Blog Post #9: The Control of Education in America

A good majority of our lives have been revolved around school. We have adapted to schedules, syllabus, teachers and professors, falling into this pattern of certain teaching methods and learning procedures. We fall head over heels for our teachers — sometimes seen as intimidating authority figures — in order to get the best scores for our class. Why do students go through this? Who is controlling education in America? In other words, who is controlling us, the students? It is a common misconception to believe that this is the work of the teachers. It is simply easier to think teachers are the ones in power because they are the ones teaching the information to students. Although, teachers are a factor to education in America, they are just a smaller piece to the bigger picture. When thinking about this question, we must consider the grand scheme of how schools keep going: funding. Schools (public schools in particular) get their funding from many sources: donations, fundraisers, taxes, and the two that we want to focus on today –federal and state governments. According to American Education, there are three main ways political control is exercised in schools: “one way is voting for representatives in the federal and state governments that legislate education policies. The second is through voting for local school boards. A third way is through parents voting with their feet by deciding to exercise choice regarding what school their children attend” (Spring 219).

As said, factors such as voting in local school boards and parents exercising their rights of the children do play parts into the control of education, only they are localized.  Looking at who controls our children’s education may seem like it is in the hands of the district which you live, but there is actually a greater power we often forget to ponder — our state and federal government. I believe state and federal governments control a majority of how our educational system in America is today. There are pros and cons to this case, some of which highly help or hinder a students’ progress in school. Of all that, it is necessary for state and federal governments to have control over education for many reasons. State governments have their own standards and curriculum for every student to meet in order to move to the next grade level. This is organized by state to keep track of records, students’ improvement, and how states are ranked educationally.  A con of state standards are standardized tests. Over time, standardized tests have become inapplicable and unconnected to a students’ growth. The goal is that they are supposed to measure a student’s individual performance. All students learn differently, so when it comes time to take a standardized test, some students will perform successfully simply because they are good test takers while others will perform poorly because their strengths in learning lie elsewhere (essays, creative projects, verbal testing, etc.).  The pros of state and federal government having control over education is their funding and support for school choice. The text book mentions how the 2016 Republican Platform was very accommodating and supportive of alternative ways of learning: “We support options for learning, including home schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early college high schools. We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits” (Spring 223).

Overall, I do believe it is the state and federal governments that control education in America. Yes, there are other factors, but these factors all combine into what is in the hands of the governments. It is up to them what goes into students’ curriculum, certain testing, teaching methods, and passing acts specifically dealing with education. Federal and state governments have the power to create or tear down schools, implement new rules, and design new programs.

Blog Post #8: Queer Theory in Schools

The concept of queer theory is a common misconception among people who aren’t familiar with the LGBTQ+ community.  Not only that, this is a term that’s become the punchline of jokes with offensive/harmful intentions. While many people believe the term ‘queer’ itself is used to describe anyone different — gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, etc. — it comes to be much more deeper than just that. One of the problems that queer theory faces is the association it carries in schools. Many people, including teachers, are almost too fearful of mentioning anything about this topic because of the unfamiliarity of it all. Someone who isn’t a person of the LGBTQ+ community may feel uncomfortable addressing the subject in school, especially if their beliefs are accounted for. There are many reactions that can be stirred up when discussing this subject, both positive and negative. Although, teachers who choose to ignore (blind eye) the queer theory are harming more individuals than just the LGBTQ+ community. Not mentioning this theory and the aspects within it will leave both teachers and students less informed on a subject that is very prevalent in today’s society. As students progress into the real world, it may be seen as uncomfortable for them to work with people who are apart of this community, making it harder for them to succeed in their career. According to the article, “But I’m Not Gay”: What Straight Teachers Need to Know about Queer Theory, “Many people have never questioned or examined how gender shapes our daily behaviors. The invisible nature of how masculinity and femininity are taught to children contributes to its strength” (Meyer). This sentence basically suggests how it is really up to adults (parents, teachers, guardians) on how children will percieve queer theory and continue to build on those opinions as they grow older.

If teachers were to mention ideas about queer theory in their classroom, I predict a majority of students having little to no prior knowledge, while also percieving a negative connotation about the topic. In order to change the stereotypical attitudes towards queer theory and its community, teachers should first start by introducing the topic in a positive manner. If students dug deep into the history of queer theory and heard people’s stories, they will possibly feel both empathy and sadness due to the backlash it has gotten. This topic, which is very controversial, may anger some students and even their parents based off their own beliefs. There will be anger and complaints, although we must remember we are living in a time of growth and progress. Eventually, we must rid of the more known traditional values and accept the revolvement of a new world.

Blog Post #7: Multicultural and Multilingual Education

As a future educator for young children, one of my priorities is to implement diversity and importance of inclusion within my classroom. After LC I’s lesson on gender stereotypes, my eyes have been opened to a complete new way of thinking. Growing up, I never realized how often sexism was prevalent in our society and way of living. For example, anything (toys, clothes, books) associated with the color pink is strictly for girls while things associated with blue is strictly for boys. When we think of buying gifts for children, we often choose which items to purchase based off their gender. Sparkly, fluffy, bright, cute = girls; while tough, mighty, active = boys. Why have we been almost “trained” to think this way? In many cultures similar to the “American Dream”, it is common, almost obligatory, for men to go to work and provide a living for their own families while women stay home to cook and clean. From then on, society has had a fixed view on each of the genders, then projecting these stereotypes out onto children’s toys, clothes, and even in schools. I believe the same thing goes for different races and cultures. After watching the doll video LC I showed the class, I was left both devastated and compelled for the children. This again poses the question, why/how have the kids been trained to think this way? There are many factors that play a role in this issue, starting with surroundings. What’s seen on TV and the media? Usually people with lighter/paler skin, acting in movies and shows dressed in makeup and nice clothes. Kids see this and then associate certain skin colors with certain situations/attitudes.

In order to eliminate cultural bias and gender stereotypes within my own classroom, I think the first step is to be as open minded and accepting as possible. Doing this will not only allow students to be comfortable with me, but to see and experience the joy and bond that will become of each other. Implementing culture days/lessons is another way for students to become aware of other cultures from their own. It will also allow them to find interest within their own background, becoming invested and interested about things that are personal to them. One of the reasons why stereotypes and bias exist in classrooms is because of what teacher’s choose to do with their authority, like giving blue folders to boys and pink folders to girls. Although this may not seem like a big issue, it can be a start to one.

Blog Post #6: Service Learning

  1. The article by Maylan Dunn-Kenney proposes a case study observing behavior and relationships between the participants and children of this study. The participants in this study are graduate students (all female, with different undergraduate backgrounds), whose duties are to travel to poor communities to organize and perform service activities — hopefully to improve the quality of a place with a reputation of frequent physical violence. At the end of this study, Dunn sits down with the participants to gather and evaluate each of their thoughts and experiences about the study. According to the article, “many students apparently learned a great deal from their work at the partnership center. On the other hand, this assignment also resulted in significant student resistance” (Dunn-Kenney 41). Many of the students had predisposed stereotypes going into this service, which is why they questioned whether or not the site was  safe, even though no violent disturbances occurred. Once actually immersed in the service, students expressed their surprise when they observed students’ behavior. One student, Jamie, who organized the Peace Fair, said many of the children were excited and willing to participate on a rainy day. In her service log she wrote: “I was definitely shocked at how little the children had. I told myself these children need you today so try to put all that aside and make a difference in a child’s life today” (Dunn-Kenney 42). Another student mentioned her experience with teaching children manners. She was impressed with how quickly and easily the children listened and modeled after her. Both of these encounters proved their cultural bias wrong and opened their minds to a new perspective.
  2. My service takes place at Marion-Sterling Elementary School in Cleveland (Carroll Reads). I tutor 1st-2nd graders with reading and writing skills on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. I first heard of this service from my friend, a former Carroll Reads tutor, expressing her concern with how behind these children are in literacy skills for their age. Since this school is the the inner city, it’s understood that the administration may not have the best resources for each student to learn efficiently. I chose to do this service because I want to make a difference in the lives of children who need it the most. Although I believe every student deserves an equal opportunity in education, realistically it is hard to achieve that. There are rich communities that continue to get richer, and poor communities that continue to get poorer.
  3. Each time spent at service is a new learning experience for both the students and myself. I am able to gain teaching skills that will prepare me for the future while the child learns skills to better their reading and writing. I cherish my time spent here because of the meaningful relationships I have formed with each of my students. Each session, I sense the children becoming more open and comfortable towards me, acting as both a tutor and mentor/safe place for them to express their feelings.
  4. My service has opened up my mind to be more self aware and immersed in my surroundings. My experience at an inner-city school has exposed me to a whole new world of education. Growing up, I was always fortunate enough to receive a distinct education at top ranked schools. Now getting just a little taste of how these children grow, I understand that this is all they know. It is tough to think about how there are kids, the same age as them, receiving a much more prominent education in another town over because that area is wealthy and this area is not. I learned to not take my education for granted, especially simple skills like writing and reading. I understand that this may not come easy for everyone due to lack of resources or poor teaching.

Blog Post #5: Critical Pedagogy and Paulo Freire

Is there a right and wrong way to teach? How can teachers know which techniques effectively make a difference in their students’ learning growth and development? According to Paulo Freire’s essay, The Banking Concept of Education, certain methods of teaching will help or hinder a student’s will to learn. Discussed in Freire’s essay, the banking concept and the problem posing approach are two teaching methods, distinct from each other, that are used by teachers on a day to day basis. The banking concept can be described as nothing more than “an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and and the teacher is the depositor” (Freire 104), hence the term ‘banking’. Known as also the ‘traditional’ method of teaching, this system expects very little from students. Teachers stand at the front of the room, spewing out heaps of information, all while their students “patiently receive, memorize, and repeat” (Freire 104). The use of this method in classrooms can be strongly discouraging to students, especially at a younger age. It is important and necessary for children to interact, discuss, and preform ‘hands-on’ activities in order to grow and build on these skills as they progress forward. The banking concept offers zero communication, where teachers may also be perceived as some superior authority figure. This causes students to feel uncomfortable in classroom settings, inhibiting their motivation to learn but instead be feared into attaining good scores and letter grades. Fortunately, the banking concept is not a mandatory method of teaching. Over time, teachers and administrators have gained new ideas and skills in order to create a learning environment that builds on teacher-student and student-student relationships. This new method of teaching, called the problem-posing approach, emphasizes “the essence of consciousness — intentionality — rejects communiques and embodies communication” (Freire 109). Implementing this method means to be free of all things banking concept. Problem-posing must be used to its full advantage, with no other barriers in its way. Through dialogue and healthy discussions, no one is being taught at. Everyone is learning through and from each other. Students (and teachers) minds become more open and flexible to opinions different from their own. Talking and communicating out loud with one another allows us to solve problems in multiple ways instead of just one. Students are no longer listeners but purely discoverers of their own journey.

Blog Post #4: Wide Awake

What does it mean to be wide awake? According to the article Wide-Awakeness and the Moral Life by Maxine Greene, to be wide awake means to be fully aware and self immersed among your surroundings. We often fall into the habit of routine, living each day the same as the other, drifting further from initiative and purpose. When doing the same thing everyday, it is inevitable that we fall into the pattern of a routine lifestyle. The article states the opposite of wide awakeness as indifference, defined as, “a lack of care, an absence of concern. Lacking wide-awakeness, I want to argue, individuals are likely to drift, to act on impulses of expediency” (Greene 218). When we lack wide-awakeness we lack the urgency to care. We then not only forget why we do what we do (career, school, sports, etc.), but we lose our passion that activated these routines for us along the way. In order to ensure that we as teachers are “wide awake”, it is important to be mindful of our method of teaching and the way it effects students is truly efficient. First by taking time out of class to discuss the lives of the students, world issues, or other concerns, will not only show the students you care, but allow them to become comfortable and be more open to learn in this type of environment. Finding an effective method of teaching for your classroom will take trial and error. You will find that some plans may not work out for each student, which will enable you to explore different ways to teach. Another way to have a sense of moral agency is to reflect on your actions as a teacher after each work day. Either by writing things down or taking mental notes gives yourself feedback on how to improve your teaching and know what works. I find that Greene’s wide-awakeness can be connected to Dewey’s Pedagogic Creed because these two methods focus on the concept of social interaction and engagement within school. The traditional method of learning has become so barren and almost helpless in a sense that many students strive to do well in school simply for a letter grade, rather than wanting to actually learn or grow at something. I believe that by learning more about these concepts and implementing them into our future classrooms will enable better student-teacher relationships and successful learning in the classroom.

Blog Post #3: Equality of Opportunity in Education

The human capital theory revolves around the spending of money in education in order to promote economic growth, lessen poverty rates, and improve personal incomes. In summary, the more money put into schools means more benefits for the community as a whole. This idea claims to better the quality of a child’s education starting as early as preschool, where “funding of preschool education from zero to four years of age will improve their chances of employment” (Spring 93). Investing money in early-childhood education allows for the benefits of students to be carried all throughout their 12 years of schooling, increasing graduation rates and the overall strength of the economy. The human capital theory in rich communities calls for the finest teachers, resources, and amenities. Increasing the money spent in these areas allows for students to continue to flourish within this environment, as the district maintains their distinctive reputation. The question is, can the human capital theory influence schools in a way to efficiently provide equality of opportunity for all students, especially those in poverty stricken areas? How can this idea benefit children of low-income backgrounds when they are at a clear disadvantage from students with a middle to upper class background? It is important to consider other factors than just poor education. There are also “low quality housing, poor diet, poor medical care, health problems, and high rates of absenteeism from school and work” (Spring 95). Antipoverty programs like Head Start “give poor children a head start on schooling that allows them to compete on equal terms with other children” (Spring 96). According to the War on Poverty model shown in the textbook, the human capital theory can eliminate (or greatly decrease) many of these issues by offering compensatory education and services to those in need.