with Sleeter and Grant when they stated that "people who are oppressed should not just sit back and take it." Even though it would be easier to give up and accept how society works, oppressed people need to work hard at bringing about change. I also think the problem is that we are a country of supremacy. Americans think they are more important than other people throughout the world. We have this notion in our heads that we are better than the rest of the world. How is this possible?
In relation to schools, teachers should learn to look within themselves if their students are having a problem in their class, not automatically at their "laziness" or homelife. Students need to feel comfortable in their school's environment otherwise they will shut down and stop trying. I see this all the time at the middle school where I mentor. Students will stop trying in certain classes because a certain teacher will treat them differently or unfairly. Not only does domination happen throughout our society and throughout our everyday lives, it also happen within our school systems. Teachers dominate the students and make them feel "less than" they should.

Here is a clip of a debate over the N-word on the View. Even though I'm not a huge fan of the show, I feel like there were some good points in their argument that was relevant to our class on Monday. You can make your own conclusions whether or not this word should be used at all in our society.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why can't we all get along?

In class on Monday, we talked about the Human Relations approach to education, which is attempting to generate a positive atmosphere with the students by decreasing stereotypes and advocating a sense of togetherness in a nation of diverse individuals. Personally, my reaction to the article was that educators are trying to make all students feel more comfortable within the classroom. Even though one of their main goals are "to improve relationships between majority and minority students by eliminating prejudice and discrimination," their practice of this approach is not effective. Teachers are supposed to ask themselves "what can I do" or "what should I do" prior to incidents that upset the peace within the schools; not after. Sleeter and Grant state that "student diversity became an object of concern only when it threatened harmony within the school." Principals and teachers shouldn't wait until problems arise with students. Bullying is a big problem in schools and it makes sense that students who are getting bullied or teased don't do well in schools. Who is going to pay attention in class if you don't feel comfortable being there? Effective strategies should be put into action before there are problems involving students. I agree with Sleeter and Grant that "ignorance supports prejudice; accurate information can help reduce prejudice." People are always saying "knowledge is power" and if students grow up learning accurate information regarding race, culture, etc., it will hopefully help reduce prejudice and discrimination against people. Once again, this is another reason why schools need a multicultural based education system.

After looking at the answers for the Equity and Diversity Awareness Quiz, I am embarrassed to report that I only got one question right out of fifteen. The only on I got correct was #13, the annual earnings of the average full-time US worker is roughly equal to the daily earnings of the average CEO in the US. I noticed that my answers were mostly naive. For example, I was nowhere near the correct answers for #s 2, and 12. I can't believe that African American women are four times as likely to die during child birth due to lack of access to prenatal care, compare to white women. This is absurd to me. The US needs to get their priorities straight because according to this quiz, the military budget for the US is seven times higher than China's and roughly 2,600,000 US citizens are millionaires. Spread the wealth. Additionally, 84.5% of teachers never or rarely respond to homophobic remarks made by other students. This is ridiculous because how do you expect to change these behaviors if you don't acknowledge them. This ties back into the Human Relations approach because actions have to be taken in order to prevent bullying and cruel remarks from occurring. Knowledge is power. Here is the quiz, see how well you do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing is a problem for schooling and learning for so many reasons. In the article "Standards and Tests Attack Multiculturalism" by Bill Bigelow, he states that "test questions inevitably focus on discrete facts, but cannot address the deeper, multifaceted meaning of facts." Therefore, "one can master isolated morsels of fact and remain ignorant about the issues that give those facts meaning." This bothers me most about standardized tests because anyone who is good at taking tests and memorizing information will most likely do well on these tests. However, those of us who understand the basic concepts of the information and, for example, can't remember the date of which it happened will do horribly on these types of tests. Standardized testing doesn't allow the students to grasp the overall concept and importance of the events or ideas being taught in school because they are worried about the minuscule details which will be questions on the exams. Also, since teachers know that the students will be tested on these certain facts, the teachers will be more inclined to teach to the tests instead of expanding and explaining concepts more in depth. He also explains how these tests undermine multicultural education because, to the students, "if it were important it would be on the test." Therefore, teachers cannot teach a curriculum based on multicultural education because they don't have the time to educate their students about the culture and events of different people when they are time restrained to these tests. Also, the students won't see the information as important because they know that it won't be asked on the exams.

Furthermore, standardized testing is not going to help close the achievement gap. The No Child Left Behind Act has the right idea and hopes to rectify the correct problems in our education system, but the action of carrying out this bill is not succeeding. Holding the teachers accountable for their students by using standardized test scores is not going to help fix the problem because teachers will continue to teach to the test. However, teachers should be held accountable for because their is a need for better teaching, especially in the neediest school districts. The trouble with this problem is that teachers don't get paid enough to try harder and the districts that need the better teachers don't have enough money to pay for highly qualified staff. In the article "Evaluating 'No Child Left Behind'" by Linda Darling-Hammond, I agreed with the improvements of NCLB such as assessing students on their progress instead of using these standardized tests and giving teachers better salaries and working conditions. Now the question is how to implement these new improvements. The class had an idea of grading the students on a portfolio type of progression which I agree with, but what kind of grading system will be put into place? How do we give teachers in needy school districts more pay? If anyone has any ideas, feel free to express them. Hopefully, these changes can happen to benefit the students and close the achievement gap.
This shows how much farther away our country is from incorporating multicultural education. Texas is changing their curriculum to a more conservative view of history and cutting out even more historical information. Education already doesn't include so much history and culture in our curricula and Texas has decided that even more has to be cut out. They are molding education into what they believe students should learn in school and not the truth of all aspects of history and our life in the US. Take a look.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


In class on Monday, everyone took the Louisiana State voting test given to black people in the early 1960s. It's a literacy test of 30 questions timed for ten minutes that is supposed to prove that a person has at least a fifth grade education. The test is incredibly frustrating and personally, I couldn't finish the whole test in time. If you get one wrong answer on this test, you were not permitted to vote. Everyone had a good time reading off their answers and debating over how to interpret the questions. But after thinking about people seriously sitting down and struggling to finish/pass this test, it just was not fair. The test was designed to make sure that black people could not vote. If you read the questions, they can be interpreted in all different ways. So one day this might be the answer, but the next day if you have that answer, nope that's wrong today. No one in our class passed the test and I am 99% positive that no one else can pass this test either. If you want to try it, here's the link.

In the article, "Black Schools, White Schools," Bell talks about how the Brown vs. the Board of Education actually did more harm than it did good. Black children wanted to have the same quality of education as the white children by integrating the schools and having access to all of the accommodations and resources that the white schools offered. After the Brown vs. the Board of Education case, black children were now able to attend the white schools but the white people left and moved to different areas, taking the resources and quality education with them. Therefore, the case still didn't help black people gain access to quality education, it further segregated the schools and further perpetuated the problem. I never realized this until after reading the article. Also, in class, the professor asked me what it means to be white and I couldn't think of an answer. After thinking about it more, I realized I have never been asked that question or have ever had to think about my skin color. To me, this is what white privilege means; never having to think about how the color of my skin can affect me in life. It goes along with what everyone else said but I never realized it before taking this class. Like the Brown vs. Board of Education case or the girl in class in the article, "Race: Some Teachable-and Uncomfortable-Moments," I have never had to defend myself because of my skin color. Regarding race, the concept of white privilege has opened my eyes to skin color meaning more than just people's appearance.
This video, "Stereotypes and White Privilege," is similar to what we did in class on Monday. It's interesting to see how many stereotypes can be rattled off about people of color and how much of a struggle it is for the people to think of white stereotypes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's goin on?

In class on Monday, our professor set up a simulation of how an English language learning student would feel in a classroom by speaking Patois while going over a quiz. Personally, it was hard for me to understand the dialect so I did the best I could to not participate and remain hidden from the teacher. In an English speaking class, students who are still learning English most likely feel the same way. Even though they know the material, they do not want to, or cannot, participate in class discussion because of the language barrier. Most often these students get put into the remedial classes, even though they know the lessons, because the teachers are not equipped to help them with the language. In the Sleeter and Grant article "Teaching the Exceptional and the Culturally Different," I liked how they suggested that students do peer tutoring and class discussions about the material because the student-student interaction will help the English language learning students build on the language and understand the lesson. This also helps the students who are tutoring the other students better understand the lesson. In the article, they also talked about parental involvement in the students' lives which I believe is extremely important for the student to succeed. I liked how it said for the teachers to do anything possible to get into contact with the parents, for example "meet parents on the parents' turf rather than in the school." I thought this was interesting because not only might parents not have time to meet during the designated parent-teacher conferences but the parents who speak a different language might not want to try and maneuver their way around the school when they cannot read the signs. I never thought about this aspect before but it makes sense because people do not want to go to places that make them uncomfortable. Parental involvement is important for the child to succeed in school because they need the guidance and support from home in addition to school.

In the Rita Tenorio article "Brown Kids Can't Be in Our Club," Tenorio describes some of the activities that she does with her first grade class to bring up the issue of diversity. I feel that these activities are more helpful than hurtful because it is a great way to show students at a young age that difference does not mean deficient, it simply means difference. These activities also show the similarities between different people. I liked the "Me Pockets" the best because not only does it show the cultural background of the students, it also shows the personality and the similarities between the students. It also gives a chance for the parents to get involved in the projects because the students will ask them questions about their family and heritage.

I could not think of any good activities for bringing up racial issues in my classroom so I looked online for other examples. These websites explain interesting activities and projects to bring up the issue from elementary school to high school.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Education that is multicultural is important for so many reasons. First of all, in the future, people will be better equipped to work and interact with all different kinds of people if they have a better knowledge of their backgrounds and cultures. Secondly, students in school will be able to learn about themselves and their cultures which will give them a better grasp on the material being taught to them. Children should have a better (and truthful) understanding of their culture then what they see on television or in the movies. This also means that teachers should be more knowledgeable of different cultures so that they can relay the information in a way that all students will be able to understand. I always felt that students learn better when they can relate the information to their daily lives. In the Sleeter and Grant article "Multicultural Education," the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE) provides five elements for instructing multicultural education. Out of the five processes, the one that stands out the most to me is "connecting school to students' lives, and contextualizing teaching and curriculum in the experiences and skills of students' homes and communities" (167). For the reasons that I stated earlier, this step is important for the students to relate information learned in school to their outside lives. For example, I mentor at the Johnson City Middle School and my girl's english teacher once a week gives a poetry lesson on a popular song that the students listen to. I feel that this helps the students focus more and remember the concepts because they will remember the enjoyable lesson.

I really enjoyed the you tube video "Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity" because he was funny and made some interesting points. I like how he said that people "get educated out of creativity" because it is so true. When I get assigned a creative paper, I have no idea where to begin because I am used to having a set of rules for a structured essay. I feel that creativity should be an important part of the learning experience because the greatest inventions and ideas for change come from an imagination.

This illustrates my point about creativity being important for the invention of new ideas and technology.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In the Sleeter and Grant article "Business as Usual," all of the statistics were intense but the ones that struck me the most were the wages between women and men. As it states in the article, "the earnings of full-time working women are only about 80% the earnings of full-time working men." Part of the reason this occurs is because men and women self select into different types of jobs; it just so happens that the jobs women choose to do are less well-paid due to the fact that women are doing them. Even within traditionally masculinized work, women are paid less than their male counterparts with the same jobs. This is a tremendous difference, especially when women who are single parents have children to care for. No wonder more single-parent women are in poverty compared to single-parent men. It also explains in the article that "women are given custody of children in about 84% of divorce cases and often must attempt to support the family on a low-wage budget." How are these women supposed to properly care for their children by giving them a good education and supplies for school with a low salary? Women often choose to identify with lower paying jobs, such as an educator, but why are these jobs considered less important than other well paying jobs.
In the "How Students are Grouped" section of the article, Sleeter and Grant explains ability grouping and tracking in schools. Tracking is a conflicting topic for me because on the one hand, as stated in the article, it "perpetuates race and class inequities" and "lower-track students were often turned off to school and felt academically incompetent." All students should feel comfortable and appreciated in schools and by giving them different labels separates them from their classmates in negative ways. Students in the upper-track could make rude comments to other students in the lower-track and vice versa. Also, expressed in class on Monday, students who are said to have"behavioral problems" and instead just have energy could be wrongly put into special education classes. On the other hand, students with learning disabilities who really need extra help benefit from being taken aside and taught more thoroughly. When I was in elementary school, I had a hard time with math so my teacher put me into an extra help math program. I feel that the smaller classroom size and the one on one help from a different teacher helped me out a lot. I do understand how students could feel academically incompetent because that is how I felt the first time I got taken out of class for this program. I do not have a suggestion of a different way to handle these situations other than tracking but a different system has to be set up to make students want to be in school.

This clip from Desperate Housewives illustrates tracking in schools. Throughout the clip, Susan and Gabby are trying to decide which classification (the leopards, chipmunks, or giraffes) has the gifted students and which has the slower students.

(Sources: Making Choices for Multicultural Education: Five Approaches to Race, Class, and Gender 5th Edition)