Sunday, October 26, 2014

Privilege, Power, and Difference- Johnson

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan Johnson, allows the reader to step back and approach society’s main issues from a different light. Johnson depicts, that our world’s main problems circle around gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and social class. He argues that the first step to solving these issues is to first NOTICE these problems and realize that there are both privileges as well as disparities that come with being in each of these groups (S.C.W.A.A.M.P.) . The next step is for society to realize that we are all responsible to create a change, and we can do this by consistently talking about these privileges and "saying the words." Here are some quotes and pictures that I believe summarize the main points of Johnson's article:

1."Peggy Mcintosh describes it, privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they've done or failed to do" (23). Johnson believes that it is important for us to realize and notice the problems in order to fix them. To do so, it is important for us to first understand the idea of privilege itself, whether we belong to a privileged group or not. (As we know the privileged groups in society fall under the categories of Straight, Christian, Whiteness, Able-bodiedness, American-ness, Maleness, and Property Ownership) Sometimes it is easier for those of us that have the luxury of falling into these valued categories to pretend that privileges don't exist, however Johnson stresses that we must recognize and accept that privilege is a problem that exists if we want to make a change.
2. "No, her misfortune is connected to my fortune; the reality of her having to deal with racism and sexism is connected to the reality that I don't" (8). In this quote, Johnson is talking about his female African American colleague, and he realizes that there are misfortunes that she must deal with because of her sex and race that he does not have to worry about because he is a white male.  Johnson states that there are two sides to privilege, the fortunate end of privilege as well as the disparity of privilege, and that the two are connected to each other. Those who have to deal with the disparity of privilege in groups is due to the fact that those who are privileged do not have to. Meaning, it is important for us to realize that WE are all part of the problem.

3. "And if people in privileged groups don 't include themselves in the solution, the default is 
to leave it to blacks and women and Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, lesbians, gay men, and the lower and working  classes to do it on their own. But these groups can't do it on their own, because they don't have the power to change entrenched systems of privilege by themselves. If they could do 
that, then: wouldn't be a problem in the first place" (10). Johnson states that those who are privileged need to use their privilege in society to help make a change. People without power can not make a change alone, and as Johnson states if they could there wouldn't be a problem in the first place. We need to change our mind set from "THEIR problem" to "OUR problem." Johnson uses the example that men tend to leave sexism as a problem for women to deal with on their own, as well as whites tend to leave racism as an issue for people of color to deal with. He stresses that we ALL must fight for equality for each group to truly make a difference.
4. "...if we dispense with the words we make it impossible to talk about what's really going on and what it has to do with us. And if we can't do that, then we can't see what the problems are 
or how we might make ourselves part of the solution to them"(2).  In this quote, Johnson highlights the importance of using words such as racism, sexism, privilege, heterosexism, classism, white racism, etc. that may make some people uncomfortable and even offended (especially those who are privileged). But he stresses how important it is for us to use these words and name our problems. By naming our problems we are recognizing their existence, and by doing this it draws our attention to it and one can start to think about it and start to produce solutions to solve it.
5. "Individuals are the ones who experience privilege or the lack of it, but individuals aren't what is actually privileged. Instead, privilege is defined in relation to a group or social category. In other words, race privilege is more about white people than it is about white people." (34). Johnson describes that being privileged has nothing to with the individual, and who you are as a person. It is rather given to us based on the groups that are valued in our culture that we are placed in (Whiteness, Straightness, Maleness, etc.) Meaning, you only have access to this privilege when people identify you as being part of one of these categories. Also, meaning that an individual can lose their privilege if others think that they don't belong to one of these valued category. This is why many people are ignorant to the fact that they are privileged, constantly using the phrase "Well I don't feel privileged", because being privileged has nothing to do with the individual but the category that individual is placed in society.

Friday, October 17, 2014

In The Service Of What? - Kahne and Westheimer

        "In The Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning" by Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer highlights the importance as well as the benefits of service learning programs for both students and communities. Service Learning allows a student to take the information they are learning in a classroom and transfer it into real-life experiences while responding to the needs of their communities at the same time. I strongly agree with this notion, sometimes student's become bored from being lectured in classrooms and wonder "how am I going to use this information in the future?". Sometimes the most beneficial form of learning comes to us through action. Service learning allows students to have a more hands-on learning experience and connect what they are being taught  in classrooms to real world events.
This video helped me to gain a better understanding of the academic benefits 
of student learning as well as reiterated the points made in the article 

         One of the sections of the article that I was able to connect with the most was when the music director had her upper-middle class students volunteer at an elementary school in a poor neighborhood. Many of the student's parents objected however. They were worried for their children's safety with concerns of rude, tough, unfriendly children on a dirty campus in a bad neighborhood. After they returned from the schools however the student's outlooks had completely changed. They found that they had been completely wrong, that the children were all polite and friendly and were surprised by their willingness to learn as well as their excellent behavior. One student even commented on how they had more respect  for the neighborhood that they were once fearful of. Kahne and Westheimer point out that through service learning in a classroom, the students were able to create caring relationships with those in need as well as diminish the sense of "otherness" that more privileged individuals sometimes feel.
         This experience in some ways reminded me of my own personal service learning encounters. Much like the students of this middle school, we have been asked to volunteer our time at schools in less privileged areas than most of us are accustomed to. I was not raised in an upper-class family without any financial cares, however my family has been able to get through life comfortably. When  having to step out of the middle-class community that I was used to and enter a less fortunate neighborhood, I can not deny that I had some concerns. I had heard stories of South Providence not being the best area, so when I found that I would be volunteering my time at an elementary school there, I was slightly concerned with the safety of the neighborhood  as well as if the students would be as willing to learn as the students in the elementary schools in my neighborhood. The first day at my assigned school, however, all of my fears went out the door. The students in my third grade classroom were all incredibly sweet and attentive. Their eyes light up when I walked into the classroom and as I began to tutor them, I instantly saw their impressive intelligence as well as their passion  for learning. I left the school that day feeling completely ridiculous for having those prior concerns. Those concerns  that I had once felt had been replaced with excitement to create a stronger bond with these students and hopefully have a lasting affect on them. I had realized that my involvement in the classroom displayed Kozol's message in "From Amazing Grace", entering a less-privileged classroom and helping students learn gives them the tools to create a better future for themselves. However, I might not be changing the world from my service learning experience, I hope that I can make a change in at least one individuals life. From my own personal service learning experience I have been able to create the caring relationship with my students that was mentioned in the article and I have felt more inclined to serve less fortunate communities.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Unlearning the Myths That Blind Us - Christensen

      "Unlearning the Myths That Blind Us" by Linda Christensen, was eye-opening to say the least. The article centers around children's cartoons and Disney Movies and the stereotypes that they create for their young viewers. Christensen describes how she had her students read and react to Dorfman's book, The Empire's Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds. Dorfman's harsh taste of reality forced her students to have to accept that the "innocent and cute" movies that they grew up with had been teaching them corrupt morals and depraved messages. As the students dove deeper into these cartoons, the stereotypes became more blatantly obvious. Women, men, people of color, and poor people in each cartoon were continually portrayed in a cliche and stereotypical fashion. Women were steadily portrayed as unrealistically beautiful with a slim waist and a flawless face who's only ambition in life was to pick up a man. People of color and poor people were consistently depicted to be "buffoons" usually being shown to be illiterate, inferior, and sometimes even savage. While men were limited to only being either handsome and powerful or old and the target of everyone's jokes.These stereotypes create underlying messages to children, leading them to believe that these are the roles that these groups of people must play in society. Also, Christensen describes the issue that most of the Disney characters are white, especially the Princesses. This is found to be very frustrating to her students of color who felt as a child that they could not relate to the Disney Princesses because there was no black princess. She gives them an article to read called "Cindy Ella", about an African American girl who is given a new wardrobe so that she can become more appealing and find herself a man. Although the story finally portrayed a woman of color, it still created the same stereotypes that a woman's only ambitions in life should be to find a husband.

        The article reminded me of a video I have watched by a popular You Tube personality, Jenna Marbles. The (somewhat inappropriate) video titled, "What Disney Movies Taught Me", pokes fun at the Disney movies and the negative messages they teach kids. The video mostly centers mostly around the sexist stereotypes the Disney Princess create that a woman's only goal in life should be to find a man to marry, as well as the false-body images they produce to their young female audience. The video also jokes about the stereotypes of the characters that do not fit society's view of "pretty" and how they are continually illustrated to be mean or evil. For example, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Cinderella's step mom, and the witch from Snow White. Even though the video is meant to be comical, it does relate to Christensen's argument and expose the flaws in these movies and the negative morals and stereotypes they form.

    Christensen asks us to challenge the stereotypes that cartoons create and to make a change. It is important for us to stop being ignorant not only to what these movies teach us but also the same stereotypes that are practiced in magazines, on TV, and on billboards all around us. Sexism and racism is everywhere and these cartoons only add to it. As a nation, as hard as it is, we must open our eyes to the values these movies are creating for us from a young age. We must make a stand against them and demand for a change so generations to come are not raised with these mixed messages and corrupt stereotypes. 

Safe Spaces - August

    In the article "Safe Zone"by Gerri August, she describes how classroom spaces have an effect on all of us. This is why it is important for teachers to keep a secure environment inside their classrooms, especially for students of the LGBT community. August explains her argument by connecting it to Johnson's, "Privilege, Power, and Difference" and the SCWAAMP exercise we did in class when she says, "Heterosexisim is one of those unexamined avenues of privilege. Assumptions that everyone is (or should be) heterosexual shape most classroom interactions, whether academic or social"(84). I found this quote interesting because I  attended a school that was very supportive of the LGBT community, we even had a program called "the gay-straight alliance". This made it more comfortable for many of my gay friends and fellow classmates to be open about their sexual orientation and to be accepted by their peers. Because of this, I find myself at sometimes being ignorant to the fact that heterosexism is a privilege in our society and that it is something that as a future teacher I will need to be aware of so that I can make my classroom space comfortable and safe for any student, no matter what their sexual orientation.

      August discusses how teachers can make their classrooms more secure for students of the LGBT community. The main point that she makes is adding sexual orientation topics into school curriculum. She addresses that teachers talk about families coming in all different forms, but rarely teach about families with two moms and their children or two dads and their adopted daughter. By doing this, heteronormative beliefs are reinforced. August further explains the public's negative attitude towards teaching students about gay families and accepting them as a new social-norm. August gives an example of this when she explains a PBS series, Postcards from Buster, a show starring an animated rabbit that travels around North America to visit children and families to teach him about their local culture. In one episode, "Sugartime" Buster meets three children that come from a family consisting two moms. Although, a gay family was represented in the episode, the words "gay" or "lesbian" where never used. Even so, PBS pulled the episode because they believed that parents would not want their children "exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode". Cutting this episode, adds to the deprivation of the education of sexual orientation for children, which only keeps Heterosexism a privilege in modern society as well as keeps students of the LGBT community feeling embarrassed and distressed in the classroom. In result, the generation in which Postcards from Buster was intended for will grow up being uneducated about gay and lesbian families and culture. By the time it is introduced to them in adulthood it will be a foreign concept to them and it will be believed to be "unconventional"and they will be least likely to accept it. August argues that teachers need to be aware of this and educate students from an early age about sexual orientation so that  these children will be more accepting of the LGBT community and as a result will help to keep a "safe space"in their classrooms. 
Family from "Sugartime" episode