Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Service Learning Project

Here is the link to my, Rebekah's, Julia's, and Lauren's service learning project! ENJOY! :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Empowering Education

Talking Points #10- Quotes on Shor

While reading, "Empowering Children: Critical Teaching For Social Change" by Ira Shor, it made me think of a lot of things that we as future teachers to be aware of. It emphasizes on the aspects in which make a school setting the most beneficial place to learn.  For this week's talking point, I decided to pick out three quotes that stood out to me the most.

1. "You must arouse children's curiosity and make them think about school."

  • Quoted from Meier, Ira Shor sets up one of his major arguments in his article; the reason why children go to school in the first place.  Meier states that it's best if the teacher begins the school with a discussion as to why the students need to go to school.  According to Meier, this discussion is important because it creates trust between teacher and student which is critical of positive learning space. I immediately think of August's "Safe Spaces" and how building trust with students is a major factor in creating safe spaces.  Safe Spaces are necessary for every student to learn at their very best abilities while feeling like they belong.  Shor continues to expand from this quote by including Piaget's stance on socialization of schooling. Piaget believes that a "reciprocal relationship" between students and teachers is a must where there is a mutual respect from both parties. Piaget also talks about how children are thrown into a curriculum that is already dominated by adults and they are expected to perform at adult levels.  I thought that was interesting because I never looked at it like that before. To think that schooling is actually trying to conform children to participate in adult perfected tasks, really makes you look at it a different way.  As Shor stresses, this creates a pressure that is put on these children! 

Ira Shor

2."In school and society, the lack of meaningful participation alienates workers, teachers, and students. This alienation lowers their productivity in class and on the job. I think of this lowered productivity as a performance strike, an unorganized mass refusal to perform well, an unacknowledged strike."
  • This quote deals with the issue of "the performance strike". Participation is supposed to enhance a student's learning but with the higher lack of motivation these students are deciding to rebel against the figures of authority. Shor points out with the decrease of participation and the increase of teacher burnouts this, many students refuse to perform at high levels.  We can relate this to the "I Won't Learn From You" article in the way that you have to be conscious of the way you go about things when it comes to your students. Shor says that kids need to feel like they belong to a mutual authority in order to get rid of their "negative attitudes and emotions."  In Kohl's article, "I Won't Learn From You" we read about a young student who was thought to be performing at low rate when it in fact he was having an "I won't Learn From You Moment." This little boy obviously felt the lack of respect and authority because he was capable of performing the task, he just chose not to.  So his participation was suffering and he was definitely having a performance. I think it's absolutely necessary to implement participation in a classroom but we need to make sure that the children are comfortable with everyone else in the classroom, including the teacher.  
3. "The teacher plays a key role in the critical classroom. Student participation and positive emotions are influenced by the teacher's commitment to both."

  • I chose this as my final quote because as inspiring teachers, it's all about our role in empowering children to learn in our classrooms.  Shore points out that most teachers fail in this commitment because they were products of schools that highlighted passive and competitive styles of learning which is not the right way to go about teaching your students. "The heart of the problem is that teacher are taught to lecture and give orders." This just supports the argument that Shor is trying to make in a co-authoritative environment.  When a teacher is dependent on lecturing and giving orders, eventually the students will start to rebel, possible participating in a performance strike.  It's not an ideal method to teach and as inspiring teachers, we need to do more than just give orders and lecture, we need to engage and inspire our students to be the best learners they can be.
Point to Reflect:

What are some ways as futures teachers, can we insure that our students will get the best learning experience possible. We should definitely come up with a plan that would eliminate possible performance strikes and we should as a group should assess what it takes to be a teacher because it's obviously more than just lecturing and giving orders. From reading this article, I realized that it takes an absolute special and passionate person to become a teacher.   

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stop Segregating Students With Disabilties

Talking Points #8 - Hyperlinks on "Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome" 

Becky from Glee! :D

This week while reading Christopher Kliewer's "Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome", I decided that I would center my blog around hyperlinks leading back to Kliewer's argument. The major purpose of this article was to show how inclusion for all student's with disabilties is important and that inclusion is achieved by citizenship; in other words citizenship is synonomous with not marginalizing a child in the classroom based on stereotypes that have to do with a disablity they may have.  While searching the web, I found an amazing article that works very well with this Kliewer's article.   This site articulates why classroom inclusion is important for those who have Down Syndrome.  Down Syndrome is actively talked about by Kliewer and he provides a lot of interesting anecdotes to illustrate his purpose This purpose is made clear when Kliewer quotes Jason Kingsley, "Now we know that people with disabilities can learn and have a full, rich life. The Challenge is to erase negative attitudes about people with developmental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes and break the barriers for people with disabilities."The above hyperlinked website builds off of this quote in the section entitled "Overcoming Barriers" because it talks about how most children with disabilities are educated in separate classrooms. These barriers are made up of stereotypes by those who view disability whether it's Down Syndrome or something else as an inability to learn adequately. Kliewer was talked about citizenship and how a student with disabilities will excel when they are not labeled as "someone with a disability." 

Genetic Make Up of Down Syndrome

Kilewer provides great anecdotes depicting instances where teachers are including students with disabilities and using their strengths to enhance classroom learning; this is where the true citizenship is being formed.  He focuses in on one teacher in particular, Shayne Robbins who really took the time to understand her students as individuals rather than students that were ablebodied and those who aren't. She really took time to learn about Isaac's love for reading and how he liked to act it out and therefore they did a play where Isaac's strengths were reinforced like the rest of his peers!

Above is an episode of the hit 80's television sitcom, The Facts of Life. Who else used to love this show? Even though, it aired a decade before I was born, I quickly came to love it through nick at nite reruns! However to get back at the subject at hand, I thought this hyperlink would fit in just perfectly. When Kilewer was telling us the story about Christine, a student with Down Syndrome who had her own column called "Chistine's Corner" in the newspaper I was immediately brought back to this hilarious sitcom. Christine very informatively wrote a response to a school that was not allowing a student with cerebral palsy in their schools.  Christine says, "She's not allowed in a school because of her handicaps." She then states, "Just because she is handicapped doesn't mean she can't learn." "She's just just got to do what she can do, which can be just about anything."  Christine's words transported me back to one summer night when I was child watching the nick at nite marathons. I rememebered in particular, The Facts of Life episode in which Cousin Geri came to visit which is the video above. Geri has cerebral palsy and is cousins with one of the main characters, Blair. As you can see from the show Geri is very educated and the woman playing that role whose name is Geri does in fact have cerebral palsy.  Ask yourself, if cerebral palsy is such a hindering disability that is not worthy of schooling, how does Geri Jewel fit that mold? She can't because it takes a lot of talent to do what she does and from the watching her act, she doesn't seem like someone that "can't learn." This is where the issue of stereotypes come into play. In Kliewer's article he references to a teacher named Colleen who said that you wouldn't be able to pick out the student with the disability and that are stereotypes are the reason for that, "It's not Lee that you're picking out. It's your stereotype, your mind-set. It's you, and it has nothing to do with Lee." 

The two major texts that I can relate this article to are, Safe Spaces and the Brown vs. Board of Education website only because there are issues that intersect these pieces. Kilewer kept talking about disabled children being segregated in separate classrooms and I couldn't help but think of how it was for African American children under Jim Crow laws back in the day when they were segregated in education.  This got me thinking if educational segregation still exists, I started to formulate an answer by thinking that it does but it takes a different form; instead of segregating children by color, there are some who are doing it by ablebodiedness. Then I can also relate this article to the Safe Spaces article because of the anecdote about John who moved to Mendocino and was actually treated like a human being and not labeled by his disability.  John was able to call Mendocino a safe space and with safe spaces, you enhances and create that citizenship that Kilewer was preaching about in his article. 

Point to Share: 

I think this article is helpful to all aspiring teachers because we need to take into account that there are students that have disabilities and that we need to practice inclusion.  By reading this article, I have learned that we need to get to know each student as an individual and making the feel apart of the community. We must also create safe spaces where education can take place( I loved the reinforce of Geri August's argument).  With this said, what are some ways that we can always make sure that students who have disabilities will feel included, safe, and welcomed to learn?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Promising Practices: A Retrospective

Saturday November 2nd, 2013, Rhode Island College held its annual Promising Practices Conference. Let's just say, the conference turned into an interesting event.  I had such high hopes for this conference, after all I did dish out a whopping $15.00; excuse me $16.42 ($1.42 service fee, like really eventbrite, was that really necessary?).  So, I was set to get my $16.42 worth from this conference; it really became the theme of the day!  I pulled into the RIC parking lot, thirty minutes prior to the conference and that in itself was something special because to get me out of bed that early on a Saturday typically never happens.  As I walked into Donovan, I went to the table with the names tags, grabbed the one with my name on it and strolled frantically through the dining center to find a seat. After about a good twenty second stroll, I spotted my FNED class and grabbed a chair amongst my fellow peers. Those familiar faces made my anxiety subside, considerably.

There were definitely pros and cons to this Promising Practices Conference but I will try my hardest to focus equally on the good and the bad.  The best part of this entire experience, was how close we as class became.  The bond amongst us in class was already starting to form in class each week through discussions, reading each other's blogs, and getting to know each other.  By all going to this event, this bond was tightened and I feel like that this beginning of our "family dynamic". Being at Promising Practices with these people, made it much more enjoyable.

The introductory speech was quite brutal, in the sense that it became a more politicized discussion rather than an educating one.  This speech featured a dais of speakers from the area that discussed the topic of Service Learning. It was rather long and often seemed a little contrived, as if they were reading from a script.  The intention of the group discussion was to be improvised but at times it didn't seem that way.  This is where the politicized aspect started to become apparent.  Especially, with none other than Providence's own Mayor Angel Taveras, who pushed a few buttons to say the least.  His answered seemed to be so lackluster and didn't provide any answers.  I'm sure by now everyone has been talking about the controversial moment from the conference incessantly and I don't want to beat a dead horse but it's something that needs to be talked about.  Mayor Taveras made a statement about students who come from lower income household and how they can't use this as an excuse to not go to college. What the mayor needs to realize is that it's easier said than done. He then began to recount his own experience which he describes himself as being in that position but then he was able to turn it around. I'm going to reference the Tim Wise video we watched for one our talking points to build my argument against the mayor's statement.  I'm extremely happy that he was able to overcome those obstacles and make a name for himself but he shouldn't automatically assume that it will be just as easy for others. Taveras was offered an opportunity when he was child to attend some summer education program that many don't have access to today.  My point in bringing up the Tim Wise video is that Mayor Taveras is making a model out of himself which is something that Tim Wise disagrees with.  Wise uses Barack as the primary example by stating that all black people think that in order for them to be great they need to be a carbon copy of Barack Obama, instead of embracing their individual strengths.  Mayor Taveras happens to be a spanish man, so he's creating a model of himself for all spanish people who come from low income households. He's saying that if you follow his path, you will achieve success and that is just not right.

Our Reactions

Also, I didn't like how the moderator and Mayor Taveras treated a student that was asking a question. I thought it was completely rude and unprofessional. The student was an African American boy who had a great question but the way the moderator and the mayor treated him made it seem as if he was asking something sordid.  Not only did both the moderator and the mayor look at one another and roll their eyes they kept saying, "What's your question?" and "What's your point?" Like if that isn't rude in it's purest form, I don't know what is! I forget exactly what the question was, but you could definitely tell that the mayor was tip-toeing around it like a typical politician.  I may be over reaching but this moment definitely makes me think of Delpit and The Silenced Dialogue.  It almost mirrors one of the examples, Delpit gives in that article where a black teacher wouldn't speak to a white teacher because she was always shut down because her white counterparts always thought their way of  doing things to be superior.  Even though, Mayor Taveras isn't white but he has definitely had to sacrifice some of his own Spanish identity to become a politician and be apart of that dais, after all white privilege is definitely apparent in politics.  In the moment, where the mayor and the moderator teamed up to dismiss the student's question, quickly pushed the student out of the culture of power. In this instance, the mayor and the moderator were in the culture of power because they were able to manipulate the entire conversation so by dismissing the student's question, insinuates that they know more about the topic than he does.  By the way the moderator wasn't being explicit enough either by saying, "What's your question?" repeatedly which frazzled the boy even more. If the mayor and moderator didn't think there was a question, they should've been direct and said, "there's no question there." Why would they be direct when they knew, he had a great argument.  They were just trying to bullshit their way through the entire speech. Remember what Delpit says, "The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those of have power."  Meaning that those who have power get to make the rules and that's exactly what the mayor did.  A politician's main goal is to manipulate people into believing them.

I really enjoyed the actual conferences that we got to go to. However, they were only fifty minutes long. More time should be allotted to the those conferences while they should decrease the time of the introduction and keynote address.  We actually got to see how Service Learning is being initiated in communities. All of my sessions focused on primarily the same thing and that is service learning and its benefits on the community so I will just try and highlight the areas I think were the most influential. The first session focused on the Youth Commission in North Providence, Rhode Island and how every year this youth commission works for a new cause. The speakers were really great and informative and they were really passionate about this program.  They talked about it being an experiential learning experience that helps put tools in a student's tool box which is something we often discuss in our FNED class. The program is 100% student lead with adult supervisors.  The students pick what they want to focus on for the year and they send it for approval to the mayor(not Taveras), which always almost never gets rejected.  One year, the students decided to do a business expo because they realized that not a lot of people who lived in North Providence, had exposure to such information. This is where the Kahne and Westheimer article ties in.  So when Kahne and Westheimer talk about the service learning, they state that you strive for change and not charity and one way that is achieved is by understanding the situations that get these people in bad situations.  For example, if you really wan to help the homeless than recognize and understand the issues that get them there and change it so that the homeless population decreases.  This is exactly what these North Providence students did; they realized why business rates have been down in their city and instead of just helping out the people affected by these hard times, they created a business expo to help; they were able to identify that the lack of education on the topic is what put these people in certain predicaments, so they were able to tackle them head by supplying a form of education on the topic! I also really liked how they invited all of us to attend a meeting to see what it was all about!

The next session that really stood out to me was another service learning related one. This one was really personal to me because it focused on the city of Pawtucket which is where I live and have lived my entire life.  The presenter said that Shea High School in Pawtucket has the only government based administration academy in the entire country which provides workplace experience and career exploration. I loved that because it's something that takes place in the same city where I'm from. However, the speaker said that Pawtucket has become the donut capital of the world because we have the most donut shops in any city in America.  He said the reason for this is because that everyone passes through Pawtucket to get to other places and they don't stay and they made me angry because I know how amazing Pawtucket is, and it shouldn't be a place where people just pass through. This brought me back to Kozol's article where he met a boy named Cliffe who lived in an area that wasn't desirable to live in. Now, Pawtucket isn't as bad as that city in New York but I felt that the way that this presenter was talking about Pawtucket was implying that it was an undesirable neighborhood, which is not the case at all.

The next presenter was talking about a program called Project Citizen which to help students develop their commitment to active citizenship.  This program goes hand in hand with service learning and developing skills to understand the society you live and to offer solutions to problems.  We can again apply the Kahne and Westheimer which stresses to understand the issues surrounded the predicaments of individuals.

Overall, it was an interesting experience.  Event though, let me mention that lunch was very lackluster! I spent $16.42 on soup and salad( Olive Garden $5.99...just saying lol)  One thing I did not care for was the keynote address being in the middle of lunch; Nobody was paying attention at all! The only thing I got from that whole thing was Chicago. Don't ask me what about Chicago he was talking about but it was something that tied into Service Learning...but we live in Rhode Island so I wasn't paying attention, and besides I was in the middle of my gourmet meal.  I just want to conclude by saying that I enjoyed spending time with my class mates and I'm glad that we have gotten this close!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Separate and UN/EQUAL?

Talking Points #7- Free Response on Wise and Brown vs Board of Education Website:

On May 17, 1954 history was made when the United States Supreme Court decided that the segregation of black and white students in public schools was unconstitutional, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. While reading the information on the Brown v. Board of Education website, Separate and Unequal by Bob Herbert, and listening to the Tim Wise radio interview, I've come to realize the correlation of the three.  The main topic that is still up for discussion is the idea of being "separate but equal" and if in fact we as a society have truly become integrated, making that the problem of the present.

The website of Brown v. Board of Education provided a lot of great information regarding the events that lead up to and the case itself.  The website provides historical facts whereas, the Tim Wise interview and the Bob Herbert article probe the brain into more critical thinking. Tim Wise's interview where he talked about his work entitled "Between Barack and a Hard Place" centers around the issue of white privilege.

I really enjoyed the Tim Wise video and many times made connections to Allan G. Johnson's "Privilege, Power and Difference."  I  was really interested when Wise talked about Racism 1.0 and Racism 2.0. According to Wise, Racism 1.0 is easily recognizable where it's done explicitly such as the McCain campaign in Pennsylvania where people rallied because they were anti-Obama.  The rallied failed because Obama was elected as president and this is where Wise's whole point presented.  We, as society, are able to notice this form of racism therefore we are able to counteract it.  Racism 2.0 is more subliminal and Wise says that it makes it easier for Americans to support because most are oblivious to it. If you refer back to Johnson's piece who also states that there is an obliviousness to white privilege. Those who have power often don't want to accept and admit they have power.

Wise says that there is an archetype for black individuals when there isn't one for white individuals. Wise passionately doesn't want black individuals to think that they have to model themselves as Barack Obama as their only means to be successful. He gives the example of George W. Bush being a complete buffoon but we give him a pass.

Wise says that black people need to be exceptional to break glass ceilings where as white people only need to be mediocre.  He describes says this at around 4:34.

Now take a look from one of last weeks episodes of the day time talk show Bethenny where host Bethenny Frankel interviews Omarosa. Watch the whole clip and compare the similarities but first let me provide you with a little background.  Bethenny Frankel rose to fame in the hit Bravo show The Real Housewives of New York City where she quickly became one of the fame favorites.  After exiting the show after it's third season she made the cover of Forbes by her Skinny Girl Cocktails. She went from reality television to a multi-million dollar brand and this caught the attention of Ellen Degeneres who gave Bethenny her own day time talk show. 

Omarosa (left) and Bethenny (right) duke it out! 

The interviewee, Omarosa became famous by appearing on Donald Trump's The Apprentice and quickly becoming reality televison's most vile villain of all time.  Her devious antics, sharp tongue, and her stop at nothing attitude on such shows have kept her in the spotlight.  In her own right she is also a very successful female who has even had a tenure in working in the white  house.  Check out this segment of Omarosa calling Bethenny out.  This pop culture nugget does more than just entertain it deals with the issue of white privilege and goes very well with the wise interview. Let's just say things get very intense, whenever you put two very opinionated people together who have no filter things are bound to get explosive.

Tim Wise argues that in order for us to solve the problem we must acknowledge it. He says that the denial of the issue(white privilege) is the problem. To understand the problem we need to learn from the people that were affected by it.  So in this context, the only way for us to learn about racism is to listen to the ones that experienced it. Sort of like, the whole goal of our service learning projects we want to inspire change and change is only achieved if we learn something from it.  When Obama was elected there were people who said there are no more excuses for black people to be sidelined. Wise says that the statement is completely bizarre because although Obama was elected president that doesn't mean racism was elected to be erased.  

Bob Herbert
Bob Herbert also makes a great argument when he states that albeit the Brown v. Board of Education, a form of educational segregation still exists.  Herbert identifies the issue of poor communities v. rich ones and that poor communities contain a majority of people of different ethnicities. The poor communities have lower performing schools where the students do more poorly than their peers who belong to nicer middle-class schools.  He says that the poor children are proven to do better when they are immersed with their peers who go to better schools. However, one thing we can do to improve the education of poor children is to create better environments that are not so heavily bogged down by poverty and this is when we will see progress.  According to Herbert we could be more integrated than we are now as a society and that when it comes to race relations we are silenced and we tend to avoid it.

Allan G. Johnson's article can be applied to this whole thing from the time of Brown v. Board of Education.  Whiteness is favored in American society and they have certain privileges because of that. Just as much there is a privilege that is associated with people who have more money and belong to a higher social status.  Tim Wise argues that white privilege is a problem because it makes an archetype for our black counterparts which isn't fair.  If you look back out Delpit's article, The Silenced Dialogue you also see where black teachers had to say "silent" because their white counterparts just always assumed they were correct.  Herbert illuminates the issue of privilege when it comes to social class. The better neighborhoods receive better teachers and resources where the struggling poor neighborhoods seem to be forgotten.  

Whiteness and Property Ownership are two things in American society that have always been present. To cite some examples from the Brown v. Board of Education website, The Jim Crow laws that segregated people of color, the highly offensive advertising cards that depict all people of color beside very demeaning light, and the formation the Ku Klux Klan that was formed to combat the Reconstruction Reforms and intimidate black people. These are more examples of racism then it is of white privilege but these events are apart of our society's history and these events in a way have contributed to the present day white privilege.  When it comes to social status, the website illuminates that most of the African Americans were poor and when it came to their right to vote, white people still found ways to make it nearly impossible to achieve that by instituting poll taxes, which many black people and poor white people couldn't afford. Also, black and poor children had schools in very poor condition. Most of the money was given to the white students' school.

Points To Share:

Herbert makes a very interesting claim that we are still in a way segregated. Do you agree with this? How does whiteness/property ownership play a role in this theory. How can we combat white privilege to make society more integrated?


Sunday, October 27, 2013

In the Service of Charity...or Change?

Talking Points #6 - Argument on "In the Service of What?" by Kahne and Westheimer

First of all, let me say that all these articles that we have read class so far has made me look life at differently.  Am I the only one who is psychoanalyzing everything that I do now?  I have to constantly catch myself saying the phrase "good job" and now this article has challenged me to think about the motives of my own service learning!  Am I giving or caring? I ask that question because that's the central argument in this entire piece.

Kahne and Westhimer give a brief historical background about Service Learning and the benefits that come from it.  However, they illustrate two different types of Service Learning, charity and change. Who knew there was a difference between charity and change? I was always under the impression that if philanthropic you're fighting for a change.  Charity is just merely giving to someone that is in need whereas, when you do something for change you are caring because you learn to understand the people that are in need.  Or how Kahne and Westheimer put it, change becomes present when "the others reality becomes a real possibility for me." 

The first example provided is the differing service learning project techniques between Mr. Johnson's class and that of Ms. Adams'.  Johnson let his students decide what they wanted to do and every kid had a different service learning project that dealt with different issues.  However, Ms Adams opted for a different route and decided to pick homelessness as the center for their project and every kid had to do something regarding that issue.  Ms. Adams' class learned about their topic before going out their and actually doing their service learning project.  These two classrooms dealt more with charity than change becuase like Kahne and Westheimer said, most students would just do chores and not really help anybody.

I understand what they are saying somewhat.  They are arguing that service learning should be more than just giving! For example, if you are feeding homeless people at a soup kitchen, you should strive more than just to serve them a plate.  The true service leaning comes from when you can learn from the homeless people.  Success is reached when you can take something away from it that changes your mindset. Basically to implement change is to analyze the issues that get those homeless people in that situation to begin and to see how we can change that. Think back to when Kahne and Wertheimer talked about how the parents from the wealthy school had a problem with their children going to a poor school.  They were surprised to find out that the kids at the poor school were some of the nicest people they have ever met! This is an example of change! They were able to leave with a different mindset.

I can relate this article to Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job, only because these articles both gave
me something to really think about  that never even crossed my mind before and that's how they intersect.  Much like I never realized how detrimental it was to say "Good Job" to a child, I never knew how much the word "charity" was different from what I thought it was.  Charity is just the act of giving and it doesn't do anything to change the world. Sometimes the world doesn't need a "homeless survival kit" but rather someone to understand what social issues got them there to begin with and work towards changing that! So I will not say I that I'm involved charity but rather I'm involved with change. However, I will forever say good job whether or not it's psychologically bad for a child. Sorry but I like saying it

When I think of my service learning at my elementary school, I wonder if I'm working towards charity or change.  I work with behavioral students and sometimes I feel like I'm doing the same things over again and the kids are getting bored.  I never want to be that person that just shows up to just to get their hours in. I've made every effort to really get to know these kids to find out what they like and now I'm more confident in taking control over the assignments for the day!  I know I'm supposed to follow the reading coach's instructions but the kids don't like doing the same things over and over again! I feel like these teacher's fail to understand these students aren't stupid just because they have behavioral issues. Their goal is for change, to get these students to a higher reading level but they are failing to see the issues surrounding this! So I'm taking this service learning opportunity as a change not charity. I'm not going to simple give them assignments to do. I'm going to be creative and see what inspires them to learn and what makes them not want to learn! I will get those students to a higher reading level! 

Points To Share:

What can we do with our own service learning projects this semester that will help promote change rather than charity?  I personally after reading this article have been even more motivated. If you think about it, when we visit these classrooms the kids are so used to see people come and go so they really aren't getting any stability.  What are they learning? Are they actually learning from us? How can we change these kids' lives? 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hey Disney! Why So Secretive? (The SCWAAMP Reality Of The Secret Education)

Talking Points #5 - Connections (Based on Christensen's "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us")

Let me start off by saying that I was super excited to read this article because it deals with the media and pop culture, two of my favorite things! I decided that for this week I would do a connections piece because I'm currently doing a research paper for my English 202 class on the same topic of Disney and the favorited ideologies found within each of the animated films. So I will be using Disney's animated features as the focal point as I use Christensen's piece and other great texts as navigational devices to show how SCWAAMP appears in these films.  I will refer back to many previous class readings we did but the major piece I'm connecting will be SCWAAMP.  This will be a rather long blog because I will try and hit every ideology of SCWAAMP but the information that follows will be so entertaining and interesting that will leave you in awe on how many things you didn't know about your beloved childhood movies. 


Typical Prince and Princess!
(Cinderella and Prince Charming)
Christensen did a very good job pointing out how women and other non-white races may be oppressed in
Disney Films but she forgot about one important group in that list, The LGBT community.  Where is the LGBT community in Disney Films? Gerri August would definitely disagree with Disney on this issue. By actively not acknowledging the existence of LGBT individuals, you're erasing them and this is absolutely detrimental to their psychological growth development. Gay and lesbians characters aren't explicitly promoted by Disney, so if you search for gay individuals in these films your less likely to find them.  However, it would be easier to focus on the absence of LGBT characters and how heterosexuality is being instilled as the dominant ideology by Disney. A typical Disney Movie follows this basic formula: a man(prince) and a woman(princess) fall in love and live happily ever after.  When children watch these movies "in the warmth of their mother's or father's laps" it "becomes accepted knowledge."  Unfortunately, they are presented that the only kind of love acceptable is heterosexual love.  So, if a gay or lesbian or even transgender child are watching these movies they are being erased, they aren't able to connect to any character in the movie. What if this child is watching these movies with their two dads or two moms? How is this going to make them feel? Their family life will seem unimportant.

However there is one critic out there that argues Disney's Beauty and The Beast is a story in which all the three main characters are gay (Belle, Gaston, and Beast). The article is entitled "Yep Gaston's Gay: Disney and The Beauty of a Beastly Love" by Peter Steeves. He goes on to say that Gaston and Beast are gay but that Gaston has seen how society treats gay individuals so he's forced to hide it while Beast is locked away in his castle for about twenty years and isn't to privy to the straight privilege that exists in society. Steeves also goes on to say that Belle is a lesbian because she had the opportunity to marry almost every guy in town and consistently turned them down. He mentions that the only reason the Beast falls for Belle is because the curse calls for a woman to break the curse. It's something to think about that's for sure. However, I'll still be waiting to see a gay hero as the leading part in a Disney animated feature.


Frollo threatening Esmerelda
Christianity is the dominant ideology of religion in America and is one of the hardest to find in Disney Films.  This is another ideology that Christensen doesn't really hone in on as much because you really have to study the films carefully to find it.  There is only one Disney Film that comes directly to mind when thinking about Christianity playing a critical role in the plot and that movie is The Hunchback of Notre Dame which was released in 1996 during the Eisner Era.  The entire plot centers around the so called "outcasts" of Paris that is including the main protagonist Quasimodo and his gypsy friend Esmerelda.  The villain, Judge Claude Frollo is an evil man set to assassinate the entire gypsy population because he believes that they embody black magic.  In his mind they are anti-christians. What is this teaching, that every individual who practices a different religion, should be targeted? In a way, Frollo himself is a paradox to the plot.  He is a self dubbed "righteous" man but his actions contradict that statement.  If anyone is anti-christian in the film it would be him.  We see him in the beginning of the film kill Quasi's mother, who was also a gypsy.  He then is indebted with taking care of Quasi which he didn't want.  He's hellbent on killing the entire gypsy population of the present day and he is tempted by the seductiveness of Esmerelda.  He is sort of in lust with her.  

Notre Dame Cathedral
There is some form of justice at the end of the film when Frollo is defeated by the hero and all the "outcasts"can freely but is it enough to counter act the entire isolation of an entire group?  However, there is a positive connotation of Christianity in this film as well. The Notre Dame Cathedral is probably the focal point in the movie. Everything revovles around that church, Quasi is locked away there, the epic final battle takes place there, and it's sanctuary for the gypsies and outcasts.  The church is the only thing that can protect the gypsies from Frollo's wrath.  Sort of like St. Ann's Church in New York where Kozol met Cliffe. St. Ann's is located right in the center of a dangerous New York neighborhood that acts like sanctuary for the youth.  It's an escape and a positive environment for Cliffe and his peers. Getting back to The Hunchback, Frollo was the one negative force in this film that portrayed Christianity in a negative light. He was very strict to the word of God enforcing his values throughout society which isn't acceptable. However, he is defeated and that signals to children that his actions were bad and there are consequences for that.  Notre Dame a staple of Christianity served as a protection offering children the lesson that it will protect you at your worst times?  Is Christianity the only religion that can save you?

This picture made me chuckle a little bit lol


Tiana, Disney's first African American Princess
"A black Cinderella? Give me a break." Christensen is giving an account of one of her student's thoughts on the lack of black heroines in Disney films.  This student who's name is Kenya goes on to say the following as well, "Women who aren't white begin to feel left out and ugly because they never get to play the princesses. This is another major problem that has been reinforced in Disney's Animated Classics for years now. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney's first animated classic and was released in 1937. Since that time there have been more than fifty Disney animated films produced and only one showcasing an African American as the lead.  The Princess and the Frog was released in 2009 with it's first black Princess named Tiana. I believe it was long overdue; 72 years since Disney's first princess. It's essential to incorporate everyone because when you marginalize certain groups it really does have a significant impact. It was fair that black children couldn't relate to the heroines/princesses. It's not just black kids, it's for every non-white child out there that feels excluded.

An interesting point to be noted is that villains like Maleficent and Ursula are not white. They are sinister and evil, out to destroy the Princesses in the film and Disney decides to make them of a different color. Why can't they be white like their counterparts in the film? One of Christensen's students pointed this out. "Look, Ursula the sea witch is ugly and smart. Hey she's kind of dark looking." Is Disney going to literal with the villains being dark and sinister? Is this implying that only people of color have to be villains. They should be only to be heroes too. We were first introduced to white privilege with Johnson and he mentions that it takes place whether you decide to acknowledge it or not. If you are not white, then there's a chance you've been discriminated against at some point in your life. Like the comparison he gave to a white homeless man to a black homeless man, society is going to give the black homeless man a harder than the white one.  I wonder if the same thought process subconsciously occurs when people compare Tiana from The Princess and The Frog to the other princesses. 


"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." Christensen has a lot to say about ablebodiedness in this text.  Disney heroines/princesses are expected to fit the Americanized idea of beauty. They need to be unrealistically slender and they need to exude some sort of charm. Only pretty skinny girls get to be princesses! This is the message that is being sent and I think it's disgusting because beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. To insinuate that only pretty girls get a happy ever after is very destructive to the psychology of little girls watching these films.  They start to constantly compare themselves to these characters and start becoming self conscious of their bodies. "When women do appear, they look like Jessica Rabbit or Playboy Centerfolds" (Christensen 130).

Who ever said big girls don't do it better than skinny girls
girls was obviously misinformed. Ursula you WORK IT!

One thing I noticed in Disney's The Little Mermaid, is that Ariel was disabled for most of the film. Many of you probably already know the story of Ariel making a deal with the Sea Witch Ursula that would make her human for three days. However, in order to make this happen Ariel needed to surrender her voice to Ursula. So for the majority of the films Ariel was a mute and it significantly made it harder for her. She was a mermaid turned human who also lost the capabilities to speak. How was she ever to land her man now that she couldn't speak?  Prince Eric and his subjects would also misconstrue what she intended to say. You could tell that it was obvious that they were treating her like a girl with a disability. This reminds me of Delpit's The Silenced Dialogue. Literally, Ariel couldn't speak and she was new that environment. Ariel wasn't apart of the culture of power because she wasn't being heard throughout the film. She wasn't heard even before she lost her voice. Her own father barely listened to what she wanted inevitably making her sell her soul to Ursula.  Much like the African American teachers who would raise questions to the white teachers but were never heard is almost identical to this situation. Christensen would say that Ariel's literal Silenced Dialogue had affect with her chance to land her man of her dreams. Remember only the perfect girl with no flaws got the Prince. For example, when Ursula used Ariel's voice and disguised herself as a human, Prince Eric was getting ready to leave Ariel. Really, you go for someone just because their voice sounds pretty!?

I would say that Ariel is not in the code of power!


Christensen gives us an example of how Americanness is favored in society via a Popeye episode. "Ali
Baba and the 40 Thieves," that depicts all Arabs with the same face, same turban, same body--and they are all thieves swinging enormous swords" (130).  This misrepresentation of the Arab community is not good because the children watching this are going to assume all Arabs are thieves and that is racism at it's finest.  The hero of the cartoon is a white american man who helps stop the Arabs who are dubbed the "bad guys", implying the superiority of Americanness.  After all this cartoon was created and produced in America, so to see american as the the dominant ideology is not surprising.   

One Disney Classic that comes to mind, while thinking of society favoring Americanness is Lady and The Tramp. It's very subtle but I feel like there is some merit behind my philosophy.  From my perspective, the two Siamese Cats are a symbol that oppresses the oriental community.  Before, I state my reasons for my claim, I must provide you with some background information that will hopefully enlighten you about the claim I'm to make.  In 1882, this country constituted The Chinese Exclusion Act that lasted until December 17th, 1943.  This act prevented any Chinese or Oriental person from gaining citizenship into the country. When these said people tried to come to America to chase the American Dream they were sent and imprisoned at a place called Angel Island, which was like a cross between Ellis Island and Guantonomo Bay. This was the first time in American History that one Ethnic group was refused entry into the country.  Walt Disney was born in 1901 and lived in the country while the Exclusion Act was in effect.  Lady and The Tramp was released in 1955 but began production a few years before. 

Going back to the Siamese Cats in The Lady and the Tramp, they are presented as two menacing and evil characters.  They are the pets of Aunt Sarah who also a very mean character in the film. These two Oriental cats are literally confined to Aunt Sarah's carrying basket and are only seen when she leaves. Once they are out of the basket they release their hell on poor Lady who in the end gets blamed for all their wrong doings. When the Chinese were sent to Angel Island they were literally imprisoned in cell for numerous years and put to work for a country they weren't citizens, but prisoners for. So that basket that those cats are in are like the cell confining them.  Look what happened when they escaped, they caused trouble for the pure bread American girl, Lady.  Maybe I'm reading too much into it but I think it's subtly defaming the Oriental community. 

Americanness has been presented in many of the class readings so far, but the one that sticks out the most is Aria. Where Rodriguez was forced to give up his culture to fully become American. He was told to give up his Spanish roots and learn strictly English. When he didn't know English he felt confined sort of like he was placed in that basket with those two cats. He was isolated from the American Culture for not being American enough.  So much for the melting pot, huh?


"I don't want students to believe that change can be bought at the mall, nor do I want them thinking that the pinnacle of a woman's life is an "I do" that supposedly leads them to a "happily ever after." Christensen actively takes a stance on how maleness is a prominent ideology in society. When topics arise in the classroom of making the princess black or of a different ethnicity, Christensen doesn't believe that will fully eliminate other problems. She then uses the cartoon Popeye again to show how women are the submissive stereotype in most cartoons and that the man is the one that saves the day. 

The book that I read entitled Good Girls &Wicked Witches: Women in Disney's Feature Animation by Amy M. Davis illuminates women's role in Disney even more. This book is a very enjoyable read and provides you with a lot to think about. To begin let's talk about the heroines/princesses of the Disney Films. Davis states that these princesses including Snow White and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) attain their happy endings by doing absolutely nothing. Passivity is key to happiness in women. She then argues that the female Disney Villains are the hard working, go-getters, that work hard to try attain their own happy ending but fail miserably all the time. This definitely says something about how women were perceived in this time period. It's implying that women should be passive and that happiness will eventually come to you no matter how long you wait. This is definitely hindering to all female because it's teaching them to not be independent individuals. To show hard working women getting defeated is detrimental because it's reinforcing the fact that women need a man to rely on, which I think is total B.S. To be honest I've always liked the villains much more than the so-called "heroes." At least a villain will try to get shit done and they look fabulous doing it!


It was also brought up how the women in the Disney Film is always willing to give her life up for the man. Almost every Princess leaves her life behind to start a new one with her man.  Why do women have to give up their lives in order to appease their suitors. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel gives up everything her whole life under the sea just to be with a man. She had to grow accustomed to a whole new way of life just so that she could be with him. This shouldn't be a message that young girls are receiving. 

Ariel willing to give up her life!

Finally, the role of the man in the film! As mentioned earlier, Aurora literally did nothing but sleep and she still got her man. She was asleep practically half the movie and all her wishes come true without her having to work for it. Prince Phillip in the Sleeping Beauty is given all the praise by defeating Maleficent. Look at the prince in Snow White who only made like fifty second cameo throughout and received all the praise. He was praised for saving Snow White by bringing her back to life. The dwarfs also get credited for defeating the witch. No matter how long a man is in these films they always end up looking the hero at the end and they receive all the credit. However, in later Disney Films this started to shift as women were given roles that showed them as the heroes.

Property Ownership:

Snow White's Castle
This one is kind of obvious in Disney Films.  Property ownership plays a significant part in most of Disney's animated classics. If you look at the features that contain Princess and Princes such as Snow White, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast you see that property ownership plays a significant part. The same message is being put forth in all of these films, that you need to find a man that's filthy rich, that has a high social class, and that owns a lavish mansion, in order to live happier ever after. If the heroines are not already heir to their own family fortunes, they end up attaining some type of fortune by the end of film, most typically when they meet their "prince charming." Is money really that important? I don't like this message that Disney is implying through children's movies because the idea of meeting the man of your dreams and whisking away to his mansion in a fairy tale land, is pretty convoluted. Money isn't synonymous with happiness. 

Castle in Beauty and The Beast

Do you think that movies really have a huge impact on children? Do children really absorb these subtle messages and the ideologies of society they represent? Is there anything that parents can do or say to their children while watching these beloved classics or should the movies just not be watched anymore? I personally feel that Disney needs to take bigger "risks" and and try to relate to everyone to avoid marginalization.