Thursday, April 14, 2016


Empowering Education
By: Ira Shor


This piece was definitely a good last reading for the semester. It touched upon almost everything that we have talked about or read about from the other authors. It was also a good piece to gain some insight from for being a teacher. The word pedagogy was used a billion times, and I was really confused until I looked it up.

1. “A curriculum that does not challenge the standard syllabus and conditions in society informs students that knowledge and the world are fixed and are fine the way they are, with no role for students to play in transforming them, and no need for change” (page 12).
In this quote Shor is expressing how schools need to challenge students because when they are not challenged, they are not growing in any way. Students need to be shown that their education, and their life, can mean something. If the curriculum presented to them doesn’t allow for any creativity or thought, then they are most likely not going to develop their own thoughts and opinions. This quote reminded me of Johnson’s reading. Johnson argued that in order for there to be any change in the world, people had to first acknowledge the problem and “say the words”. Students need to be given the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and ideas, and they shouldn’t be taught that there is no need for change.

2. “Students learn that education is something to put up with, to tolerate as best they can, to obey, or to resist” (page 26).
In this quote Shor is explaining that when students are taught with no participation from them, they begin to see education as something they just have to get through. Often times, they start to resist the education. This relates to Finn’s reading and Anyon’s study of the different social classes. In the working class schools, where there was no collaboration from the students, the dominant theme was resistance. The students would be violent, there would be vandalism, and behaviors would get out of control. Shor argues that students need to be able to work with their teachers in order to get the most out of their education instead of seeing as “something to put up with”.

3. “In traditional classrooms, teachers routinely begin by defining the subject matter and the proper feeling to have about the material rather than by asking students to define their sense of it and feeling about it, and building from there” (page 29).
In this quote Shor explains how students are often told how they should feel about a subject. The teacher introduces a topic by explaining whether it is good or bad, or how the students should think or feel about the topic. This Shor argues that this doesn’t allow for any critical thinking or creativity in students. They should be given the opportunity and the chances to form their own thoughts and opinions on topics. I liked the examples Shor gave in the reading of when he would introduce a topic to his students and then have them write about it before he went into detail. This gave the students a chance to put together what they were thinking, form an opinion, and then gain knowledge from their teacher about the subject.

Point to Share:

Since our class focuses a lot on social justice issues, I liked how this was also brought up in the reading. A teacher that Shor quoted from said, “Children often can be heard saying ‘But that’s not fair.’ They understand the importance of dealing equitably with each other” (page 45). This is so true. I probably hear kids saying that at work every day. They really do understand when things aren’t right. Whether someone got more crackers than them or someone got to play with a toy longer, children will always call them out. I think adults need to do this more often. As Johnson would suggest, and I think Shor would agree, we need to bring up the problems, and find a way to change them.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome
By: Christopher Kliewer


Once I got a few pages into this reading, I really enjoyed it. It has only been since this semester that I have given much thought to special education. Being in an inclusive classroom for service learning has even made me consider wanting to teach special education. I think the issues that Kliewer talks about are very important. Not all people with Down syndrome are the same, just like how not all people without disabilities are the same. Some students would very well benefit from being in a general education classroom rather than being secluded in a special education classroom. They would learn so much more and be at their greatest potential.

I thought all of the examples/stories that Kliewer used really showed how individuals with disabilities can succeed without being thought of as less than others. Specifically, the story of Christine switching to general education classes at a public high school was very inspiring. When she first started at the school, she brought with her so many negative labels about what she couldn’t do. By the time even just one year was over, she had improved in every category. If students with disabilities were given the chances and opportunities to succeed, then they would. In my service learning classroom there are 7 students with IEPs. I have been in the classroom now for over seven weeks, and in that short period of time I have seen so much growth in all of those students. One girl is on her way to taking steps without her walker, and another is counting to 12 when his IEP goal is only to count to 8 by June. Seeing these students succeed really emphasizes for me why I want to be a teacher.

The main focus of this chapter was citizenship in schools. I thought Kliewer definitely brought his point across using the various stories. No one deserves to be excluded from something, especially from an education. Kliewer said, “The movement to merge the education of children with and without disabilities is based on the belief that to enter the dialogue of citizenship does not require spoken, or indeed outspoken, language. Rather, communication is built on one’s ability to listen deeply to others” (Page 73). I think this quote is a good representation of Kliewer’s argument.

This piece definitely relates to August’s idea of safe spaces. Students with disabilities need to feel like they are accepted and that they belong. One of the students that Kliewer talked about, John, moved from one city in California to another where he was more accepted. John’s sibling said, “It’s safe – what he calls a ‘safe space’. Like a lot of people in Mendocino, he’s accepted for what he is, not what he isn’t. And he can concentrate on what he can do, instead of being shown or being told what he can’t do” (Page 86). John was able to succeed in a place where he felt he belonged, in a place where he was safe.

Point to Share:

I think it’s important for people to focus on strengths rather than the things someone can’t do. Just because someone has been labeled with a disability, doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. I liked a quote from the girl Christine that Kliewer talks about, “I have Down syndrome, but I am not handicapped” (page 93).

Monday, April 4, 2016

Social Justice Event

Transforming the Teaching Profession: Learning from Teachers of Diverse Populations
Dr. Sonia Nieto

For my social justice event I attended a talk by Dr. Sonia Nieto. The talk was called “Transforming the Teaching Profession: Learning from Teachers of Diverse Populations”. The event took place Monday April 4th in the Student Union Ballroom, and there were probably about a hundred people there. This was a really great talk, and I’m glad I chose this as my event to attend. The event was a 20th anniversary lecture since Dr. Nieto spoke on diversity at RIC 20 years ago. At the beginning of the presentation, a video was shown of her lecture 20 years ago. The topic then was also about social justice in education, and the topic today was about how social justice in education has changed since then. Dr. Nieto discussed social justice in education is “a set of beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors about teaching and learning and about students.” Social justice in education is needed now more than ever in schools, but it is hard to accomplish and it takes commitment. Dr. Nieto said there are three barriers of social political context of schools and society. These include, societal barriers, school-based barriers, and ideological barriers. I agree with her because without these barriers, there would be a much greater chance at social justice in education. From the readings we have done in class and from my service learning experiences, it is obvious that these barriers exist. Dr. Nieto talked about two of her books, “Why We Teach” (2005) and “Why We Teach Now” (2015). In both of these books, she had various teachers write essays about why they teach. The responses ranged from teaching to define identity to teaching and fighting back. The responses and the teachers that Dr. Nieto talked about were interesting to see how social justice in education has changed over the years. One of the teachers that Dr. Nieto spoke about was Mary Ginley. Many of the comments that Mary Ginley made really stood out to me. Specifically she wrote about her experiences with a fifth grade boy who told her he was going to be a good dad because he had her as a teacher, after his own dad had been physically abusive to his mom and verbally abusive to him. Mary Ginley recounted this as a reason that she teaches. She said, “There are kids who need good teachers.” These kinds of stories also help me realize why I want to be a teacher.

Dr. Nieto talked about what is the same and what is different in education since her first lecture 20 years ago, and I found it really interesting.
What's the same:
- A sense of mission
- Empathy for students
- Courage to question conventional wisdom
- Improvisation
- Passion for social justice
What's different:
- High stakes testing frenzy
- A changing vocabulary
- Blaming
- Privatization
- Quick teacher prep
- Abandonment of public education

So I could probably relate this lecture to every author we have read this semester, but I’m going to focus on Finn, Johnson, and Kozol. When Dr. Nieto talked about school-based barriers, she mentioned how resources in schools are not based on need. Those schools that have the opportunity to attain resources do, and those who don’t have those opportunities don’t have the resources. In Finn’s article he talks about the differences in social classes in schools. Obviously, the working class schools don’t get as many resources as the AP or EE schools, when sometimes the working class schools are the ones who need the resources the most. At the end of the lecture, Dr. Nieto talked about how future teachers cannot go in with “rose colored glasses”. They need to know what they are getting into. I related this to Johnson. Topics of diversity and social justice are ones that need to be talked about in order for any change to be made. Johnson would argue that we need to “say the words” and talk about the issues if we want to see positive changes around them. When Dr. Nieto discussed ideological barriers to sociopolitical context of schools and society, she mentioned that they are both individual and institutional. Kozol talked about both the individual and institutional problems in education. Dr. Nieto and Kozol would agree that these include biases and stereotypes about race, ethnicity, culture, social class, and ability. Dr. Nieto discussed how there is an idea that intelligence is fixed and unchanging. They would also both agree that this is an idea that needs to be changed.

This is a link to Dr. Sonia Nieto’s website where she has information about herself, information on her books, and educational resources.

This article is about how teachers can be advocates for social justice in the classroom, while still engaging in best practices in teaching core subjects to their students.

This is a clip of a talk that Dr. Nieto gave a few years ago on diversity and thriving in schools. Seeing her in person, I think she was a great speaker, and I’d be interested to hear another lecture from her.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Literacy with an Attitude
By: Patrick Finn


In these chapters of Finn’s book, he shares a study that was completed by Jean Anyon who observed five schools in New Jersey that were of different social classes. Anyon compared these schools based on how the teachers taught and how the students learned in the classroom. It was interesting to read these comparisons and to think about how they were similar or different from my school growing up, and the school I am doing my service learning at.

At the end of chapter 2, Finn said, “Anyon’s study supports the findings of earlier observers that in American schools children of managers and owners are rewarded for initiative and assertiveness, while children of the working-class are rewarded for docility and obedience and punished for initiative and assertiveness” (page 20). Why should the social class of students, and the jobs their parents hold, determine what kind of education they are getting? This article I found explains how social class affects children. As discussed in Finn’s book, children of working class families are typically behind those students who grow up in affluent families. Families of high-paying jobs can afford to send their children to expensive schools, and buy their children extra things that may help them succeed. They may even have more time to spend helping their children with homework. On the other hand, students who grow up in working class families may not be getting that same support from their families, sometimes just due to lack of resources. Finn argues that these students need to be taught in a way that will allow them to bring about change in the world.

Another point that Finn brings up is the way teachers and students communicate. In the more affluent schools, students are invited to find answers themselves, and do problems their way. The opposite is true in schools with working-class students. When one student made a suggestion for a different way of doing something, the teacher responded, “No you don’t. You don’t even know what I’m making yet. Do it this way or it’s wrong” (page 10). There are definitely differences in the ways in which teachers communicate with their students and vice versa. This article gives an explanation behind this. The author shared a study that found, “…middle-class parents were more likely to coach their children to assert themselves in class. They were also more likely to get involved in classroom problems. Working-class parents, on the other hand, were less likely to encourage their children to ask questions and more likely to emphasize obedience and deference to teachers”. This reminded me of when Delpit discussed the differences in how people of authority ask questions and talk to students. As Delpit explains, children from working class families are more often told rather than questioned, and they learn to obey right away, while children from middle-class or upper-class families share their opinions and are also asked their opinions.

I found more connections in this piece than just Delpit. In the beginning, Finn talked about the haves and the have-nots. This is something that Kristof touched upon. He talked about how the haves usually grow up to be haves and the have-nots similarly continue to be have-nots. Finn talks about how the have-nots struggle when the haves are getting the better opportunities. I also found connections to McIntosh. The students in the middle-class and upper class schools may or may not realize that they are privileged over those students in working-class schools. They have more resources available to them, and they are being taught a completely different way. However, this may not always make them privileged because maybe the way in which working-class students are taught is really the better way for them.

Point to Share:

I think it’s obvious that it’s inevitable that students will group up in different social classes, and that they will attend different schools. However, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be given the same opportunities at a quality education. How can teachers help students learn to their fullest potential in the environment they live in?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

This American Life, Herbert, website

This American Life, Herbert: Separate and Unequal, Brown v. Board of Education website


The reporters in “This American Life, The Problem We All Live With Part I and II” argue that integrating schools is the best way to close the achievement gap, and give black students the same access to quality education as white students. In Part I, they discussed the school district of Normandy in Missouri. Teachers in this district “didn’t care”, and the district was on probation for 15 years. The students who lived in this district would benefit from an integration program because they don’t deserve not to get a quality education just because of where they live. Everyone should have the same opportunity. The reporters placed emphasis on how obvious it is that integration works, but districts are avoiding it. In Part II, they discussed a district in Hartford, Connecticut where families could choose integrated schools, but it wasn’t forced. The students who went to the integrated schools did better than when they were at their public schools. However, since the integrated magnet schools were on a lottery, many people couldn’t get it so they were stuck at the public schools that they wanted to get away from in the first place. The reporters argued that we need people of credibility to be talking about the importance of integration so people will start taking it seriously. Instead, more work is being done to fix segregated schools instead of integrating schools because that is the more comfortable option.

Bob Herbert argues in his article, “Separate and Unequal”, that “Schools are no longer legally segregated, but because of residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom, they most emphatically are in reality.” People will say that schools are no longer segregated by race, when in reality, many other factors are causing that to be true. Herbert points out that many people stay away from integration because it’s difficult and because they resist bringing about issues of race. However, it has been shown in the past that integration programs are what actually help students succeed and do better. Herbert said, “Everybody’s in favor of helping poor black kids do better in school, but the consensus is that those efforts are best confined to the kids’ own poor black neighborhoods.” As it was pointed out by the reporters in This American Life, if students are surrounded by other students who are all behind in school, then they are all going to stay behind in school. It is important to take steps to help all students do well, no matter their race, economic background, district they live in, etc.

Brown v. Board of Education was a 1954 Supreme Court decision that, “stripped away constitutional sanctions for segregation by race, and made equal opportunity in education the law of the land.” Since the decision education has been made “equal” for all students. This can only be done with integration. Every student, regardless of race, should be given the opportunity to have a quality education.

I saw many connections in these pieces to Kristof’s “U.S.A., Land of Limitations?” In districts where integration programs are not an option, these students are not being given an equal opportunity at quality education. Just because they live in a certain area, they have to go to a bad school. Kristof said, “Remember that disadvantage is less about income than environment.” Some kids are stuck in a place where they see no room for improvement. They haven’t been given the opportunity to try something new or see a different way a living. There could be much better possibilities for them if they were only given the chance to explore those possibilities.

Points to Share:

This was the most eye-opening week for me. The two listening episodes especially made me think. I think it’s important to teach all kids, but especially those living in poor districts, that there is more out there. But, in order to teach that to them, there has to be opportunities for them to explore those possibilities. Integration programs are a great example of this. I loved that the listening episodes were so recent because it just shows how relevant this issue is, and that there are actions being taken to help all students.

One quote from Part II that struck me was when one girl was talking about going from 1% white high school to a 75% white college. She talked about how people were so friendly and nice and she said, “You don’t know if it’s genuine because you’re not used to it.” It’s sad to think that people have to question the kindness of people because it’s something they’ve never seen before.