Wednesday, May 1, 2013


After reading Kliewer, I took a few minutes to reflect on it. It occured to me that I had never been in a classroom as a student with other students who had special needs. But then it also occured to me that this was probably the case because I have attended private schools all my life, where students with special needs were a rare occurance. I guess that's why I never really thought much about this matter before. Even now, thinking about it is kind of difficult for me because I have never had any experience with it before.

I think that students with special needs have the right to be integrated in a regular classroom throughout the day. Just because they have special needs, it does not make them any less human or any less of a child. They deserve to be with children their own age. At the same time though, I also think that children with special needs definitely need time out of their days to address their special needs in private, if they wish. I think that if the care of a special needs student becomes too secretive or private, it could jepordize that student's realtionship with his peers.


Social Justice Event

For my Social Justice Event, I decided to take part in the food drive that my church's Social Justice Committee holds every year for Easter. The first thing we had to do was get the word out about the food drive. We did this by making posters and hanging them near all the doors of the church, and we also put weekly announcments in the church bulletin about the food drive starting about a month before Easter. We have baskets near the doors to the church that the people can drop their donations in. When we got enough to donate to the food bank, we packaged all the food in boxes and took the boxes to the food bank. The best part to me is that the food bank is literally right up the road from my church, so our efforts stay local, which is cool because you can sort of see how those efforts impact the community.

I thought that I could relate this experience to Kahne and Westheimer on the topic of charity vs. change. Kahne and Westheimer mostly write about charity. According to the authors, charity is work that you can do to help others and at the same time, you get to experience the joy of helping others. Change is defined as identifying the problem and trying to solve it. The article by Kahne and Westheimer broke the differences between charity and change down:

Charity: Charity is giving due to a sense of civic duty, which results in an additive experience.
Change: Change is social reconstruction due to a sense of caring for others, which results in a transformative experience.
I would have to say that the experience I had with the food drive was a charity experience. We were giving to the people because we cared for them, and it also was because we had a sense of this "brotherly duty" to help others. I wouldn't say our work was change because although we helped others for a short period of time, we didn't actually indentify the cause of their problems. Most of the people who will receive our donations will still more than likely be poor, so there was really no social reconstruction taking place here. The end result of the food drive wasn't transformative; everything is still pretty much status- quo. But because of our efforts, many people got to have an Easter dinner they would not have had otherwise. So for a short period of time, the poor people in the community were helped, and my church's community had the joy of helping others, as Kahne and Westheimer put it. But, all in all, this food drive is something that I will continue to do because it was a good experience for me.

Misc post: a sort-of Delpit moment?

Ok so this didn't actually happen in a classroom, but it was interesting to see how things that we learn about to help us as teachers in the classroom can apply to other areas of life as well. This past Sunday at church I kind of had a Delpit moment. I was at my church getting ready to MC our second Mass, and when I was getting the altar servers ready, they were all talking really loud. So, I, in a failed attempt to stop them from talking said "guys, do we really need to be doing this right now?" As soon as I said that, I stop and realized that the kids were still talking, and my comment had gone in one ear and right out the other. I realized there were two things wrong with my question to them. The first was that it was a question and not a "command". The second was that I asked them if they need to "be doing this", and they probably didn't understand exactly what "this" was. So I tried again, but this time I said: "guys, we're done talking right now. It's time to line up to start Mass." The kids stopped takling and got in their places to start Mass. The funny thing about all this was that 3 of the kids I was addressing were my siblings. So after my minor failure, I had a minor success. I guess I'll have to watch my language whenever I'm working with kids, even if it's not in the classroom.


My siblings and me after serving Mass.
From left to right: Maria, Nate, me, Nikki.

Safe Spaces

One of the most important things that can be taught in a classroom is understanding and compassion. Understanding and compassion are the only ways that safe spaces can be achieved in the classroom, as well as anywhere else. If we constantly judge others, and teach our kids to do that as well, there's no chance for safe spaces at all. We have to teach our kids that everyone is different, and they have to be understanding and tolerant of those differences.

Not only do we have to teach about differences and creating safe spaces, but teachers have to make their classrooms that reality. A classroom should be one of the safe spaces that a child can go. Children need to see school not only as a place they go to learn, but also as a place that they can go to for help and love. If we do not show our children love, compassion, and understanding, we cannot expect our children to show those qualities to others. Children learn by example. That is why teaching these things to children is so important to a child's education.

All teachers need to make their classroom into this.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Shor: "Education is Politics"

Shor argues that communication and participation are the most important things for getting an empowering education. Shor also says that the teacher should be the person that motivates the students to communicate and participate. Shor also argues that we have to not only educationally empower students, but socially as well. Almost all education methods try to influence or shape the curriculum in some way. Because of this, students are not taught to think critically or to solve problems in a pratical way. Shor discusses how it is the teacher's job to not only educate the students from his or her own knowledge, but also to motivate the student to seek out education on their own. Teachers who don't do this, in my opinion, are not really doing their job at all.
Shor also talks about, to some extent, not being  so narrow minded. When teachers are narrow minded, the scope of what they can or will teach becomes diminished. When I thought of this, the reading from Rodriguez came to mind. I thought that a narrow minded teacher could potentially jepordize the cultures and identities of some students. Shor says that teachers need to know how to deal with their students' varying strengths and weaknesses, and know how to properly respond to them. I thought of the "Safe Spaces" article when I came across this point. Shor says that if teachers create a comfortable environment, then students will feel good enough about themselves to speak in class, which obviously leads to communication and participation skills. Through this, students learn that speaking up in life is the only way to get their point across. If students do this enough in a comfortable environment at school, they will eventually get over their fears of doing it in other situations.



Kahne and Westheimer: "In Service of What?"

Before taking FNED, I had never heard of "service learning" before. Kahne and Westheimer put forth this idea that service learning is so much more than just traditional leanring. In "traditional" learning, students sit at a desk, and the teacher stands in front of them. In my first year seminar class, we read an article that actually refers to this method of learning as the "banking method". This means that the teacher basically treats the students as a "bank" where he or she just deposits information and knowledge into the students. This method is the most widely used, but it definitely has its downsides. Traditional, or "banking" education, for the most part, elimates the chance for debate or discussion in the classroom. Because of this, skills like critcal thinking and problem- solving aren't taught to students in pratical ways; they never learn to solve problems for themselves.

In the article I read in FYS, the opposite of the "bank" method is called "liberating education". This "liberating education" is what Kahne and Westheimer refer to as "service learning". In this kind of education, there is more of a relationship that is established between teacher and student. The student is no longer a "container" in which the teacher puts all of his or her information. Instead, the teacher creates more of a community feel in the classroom, which helps to promote critical thinking and problem solving. This website defines service learning as "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and stregthen communities." In this way, teachers are in service of making students be able to know what it means to be part of a community and to help others.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Literacy with an Attitude: Empowering through Education

After reading, I came to the conclusion that Finn's main point was this: that working- class children need to be given the same educational opportunity as middle and upper- class children. I think that this is an excellent point for Finn to make. Society is always talking about how our children need to succeed because our children are our future. But if not all children are being given the same opportunities in school, then how can we as a society expect our children to be successful? The fact is that we can't. If children are not being given the proper tools to succeed, especially lower class children, then the cycle of "being lower- class" will continue to perpetuate itself.

This is where empowering education comes in. The children of the middle and upper- classes have no problem being able to attain an empowering education; their parents more than likely have the money to give it to their children. Children of the lower working- class, however, do not have to same financial abilitiy in most cases to attain this empowering education. Thus, the cycle of not being able to get that education just continues to go in circles.

I think that the educational system could be reformed so that all students have equal opportunity. I also think that taking the time for these reforms now can slow, or even stop the perpetual cycle of being under- priveleged when it comes to education. If we take the time to do this now, future generations will be much better off, having better and equal opportunities when it comes to education.

In conclusion, this is an interesting video that I came across as I was looking for one to put into my post. It talks about ways that relevant education can be empowering, and how identifying the needs of a particular group of students can help those students to learn more efficiently, thus giving them more opportunity.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Brown v. Board of Education and Wise

While the website on Brown v. Board of Education said that the case was a landmark one in overturning segregation in America, I have to agree with Wise when he says that Americans today still remain oblivious. Wise basically says that Americans only pretend that racial inequality does not exist anymore, when in fact it does.

I think that the problem with racial inequality in America, which may only get worse, is the fact that so many people ignore the subject, or are at least not knowledgeable about it. The fact the nobody ever talks about racial inequality is one of the biggest reasons why it still exists.

Brown v. Board of Education may not be as liberating as some people may think. The decision of the case only declared de jure segregation unconstitutional, that is, only segregation that was enforced by law became illegal. The decision did not, however, make de facto or "by custom", segregation illegal. So even thoguh segregation wasn't happening by law anymore, that didn't mean, and still does not mean, that segregation does not happen by "tradition" or "custom", for a lack of better words. Moreoever,the decision of the case said that the new decision was to be enforced "with all deliberate speed". This is a very vague time span. The court, by saying this, basically was saying to predominately white lawmakers: "it's okay, you can get around to de-segregating whenever you feel like it". The question that's raised by this is: have lawmakers even today reached "all deliberate speed"?

Tim Wise made a good point in his interview. The majority of Americans still remain oblivious to racial inequality, and that is the biggest cause of the problem.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A reflection on Cinderella Ate My Daughter

At one point or another in their life, every little girl has seen a Disney princess. Like the picture above, the little girls get false images of what life is really like. Not every woman will be as skinny has Cinderella is in the picture, or will have blond hair and blue eyes as the stereotypical and superficial mark of "beauty".  Not every girl will or should find a boy, a "Prince Charming", that will sweep them off their feet solely for looks.

When it comes to this, I think that it is the parents' job to make sure their little girl does what is good for her. The parents much teach their daughters to become self- sufficient and independent, and not to rely on any man for their financial well- being. I know personally that my father has taught me this for the longest time. He always says "One of the most important things you can do is get financially stable as soon as you can, because you shouldn't have to rely on anyone else when it comes to finances."

That is ultimately what the "princess culture" does NOT teach young girls. Rather, the princess culture seems to teach that evrey girl will find a rich man who will sweep them off their feet, and they will be all set for the rest of the lives; a sort of "happily ever after". But that is the furthest thing from the truth. The truth is, not many girls will find a "Prince Charming", and they will have to know how to be able to provide for themselves and how to so "no" to things that could be potentially harmful to their well- being. In conclusion, here is a video I found, which was created by a college class, that examines the sexist messages in Disney movies:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Unlearning the myths that bind us- a reflection

So, after reading Christensen's article, every notion that I had a Disney as well as other cartoons have been pretty much shattered. I never realized how biased seemingly innocent cartoons could be. Christensen argues in her article that these cartoons are bad influences on children, and I cannot help but agree with her. Children, especially, are very impressionable and the exposure to the kind of racism and bias expressed in cartoons causes children to grow up believing things about others that are wrong.

For example, if you take a look at all the Disney princesses pictured above, all of them are depicted as white, beautiful, and extremely skinny women. Not all women look like this in real life. If young girls grow up thinking that this is what their bodies are supposed to look like, then they will never learn to be happy with who they truly are.

On the boys' side of things, think about male characters portrayed in cartoons: Popeye, Buzz Lightyear, and Captain Hook, just to name a few off the top of my head. All of these male characters are portrayed as hyper- masculine, and resorting to violence and anger in some form or another to get what they want. Young boys growing up watching these cartoons will eventually begin to think that violence and anger is the way to get what they want, too.

Aside from the stereotypical gender roles being present in cartoons, there is also the problem of racism being present as well. The black crow feautured in the Disney movie Dumbo is named "Jim Crow", which obviously refers to the infamous Jim Crow laws of the American south which were enacted from the late 1800s until the mid 1960s. These laws made into law segregation rules, which were to be enforced in all public facilities. But, one also has to keep in mind that Dumbo was a Disney movie which was released in 1941, so it's a "sign of the times", I guess.

In conclusion, I'll leave you with this article, which contains a short video looking at the elements of mostly racism in Disney cartoons.