Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Problem We All Live With

"One of the most powerful tools for improving the educational achievement of poor black and Hispanic public school students is, regrettably, seldom even considered." (Herbert 1). Each one of these readings and podcasts talk about the importance of integration in closing the  gap between middle-class, white students and low-income and poverty stricken black and Hispanic students. Each has a different story and view.
Episode 562: The Problem We All Live With


In the first episode of The Problem We All Live With, the focus is on integration by accident. Michael Brown, a black man shot by a cop in Ferguson, MO brought about huge controversy around the country. One thing that stuck out was how, after his death, his mother mentioned how difficult it was to get him to graduate because not many black boys do.
Normandy High School, where Brown graduated from, is almost 100% black. Based on scores from the state and Board of Education, the students were underperforming in every subject and Normandy was placed on probation.....for 15 years. In January 2013, Normandy lost its accreditation and the Transfer Law was enacted. This law allowed any student from Normandy to transfer to another school district for free. To try and suede the students from leaving, the bussing school of choice for the Normandy School District was Francis Howell which was 30 miles away and 85% white. 1,000 students; 1/4 of the population, left Normandy for Francis Howell. Francis Howell became integrated by accident because of the loss of accreditation of Normandy.

Episode 563: The Problem We All Live With Part II
In Part II, the focus is on integration as a choice. Connecticut is home to many wealthy and middle-class suburban areas because of its close proximity to New York and Manhattan. However, Hartford, CT is a normal urban area with a high population of low-income, poverty stricken black, Hispanic and Asian people. The public school system was underfunded and caused many issues. John Britain decided to sue the State of Connecticut because of these conditions. He was able to gather staff from the Hartford schools and even the Board of Education to testify. This brought about the awareness of collapsing roofs, large class sizes, flooding and worst of all pigeon carcasses falling into classrooms. John Britain won in an appeal but it took many years after before the state would settle.

One of John Britain's law students, Edin Ray, took on his belief of integration as a choice and started promoting the magnet schools in Hartford to middle-class, suburban white families. She used marketing techniques often used by large companies such as Apple and Pepsi to create an idea that your child could pick a school that offered them something they are actually interested in rather than attending the same, boring curriculums in normal public schools. The classes were diverse as some students came from Hartford itself, but this gave families the choice to integrate their children into city schools with a diverse population.
Separate and Unequal by: Bob Herbert
"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." (Herbert 1). With years of evidence, you would think integration would be more highly considered. Even though schools are no longer legally segregated, they are segregated based on residential patterns, housing discrimination and economic disparities. All of the poor are living with the poor and the rich as living with the rich. There is such a large economic gap in the country that it is near impossible for someone from a low-income family to attend a public school or private school in a middle-class or upper-class area. This relates back to Kristoff and how children's future economic statuses will be based on their parents' economic status. The middle to upper-class are providing more opportunities for their kids when it comes to education that low-income families and communities cannot provide. This creates Herbert's argument of separate and unequal.
Separate is Not Equal: Brown vs. Board of Education
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. Board of Education stripped away constitutional sanctions for segregation by race, and made equal opportunity in education law. Today, in 2015, our schools are still segregated. It may not be by law but it is by economic status. Those who are underprivileged remain underprivileged while those who are privileged remain privileged. Separate is not Equal.
With accidental, choice and forced integration being successful, you would think it would be used and enforced in the school systems. With our country becoming more and more diverse, diversity in schools should be considered an advantage for the future. To learn and understand the differences so we can live with them as they become more and more prominent. Integration may be the solution, but no one wants to talk about it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

In the Service of What? by Kahne and Westheimer (Argument)


Kahne and Westheimer's  argument is service learning to promote change, not charity. The authors discuss different service learning projects throughout the article and focus on how most are about the charity of the act rather than the interest to make a change. One example that really stuck out to me  was a girl who volunteered at a Veterans' Memorial Senior Center for Thanksgiving. Her and her stepmother served Thanksgiving meals to the seniors and at the end of her experience she mentioned how nice it was to see these veterans get together and make the holidays a little less lonely since they often don't have family near by.

"This experience and other like it, quite common in the literature of service learning, emphasize charity more than change. The experience was structured to promote giving rather than to provide the kind of understanding needed for the development of caring relationships. As a result, the student's descriptions of the event lacked the perspective and input of those she was helping." (Kahne and Westheimer 7).

Though the girl completed an act of kindness in serving these veteran seniors, she did not get to know them and learn about their circumstances and figure out ways to help them long term rather than one day. Many students complete community service or service learning assignments as part of classes or for religious reasons. They often participate to get the grade or complete their required hours but they often don't learn from it. They see the impact they have while they are there but do not continue with it once their requirements are complete. This is what Kahne and Westheimer were talking about. The service learning assignments have mostly become about charity rather than change. The youth often feel putting in their time is enough rather than trying to make a difference.

Many schools are now trying to require service learning into their curriculum and even a requirement to graduate. By making it a requirement, the students don't take anything from it. They know they need to complete it in order to graduate and don't put any effort into it. Rather than learning from those they work with, they do what they are told just to finish. This relates to our service learning in this class. It is a requirement for the class but I am trying to get the most out of it. I want to learn the different teaching styles and the different students to be able to use it in my future career as a teacher. This past week, I was working with my fourth grade group and they asked if I remember their names and I went around and remembered them all. One student spoke up to me and said I learned their names fast and she was very impressed. They now take me a bit more seriously because I took the time to remember them and our small group time is fun. This is what Kahne and Westheimer argue service learning is about. It is about taking time to do charity but also make an effort to make a change.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us by Linda Christensen (Extended Comments)

One of the most famous princesses in the world is Cinderella. She is blonde, thin and perfect. After her mother died, he father remarried and her family grew to a stepmother and two step sisters. After her father's death, her stepmother began to think of her as a servant instead of a daughter. I'm sure you all know the rest of the story.....Cinderella is brought to her breaking point, her fairy godmother comes in and repairs her dress and she marries the prince to live Happily Ever After.
I was reading Austin's blog and one thing that stuck out most to me was his question of whether there will ever be a black Cinderella. But there already has been.......
Meet Brandy Norwood. Brandy was a singer in the 90's and also had a short acting career. One of her most famous roles was Cinderella. This was a TV movie made by Disney. I remember being a young girl and watching this film on Disney Channel and thinking it was odd she was black while her stepmother was white and the prince was Hispanic with both a black mother and white father.

Even Christensen has a section in her reading that talks about a black Cinderella. "'Women who aren't white begin to feel left out and ugly because they never get to play the princess,'" (Christensen 131). There are films and stories out there that feature women or men of color and different ethnicities. However, they are difficult to find. I went to IMDB (Internet Movie Database) to look up this version of Cinderella and it did not come up in the search. I had to type in the actress's name in order to find information on it.

That was shocking to me. With this being a Disney movie and based on a major fairy tail, I would have expected it to be one of the top movies in the search. This makes me wonder if Disney made this film only to satisfy some of the complaints that may have started coming up such as why are there no princesses of color?

Austin also included the above picture in his blog showing the major princesses: Ariel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) and Snow White shoving other Disney Princesses out of the way. These other princesses just happen to be of other races and color such as Mulan, Pocahontas and Jasmine. Disney has been announcing new films with colored princesses coming up. One of the biggest is a girl from Hawaii. Disney is making efforts but is it enough to overpower what they have been doing for so many years?

Growing up as a girl, the majority of my movies consisted of Disney princesses. This reminds me of a quote from one of Christensen's students: '"The idea of not being completely responsible for how I feel about things today is scary. So why dissect the dreams? Why not stay ignorant about them and happy?'" (Christensen 129). This exact quote is the epitome of what Johnson talks about in regards to privilege. Christensen's student was brought up with these films just as I was and realized after dissecting her life that many of her beliefs and feelings about things are based off the hidden messages of these films.

As a child, Disney movies make you happy. You come home every day and watch them for entertainment and dream about one day growing up to be a princess and marrying a prince or a boy marrying a princess. Christensen's student was like this and wished to go back to her happy place before she knew what hidden messages she had learned. Johnson talks about those who have privilege don't see it. Christensen's student had the privilege of believing things could work out for her because most likely she is white. After she is made aware of her privilege, she wants to go back to when she was happy and didn't know about it. It makes you wonder if a simple movie or cartoon could give so many people hope, why can't we make one for the underprivileged and give them hope to be better?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Safe Spaces by Vaccaro, August and Kennedy

We NEED anti-discrimination laws in schools!

The Senate shot down an amendment to the "Every Child Achieves" Act which would have put LGBT anti-discriminatory policies in schools. LGBT students are harassed by other students, teachers, administrators and parents in the community. This video mentions 84% of LGBT youth are harassed at schools because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. What's worse is that of the 26 anti-LGBT slurs these students hear every day, 1/3 of them are heard from school staff members. Students are being harassed by the people who are supposed to be protecting them.

With all the changes in today's society, one thing that still hasn't changed when it comes to LGBT is the acceptance and education of it in schools. As August mentions, "Otherwise, the traditional curriculum typically ignores the experiences or contributions of LBGT people," (August 85). In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of making same-sex marriage legal in the United States. This was a huge step and yet, we are still not talking about LGBT in schools.

August talks about the different ways some teachers are breaking barriers to try and teach about LGBT in their classes. "In the end it seems that the best way to deal with students' complaints that [LGBT] materials are just 'too much' is to integrate more of it into our courses. [If LGBT] issues are repeated often enough, they become commonplace. Then, as the issues become commonplace in the classroom, students may be better prepared to accept, support and appreciate gays, lesbians and bisexuals out of the classroom as well," (August 92). Many children get their socialization from school. They meet people outside of their families and close friends and are introduced to new ideas and experiences. If they are not from a LGBT family or have not grown up around it, school is a way they can learn about it and understand it is a normal lifestyle. However, the opposite of this is the children that have grown up in a LGBT family. Going to school and not hearing anything about it or meeting children who don't understand can make them feel isolated. This disconnect and lack of education is one of the reasons many LGBT youths are harassed.

Another concern is that of transgender children. After Caitlyn Jenner publicly changed from a male to a female, transgender became a HUGE topic. Schools are now having to face the issues of transgender students when it comes to how the students should be addressed, locker rooms and even restrooms. With these new topics coming about in such a quick fashion, school policies need to be updated.
I believe August understands this when he talks about communication. In the video above, Dr. Diane Ehrensaft talks about getting parents to communicate with schools. Some people may feel their transgender child should only express themselves when at home rather than out in public, including school. This teaches them to hide their true selves and to be ashamed of who they are. Instead, parents must advocate for their children. This includes going to school and communicating your child's needs and how the school can help. This advocating can help stimulate discussion and education on the LGBT topic in schools and make it seen as a common occurrence.

While reading Safe Spaces, all I could think of was SCWAAMP. Some of the schools and families in this reading were against educating students on LGBT because it was not an "appropriate" topic. LGBT goes against the straight ideology that is taught in schools subconsciously. When discussing families, they talk about single parents, adoption, divorces and heterosexual marriages. This leaves out those children who are raised in LGBT families or who have friends that are LGBT and even the students that are LGBT which continues the straight ideology being pushed on the new generations.