Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us by Linda Christensen- Hyperlinks

I truly enjoyed reading Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us because I loved how Linda Christensen, the author and a high school contemporary literature and society teacher,  did a whole unit on  stereotyping, racism, and sexism, in stories and cartoons. For this blog, my main focus will be hyperlinks, but I will also reflect and connect.

I remember when I was a child, my parents would read me a fairy tale before I went to bed. My favorite fairy tale was Cinderella because I used to enjoy the part when the fairy godmother got Cinderella ready for the ball. Now, I find fairy tales to be extremely sexist and I don't think I will ever read them to my kids. I want my kids to not believe that they need to rely on someone else in order to live happily ever after. I found a blog post titled Gender Bias and Sexual Stereotyping in Fairytales by Cindy Kasner. Even though her post is almost eleven years old, Kasner's points are spot on and similar to Christensen's. They both talk about how females in fairytales are weak and vulnerable without a man and the man likes the girl because of her beauty. The men are always the brave and heroic souls that saves the princesses' lives. This is nowhere near reality and it makes me sad when people have false hopes about improbable events. Kasner and Christensen both say that the more exposed children are to these stereotypes, the more they will believe it is true. She calls this secret education. Kasner explains about sexism and children's exposure in an interesting psychological view, while Kasner talks about her classroom lesson and how to take a stand against sexism, stereotyping, and racism. They both agree that sexual stereotyping is not appropriate, especially in today's society. Children should not feel like that they have to act a certain way because of what fiction tells them about their sex.

Christensen briefly mentions racism in Disney movies. When I was little, I was not aware that there was racism hidden in these movies, but as I grew up, the racism became more obvious. However this doesn't change my love for Disney movies and I won't stop my kids from watching them. I found an interesting video that shows Disney Racism Examples.   The commenters in the video come from different races and express how they feel about the stereotyping. I don't want to spoil anything on what the commenters in the video have to say, but it is definitely worth watching!  My only complaint is that they didn't include the white stereotypes from Pocahontas, which suggests that all whites are selfish and their goals in life are to exterminate people that are not like them. Most whites believe that they are never stereotyped because they are "the superior race", but that is completely false.

In Christensen's article, the class talks about how all of the Disney princesses are white. One student even said that she will never take her kids to see Disney movies until they show a black princess. The first thought that came to my mind was this :What about Tiana, an African American princess from The Princess and the Frog? I then realized that this article is from 2003 and The Princess and the Frog didn't come out until 2009. I remember when I first heard that there was going to be a black princess, my first thought was this: it's about time! Here is a link from CNN news making it official that Tiana is the first black Disney princess. The people in the video thought that there would be less stereotyping after the movie was released, unfortunately, racism is still occurring every day and will probably occur forever. Another piece of evidence why this article is a little outdated is when Christensen and her students scoff at the idea of a black Cinderella. Not too long ago, Keke Palmer, who was a teen actress in movies such as the Disney channel original movie Jump In (A really good movie by the way), was cast as the first black Cinderella on Broadway. Here is a really short clip of the ball scene with Keke Palmer playing the title character.  This just shows that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Most fairy tales and cartons follow the society rules of SCWAAMP or in this case, SWAMP because they follow the following aspects. I completely disagree with these by the way.
Straightness-Do we ever see a gay prince or a lesbian princess get their true love's first kiss? The answer unfortunately is no.
Whiteness-At least Disney finally included a black princess, but fairy tale authors like the Grimm Brothers never did.
Abled bodiness- All of the Disney princess have freakishly tiny waists and the princes are always fit and good looking. Don't people ever realize that maybe some people suffer from body image issues because of this?
Maleness- A girl needs a man in order to live happily ever or else her life is forever doomed. (sarcasm)
Property ownership- Women are only drawn to men if the man has a huge house or a nice car, or in the fairy tale cases a white horse to reflect his race. (sarcasm again)

Points to make: What were your reactions when you found out the true meanings behind fairy tales or cartoons? Did you immediately stop watching or reading them or did it not affect you in any way? I can't wait to talk about this in class.

Social Justice Event : Stories In Stone:America's Colonial African Cemetery

On February 18 my friend and fellow classmate, Christy, and I attended an event in the library called Stories in Stone: America's Colonial African Cemetery. Before the guest speaker spoke, there were raffles for t-shirts in honor of the anniversary of the unity center, and a sweatshirt with a hood that honored Trayvon Martin, which included his birth and death date on the back. Christy won the sweatshirt. After the raffles were over, Keith Stokes, the guest speaker of the event, began his presentation.

Mr. Stokes studies the history of Africans and in this event, he talked about slavery in Newport, Rhode Island in the late 1600s. Before he got to his main presentation, Mr. Stokes briefly talked about African American history month and how the founder, Harvard historian,  Carter G. Woodson,wanted to have it in February because of the February birth dates of Frederick Douglas, who was a famous slave, and Abraham Lincoln.

At the beginning of the presentation, Mr. Stokes argued that there were too many African historical discussions on slavery and not enough on where they came from or their personal backgrounds. I agree with that because not only did I learn only about Africans as slaves in my history class, but many films portray Africans and other people of color are rarely any of the title characters. When Linda Christensen, the author of the article Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us, and her class were watching cartoons in one of their units, "people of color and poor people are either absent or servants to the rich, white, pretty, people." (pg. 130) Even if a lot of blacks did have ancestors that were slaves, they should not feel ashamed about that.

I learned that The first Africans arrived in Newport, Rhode Island around 1652 and the first documented slave ship called the Seaflower arrived to Newport via Barbados, which carried fourteen slaves in 1696. Most of the slaves came from the African countries Ghana or Guinea. I knew that Newport had wealthy people because of the popular mansions, but I was surprised that slavery actually occurred in Rhode Island. I always thought that slavery took place in the Southern part of the United States. Another shocking fact was that by 1755, seven thousand Africans lived and made up twenty percent of Newport's population. One in three families owned at least one slave. This reminded me a bit of Lisa Delpit and her aspects of the culture of power from the article, The Silenced Dialogue. Aspect number four is "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier." (pg. 25) That aspect of power made me think about the African slaves first arriving to Newport and then having the white people telling them what to do. This increased the whites' power and when a slave was punished, the power of the whites increased even more. What I didn't find out until later in Mr. Stokes' presentation was that most of the slaves in Newport were teenagers and younger! I can never imagine permanently moving to another continent just to get educated on becoming a skilled worker and serve for a wealthy family. Unlike slavery in the South, the slaves and the white families shared space in the house. Because of this many white men had affairs with African women.

I have been to Newport several times and enjoy looking at the old architect. What I never knew was that most of the buildings were built by the African slaves! They also changed Newport by establishing The African Union Society and an African school. The Africans even brought their culture and rituals to Newport. One of their rituals was when someone in the African community died, they would wear white, sing, and chant. It is amazing that their masters accepted some parts of their culture. Unlike the African slaves, Richard Rodriguez from Aria, was not only forced to speak his nonnative language, but he eventually lost his family culture by becoming "an American", which was sad and so wrong. Not all of the African culture was accepted by the whites. Like Rodriguez, the masters gave the slaves American names, which can also relate to Delpit's fifth aspect of the culture of power. Once these slaves were eventually free, they returned to their original African names. Overall, it seemed that slavery in Newport wasn't as brutal as it was in the south, even though these slaves still had a rough life.

The final part of Mr. Stokes' presentation was a slideshow of a famous cemetery in Newport called God's Little Acre, where many of these African slaves were buried. Watching this part was sad because many of the headstones included African babies and young children that died from yellow fever and cholera and did not have the medicine that we have today to help save their lives. At the end of the slideshow, Mr. Stokes included this powerful quote from Tess Gerritsen, who wrote the novel, The Sinner "The ones that are truly dead are those who are forgotten." That quote really spoke to me because when we talk about memories of people who have passed away, it keeps their spirit alive, but if we don't think, say, or remember anything about a person, then that person is truly dead and forgotten.

Here is a link on more information about slavery in Newport, Rhode Island. What I don't get is why we only focus on the negative discrimination of blacks in the south in our history classes. We never actually learn about any positive accomplishments of the African community. Mr. Stokes did an excellent job on not making his presentation so sad and negative. According to Mr. Stokes, racism is relatively new and the whites use it to sustain power and control. This made me think of Delpit's fourth aspect of the culture of power "the rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power." (pg. 25) In other words, whites have the power and they can get away with reacting negatively to those who do not come from the same culture as them. In conclusion, Mr. Stokes emphasized that instead of watching movies, which often dramatize history, we should read reliable resources or got to a historical society. I think that while movies are entertaining, they are not one hundred percent accurate. Overall, I am glad that I attended this event and got to listen to an interesting and accurate story on slavery in Newport.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Safe Spaces- Gerri August, Reflection

"Safe Spaces" was one of the most interesting articles that I had read in this class. I had so many emotional connections while reading this article. I was happy, sad, frustrated, disgusted, angry and so on. Just so you all know, I am a huge supporter of the LGBT youth, so none of these negative emotions were towards them, but instead towards the ignorant people that were mentioned. For this blog, I am going to answer some of the reflection point questions that were asked throughout the article. I will answer them based on my own views and experience.

What messages did you receive about the LGBT when you were in school? Which messages were explicit, which were implied? (pg. 89)
Sadly, none of the schools that I attended did not give any messages about the LGBT youth. I remember not being aware of LGBT until I was in sixth grade and that was only because my friends were talking about lesbians. I asked them what a lesbian was and they laughed at me because they thought that I was stupid and na├»ve. I later asked my parents about it and they finally told me what lesbian, being gay, bisexual, and transgender was. Looking back at it now, I wish I was educated at a much younger age about this.  In the article, August argues that more teachers need to educate students about LGBT youth so that the LGBT students feel safe and included. In her own words, August states "What happens inside classroom walls reproduces the prejudices that exist outside these walls: straightness and gender conformity are assumed; LGBT identity is deviant." (pg. 84)  This reminds me of the first letter in SCWAAMP that American society values: straightness.  What irritates me is that some people go so far and think that being gay is a sin or crime. It seems that they don't realize that like race, lesbianism, gay, and bisexualism are not something that these people randomly chose to be.

As a parent, how would you feel if your child were in Zeke's or Sean's classroom? How would you respond to a friend who objected to Zeke's lesson? How might you respond to your child's questions that arise in response to Who's In a Family?
 If my child was placed in Zeke's or Sean's classroom, I would be happy, but I would be especially thrilled and impressed if my child was in Zeke's class. Even though Sean included books on other races and LGBT, what he did was nothing compared to Zeke's powerful lesson.  Zeke who is a kindergarten teacher, did an entire lesson on different kinds of families. He read books to his students about same sex parents and afterwards wanted the students to know that gay and lesbian parents are exactly like heterosexual parents when it comes to caring and loving their children. Zeke used a teaching method called integration and interpretation. August persuades "if applied across all disciplines and grade levels, integration and interpretation of LGBT experiences and contributions can transform our classrooms into safe spaces." (pg. 90) Instead of thinking of school as a torture chamber, LGBT would feel more safe if more material included things that they can easily relate and connect to. If I had a friend who objected Zeke's lesson, I would tell my friend that I respect his or her opinion, but this is the twenty first century and young children need to be more aware of what is actually happening and we can no longer pretend to our children that LGBT does not exist. If my child ever had questions about the families in Who's in a Family, I would say that no family is perfect. Families of all kinds occasionally have their disagreements, but they all love, take care, and look after one another. I would finally tell my child that friends may come and go, but families are the friends of many ages that you are naturally set up with for life.

As an educator, can you identify opportunities to incorporate LGBT voices into your curriculum? What support would you need to take this step?
Throughout the entire article August emphasizes that curriculum and communication are important in a classroom. When it comes to this August states "neglect one, and the other is bound to suffer; improve one, and the other will likely benefit." (pg. 85) As a future educator, I definitely want to include all races and LGBT in my curriculum. I would make sure that LGBT students can easily connect in my lessons. My personal goal is to teach my students the values of kindness, acceptance, and respect because it seems like so many people these days lack these characteristics. Finally, I would want my students to gain an understanding on what is actually going on around them. None of my students will be left in the dark. Instead, each student will have a spotlight on them that reflects their uniqueness. I know that some of the students' parents will object, but I would remind them that their children also have the right to know what is happening around them. I would need support from my family, friends, colleagues, and the principal. If any objections occur, I would point out what I just mentioned above.

Points to share: Many people seem to think that LGBT is recent, but that is completely false. Homosexuals were around since the beginning of time. LGBT is a culture that more people need to respect and accept. Not too long ago, I found out that one of my friends is gay, even though I thought he was straight. I now want to slap myself for making such an ignorant assumption! After my friend told me that he was gay, I had more respect and liked him even more as a person for being so brave because unfortunately, coming out is very risky. I found this blog post by the U.S. department of education that was very similar to this article. It talked about a conference in San Diego, California that discussed about making schools more safe for the LGBT youth.  If more schools contained material that included the LGBT culture, more of them would proudly come out of the dark and cold closet that unfortunately, still exists.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Aria by Richard Rodriguez- Connections

Richard Rodriguez talks about how he grew up only speaking Spanish at home. Because of this,  he was always afraid to speak up in school because his school only taught in English. His teachers would pressure him to speak when he didn't even want to.  Eventually, he learns enough English that  he finally feels like he is a part of American society. While reading Rodriguez's article, Aria, I couldn't help but think of two articles: The Silenced Dialogue by Lisa Delpit and Teaching Multilingual Children by Virginia Collier. I also thought about my parents while reading this article. In this blog, I am going to talk about the connections between the two articles mentioned above and my family.

As a first grader, Rodriguez felt like an outcast because his teachers assumed that everybody spoke English all the time and everywhere.  Rodriguez himself writes "What they [the teachers] understood was that I needed to speak a public language." (pg. 34) Throughout the article, Rodriguez refers to English as the public language and Spanish as the private language. Reading this made me think of Lisa Delpit's article, The Silenced Dialogue, and her five aspects on the culture of power. Rodriguez's conflict in the classroom reminded me of Delpit's fourth aspect on the culture of power: "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier." (A Silenced Dialogue, pg. 25) This relates to Aria, because by not speaking any English in the classroom, Rodriguez refuses to be a participant of the culture of power. His teachers give him a hard time when they wanted him to speak, which makes them have even more power in the classroom. Eventually, Rodriguez does speak up in the classroom and becomes a participant of the culture of power.

At the end of his article, Rodriguez, argues that there needs to be more bilingual education, especially in America, because "they do not seem to realize that while one suffers a diminished sense of private individuality by becoming assimilated into public society, such assimilation makes possible for achievement of public individuality." (pg. 39) Rodriguez's point is that by adding more bilingual education, students who do not speak English as their first language, will be included and have the equal opportunity of success in American society. This reminded me of Virginia Collier's article, Teaching Multilingual Childen. In her article Collier, provides seven guidelines on how teaching English to second-language learners or teaching English speakers a second language can be an insightful experience. Rodriguez's conclusion made me think of Collier's fourth guideline: "Teach the standard form of English and students' home language together with an appreciation of dialect differences to create an environment of language recognition in the classroom." (pg. 227) Collier and Rodriguez want students to not only succeed, but want each student to be recognized as an individual, no matter what language they speak. I find it sad that as a child, Rodriguez did not receive the recognition that he actually deserved in his classroom and that his classmates were never taught a second language.

My personal favorite part of Aria was when Rodriguez and his family would practice their English and then all of a sudden switch to Spanish and so forth. Rodriguez mentions a memory in his kitchen where he heard his parent talking in Spanish until "at the moment they saw me, I heard their voices change to speak English." (pg. 35) This quote reminds me of the occasional times at home when my mom, whose first language was German because her parents originated from Germany, will call my Omi, (German for grandmother) and they will start to talk in English, but all of a sudden speak German and then back to English and so on. Whenever I hear these conversations, I feel like I am listening to a language symphony orchestra where the English language is like the brass section and the German language is the strings. My dad also didn't speak English as a first language either.  My dad's family came from Quebec, so at home, my dad spoke nothing but Canadian French. Unlike my mom, my dad hasn't spoken French in years. Even though both of my parents were born in America, my mom and dad spoke nothing but German and French respectively until they started kindergarten. Unlike Rodriguez, both of my parents have told me that their teachers were really  accommodating, including, and accepting. My parents never fell behind and caught up with the English language and their peers very well. I always feel guilty for not speaking a second language as fluently as my parents. In my opinion, learning a second language should be more imperative in America. Americans have a tendency to only learn and speak  English.

The points I would like to make is that no matter what country you end up living in, learning and speaking the main language should be required. It annoys me when people move to different countries and refuse to learn their native languages. I have great respect towards people that speak a second language at home, however when they are out and about, they need to speak the language of whatever country they live in. When it comes to educating students who do not speak English as a first language, we, as future educators, should include material in their language and have the English speaking students learn their language as well. This way, everybody can have an easier time communicating with one another and no student would feel left out.  I also think that students need to start learning a second language at a very young age, because learning a foreign language in high school or even middle school can be difficult and it comes to the point where it is too late to teach something that is completely new to students. It makes me sad and guilty when I hear that young children from other continents can speak more than one language fluently and we have the tendency to only speak our native language. I understand that people have American pride, but if we don't learn a second language, we look selfish and seem to not have any interests in  different cultures.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol- Quotes

In his article Amazing Grace, Jonathan Kozol travels to the South Bronx in New York to explore and understand the culture and neighborhood. South Bronx is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. Most of the residents are suffering from terminal diseases, crime rates are high, and the residents are so desperate for money that they turn to drugs or prostitution. Because crimes can occur in their homes, the residents' safe haven is the local church, St. Ann's  The people who live in this area are mostly Hispanic or of color. Based on this fact, one can tell that one of the reasons why they have ended up where they are is because of our country's  ongoing issue of racism. Finding a job is hard enough because of the United State's poor economy, but if a person is not white, the chances of getting a job are even more difficult. Kozol gets some culture shock during his visit in the South Bronx. As I was reading this article, I had so many mixed emotions that included, sadness, shock, anger, and irritation. Choosing only three quotes from this article was very difficult for me because there are so many quotes that either stood out to me or left me in complete shock.

1. "The dogs disappear into a section of the churchyard where, she [Reverend Overall] says, one of our nation's Founding Father, Governeur Morris, who wrote the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, has his resting place." (pg. 12)

This quote shows that poor neighborhoods that cannot afford appropriate school material is an ongoing generational problem. The minister of St. Ann's church drives Kozol back to Manhattan and when they pass the cemetery, the minister tells Kozol this incorrect historical fact. This quote reminded me of another article that we read: "Pathologizing the Poor" by Kerri Ulucci. In her article, Ulucci mentioned how impoverished students do not learn the right material because the school does not have the money to buy the proper school materials that can make the children become successful. Because of this, the students fall behind very easily.  Reading this quote made me sad because in my opinion, citizens  should be able to know the basic history of their countries. Schools should help other  schools out by promoting fund raisers that can help schools get the right material so that students will never fall behind. 

2. "'I saw a boy shot in the head right over there' he [Cliffie] says a moment later, in a voice that does not sound particularly sad, then looks up at me and asks politely, 'Would you like a chocolate chip cookie?'" (pg. 6)

Kozol and Cliffie, a seven year old resident of the South Bronx, walk around the neighborhood and Kozol notices stuffed animals that are attached to a tree. When he asks Cliffie why the stuffed animals are there, Cliffie casually answers that he saw a boy shot in that location and quickly changes the subject like it is no big deal. The children in this neighborhood are exposed to so many crimes, because they occur on an almost everyday basis right on their street. What shocks me is how Cliffie and the other children are not traumatized and can move on so easily. Because of what happens in their neighborhoods, the children are not that innocent either, which is hard for me to picture.  What disgusts me is that the parents in the neighborhood are supposed to be role models to their children, and instead they are buying drugs, getting high, and becoming too sick to take care of them.

3. "If poor people behaved rationally, they would seldom be poor for long in the first place." (pg. 21)

This quote comes from Lawrence Mead, who is a political science professor at New York University. I strongly disagree with Mead because some impoverished people are well behaved, properly educated, and follow all of society's rules because they want to fit in. Unfortunately, people just discriminate them because they are not the dominant race, in other words, not Caucasian. There are impoverished people out there who work just as hard, if not harder than some average white people. Many people have a tendency to overlook and stereotype poor people as "lazy" or "uneducated". I am tired  of people labeling others just because they do not look or come from the same background.  Don't they know that if we all looked alike and had the same background, the world would be a boring place? It irritated the living daylights out of me that a professor, who is supposed to be well educated, talks about impoverished people like that! Whatever happened to not saying anything when we have nothing nice to say?

The point I would like to share is that even though our society has become slightly more accepting and open to new cultures, we still live in a world full of cruelty, hatred, and ignorance. As much as I wish that we can all just get along, I know that will unfortunately never be the case. As future teachers, we cannot make assumptions on our students, based on their backgrounds or how they look. Every student should be treated equally and not be left behind. One of our biggest faux pas in America is that we have a tendency to overlook issues and think that they are not as serious as a problem than they actually are.