Friday, May 7, 2010

Note to Future Students (Final)

Future Students and Educators,

Social Issues has been an extremely eye-opening and challenging class. This class focuses on many issues such as race, gender, class, sexuality, power, and privilege, and how we as educators must approach these issues in the classroom. Throughout this course, I was challenged to speak my mind and not be afraid to ask questions. Every class is full of incredible discussion and allows you to learn from each other. Not only is discussion interesting, each book I read has tugged at my heart and opened my mind. Worth, value, identity, liberty, and humanity of the student are some of the themes that run throughout many of the texts you will read. These themes must be implemented in our classrooms in order to change society. Shame of the Nation by Kozol was a powerful text for me personally. I was able to identify and feel for many of the characters in the book. This book encouraged and challenged me to truly understand the worth of each student I encounter and fight for a fair opportunity for every child. I challenge you future students and educators to come into this class with an open mind and soak up every bit of advice and discussion over these crucial issues that we face in our society. Most importantly, take this advice to heart and use and implement it in your classrooms. We must teach with passion and help create an equal opportunity for every student no matter what race, gender, or sexuality. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Teaching to Transgress: Quote response

Chapter 14 – Ecstasy (Teaching and Learning without Limits)

About student feedback ~ “I could never say that I have no idea how my students respond to my pedagogy; they give me constant feedback. When I teach, I encourage them to critique, evaluate, and make suggestions and interventions as we go along. Evaluations at the end of the course rarely help us to improve the learning experience we share together. When students see themselves as mutually responsible for the development of a learning community, they offer constructive input” (pg. 206).

Main Ideas and Thesis

Hooks believes that the more involved and the more feedback a student can provide, the more a student will want to take responsibility and dive into their learning. With this conversing back and forth between a teacher and each student, the student is able to connect and feel as though their opinion matters. This critiquing and learning grows the student as well as the teacher. The teacher can really see what areas in her teaching through engaged pedagogy seem to work and what needs improvement. She suggests that you must get them to critique you throughout the year rather than on a piece or paper for evaluation. This communication is far much better and will help both the teacher and student throughout their experiences together.


Consistent/Inconsistent with Experiences as a Student/Novice/Teaching Associate

As a student, I have seen this to be somewhat inconsistent. Some teachers still seem to feel as though their method of teaching is perfect and only want you to evaluate them at the end of the year. This makes me feel as though my opinion does not matter and in fact is hurting the teacher because he or she will never learn how she can perfect relationships and teaching methods in the classroom. I do find hope in some of my classes where a teacher is very engaged with the students and curious to make improvements in the learning environment.

Consistent/Inconsistent with Teaching Beliefs & Practices

This passage from Hooks is extremely consistent with my teaching beliefs and practices. I am a firm believer in engaged pedagogy and gaining insight and input from my students. I know it will strengthen our relationships and help the students enjoy learning and gain responsibility to help their academic success.  We can learn together in this process and this “allows us to move together within and beyond the classroom” (205).

So What? Impact on Future Professional Development

As I have said above this idea of engaged pedagogy and input from our students will help us greatly in the future. Students will be able to voice their opinions one day in the real world and also, I will be able to improve my future as teacher. I will recognize what is beneficial to my students and what is not. I will also be able to connect better each time I encourage this feedback. It may not always be hard to hear the criticism, but it will be worth it. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jonathan Kozol – The Shame of the Nation: Essay 1

Dear President Obama,  

            Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to serve as a teacher representative on the U.S. Commission for Improving the Quality of Education Opportunity for Marginalized Children in the United States. I am very excited to offer some input on issues in our American education, and I hope you will take what I say to heart and do your best to implement some changes. After reading Jonathon Kozol’s, The Shame of the Nation, I became even more aware and concerned of the issue of “Apartheid Schooling” in our U.S. and feel as though there are many factors that contribute to this issue.

One of the principal issues Kozol addresses is the fact that after all these years we still face the issue of segregation within our school systems. It is clear that many people are not aware of the issue because technically, laws have “fixed” problems of segregation. However, we see that according to Kozol’s statistics, encounters with students, and visits to many schools that this issue is undoubtedly not “fixed”. We are presented with the fact that the majority of public school children in larger metropolitan area are children of color. Some schools have up to 99 percent African-American students, and many of these schools are named after Civil Rights leaders. How ridiculous! Many of these students in the schools are suffering with poverty and “racial isolation and the concentrated poverty of children in a public school go hand in hand” (Kozol 20).  I see this as an issue that has gotten pushed aside because it is a sticky situation and may be uncomfortable to handle. However, if we do not deal with segregation in our schools immediately, it will only continue to get worse and worse.  

Since the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, white resistance to school integration has continued. This “white flight” has resulted because “there is a new emboldenment among the relatively privileged to isolate their children as completely as they can from more than token numbers of the children of minorities” (Kozol 135). Many white parents want their children to have the best education, technology, teachers, and therefore do whatever it takes to get this. They move to school districts that may be better funded to allow their children to have this better education. They may even be afraid to have their white child be the minority in the school system. However, doesn’t every parent want their child to have the best education possible? It’s just that many minority parents can’t afford to move to these so acclaimed schools. Doesn’t every child deserve to have an equal education? There seems to be a lack of desire to help inner city schools succeed with encouragement and the funding that they need in order to give each child a fair education. Kozol points out harsh conditions of inner-city schools such as overcrowding, physical conditions of the school, and lack of proper curriculum and materials. All of these conditions are due to the funding gap between inner-city schools and other privileged schools. This funding gap seems to be overlooked and many say that money is not the real issue here. “If it doesn’t matter.. then cancel it for everybody. Don’t give it to them, deny it to us, then ask us to believe it’s not significant” (Kozol 56). The government has to step in and try to balance this funding gap because money does play a huge part in improving U.S. schools.

Another issue Kozol portrays is the issue of the curriculum that is often taught in many inner-city schools. The curriculum taught often shows a lack of hope that is placed in these inner-city students. Kozol observes posters in Kindergarten classrooms stating questions such as;  “Do you want a manager’s job?” and “How will you do the managers job?” (90). There is a focus on teaching children to grow up to be “the governed” and to learn only to contribute to the economic interests of our society. “Is future productivity, from this point on, to be the primary purpose of the education we provide our children?” (Kozol 94). I feel as though it should not be. Yes, it is important to understand the economic needs of a society but it is important to express to inner-city children that they are capable of achieving anything they want to be and we need to provide them with the curriculum that helps them grow in many ways. On top of that, there is too much focus on high-stakes tests in inner-city schools for that matter. Teaching materials resemble manuals and the majority of the day is devoted to test-prep for this test. Also, many children of minorities are held back a grade if they fail to pass these high-stakes tests. “Every time we hold a child over, we are substantially reducing the odds of that child graduating anytime in the future” (Kozol 117). We need to bring back studies of rich history, culture, literature, geography, and sciences that have been pushed aside for one test. “We cannot trust such tests to determine an individual’s competence or the success of any particular school, school district, or state” (Kozol 117). These tests may produce a public victory, but we are losing the real prize of allowing a child to receive an excellent education.

Out of all of the topics that Kozol brings up, the most important aspect is understanding the worth of the individual student. We can by no means determine a students worth by his or her race, culture, or economic status. I feel as though the beauty of each student is the fact that they are different and all contribute different things to the classroom. It goes to say that every child is worthy of an equal and excellent education. The most important thing we can do in our goal to solve this problem is to put our hope in every individual and strive to create equal opportunities for every child. I hope that you will take into consideration what I have said about these issues in our school system and continue to strive to help in the efforts of equalizing education in America.


Rachel Engle

Monday, February 15, 2010

Countdown: Race Matters: Chapters 5 - 8

5 Sentences on the Big Picture

In these chapters, Cornel West continues to intensely express many factors that contribute to racism towards African Americans. He reiterates that affirmative action, although it has some negatives, is crucial to help steer away from this racial discrimination. West goes on to talk about the animosity between blacks and Jews and the history that led up to this black Anti-Semitism. In chapter seven, he uncovers a sticky subject about black sexuality, and the idea that blacks are more dominate and threatening creatures, who have more sexual power over whites. Finally, West dedicates the last chapter to look at Malcolm X’s life in order to express how we have to be willing to confront challenges brought up by black rage and to continue to fight against racial discrimination.

4 Key Passages

 “My thesis is that black sexuality is a taboo subject in white and black America and that a candid dialogue about black sexuality between and within these communities in requisite for healthy race relations in America” (120).

“My fundamental premise is that the black freedom struggle is the major buffer between the David Dukes of America and the hope for a future in which we can begin to take justice and freedom for all seriously” (116).

“If we are to build on the best of Malcolm X, we must preserve and expand his notion of psychic conversion that cements networks and groups in which black community, humanity, love, care, and concern can take root and grow” (149).

 “In these downbeat times, we need as much hope and courage as we do vision and analysis; we must accent the best of each other even as we point out the vicious effects of our racial divide and the pernicious consequences of our maldistribution of wealth and power” (159).

3 Key Terms

·           Anti–Semitism – prejudice or hostility toward Jews

·          Nadir – the lowest point; point of greatest adversity or despair

·          Xenophobia – unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners/strangers

2 Connections

Chapter 7 made me a little uncomfortable, but at the same time I connected with what West said. Our media is so obsessed with sex and sexuality that it leads us to believe things about other races. I realize that black sexuality is a taboo subject as Cornel talks about, but we must confront it to stop such fears or judgments about black sexuality.

I feel as though Cornel is completely right when he expresses in the epilogue how we must “accent the best of each other even as we point out the vicious effects of our racial divide” (159). The only way we can make things right is if we realize what we are doing wrong and work together to fix racial discrimination.

1 Question

How can we fix this tangled view of black sexuality?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Countdown: Race Matters: Preface - Chapter 4

5 Sentences on the Big Picture
In Race Matters, Cornel West emphasizes the obvious problem of racism in our world today. Throughout these chapters, he gives his ruthless opinions about this problem that has been pushed aside by so many people. Cornel touches on many events from the past that have carried over and affect our society today. He brings forth the issues of an increase in class division, lack of black leadership, and the lack of courage people have to speak out on racism. It is up to us to stop tip-toeing around this serious problem and to do our best to help out. 
4 Key Passages 
  • "The implication is that only certain Americans can define what it means to be American - and the rest must simply "fit in" (7).
  • "How do we capture a new spirit and vision... First, we must admit that the most valuable sources for help, hope, and power consist of ourselves and our common history" (11).
  • Quality leadership is neither the product of one great individual nor the result of odd historical accidents. Rather, it comes from deeply bred traditions and communities that shape and mold talented and gifted persons" (56).
  • “The crisis in black leadership can be remedied only if we candidly confront its existence…it is a matter of grasping the structural and institutional processes that have disfigured, deformed, and devastated black America such that the resources for nurturing collective and critical consciousness, more commitment, and courageous engagement are vastly underdeveloped” (pg 69).
3 Key Terms
  1. Nihilism - Cornel defines it as "the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and (most important) lovelessness" (22).
  2. Race - a population that is defined based on their genetics and physical characteristics
  3. Afrocentrism - Cornel defines it as "a contemporary species of black nationalism" (7).

2 Connections
  • I connected with Cornel when he stressed the fact of how many Americans "tip-toe" or avoid bringing the issue of racism to the surface. I see the effects of keeping quiet of these issues and how they can eventually blow up. 
  • This book related with Kozol's, Shame of the Nation, and the idea that after all of these years of "fixing" the problem of racism, it still exists today. Both authors stress how no one is rising to the challenge to do anything about it. They both feel as though it is up to us, individually, to do our best to stand up for what is right.
1 Question
  • Do you think President Obama is changing or will change the issue of the lack of black leadership among our society today?

Monday, February 1, 2010

What is the worth of the individual student in the classroom?

I feel as though the individual student is the most worthy thing in the classroom. Each student is so precious and important in my eyes that their worth can't by any means be measured. When I think about this question, it helps me to realize why I am so passionate about teaching. Why would I even consider teaching if I did not value the children I am going to teach? It is important for a teacher to realize that each child is different and brings forth many contributions to the classroom. With each gift that God has given a child, it is important for a teacher to take the time to recognize specific talents and strengths that each of their students possess. Each individual student has the worth to be educated equally and to be treated with care. After reading the last chapter in Kozol, I was reminded of how teachers who truly care about their students dig deep to connect with their students. I am encouraged and confident that I will be able to see how worthy my students are of receiving my love, patience, and help in shaping them in life and in academics. 

SOTN Countdown - Chapters 8 and 12

5 Sentences on the Big Picture
In chapter 8, Kozol expresses many "False Promises" that the government and many compensatory programs make to try "fix" the school systems. These compensatory programs in reality just pay schools more money if the students improve and achieve higher test scores. He even touches on how many schools cheated on standardized testing and lied about their drop out rate in response to these such efforts to "fix" the school system. Kozol repeatedly shares how the government continues to ignore the segregation issue that is still so prevalent in our school systems today. Kozol expresses in the last chapter of the hope that is still alive in our school systems today, and how there are teachers who bring beauty to a child's education, valuing their students and letting them grow in their learning abilities and gifts.

4 Key Passages

"I have a habit of keeping almost every press release, government publication, or promotional brochure... that have heralded exciting-sounding strategies and projects for the transformation of the radical improvement of our nation's inner-city schools.. if you ever had the will to sit down ... and read through these publications and examine carefully the claims and promises that each have made... the promises we hear today of new and even better ways to guarantee successful outcomes in our nation's segregated and unequal public schools will one day be reviewed with the same sense of disappointment, if not irony" (191 - 192).
"There is this inclination to avert our eyes from the pervasive injuries inflicted upon the students by our acquiescence in a dual system and to convey the tantalizing notion that the problems of this system can be superseded somehow by a faith in miracles embodied in dynamic and distinctive individuals" (200).
"The efficiency agenda and the notion that our public schools exist primarily to give the business sector what it asks for, or believes it needs, are anything but new; and the racially embarrassing beliefs by which these notions were accompanied a century ago, although widely disavowed today, are with us still" (214).
"Teachers and principals should not permit the beautiful profession that have chosen to be redefined by those who know far less than they about the hearts of children" (299). 

3 Key Terms

Chapter 8 talks about the movement known as "Effective Schools". These were often "introduced in urban districts as alternatives to integration efforts" (192). All of these drew attention from the media but never really changed or helped to desegregate schools.
The term "turnaround" to promote a change in the school really was "just an avalanche of words and short-term measures that temporarily establish a degree of calm within the school and sometimes bring a sudden spike in test results or graduation rates, although the academic gains more frequently than not turn out to be short-lived and, in some cases, they have proven to be spurious" (199).
Kozol talks about the "treasured places" where teachers love their job, value children equally, and don't stress standardized testing (300).

2 Connections

I agree with Kozol's stance on being fed up with "false promises" in changing our school systems. I often hear of so many strategies that will work and end up staying the same or making things worse. It is important for people to present attainable goals and not rush into change too fast. 

I also connected with the hope of such "treasured" schools and teachers. I went to an elementary school where teachers truly loved their students and didn't put the focus on passing a standardized test. In fact this inspired me to want to become a teacher. I am reminded of why I am so passionate about teaching and even may want to teach in the same elementary school I attended. 

1 Question
"Why do you think many leaders and politicians make such false promises on changing the American Education System?"