Monday, June 21, 2010


Right at the onset, on page one of the Gerri August article, Making Room for One Another, she says that we educators guide the student's adventure through school - and that we do so with varying degrees of sensitivity and skill. This sounds like a castigation.

Are we arbiters for the status quo or should we facilitate change? Ms. August calls the change facilitators "democratic, emancipatory, transformative educators". By inference, these are the educators that are more likely to be supportive of  same-sex parents, and by extension, those that would be willing to introduce the issue in the classroom. Or at least not ignore it if the question is raised.

Question 1 - were you surprised that PBS cancelled the children's program episode that features lesbian parents? I was. I thought PBS, along with its radio counterpart, NPR, would be the first to jump on this type of programming. The reason for the cancellation was that "Congress never intended that RTL funding would introduce this kind of subject matter to children". There's the problem. The ones holding the purse strings have the last word.

Question 2 - at the bottom of page 8 of the article, it was said that "education in a just society needs to attend to not only academic but also moral concerns." Do you agree? Shouldn't morality be left at the school entrance, to be taught only at home and church?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I must say at the onset that I found it difficult to ascertain the author's argument. It took a couple of readings to begin to understand it. At the beginning of the piece, he states that "supporters of bilingual education today imply that students like me miss a great deal by not being taught in their family's language." Is the author dismissing the importance of bilingual education? This can't be. So his point for writing the article must be something else.

Later on he states that being taught in his native language would have "delayed having to learn the language of public society" (English in this case). Is he saying that little children can't learn two languages at the same time? This can't be. What I've learned about language acquisition tells me that a child can accomplish just that - as long as the delivery is consistent and separate.

I guess the point of the piece is to show how one's home language (Spanish in this case) ceases to exist when one is forced to only speak English as a means to acculturate into the mainstream. The author's teachers asked his parents to speak only English at home to help expedite the process. In the end the author says that it's not a bad thing - what one loses at home, one gains in public confidence.

I think the author missed his home language. The relationship between parents and children grew more distant after insisting on speaking English only. That's a shame. I strongly believe that children should not be forced to speak one language or the other. Even without ESL instruction, children should be allowed to have their private language at home, and their public language (English) at school. This way they'll grow up to be bi- or multi-lingual.

Monday, June 14, 2010



Mary's observation of a black gentleman's assessment of what it means to be black in America was interesting. The gentleman in question said that there's a "very narrow definition for what it means to be black in America". Moreover, the blacks that strive and succeed to escape that definition are said to sell out.

So are we talking about a class within a class? Maybe not racial class, but indeed social class. You have the "Cosby" black and the "nigger" black. This is how I've heard it from black comedians. You also have the light-skin blacks and the dark-skin blacks. I've been led to believe that these are actual sub-classes with the African-American community that are at odds with one another.

As for the gay community - you have the butch lesbians, lipstick lesbians, the drag queens, the A-list young gay men, the older gay crowd.

Who knows what other sub-classes exist? I keep harping on this - that everyone needs to belong. And if the group we belong to is sanctioned, so much the better. But be prepared to alienate the other sub-groups in your class.



I also played the People Like Us game, where in the end the player is classified into a social class merely for answering basic questions about their decor, food preference, and where they shop. Jill was a little upset at the audacity of people judging other people by such mundane criteria (I'm not quoting, just paraphrasing what I perceive Jill was saying). But she did say she became "aggravated".

My take on the game was one of amusement. While I agree that judgment can be hurtful - we are human and we judge. But I think the game was meant to be funny, if not outrageous (in the comical sense).

Jill argument is something like, "why can't I like champagne AND shop at Wal-Mart? Are social classes really so strictly defined?" I must admit that I love champagne. But I've also been known to buy underwear at (remember) K-Mart. And, as I think everyone should, I like to feel superior to those who buy their $5 AndrĂ© sparkling wine at the corner "package" store. I only drink French champagne. I'm not being mean-spirited though. We have to laugh sometimes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Today’s assignment was to surf the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) website. My original thought was, here we go, another special interest group organization. If minorities want to fit in and be like everyone else, why do they segregate themselves by forming “their” organizations? Why do we have BET? And Stonewall Democrats? These organizations seem to say, “Look at us, we’re different.”

But GLSEN is not one of these organizations. Their mission is not to cater only to gays, but to work towards safer schools and prevent damage to young lives. Their motto is that ALL students are valued and respected. They profess “empowerment” and “dialog” so that things can begin to change for GLBT students. They work to stamp out the name-calling and bullying that occur much too often in the nation’s schools. Their work is akin to that of the Gay Straight Alliance. Both organizations encourage student activism. You can visit the GSA website here. It contains an interesting article about Constance McMillen, a student activist, who challenged her school district's ban on same-sex couples attending the prom.

GLSEN held their 7th annual Respect awards this past May. These awards are given to individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, for their commitment to all of America’s students. Among the speakers and award recipients were Gene Robinson, the openly-gay Episcopal bishop, and Danielle Smith, student advocate of the year, who said, “This isn’t a gay movement, this is a civil rights movement.” This brings up a point.

Sometime last year, I was watching CPAN Book TV. A prominent author had just published his latest book. After discussing the book, which was about the “black” struggle for civil rights, the author took questions from the audience. A black woman stood up and challenged the way gays are now using the same arguments that blacks used in the struggle for civil rights. She was upset that someone (a gay activist) had cited Rosa Park’s brave deed as his motivation for change. The woman was basically saying, “I don’t like the gays’ stealing our struggle. Their struggle is different. It degrades our struggle.” The woman was clearly homophobic.

I found it very interesting that this woman felt this way. After all, she, better than anyone else, should be sympathetic to the gay struggle for equal rights.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Social class is, according to the program, the most important predictor of the kind of opportunities (financial and educational) that someone will have in life. We have the working-class, middle-class, and upper class. Withing each major class we have sub-classes. The black community, a racial class, has its own class structure - those who sold out by becoming like the culture of power and those who didn't.

It was said that social mobility is the hallmark of America. But is it true for all Americans? I don't think so. I believe many merely want to be reach their level of comfort and stay there. It's too taxing to constantly strive for more and more. Even if I were to win the lottery, would I change class, from middle-middle to elite? No. At my age, I'm forever trapped in middle-middle. Winning the lottery would only mean having nice things. I wouldn't start collecting pretentious art and join the country club.

Americans' life-long ambition is to fit in and impress friends and want to belong to the privileged group. So true. While I'm not a WASP, I'm glad I belong to the culture of power. When someone mistakenly groups me with Hispanics, I make it a point to correct them. Am I doing it for academic reasons, or because I don't want to be associated with a minority? Both. I'm not proud of that - but that's the world I live in.

Some of the comments in the program excerpts were downright funny. WASPS would never use artificial flowers! And the use of the term "hon" by stereotypical service workers does ring true in my experience. For the record, I don't like to be called "hon". I think its condescending coming from someone I don't know.

Surely, the United States have different social classes. But as one commentator said, the differences among the classes aren't so great as to create class warfare. After all, we all wear jeans and tennis shoes and eat fast food.

Finally, I especially liked the part of the program where strangers guess the social class of different individuals solely by looking at a photograph. The comments were stereotypical. But stereotypes had to come from someplace.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Patrick J. Finn, selected chapters from the book Literacy with an Attitude

Chapter 1 begins with a reference to Jonathan Kozol's book entitled Savage Inequalities, in which Kozol traces the unequal system of education between rich and poor to racial segregation and unequal school funding. Finn agrees with Kozol, but he concentrates on those sources of inequality that are, unlike segregation and lack of funding, very subtle and under the radar of the average parent and student - social class.

In chapter 2 Finn goes on to compare the teaching methods of five (mostly white) different schools in Northern New Jersey. The schools were classified according to social class, ranging from working-class to executive elite. Supposedly, each of the schools had different expectations of their students and tailored the instruction accordingly. Working-class children were learning to follow directions and perform low-paying jobs, while the executive elite were learning to be "masters of the world." The working-class children were punished for assertiveness and initiative and the elite children were rewarded for the same. This was still true in 1999, the year he published the aforementioned book.

In Kozol's book he mentions that we have a segregated system of education in which more experienced teachers teach the children of the privileged and the least experienced are sent to teach the children of minorities (page 8, Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid, Harper's Magazine, September, 1 2005). Going further, Finn sees the teachers as part of the problem, in that the teachers of the working-class children are less motivated and excited to teach than those of the elite. Is he suggesting that the former are less qualified when he states that "almost everyone had attended a state school for their teaching certification"? Finn suggests that the education system is rigged against the lower social classes. Both he and Kozol see the system as perpetuating inequality.