Sunday, October 27, 2013

Talking Points #6: The Argument of Kahne & Westheimer's “In the Service of What?"

A) Kahne, Joseph; Westheimer, Joel. "In The Service Of What? The Politics of Service Learning." Phi Delta Kappan 1996: 1-15. Print.

    Kahne and Westheimer argue that service learning experiences contain underlying objectives, that of which can be separated into the categories of moral, political, and intellectual development. The authors address that the intentions behind service learning are not often explored, thus Kahne and Westheimer present these ideas in their text. "In the Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning" concludes with the idea that service learning possesses more political motives. A number of students and educators mentioned throughout the text appear to be either opposed to or in agreement with this stance on the subject, although Kahne and Westheimer also argue that moral, political, and intellectual goals often work hand-in-hand.
    The authors of this particular text present the idea that "controversial issues surrounding the means and ends of service learning" (Kahne and Westheimer 2) do exist. Service learning is meant to produce a beneficial impact on target communities. However, each experience differentiates. Kahne and Westheimer emphasize that these outcomes vary based upon the moral, political, and/or intellectual goals of the student participating in this form of service. Regardless of one's intentions (whether moral, political, and/or intellectual), all participants of service learning are involved in identifying an issue and working to come to a solution. This education is directly related to Allan G. Johnson's "Privilege, Power, and Difference," for Johnson also obtains this outlook regarding the issues of difference and privilege within society. Service learning experiences provide a greater look into the social problems of society, and both Kahne and Westheimer state that this service "[responds] to America's social problems" (Kahne and Westheimer 7).
  • EX: Case in point with the example of the middle school music classroom. The parents of the students participating in this service learning experience had false perceptions of the reality of the lives of the poor income elementary school children, thus creating warped imagery in the minds of their own children. When the middle school students developed relationships with this set of youth, and had undergone this hands-on experience, they came back with new mindsets based on the true reality.
                     Moral Goals
    The text argues that service learning is presently focused more so on charity, for it is often promoted over change. The moral purpose of service learning is to care and/or give back to a particular community. Students work to understand the strife that those less fortunate encounter on a daily basis, and attempt to promote change. What if society were to promote and integrate both charity and change? However, there is a distinct difference between efforts of "charity" and "change." Change permits students to consider the viewpoints of those faced with a specific struggle, whereas the outcome of charity does not always include this. The difference is based on the presence of the relationship between the student and the target community. Change promotes the development of respective relationships. Imagine if both charity and change were correlated?

                                                                    Political Goals
    In terms of the political outlooks regarding service learning, students work towards establishing a "strong democracy" (Kahne and Westheimer 6) and explore aspects of citizenship. Civic duty is emphasized.  The political element of some service learning experiences primarily centers on the issue of developing citizenship. It acts as a way in which to promote democracy in both society and target communities, enabling the influence of good citizenship and an impact on the rights of citizens. However, those like Benjamin Barber argue that the basis of service learning should rely solely on charity and empathy for others. Others claim that both citizenship and charity are interconnected, therefore providing an alternate stance on the subject. The text later stresses that citizenship is needed to enforce political action, and that charity alone cannot undertake this task. This is a bit of a perplexing issue. While this is valid in some cases, what about the instances when this notion does not ring true? Political motive is not always the intent for students participating in service learning.

        Intellectual Goals
    The intellectual goal of service learning seeks to promote rich learning experiences for students, as well as academic growth. Intellectual development always serves as a component of service learning, on behalf of both participants: the student and the respective community. However, the experience differentiates per student, resulting in "varying" levels of intellectual achievement. Community also impacts intellectual development, with the intent of benefitting both the student and community.

    At my Service Learning placement on Friday, I was working with a student on prewriting. His assignment was to write an essay based on a selection of prompts, and the prompt he chose was quite relative to some of the work that we've done in class (Issue in Society). When we developed main ideas based on this prompt, he wanted to write about how everyone wants to meet certain expectations, and that they are both a part of this issue as well as the solution. I thought that this was interesting because it goes back to Allan G. Johnson's text. The student also wanted to write about the political aspects of this issue.

Additional References: Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. McGraw-Hill; 2nd edition, 2005. Print.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Revisiting Kozol & August with Johnson

I realized that in two of my previous posts (Talking Points #1 & 3), I had forgotten to include connections to other texts that we had discussed in class. As I revisited these posts, I found that both Jonathan Kozol's "Amazing Grace" and "Safe Spaces" by Vaccaro, August, and Kennedy could be directly linked to Allan G. Johnson's "Privilege, Power, and Difference."

Jonathan Kozol's "Amazing Grace"
    Kozol's text reflects the struggle that so many individuals experience as a result of living in conditions of poverty. In Mott Haven, the health of both children and adults is compromised, due to the polluted atmosphere and perpetual risk of disease. Crime rate is high, and the poverty level is of the worst in the entire nation.
    If one were to refer back to Johnson's "Privilege, Power, and Difference," he/she would find that one of the differences in society that he analyzes is social class. Johnson's text explains how privilege determines who holds power, and in the case of "Amazing Grace," the citizens of Mott Haven had little power due to their poverty. In the instance of the incinerator, it was placed in Mott Haven as opposed to Manhattan due to the refusal of the upper class citizens. Mott Haven's hospitals were also in harsh conditions, where patients were forced to wait days in order to be seen. Crime ran rampant in the area, whereas reduced levels of crime may have been reported in districts of higher class. The difference that Johnson explains in his text is quite relative to Kozol's "Amazing Grace," for this difference of privilege was evident, as it affected the lives of all citizens of Mott Haven. 

"Safe Spaces" by Annemarie Vaccaro, Gerri August, & Megan Kennedy
    "Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth" examines the struggles that LGBT youth face in the educational setting. So many LGBT youth have had their voices silenced. They have been subjected to harassment and exclusion, as well as have become victims of suicide. "Safe Spaces" explores the constant battle that LGBT youth experience, as well as provides helpful methods for educators to use to help make schools safer places.
    In Johnson's "Privilege, Power, and Difference," the author discusses how the issue of privilege relates to race, gender, sexual orientation, and social class. One group has privilege over another, which results in greater power for a certain group over other groups. This issue of privilege creates difference, and the treatment of individuals differs. On page 32 and 33 of "Privilege, Power, and Difference," Johnson provides multiple examples of heterosexual privilege. The treatment of those who do not fit these molds of "privilege" is always unfair, as this is evident for LGBT youth, as well as in the case of the residents of Mott Haven.
Kozol, Jonathan. Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation. Harper Perennial, 1995. Print.
August, Gerri, Megan S. Kennedy, and Annemarie Vaccaro. Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth. Praeger, 2011. 1, 83-100. Print.

Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. McGraw-Hill; 2nd edition, 2005. Print.

Talking Points #5: Connections for Linda Christensen's “Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us"

A) Christensen, Linda. "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us: Critiquing Cartoons and Society." Rethinking Schools 01 Feb. 2007: 126-137. Print.

    Linda Christensen's "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us" serves as an informative piece that permits readers to take a step back and truly analyze the influence of "American culture" (Christensen 126) on society and children. Christensen argues that certain cartoons, fairy tales, children's books, and television programs are actually educating children in an improper way, posing "myths" about acceptance, success, and happiness that will subsequently impact children's mindsets. As I was reading, I found that the points that Christensen raised in the text were actually quite relative to some of the texts that we have discussed in class, most notably Allan G. Johnson's "Privilege, Power, and Difference," as well as Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" and Richard Rodriguez's "Aria."

Linking the Text to Johnson's "Privilege, Power, and Difference"

    One of the main ideas of Christensen's to article is expressed in one line on page 126: "Our society's culture industry colonizes their minds and teaches them how to act, live, and dream" (Christensen 126). Christensen goes on to state that "often the world depicts the domination of one sex, one race, one class, or one country over a weaker counterpart" (Christensen 126). I found this quote to be quite befitting to the affirmations made by Allan G. Johnson in "Privilege, Power, and Difference." Johnson's text thoroughly explores the differences of society, as well as its relation to power and privilege. Privilege induces power, and power from the individuals who choose to oppress enables these differences, for it creates it. Christensen presents society's differences in "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us," and also shows how and where it is derived. Johnson continuously speaks of the differences, declaring that "the trouble we're in privileges some groups at the expense of others" (Johnson 9). If we analyze Johnson's quote, we would find that this issue directly relates to the issue that Christensen brings about in her text (i.e. The media and literacy that children are influenced by displays both privilege and power by certain groups.). Christensen also discusses the influence of this depiction of privilege on children and how the media's representation of difference has helped to mold the society that children are surrounded by.

<a href="http://">Christian Art</a>
<a href="">Christian Art</a>
    The second main idea that I came across in Christensen's article can be found on page 133 of the text (Justine's quote): " can be overwhelming and discouraging to find that our self-images have been formed by others, but if we don't dissect them, we will continue to be influenced by them" (Christensen 133). Society has helped to shape individual perceptions negatively, and some children's media and literacy can actually aid in enabling this. However, if one chooses to dismiss these issues/differences, how will he or she be able to stop this negative influence? The quote reminded me of Johnson's article, and how everyone is a part of the problem, as well as the solution. We just need to make the effort to promote change, to ask the questions that both Christensen and Johnson encourage. In spite of alterations, difference may continue to remain. However, Christensen implies that change is needed to attempt to eliminate these issues, but first, one must be able to identify the problems and take initiative. Johnson sums this up perfectly: " means I have to take the initiative to find out how privilege operates in the world, how it affects people, and what all that has to do with me. It means I have to think the unthinkable, speak the unspeakable, break the silence, acknowledge the elephant, and then take my share of responsibility for what comes next" (Johnson 10-11).

Linking the Text to McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" 
    Christensen's "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us" offers a greater glimpse into the issue of privilege. What may come as a surprise to some is that privilege is rather quite evident in children's cartoons, films, etc. Some may not even be aware of the "secret education" (Christensen 127) that is hidden in these forms of media. McIntosh also implies this in her article, providing examples of white privilege in television, children's toys, books, etc.

Linking the Text to Rodriguez's "Aria"

    I was also reminded of Richard Rodriguez's struggle with the language barrier when I read about Kenya's perspective on the issue of "...a society that rarely acknowledges the wit or beauty of women of her race" (Christensen 131). It made me think of society pressuring Rodriguez to replace his native dialogue, eliminating a part of his identity and culture due to solely learning English (society's language) because he did not understand how to learn both languages. Kenya's example relates to Rodriguez in a sense, because society had dismissed her race and culture for what was considered privileged, similar to Rodriguez, whose culture and language was seemingly discarded for society's language.

  • How can we distinguish the difference between what children's films/cartoons/literacy/media promote and do not promote issues of difference and privilege?
  • How can we promote change and take initiative in order to succeed in achieving this goal?
  • How can we, too, attempt to "unlearn" these "myths" created by society?
Additional References:
Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. McGraw-Hill; 2nd edition, 2005. Print.

McIntosh, Peggy. "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Independent School Winter 1990: 1-6. Print.

Rodriguez, Richard. "Aria." Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education. Ed. Otto Santa Ana. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004. 34-39. Print.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Talking Points #4: Reflection on Kohn's “Five Reasons to Stop Saying ‘Good Job!'" & Kohl's “I Won't Learn From You!"

A) "Five Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!'." Kohn, Alfie. Alfie Kohn, 2001. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
Kohl, Herbert. "I Won't Learn From You!: Thoughts on the Role of Assent in Learning." Rethinking Schools, Autumn 1992 Vol 7, No 1: 165. Print.

Upon reading the texts by both Kohn and Kohl, I was reminded of a child who I had baby-sat for. He exhibited the behavior discussed throughout both texts, therefore I could relate my own personal experience to the arguments made and the examples provided for the corresponding texts.
Kohn's "Five Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!'"
    Kohn argues in "Five Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!' that an overabundance of praise can cause children to become reluctant of their own emotions, for they come to rely solely on the approval of another (in place of their own individual mindset). Not only will a child not be able to formulate his or her own opinions and decisions, but excess praise can alter a child's behavior in a negative manner. This form of "praise" does not help the child, but rather, hurts the child, causing them to become dependent on others' opinions in order to be satisfied. This satisfaction, however, is based on the feelings of the one giving praise, and the child's behavior changes, in a way that is either withdrawn or where the child simply comes to expect constant praise.
    The author of the text also identifies how the actions of a child receiving much praise become less genuine, meaning that constant acknowledgement, even when praise is unnecessary, can result in less acts of generosity. In addition, Kohn later goes on to state that certain individuals reward children who have misbehaved with praise.
    While reading the article, I was reminded of my experience with this particular child. I had observed that his parent would regularly praise him, even when he had behaved in ways that were unacceptable or inappropriate. The child's parent would also use rewards (as discussed in Kohn's text) in some instances where the behavior of this child was concerned. I feel that the child had grown to expect this constant overflow of praise, and his perspectives on certain things were not developed on his own, but rather, were based on the outlook of his parent. His parent's constant use of excess praise led the child to develop the opinions/attitude of his guardian. It was a learning experience to provide child care, because in spite of love and support, and positive reinforcement, the child would just continue to dismiss these factors and expect to be commended for inappropriate behavior.

Kohl's "I Won't Learn From You!"
    Not-learning, although commonly mistaken by some teachers as disruptive behavior made by students or as their failure or inability to learn, is a form of retaliation on behalf of students to combat oppression that is either apparent or perceived within schools. As I was reading the text, I considered the difference between the students who chose to participate in "not-learning." Some children believed that others would not value their opinions, for they perceived things differently. Others simply desired to take on the role of being the "authority figure." In the educational setting, teachers are viewed as those in authority, and the children who practiced the method of not-learning oppressed this viewpoint.
    I believe that the child that I had provided care for fit into the description of the text. In the classroom, he would sometimes act out in the ways cited by Kohl by overriding certain activities because he seemingly perceived himself to be the "authority figure." He would also act in this manner when I provided child care for him. No matter the amount of support, love, and discipline that I gave him, he continued to act in control of the older figures around him.
Regarding a point to share for both texts:
Kohn's "Five Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!'"
    Reading this article left me with a bit of a conflicted perspective. I find that I cannot completely agree with the argument of voiding the use of the phrase, "Good Job!", in its entirety. "Good Job!" does seem deserving at times, whereas at other times, it may simply be used as a form of manipulation or excess praise made by those giving it. When motives/intentions are untrue or bad, the praise will affect a child's perceptions negatively. I do, however, agree with positive reinforcement for certain situations. I believe that it is acceptable to say "Good Job!" when a child is deserving of it, but manipulation, bribery, and surplus praise is unnecessary when it is not well-intentioned, as it is also not essential in all cases.
Kohl's "I Won't Learn From You!"
    I found that Kohl's "I Won't Learn From You!" could be connected to two of the texts that were discussed in class (Rodriguez's "Aria"; Delpit's "The Silenced Dialogue). Rodriguez did not use the "not-learning" approach for when it came to him having to learn the English language. Rather, Rodriguez, unaware and unknowing of how to integrate both languages into his social life and daily learning (as discussed in Collier's text), was affected by the oppression of solely learning society's public language. In "I Won't Learn From You!", the children who enacted the "not-learning" method succeeded in keeping a part of their identities that they themselves believed that the schools were attempting to oppress, in addition to learning the schools' teachings. Kohl's article also offered examples of students from varying grade levels and "their relationships with teachers and other adults in authority" (Kohl). Delpit's text consistently referenced the roles of the authority figures (teachers and adults) and the effects they had on students/children. "I Won't Learn From You!" explored this issue in much detail.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Talking Points #3: Hyperlinks on Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth (Vaccaro, August, & Kennedy)

A) August, Gerri, Megan S. Kennedy, and Annemarie Vaccaro. Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth. Praeger, 2011. 1, 83-100. Print.

    The excerpt from Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth serves as a detailed account of the struggles that LGBT youth encounter in the educational setting. In addition, the text provides a number of methods that teachers of each grade level can use to integrate LGBT studies into school curriculum. August, Kennedy, and Vaccaro discuss the appropriate methods of which to teach LGBT issues in schools, as well as examine the concerns, judgments, and harm that arises when students who identify as LGBT are silenced, excluded, harassed, and dismissed. The authors encourage educators to incorporate LGBT issues into elementary and secondary curriculum, and express how proper communication between teachers and students is vital in deeming schools as safe environments.
    According to August, Kennedy, and Vaccaro, both communication and curriculum act as core components in order to effectively teach LGBT issues to students, regardless of their grade level. The two factors work hand-in-hand. However, societal figures, educators, and family members may not be aware of the correct forms in which to educate others regarding LGBT issues. Some schools dismiss the idea of introducing this curricula, whereas states such as California have incorporated LGBT issues into the curriculum to promote safety and respect. In the instance of California, data and statistics for schools in this state that educated students on LGBT issues supported the assertion made by August, Kennedy, and Vaccaro that the inclusive curriculum helped to improve overall safety and respect for both LGBT and straight youth.
    As discussed in Safe Spaces, there remains multiple approaches to teaching LGBT issues to youth that are quite effective. GLSEN contains a list of valuable resources for educators to use in the classroom setting. There remains a need in current society for the incorporation of LGBT curricula, and some classroom materials discussed in the text have also been used effectively by educators in other schools throughout the nation. In August 2013, the state of California also passed the School Success and Opportunity Act aimed in helping transgender youth to receive the same opportunities in schools as their straight peers. The development of new laws to protect LGBT youth in schools, as well as the incorporation of inclusive curriculum in schools, has aided in making the school environment safer.
    The ineffectiveness or disregard of some teachers to educate students on LGBT issues can actually place students in harm's way. Not all educators who promote the integration of LGBT issues in school curriculum are as successful in teaching LGBT awareness to students as other educators have been. Other educators, however, have chosen to reject the idea of teaching students about LGBT issues, or have directed inappropriate behavior and comments to LGBT youth (as discussed in Safe Spaces). Such behavior made by teachers and peers in the classroom has impacted LGBT youth in a negative manner, affecting them emotionally, as well as their overall well-being. Bullying is unacceptable, and when both students and teachers engage in this particular form of bullying, there are dire consequences. Recently, several adolescents committed suicide as a result of incessant bullying. Had both the teachers and students at the schools stood up for LGBT youth rather than contributing to the hurt or ignoring to help, the school environment would have been more protective for LGBT youth, and deaths could have been prevented.

    Regarding a point to share, I feel that more schools should introduce LGBT issues into their curriculum, and that society should become more aware of the pain that LGBT youth experience as a result of bullying by fellow peers and some teachers. It is startling to know the number of children today who have taken their lives due to the amount of harassment that had plagued them. Other LGBT youth, like the young man in the article by Linda Robertson, have fallen into the negative clutches of society due to being uncertain of what to do to please those around them. In the article, Robertson discusses what she had prayed for as a parent. I think that society makes the mistake of not realizing that God loves everyone unconditionally. Many people of this world do not love others enough, and make the mistake of hating one another over meaningless things. Race, class, and sexual identity does not stop God from loving all, and none of those factors makes Him love anyone any less. Robertson had prayed not to have a gay son, but realized that her prayer had been answered in a way that she had not expected when her son passed away. She learned to love him unconditionally, and at the end of the article, Robertson discusses how she wished she had not considered limitations and made mistakes, but had instead loved her son completely. I believe that the lesson shared in Robertson's article applies to Safe Spaces and society as a whole. In Safe Spaces, the authors discuss how individuals (whether it be in educational settings or the community) can help others become more aware of LGBT issues in order to make LGBT youth feel safe and respected. If everyone were to just love and respect one another without limitations, then the hurt would cease, and both schools and society would become safe places for all.