Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brown vs Board of Education-, Bob Herbert, and Tim Wise

     Upon learning about the Brown vs Board of Education court case, I was able to take the information I had learned and apply it to my knowledge of school systems today, with the help of Bob Herbert and Tim Wise's contemporary issues with race. The historical issues the court case brought up, that being the segregation of races, and the contemporary race issues brought up by Herbert and Wise, coincide with one another in terms that while the original case was supposed to prevent further segregation for future generations, poverty and race still play a role in segregation in schools today.
     On the American History website featuring the "Separate Is Not Equal" reading, the website states that "On May 17, 1954, the Court stripped away constitutional sanctions for segregation by race, and made equal opportunity in education the law of the land." Through this court ruling, the educational system of the US had simply offered equal opportunity, not truly enforcing that segregation is illegal and that there should be no opportunities; equality for all should be enforced and acted upon, not simply offered or suggested. Although the court ruling did lighten tensions between races and has made the educational system more equal now racially, segregation in a new form has risen, fiercer than before. In Bob Herbert's New York Times article from 2011, "Separate and Unequal", Herbert claims that although racial segregation definitely isn't as bad as it once was, it has now been combined with economic segregation and is attacking anyone of any race that isn't as financially well-off as those in the middle-high class society. Herbert states, "Schools are no longer legally segregated, but because of residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom, they most emphatically are in reality", bringing to light the fact that while racial segregation isn't as common today, by being at or below the poverty level in today's world or being in a less financially stable household, the students in these circumstances are being segregated by their wealthier, well-off peers. 
     In conclusion, these articles have overall helped me to understand the difficulties facing today's society. Even though the Brown vs Board of Education sentenced that segregation in schools would henceforth be illegal to do, new forms of segregation have risen out of the economic despair of the United States. Those who aren't as financially stable are basically forced into a social and economic segregation through no fault of their own, and because of this, are forcefully set up to encounter great difficulties throughout their lives. In Jonathan Kozel's article, "Amazing Grace", Kozel brings up a quote from Lawrence Mead, a political science professor at NYU, who stated ""If poor people behaved rationally, they would seldom be poor for long in the first place" (pg. 21 of "Amazing Grace"). Kozel then proceeds to say that people in poverty are more often then not in that state through no fault of their own, doing their best to provide for their families by working multiple jobs, no mater how low the pay, and generally doing whatever they can to give their families what they need. On top of this, Ullucci used the quote, “… they are poorly paid, underemployed, or working part-time. Thus, the problem is not that those in poverty are lazy and unmotivated, but that we have a low-wage and too-few-jobs problem (Anyon, 2005)", so again, this shows how the poverty problems are not the faults of those in poverty, but that of society as a whole. Bob Herbert stated at the end of his article, "Separate but equal. The Supreme Court understood in 1954 that it would never work. But our perpetual bad faith on matters of race keeps us trying" and in a way, this is true; despite the fact that segregation was a problem and will always continue to be one, we as humans will always find it in our hearts to try for a better world. Someday, I do hope total equality will be possible, but until then, I refuse to give up being kind and unprejudiced towards anyone that I meet. Like Lily James says in her role in the new Cinderella film, "Have courage and be kind."

(This particular topic made me think of the song "Imagine" by John Lennon since it expresses the want and dream for equality and world peace.)
I would have talked more about the videos from Tim Wise,  but the videos on Dr. Bogad's blog wouldn't load on my computer for some reason, so I just focused on Bob Herbert. I feel terrible I didn't to hear what he had to say, but I loved Herbert's article!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"In the Service of What?" by Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer

"...ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."- John F. Kennedy (quoted on Page 1)
     This quote from JFK was a great way to open up and begin the article considering it's obvious connection to the overall message of the piece. Kahne and Westheimer's whole point of writing this article is to get the message across that Service Learning should be integrated into all schools to give students experience in working in the real world and help them make connections with adults in their possible intended career field of choice. This process will additionally promote students to get out in the world and help others. This is currently happening here at Rhode Island College, most notably in the FNED 346: Schooling in a Democratic Society course, the one which I am currently enrolled in with many of you, the readers of this blog. The Inspiring Minds organization works with the professors of the FNED classes to set up locations throughout the Providence School District which the education students work with young students from early childhood through high school settings. For FNED 346, we are required to complete 15 hours of community service helping students through the Inspiring Minds organization to help the students in the Providence schools while also gaining first hand experience working with students since this is most of our intended careers. This additionally connects to Kozel's work, "Amazing Grace" due to the fact that by working with the students in the Providence School District, many of them aren't from the same backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures as us, resulting in us college students learning to work with a great variety of people.

"In addition to helping those they serve, such service learning activities seek to promote students' self-esteem, to develop higher-order thinking skills, to make use of multiple abilities, and to provide authentic learning experiences- all goals of current curriculum reform efforts." (Page 2)
     This quote definitely connects to myself, and hopefully to others as well. Through the course of the FNED 346 class, we've been groomed and taught how to properly interact and communicate with the students around us, working towards the goal of helping them in any way possible. In order to do this, we are required to make use of our social skills and gradually developing teaching skills. Through these efforts, we improve our learning experiences, teaching methods and skills, and hopefully develop the skills and knowledge of those we are assisting. By performing this duty, not only are we raising our own confidence and self-esteem levels, we are additionally raising those of the students whom we help. In my own teaching experience at Mount Pleasant High school, by helping the members of the band and chorus through working one on one or in small groups, the students I've helped seem genuinely grateful for the assistance and individual time I'm spending with them and leave the classroom looking a little more happy than when they came in.

"The importance of a meaningful reflective component becomes clearer when one considers the kind of deliberation and student empowerment that such a curriculum can foster. " (Page 11)
     Finally, this quote spoke enormously to me. In the article, Kahne and Westheimer are discussing the reflection some students were required to complete once they had finished their service learning assignments. While I don't personally think having the students write a long reflection of their experience should dominate the grading aspect of the assignment, what they said in between the reflection did have an impact on me. In general, they stated that the students who helped in volunteering and performing their service learning, depending on the amount of effort and time they put into their assignments, got exactly what they put into it. The more hours and quality of work they put into their work, the better of a grade they got compared, as they absolutely should have. But overall, this shows that if you deliberately put effort into working with these students and help to improve their academic experience, the students you are working with will feel more empowered and feel more confident in themselves, and as a result, do better in their school work.

Point to Share:
      Although I do think that having a service learning assignment is helpful to anyone looking to become a teacher or work in an environment where you help others, I don't think that it should be mandatory, or at the very least have a lower amount of hours to be completed. In my own situation, I wouldn't have minded doing my service learning assignment if I wasn't so busy. My schedule is completely filled from 9 am to 4pm or later every day of the school week, so to start off, I barely have enough time to get from class to class and have a small meal, let alone drive to a school and teach students for an hour that I don't have to spare. If there was another way to complete the service learning requirement, such as having options available for several hours during the weekend or something similar, that would have made the service learning experience less stressful and more enjoyable for me.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Unlearning the Myths That Blind Us" by Linda Christensen

     For this week's blog entry, we were all assigned to read "Unlearning the Myths That Blind Us" by Linda Christensen. As some of you might know, I am a SUPER hardcore Disney fan; my family and I go to Disney World every year, I always make it a point to see any new Disney movies that come out in theatres, I have my own collection of Disney items/souvenirs and own practically every Disney movie ever made. So upon reading this article, my personal defense system went up within the first minute of reading and as a result, I've decided to write a reflection post for this specific blog entry to defend Disney.

     The first issue I'd like to discuss that people seem to have a problem with, most recently that is, is the waistlines of the Disney Princesses. In an article from The Huffington Post, images were discovered from Buzzfeed's Loryn Brantz where she digitally edited the figures of 6 Disney Princesses. In Christensen's reading, she states " My waist didn't dip into an hourglass; in fact, according to the novels I read my thick ankles doomed me to be cast as the peasant woman reaping hay while the heroine swept by with her handsome man in hot pursuit" (Pg. 126). 
     I personally took offense to these statements. All my life, through no intent of my own besides my genetics, I've always been extremely tiny; tiny waist, tiny chest, tiny feet, everything on me is tiny. Surprisingly though, I was made fun of because of my small features that contrasted with my "unnaturally huge" eyes, according to classmates, much like what people use to describe Disney characters. This is just all in my DNA; I can't help what I look like. My legitimately diagnosed fast metabolism has kept me thin all my life and even though I eat the most unhealthy things every day like bacon burgers, pizza, chicken wings, steak, french fries, tacos, etc, nothing changes my tiny figure. And several months ago, I found some article that listed the various Disney Princesses' measurements and mine almost perfectly aligned with Ariel. So reading articles like the one from The Huffington Post, or Christensen's book, or even hearing songs like "All About that Bass" by Meghan Trainor where they put down and shame skinny people, is hurtful to me. These kinds of articles or songs makes me sound like a freak, when I love myself just the way I am. I've only just turned 18 two months ago, Ariel was 16 in "The Little Mermaid", so obviously people so young are supposed to look small; they haven't grown into their full selves yet. Plus, people always say, including Christensen, that the Princesses always get the handsome Prince in the end because of their figure and pretty features, but if you're not between a size 2 and 6, you're never going to find your "Prince Charming". Again, this is an unrealistic assumption; I've been called the living stereotype for a Disney Princess and I don't have a boyfriend and my friends who are older or look different than me in amazing ways have boyfriends. How you look, how pretty you are, or how much you weigh doesn't always necessarily mean your life is going to go a certain way.

     The second issue I'd like to argue concerns the problem people seem to have with Disney "white-washing" all their Princesses and heroes. Even Christensen makes nods to this belief in her reading, stating that "'Have you ever seen a black person, an Asian, a Hispanic in a cartoon!? Did they have a leading role or were they a servant? What do you think this is doing to your child's mind?' She ended her piece: "Women who aren't white begin to feel left out and ugly because they never get to play the princess" (Pg. 131).
     First off, I'd just like to say how ridiculous this sounds. I know I'm an intense Disney fan, but this isn't even a valid argument. Disney Princesses and other Disney characters look the way they do racially based on the intended location of their films. Example; in Disney and Pixar's "Brave" set in a fictional part of Ireland/Scotland, the main character, Merida, is a pale, red-headed young girl with a thick Scottish accent. Most people in Ireland and Scotland are fair-skinned with light colored hair, ranging mainly from blonde to light brown with red in between. It wouldn't make sense geographically to have this young Scottish girl be Hispanic or African American because it wouldn't make sense with the location of her story. The same goes with other tales as well; "Aladdin" = Middle East (tan/dark skin), "Frozen" and "The Little Mermaid" = Norway/Denmark (mainly fair-skinned to lightly tanned), "Tangled" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" = Germany (again, mostly white to lightly tanned), "The Princess and the Frog" = New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A (various, diverse skin-tones because the U.S. is a racially diverse nation). The creators of Disney aren't trying to "white-wash" their characters as some people apparently believe they are. They're simply creating characters based on stories written by people (The Brothers Grimm in Germany and Hans Christian Anderson in Northern Europe, ex. Norway/Denmark) in a way the authors intended for their characters to be made based on their respective locations.

Conclusion/Point to Share:
     Okay, now that I've had my little rant, I'd just like to bring up one final point for you to think of. These things are CARTOONS, caricatures of real life. They are in no way meant to mirror real life people, only to satirize the way people act and do things. There are stories about mermaids, flying carpets, and magic, glowing hair that heals people when the owner of said head of hair sings, for crying-out loud! So personally, and I'm not just saying this because of my love of all things Disney, if you take the time to pick out the most insignificant problems of cartoons because you don't agree with somethings or make uneducated assumptions about it, then you should find something better to do with your life. Gerri August said in "Safe Spaces", her book co-written with Annemarie Vaccaro and Megan S. Kennedy, "Assumptions, if left unchallenged and unexamined, can devolve into active bigotry. Bigotry is a heat-seeking missile- it will find its target" (Page 88 of "Safe Spaces"), so if you choose to make assumptions about something like the waistline of a Disney Princess or the racial diversity of a cartoon, you should think before you speak; there could be some little girl out there who's being bullied because of how small she is, like I was, or even some child being picked on for being the only Caucasian student at an almost entirely African American or Hispanic school. There are always more sides to the argument than just being black and white.

(YouTuber, PAINT, parodying the issues/jokes in various Disney Princess films. Love them even though they make fun of Disney!)