Monday, November 30, 2009

Hope High vs. Moses Brown

I just came across this video and I thought it was great.

Education Is Politics

1."In a curriculum that encourages student questioning, the teacher avoids a unilateral transfer of knowledge. She or he helps students develop their intellectual and emotional powers to examine their learning in school, their everyday experience, and the conditions in society."
I think this is important because, often kids feel put off by school. They don't feel as if they are participants in their own education. Shor is saying that by allowing students to have a voice in the classroom, the teacher is assigning value to each student as an important contribution to the class. When kids feel valued they are more inclined to participate and less so to withdraw and become disconnected. I think Shor's idea of integrating the classroom with a student's outside life only serves to engage the student more.
2."Rote learning and skills drills in traditional classrooms do more than bore and miseducate students; they also inhibit their civic and emotional developments. Students learn to be passive or cynical in classes that transfer facts, skills, or values without meaningful connections to their needs, interests, or community cultures."
I remember feeling very disconnected in school and I mentally checked out after my second year of high school. I showed up but my mind was elsewhere and as I realized that there were really no immediate consequences, it reinforced the feeling of separation from school for me. I figured out that I could fail my Spanish 3 class and still move on to my senior year, so I slept in the back everyday. I am not proud , but I remember that I had drooled so much that the pages were all wavy and the book was hard to close by the end of the year. The following year I decided to do the same in Psychology and was asked at the end of the year by the teacher not to show up for the final because they could use the extra seat. I didn't attend graduation and my picture was not in the yearbook. I regret these decisions now, but at the time I was angry and I didn't feel any connection to the teachers or the curriculum. Getting back to the quote, I can see how a little boredom and lack of connection can turn into complete withdrawal.
3."...this competitive orientation leads to isolation and alienation " among students, encouraging a handful of " winners" while depressing the performance of the many, especially female students and minorities who withdraw from the aggressive affect of the classroom."
I am hesitant to talk about isolation and alienation again, but it really struck a nerve with me. I can totally relate to the feeling of not wanting to compete in a game where the odds are rigged and the terms are only clear to those who are supposed to win. The academic competition doesn't encourage learning as much as it inhibits it. Nobody wants to play a game that they have no chance of winning. Schools skim the top of the fish bowl for those students who can swim to the top, and the ones that can't drown. Things needs to change and maybe it already has started to. It has been a while since I was in High School and I hope that with the influx of new teachers, the old way of unilateral, competitive education is dying.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

1."To value another is to recognize diversity as the norm. It establishes the equal worth of all schoolchildren, a sense that we all benefit from each other, and the fundamental right of every student to belong."
I think this sums up the entire reason for inclusion classrooms and the need to deconstruct the old "norm" and create a new one of diversity and acceptance. The story that preceded this quote was of Anne and her placement in a school setting where she was unhappy. Although it occured after her schooling the old norm was reinforced when she was placed at a job that she didn't care for. Shayne cared enough to include Anne in her placement, by listening to what she was passionate about and finding her work at the movie store. I work with the public and meet many people with disabilities and I find that some of my co-workers approach passengers with disabilities like they already know exactly how to assist them, instead of asking them how they want to be helped. You have to care enough about the answer in order to ask the question.

2."All people with Down syndrome are happy"
I like this comment about how people with Down syndrome are always perceived as being happy all the time. This stereotype serves to lump people with Down syndrome together, and makes them less human and more character-like. If we think about typical people we encounter on a daily basis, we know that they are definitely not always happy and it sets people with Down syndrome apart from everyone else. I am sure if you take the time to meet and talk with people with Down syndrome, it won't take you long to find out that they share the same emotional ups and downs as the rest of us. It is funny how you just accept certain stereotypes without really thinking about how silly and untrue they are.

3."We have our basic core in common; We both love music and we both believe that everybody is part of the same family."
I found this to be a great connection between the concept and reconceptualizing Down syndrome. Here John's friend talks about how they relate to each other in that they both believe in the same fundamental love of music and regard for human oneness. It is so easy to get caught up in the complexity of life and I think it to strip it all away and connect on such a personal level with anyone is wonderful. I have a personal story that kind of goes along with this very point. In High School psychology class the teacher made us watch a movie called "Bill" and it was kind of a cheesy made for TV movie. The movie was about a mentally challenged man who is released from an institution and tries to make his way in the world. In the Movie Bill's whole goal in life was to become a " regular good man". I remember thinking to myself that here you have this guy who is supposedly less than a human being, and yet he has discovered the true meaning of life. He just wanted to be a " regular good man" and be treated the way he treated others. When I was 19 I decided to get "RGM" tattooed on the back of my neck as a reminder to me of who I want to be. I have not seen the movie since and I don't want to because I am not sure if it would be as spiritual today as I remember it being back then. I ultimately failed the class because the teacher made me uncomfortable, but at least I learned a life lesson. I learned more about life from the true story of a "mentally challenged" man than from the rest of my high school experience combined.

Monday, November 9, 2009


1. "In the two working-class schools, work is following the steps of a procedure. The procedure is usually mechanical, involving rote behavior and very little decision making or choice."
I can see this in Windmill, maybe not as drastic as in Anyon's piece but still present. The teacher follows the handouts closely and there doesn't seem to be any room for discussion. I am not sure if it is because teachers, in the public system, have to follow the curriculum closely or if it is personal choice. I sat in on a class where my friend teaches and it was a completely different experience, just like the contrast in Anyon's observation. My friend taught fourth grade at The Gordon School, which is a very pricey private school in E.P. First off, he only had twelve students in his class which is a lot easier to handle than the 25+ at Windmill. I know you can't really compare Private with Public but I was amazed at the huge advantage the Gordon kids have over Windmill. It doesn't seem fair at all. The kids at Gordon were able to move about the room and work on different creative projects and were able to manage their own time for the most part. My friend's class can chose to work outside if the weather is nice and everything they do seems totally interactive. The kids encourage each-other and I remember it felt very strange to see the kids getting along so well. It was almost as if they I was in a fantasy class. I thought how could any kid not succeed in such a nurturing and positive environment. Comparing the two just makes me want to graduate and work in a public school so I could maybe help give these less privileged kids some of that same positivity.
2. "In the affluent professional school, work is creative activity carried out independently."
I kind of talked about this in the first quote and how it pretty much described my experience with Gordon. I also observed a class play that day and I was very surprised at how comfortable the boys were with singing in front of their peers. I thought it was great that the boys especially could be so artistically expressive, because I don't think that is the case at Windmill and I am positive it wasn't the case at Nathaniel Green when I was young. I am not saying these things to beat up on Windmill, I just think that they should be able to have an equal school experience. You only get one chance to get it right and it is sad to think that the kids at Windmill are being short-changed.
3. "These differences may not only contribute to the development in the children in each social class of certain types of economically significant relationships and not others but would thereby help to reproduce this system of relations in society."
I think this is Anyon directly naming the problem. She explains here how allowing these differences to negatively affect some kids, while positively affecting others only serves to reproduce this cycle of unequal distribution of opportunity. The kids will grow up and take the place in line that was saved for them and in turn pass it on from generation to generation. I am sure things have improved some since this study, but I know there is still a long way to go to balance the education of poor vs. wealthy students.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Promising Practices

I enjoyed Promising Practices for the most part. The day started off a little shaky, but it improved as it went on. I arrived a little after 8:00 and checked in and got my folder. I had forgotten the second workshop I had picked, but I knew the first one was on the artwork and life of Diego Rivera. I met up some of our class and I found out that Jared and I picked the same first workshop. We arrived and found out that the presenter was having technical difficulties and couldn't get her PowerPoint presentation to open. She passed around handouts very nervously and I felt bad for her. She had a couple of students offer to fix her presentation in the computer lab, but after 10 or 15 minutes they came back and it was still unusable. She tried to push forward with her presentation using just the handouts, but I got the feeling that she felt defeated from the start. The images of Diego Rivera's artwork were essential to the presentation and to have them in full color on the drop-screen would have been nice. A few pages into the presentation Jared was raising his hand to get her attention. She called on him and Jared suggested that she use Google Images to pull up the paintings. He basically saved her entire presentation and deserves the credit. Nevertheless, the workshop wasn't the greatest, but I did learn a few things about Diego Rivera's life.
The second workshop I chose was called New England Historical Context and Multicultural Education. I picked it because I thought it would be good to know a little more local history and it goes along with our class and what we have been studying. The workshop started and the instructor had some materials spread out across the room so we were put into groups to discuss our document. All of the materials had to do with the local commerce in the 1800's and they all had a tie to the triangular slave trade. I learned a bit about how Rhode Island was connected to slavery even though we were not a major slave state ourselves. Rhode Island supported slave trade through international commerce. The workshop went by pretty fast and we were off to lunch and then to hear Dr. Rose.
The highlight of the day was definitely Dr. Rose's address. She is an excellent speaker with the gift of being able to speak intellectually with a common voice. Sometimes when really smart people give speeches the message gets lost and it is hard to connect. I think her message went along with what we are doing in class. Like Rodriguez, Dr. Rose talked about a public identity, although not with language but still carrying the same essential point. Especially when the angry anti-capitalist girl tried to argue individuality separate from a social identity. Dr. Rose wanted to give her a verbal beating but she took the high ground and let the girl defeat herself. I think another connection to class is when Dr. Rose was talking about unpacking issues as they arise. That reminded me of Macintosh, and how we can unpack our own privilege and also unpack the cause and reasons behind oppression as they present themselves in the classroom. She gave an example of a girl in her class calling her dysfunctional computer "gay". She talked about how she unpacked that issue and handled what this student had said in a moment of frustration while her mental guard was down. Dr. Rose also talked about using the words and recognizing the problem. She gave an example of a conversation she had with a colleague about racism and yet the word racism was never said once. This reminded me of Johnson and how you must name the "trouble" and not dance around the issue. Dr. Rose's speech seemed like it was specifically designed for our FNED class and I thought it was the best part of the day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I changed my mind and decided to post the link.

Gender Equity #7

I started out researching gender equity in today's schools and I came across this huge report by the American Association of University Women. It was written by Christianne Corbett, Catherine Hill, Ph.D Andresse St. Rose and published in May of last year. The study looked at scores from standardized tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the SAT and ACT college entrance examinations, as well as others. It was pretty in-depth and difficult to read in its entirety, but it showed no alarming trends as far as a gender gap in education. I was going to post the report but it is 124 pages long. I wanted to find something dramatic and exciting to blog about but the report showed a just the opposite in regards to gender equity. I figured that a study put out by a women's group might be trying to call attention to a negative trend in educating females. I was surprised that the numbers were so close. The report instead showed that there are huge gaps when it comes to race and income level in both sexes. The article is summarized at the end and is consistent with the data in the report. The summary says, "Overall and within racial/ethnic groups and family income levels, girls and boys are improving by most measures of educational achievement, and most achievement gaps are narrowing. The past few decades have seen remarkable gains for girls and boys in education, and no evidence indicates a crisis for boys in particular. If a crisis exists, it is a crisis for African American and Hispanic students and students from lower-income families—both girls and boys."