Sunday, March 27, 2011

Extended Comments: Nick's Post

"Society:*Gives a curt nod to Wise before clearing his throat* Thank you. The American people respectfully deny your misinformed claim. We admit that there are some instances that might appear to be segregation, but we assure the court that it is not. Where parents choose to reside is their decision, and consequently, that is where their children enroll in school.  People are habitual, they return to their roots, make friends with people of the same social status and race as them, and then live near one another.  It is not due to any actions on the part of anyone else. It is their decision. There are no excuses. And blaming the white population at large of 'segregation' is an excuse.
(Above quote is by Wise)"

Nick’s blog was so cool I decided to use if for “extended comments”, in particular answering his question about what we should do to end segregation in schools.  I had heard about a lot of trouble that came about in regards to busing in Boston in the 1970s in an attempt to end segregation.  (Here is a Wikipedia link about it: ; while I am well aware that it is the much feared Wikipedia, I contend that this is a digital medium, and Wikipedia is a useful place to get a brief, decent overview of the idea.)  Basically the idea Nick is getting at and the issue about busing students was this: if a neighborhood is predominantly of one race causing the neighborhood school to be of that race, is that segregation? If so, what can be done to end it? 
As Bob Herbert points out, poor minority kids do a lot better when they go to schools of mostly white middle class kids.  Herbert doesn’t make this claim explicitly, but I think it can be inferred that the consequence of doing this will be that those poor minority kids will grow up to be successful adults of color.  Which is what everyone wants right? Kids of all races to grow up to be successful?
The argument against taking explicit measures to integrate schools is discussed by Nick, and the result of busing in Boston.  Don’t kids have a right to go to their neighborhood school? I want an integrated school, but I would pretty mad if I had to go from my home in Lincoln, to say South Kingstown to go to school every day.  Not only would the drive annoy me, but I wouldn’t be able to make local friends.  As a result, I think I would be pretty resentful, and as a result I would probably become a lot more racist.  It’s hard to say what the solution is here.        

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Two styles of service learning projects


The authors of “In the Service of What?” describe two different types of service learning experiences.  Besides this project that we are working on now in the Providence schools I have been involved in a couple of other service learning projects during my days in public schools.  The first was when I was in fifth grade.  I think “service learning” must have been a real buzz word then because everyone was so excited about what we were doing, and talking about how great it was.  The project was actually pretty fun.  The school sought out veterans of WWII, and they ended up getting a pretty big response; I think there were about forty people who had actually been in combat or were doing something for the war effort on the home front.  In small groups of about three or four, we interviewed our veteran three or four times over the course of about six weeks.  Then each group wrote about their veteran’s life and all the writings were published in a pretty nice book.  I remember the man I interviewed.  His name was William Anthony, and he had also served in the Korean War where he had lost his hand when his plane was shot down.  He had some pretty great stories, and was just a really resourceful guy, especially considering his disability.  (For example, I remember that he had a “scoop” attachment as a prosthetic because it made playing tennis easier.)   
In addition to interviewing veterans, the whole grade studied WWII in Social Studies, drew pictures to illustrate our book in art, and worked on writing the reflections in Language Arts.  Obviously our “service learning” project didn’t really solve a problem the way that Kahne and Westhemier suggested a good project should, but since we did get to interact with individuals quite a lot, I think we went beyond just learning about a “spirit of altruism.”
I found this excellent service learning project video on Youtube.  These college students tutored prison inmates to help them pass their GED.  But the reflections they did on the last day of class indicate that this was more than charity, critical analysis was definitely involved.  For example, one girl notes,  “It’s kind of sad…What does that say about our society, that, like, prison, is some people’s only opportunity to get the education that they should have gotten in high school?”  Another young woman discusses the issue of black to white incarceration rates, and a young man describes how important he found the assigned reflections actually were.    

This is a link to the Maryland public schools website. . As the article mentioned, Maryland is one of the states that requires some community service in order to graduate.  However, this service is basically about forced volunteer work.  The projects that are suggested on this website are just about being charitable, not about reflecting and creating meaningful social change.  For example, in regards to projects about the environment the site suggests that these projects “are all about affecting the environment in a positive way. Many of these projects will include the restoration of indigenous species, the clean up of local landmarks, and promoting more environmentally friendly practices in the school and local community.  These appear to be project were students put in the required number of hours and then be done with the project.  This is not what service learning is all about according to the authors of “In the Service of What?”  Rather, service learning is about making meaninful connections and show students how they can make meaningful social changed

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Reflection about "Unlearning the Myths"

I have mixed feelings about this article by Linda Christensen.  I couldn’t agree with her more about most of what she writes.  At other times I think that no matter what the media portrayed she wouldn’t be satisfied with it.
I think Christensen is completely accurate when she writes that “most of the early information we receive about ‘others’ – people racially, religiously, or socioeconomically different from ourselves – does not come as a result of firsthand experience.  The secondhand information we receive has often been distorted” (126-127).  I think the author is right to point out that the media can have a significant influence on young people, and that it certainly conveys ideas about different groups of people.  Christensen also notes very astutely that it is painful to realize how much our worldview has been shaped by stereotypical patterns represented in the media we are presented with.  I also especially liked the way in which she encouraged students to have an impact on effecting how this media was presented to children.  “Instead of leaving students full of bile, standing around with their hands on their hips, shaking their heads about how bad the world is, I provided them the opportunity to make a difference.” (137)  In my opinion, this is the absolute best kind of education.  Doing something with the knowledge that is taught is how to make education relevant, meaningful, and effective. 
One critique I have of this author is that she seems to hate all mainstream children’s media.  To be sure, a lot of it is stereotypical, and Christensen has every reason to point it out. However, the impression I get is that Christensen would have a problem with every TV program or movie.  I think Christensen should have offered examples of some media that did a good job portraying women, minorities, and other groups that are often stereotyped.