Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rodriguez Reading--Questions Format

Richard Rodriguez raises some interesting points in his article.  I think the following would make good discussion questions:

1.  Rodriguez claims that immigrant children must assimilate into mainstream culture in order to be successful.  is there a practical way to do this without losing one's native culture?

2.  The author says that once he started becoming acculturated, he no longer knew what words to use to refer to his parents.  How can we stop this from happening?  In other words, is there a way to give immigrant children the best education without alienating them from their own families?

3.  Isn't the fact that the family suppressed their usage of Spanish an indication of their culture being stifled?

4.  The author mentions how his family began speaking less, especially his father, as he (Richard) became fluent in English.  Should not Richard still have been able to speak some Spanish at home in order to keep the family dynamic alive?

5.  Towards the end of the article, Richard says how he once became melancholy when he heard Spanish voices in back of him one day.  Do you think that he really wanted to lose his native culture?

Karp Reading--Extended Comments Format

I agree with Rebecca on at least two major points in "Waiting for Superman."  First of all, too many people think that the answer to troubled public schools is to be found in charter schools.  I have looked at recent statistics regarding charter schools, and the truth is that students in charter schools usually perform no better on standardized tests than do children in public schools.  As a matter of fact, charter school students often perform worse on standardized tests.  Of course, standardized tests certainly should not be the only,  or even the major factor in determining what  a student has learned.

The most recent trend has been to tie these standardized test scores to teacher pays or evaluations, which will lead to a multitude of problems.  For example, what if a child was sick on the day that a major evaluative test was given?  The results are probably going to give a distorted picture of what that child has or has not learned.  What implications does this have for the teacher?  Does this mean that the teacher has not taught properly?

Unfortunately, much of the public is taken in by these ideas--the film ,Waiting for Superman , was one of the biggest pieces of propaganda that I have ever seen.  It gets the viewer involved in the lives of the children being shadowed by the filmmaker, breaking the viewers' hearts when most of them are not chosen for a seat in a charter school.  The conclusion, of course, is that this could all be avoided if those greedy teachers did not have unions and contracts.  Although Karp tries to set the public straight in his speech by giving them the real story, I am not sure anybody is listening.

Finn Reading--Argument Format

Patrick Finn's major argument is that two types of literacy/education have developed in the United States:  empowering education and domesticating education.  According to Finn, empowering education, which leads to the best literacy, is reserved the upper classes.  Domesticating education, which leads to only functional literacy, keeps the lower classes productive and quiet.

One of Finn's main points is that when upper-class children get empowering education nothing changes--after all, they are expected to get the best education.  However, when working-class children get empowering education, it is "literacy with an attitude."  Finn makes the argument that historically, the poor were kept illiterate so that they could be dominatated by the wealthy.  Interestingly, Finn claims that this has not been some huge conspiracy by the wealthy--he says that the beliefs and behaviors of the poor have also contributed to the present state of affairs.  In other words, the poor have simply learned to accept the way things are.

Finn offers an example of this two-tiered system.  He says that in one working-class school, a social studies textbook was described by the publisher as being meant for "low-ability students."  He further states that the teacher's guide repeatedly referred to "educationally deficient students," in other words, the audience for whom the book was intended.  However, the combined IQ of two working-class classrooms was actually over 100, while eight children had IQ's that were over 125.  Also, these textbooks were basically filled with "drill and kill" problems.  Finn claims that this kind of thing is the rule rather than the exception in working-class classrooms across the country.

In contrast to the working-class classrooms, according to Finn, middle and upper-class classrooms were giving students enriching educational experiences.  Finn says that there was much more discovery and hands-on experience in these classrooms.  For example in one math class, students measuring the perimeters of the classroom and collecting data from surveys--in other words, they were thinking and problem-solving.

The above scenarios illustrate Finn's major argument, which is that the rich are educated to enter the best professions, whereas the poor are educated to go into the lower-paying jobs.  As a solution, Finn proposes that once teachers understand this disparity, they will be in a position to ally themselves with their working-class students and give these students the rich education that they deserve.

In contrast, according to Finn,

Johnson Reading--Connections Format

Allan Johnson makes many points that are similar to Lisa Delpit's arguments--they simply use different terminology.  For example, Delpit refers to a "culture of power," whereas Johnson refers to "privilege and power."

Delpit argues that there is a culture of power in which the best things in life, including education, are reserved for upper-class whites.  She says that upper-class white children know how to learn in school because they are a part of that culture of power and that they "know the codes--"unlike poor children or children of color who often misunderstand what the teacher is saying because middle-class language is so different from the language that they speak at home.  Delpit tries to drive home the point that we must acknowledge this huge difference if we are to make any worthwhile changes.  Similarly, Johnson claims that we are all a part of the problem, and that we must not only acknowledge it, but we must also give the problem a name in order to deal with it.  In other words, both authors say that we must admit that there is a problem.

Both authors also agree on the fact that only the people in the top tiers of power/privilege have the capacity to make the changes.  Delpit says that those who have the power are the most reluctant to even admit it, whereas those without the power are well aware of their powerlessness.  Similarly, Johnson argues that most people, especially if they are white, male, heterosexual, or members of the privileged class, get very defensive when these disparities are pointed out--he claims that it is this defensive reaction that has paralyzed any endeavors to bring about a solution.

Johnson also argues that many people in the privilege class do not actually see themselves as privileged, adding another layer to the problem--if you feel it has nothing to do with you, you are unlikely to work towards a solution.  Similarly, Delpit argues that some teachers think that they are helping poor students of students of color by not asserting their classroom authority.  However, according to Delpit, this is a disservice to children of color because they "know how to be black--" they need the "codes" to the culture of power.

Delpit Reading Quote Format

Quote #1 p.25:
"The upper and middle classes send their children to school with all the accoutrements of the culture of power; children from other kinds of families operate within perfectly wonderful and viable cultures but not cultures that carry the codes or rules of power."

In this quote, Delpit  is saying that upper and middle-class children already know how to act within their "culture of power," whereas children from other cultures are not always so sure how to act.  She suggests that this is the reason that upper and middle-class children do better in school, bercause they know the "codes."

Quote #2 p. 31:
"In this country, students will be judged on their product regardless of the process they utilized to achieve it.  And that product, bases as it is on the specific codes of a particular culture, is more readily produced when the directives of how to produce it are made explicit."

Delpit says that in the end, the process by which students acquire knowledge is not really important--students will be judged on the final product.  She further states that students will get to the final product only if the rules and directions are made clear to them.  This is her theme throughout the article--that children of color often mistake a directive for a suggestion because it is stated in language with which they are unfamiliar.

Quote #3 p.36
"Her indirectness and soft-spokenness may indeed be as I suggested earlier, an attempt to reduce the implication of overt power in order to establish a more egalitarian an nonauthoritarian classroom atmosphere."

This quote ties in nicely with quote #2.  Delpit states that liberal educators often "speak softly" on purpose in order to "de-emphasize their authoritative presence in the classroom.  Thus, by speaking softly, students from some cultures and backgrounds do not take the teacher's words as a directive--they may even perceive the teacher as weak.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My bio

My name is Gina and I am a history teacher.  I have been teaching in Providence for 17 years, 10 of which have been at Classical High School. I enjoy anything historical, obviously, and I like old programs and movies.