Thursday, February 23, 2006

Social Justice in Education

The question raised in this article is a very good one. Should schools be responsible for implementing and teaching social justice or this the job of society? The author of the article seems to argue that schools are a good place to start. Since schools have such an influence on children and many students come from families/backgrounds where they are unlikely to get proper education on pertinent issues at home, school may just be the best place for social justice education.

This, however, raises another issue: the issue of the hidden curriculum. Are schools unfairly geared towards the white middle class? Research shows that students tend to follow the academic pattern of their parents. Are underpriveleged children being given less opportunities to excel in school and to continue on to the postsecondary level?

To be honest, I am not even sure how to respond to this article. It seems like such a complicated issue with so many sides. While I definitely feel that schools should be a fair and just place, I recognize that this is both difficult and complicated. If you take some of the views in this article too the extreme, you end up with a very communistic society. Can this work? Furthermore, the author highlights that there are two definitions to the word justice. 1) question of fairness in distribution for thich the normal criterion is equality and 2) getting what one deserves. These definitions lead to differing conclusions in the social justice debate. Again, I have a hard time taking a firm stand-point on the issue because it is so complex. I do, however, believe that it is our responsibility as teachers (and citizens of earth) to develop an opinion on such issues by becoming informed and by ensuring that we are doing all that we can to put this into practice in our classroom. (Therefore, I plan to contemplate this issue further to discover my personal standpoint.)

ADO

This author definitely makes an interesting point! It is interesting how she shows the two extreme point of view on the subject in question: teaching Shakespeare in the classroom. I would have never thought of half of the objections that came up and I couldn't help but wonder if this article was slightly far-fetched. It does however bring up an excellent issue. What happens when we try and please everyone?

It is impossible to please everyone and this article does an excellent job of demonstrating this. By giving the students/parents too much say in regards to the curriculum, a teacher's job becomes nearly impossible. The one girl in her class took Christianity too far and objected to any reference to anything REMOTELY controversial. I thought this was absolutely ridiculous. This is not the way most Christians think and in my opinion, education on controversial issues and not ignorance is the answer. As Dr. Runte would say, however, this is only my opinion and who am I to say that this value system is the right one? It is mind boggling when you really think about the job we are preparing to undertake. If we set out trying to please everyone, we will doubtlessly fail miserably. Each individual must find their balance and possibly try and steer clear of any extremely controversial issues. Many parents are happy as long as they are informed. If teachers work on keeping the communication open, I think that parents are less likely to get upset.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Guest Speaker: Native History and Residential Schools

Wow! Although I had heard of residential schools before and it upset me at that time, I was really moved by the guest speaker and the video that we watched in class. For me, it really put things into perspective. Residential schools are not only a thing of the past, they have had devastating effects on the present. Many people will admit that residential schools were unjust but they do not see the link between them and the problems that native peoples are facing in the present.

Often we get defensive when we feel that we are being blamed for something that has happened. I too, used to get defensive when I was being labelled as the perpetrator for acts that my ancestors may have committed. The blame game also gets kind of confusing when you have ancestors of both peoples in your blood. I've realized lately that what it really boils down to is that somewhere inside of us, we are all capable of oppressing others and continue to contribute to the cycle of racism in our thoughts, actions and even our words. We need to stop being so defensive and stop passing the blame and simply ask what we can do now as living breathing individuals in our day and age to stop this vicious cycle.

The movie was definitely an eye-opener and highlighted only some of the horrific events that occured in residential schools. The one thing, I feel, that the movie did not emphasize enough, was the fact that all of society was responsible for what was happening and not only the catholic church. All too often, what happens with awful events like this one is that people try and find someone to blame in order to ease their own conscience. The church was not the sole perpetrator. In fact, many churches have begun holding APR hearings in order to allow native peoples to tell their stories and to receive the apology that they so desperately need to hear. They need to be validated and respected in order to put the past behind them and look forward to the future.

Monday, January 30, 2006

High School Science Teacher Takes Fun and Excitement out of Science

This article describes the lonely and hopeless existence of a Science teacher who bases his course on primarily lectures and a couple of experiments which he performs for the class (while finding ways to make even this change in routine dull and mind-numbing). While it is hard to take this article too seriously and believe that such a teacher exists, we have all had a less extreme version of this teacher. There are many teachers who make little effort to engage their students and simply teach the same boring lesson that they have taught for fifty years.

If I were to even bother criticizing this article (where to begin!), I would start out by pointing out a couple of major flaws in this teacher's philosophy. First of all, I believe that much of science is best understood through hands-on experimentation. Second, there are many different learning styles and direct instruction is not the preferred method for everyone. Besides, even for those who do like direct instruction, a little variety is always appreciated. One thing that I found very funny was that one of the teacher's reasons for not allowing the students to dissect frogs on their own (but simply watch a movie of other people doing it instead) was because they get too rambunctious when they try to do a lab. Wouldn't you be too? These kids are so used to being cooped up that they forget what it feels like to move and talk. Also, based on what we know about the guy, his idea of rambunctious is probably quite dillusional and strict. Finally, if we are to believe that he has ever even let them do a lab, what are the chances that it was something interesting?

This was an entertaining article and although extreme should at least gently remind us, as future teachers, of our responsibility to engage our students.

What Do We Say When We Hear 'Faggot'?

This was definitely an enlightening article. I agreed with most of what the author said and although I am quite conservative in my views on the issue of homosexuality, I definitely think that it is an issue that we as teachers need to confront.

The author discusses the ways that homophobic name-calling is used and then goes on to provide ideas for classroom activities and discussions to confront the issue. I think the author made a very good point in saying that "many teachers do not realize that this sort of name-calling can be dealt with in much the same way as other kinds of bigotry and stereo-typing." I can relate to individuals who feel pressed to hold certain "accepted" views on societal issues such as homosexuality but as teachers, I don't think our personal views on homosexuality should even come into play. The bottom line is that as teachers (and as human beings), we should demonstrate love to all individuals and not promote or allow any sort of bullying/name-calling to occur in the classroom. I think that most people, regardless of their standpoint on the issue, would agree that all children are deserving of love and kindness.

As teachers, I do not feel that our job is to discuss the morality behind the issue itself, but rather the way we should treat others who are different from ourselves. As I said above, all individuals are deserving of love and kindness and ultimately, this is the only factor that should matter. Taking this into consideration, it follows that teachers would, in fact, be infringing on the rights of some students if he/she were to stand in front of the class and discuss the moral issue itself. We should all be free to set our own moral standards and viewpoints and since teachers have such a strong influence on their students, they should be careful not to be too subjective when discussing controversial issues in the classroom. Therefore while I definitely agree that as teachers we should have zero tolerance for any oppressive behaviour/name-calling in the classroom, I would argue that we owe it to our students to stay as neutral as possible when it comes to stating our personal opinion on the issue itself.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Boob Tube and Children's Brain Drain

This article provides some evidence that television can, in fact, be detrimental to a child's brain development and therefore, academic achievement. Although there are few studies that show a direct correlation between television watching and nerve-cell growth, some research does exist that suggests that "with enrichment you can grow not new nerve cells but bigger and better nerve cells and with impoverishment you get less." One reseacher is convinced that mediation is key in determining the effect that television will have on children. Evidence suggests that heavy television-viewing kids show lower reading recognition, lower reading levels and are also associated with more aggressive behaviour. There is, however, an important third variable: parental involvement.

I completely agree that television viewing on its own cannot account for the academic correlations found in the research. As is the case with most influences on a child's life, parental involvement plays a very important role. Children with involved parents are more likely to be able to understand and discriminate between the information being presented on television. They are also more likely to be encouraged to do homework and engage in other important extra-curricular activities, which in turn will result in higher academic achievement in school.

NO: How TV Influences Your Kids

The author of this article tries to argue that their is no consistent evidence that TV has a negative effect on children's minds. His argument is unsound, however, because later in the article he states that not only does television have a role in producing aggressive play and real-life violence, but children often do not make connections between the violent (and exciting) lifestyles lead by criminals and the consequence of their actions.

I disagree with some of the points that the author makes. I think it is very dangerous to simply conclude that television does not have a negative effect on children's minds just because there is no "consistent evidence" to support it. I do agree, however, with the author's suggestion that television is less harmful if parents monitor and limit their children's television viewing. The problem with this, as the author acknowledges is that many parents are not so involved in their children's lives. In my mind, it is these children who are already lacking parental support, who will be most aversely affected and easily influenced by television.