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?