Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Community Service" Requirements for Graduation are B.S.

"Service learning makes students active participants in service projects that aim to respond to the needs of the community while furthering the academic goals of students" (Kahne and Westheimer 1).

"Proponents of service learning have worked to find common ground between Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, business leaders and community activists.  Edward Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George Bush, William F. Buckley, and Ralph Nader have all gone on record as strong advocates of service learning in American schools.  Yet controversial issues surrounding the means and ends of service learning have been pushed to the background" (Kahne and Westheimer 2). 

"Unfortunately, in many service activities, students view those they serve as clients rather than as a resource" (Kahne and Westheimer 7).

"The experiential and interpersonal components of service learning activities can achieve the first crucial step toward diminishing the sense of 'otherness' that often separates students--particularly privileged students--from those in need.  In so doing, the potential to develop caring relationships is created"(Kahne and Westheimer 8).

It seems to me like having a service learning requirement for graduation for all high school students would be an obvious step to take on a federal level.  I think that there is a serious issue with politics if no action is taken on something that ALL political parties are agreeing on…I mean seriously, that never happens!  What are we waiting for?  This seems like such a simple, yet incredibly beneficial thing to do.

"Students tutor, coach softball, paint playgrounds, and read to the elderly because they are interested in people, or because they want to learn a little about poverty and racism before they head out into the waiting corporate world…We do not volunteer 'to make a statement,' or to use the people we work with to protest something.  We try to see the homeless man, the hungry child, and the dying woman as the people they are, not the means to some political end" (Kahne and Westheimer 10).

"Service learning advocates agree that experiential, active pedagogy is often quite powerful.  While an additional emphasis on charity might lead to service learning activities that raise self-esteem, impel students into new experiences, and demonstrate the value of scholastic abilities in real-world contexts, educators who focus on a transformative vision would want to carry this work one step further.  For them, it is the combination of service and critical analysis, not either by itself, that seems most likely to promote interest in and insight into these complex social issues (Kahne and Westheimer 11). 

Some schools are already implementing community service requirements for graduation or encouraging it because "it will look good on college applications".  Unfortunately, both take a great significance out of the value.  They turn community service/service learning into a numbers game.  An unfair one at that.  As far as reporting said hours, usually only a signature for the number of hours one "volunteered" is the only requirement, something easily forged and/or exaggerated by high school students.  There is no follow up, no period of reflection associated with the requirement.  Students are turning into robots.  Everything now is being taught "for a test".  Even something as simple as service learning is losing any and all value and credibility.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Is There a Problem With Disney?

Christensen's piece "Unlearning the Myths That Blind Us", discusses the issue of a "secret education" that is "delivered by children's books and movies, instructs young people to accept the world as it is portrayed in these social blueprints.  And often that world depicts the domination of one sex, one race, one class, or one country over a weaker counterpart".  This discussion reminds me of the video that we watched in class in which the young African woman describes the misconceptions people had because she was from Africa and all that they knew about Africa was the one-sided view from literature and the media.

As this video discusses, one major source of stereotypes for young children, particularly young girls, today is Disney and the Disney Princesses.  Most American children grew up watching Disney movies, dressing up as their favorite Disney character, and for girls, being asked who their favorite Disney princess is.  Looking back as an adult, the issues of class, sexism, racism, etc. are very evident; however, children do not understand these deeper issues and only take away the superficial messages.  In this day and age, most parents want their children to go to college so that they can get a good job.  I do not think that there are many parents who would tell their daughter that all she was good for was cleaning the house and that she shouldn't try to do anything else.  But these same parents have no problem putting Cinderella on for their kids.  

Disney is starting to realize that their portrayal of women and classes and races needs to change and adapt to the world we are now living in.  Movies such as Brave and Tangled present more independent, strong young women. 

It is very evident that young children idolize these characters, so it is important that we present them with characters who portray positive images and send appropriate messages.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Love Is All You Need?

This video is incredibly powerful.  I am still taking it in right now; so I will update this blog post tomorrow, once I have had more time to digest it.  I think everyone needs to see this.  It is a little on the long side, but please watch it if you can.

I think what made me most upset about this video is that all of the events were real things that happened to real kids who were bullied.  No child or person should be treated differently because of who he or she loves.  There is no issue in schools about a female teacher talking about her husband and children, so I don't think that there should be any issue about a female teacher talking about her wife or partner and family.  They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so if parents treat the LGBT discussion as taboo or talk negatively about homosexuals, their children will think that it is taboo and that they should not be kind and compassionate to homosexuals.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Shift Happens

This TEDX talk given by Kim Potowski, an associate professor of Hispanic linguistics in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago ( offers a unique perspective to the discussion of bilingual education.  

Many people believe that every child attending a public school in the United States should be taught solely in English.  Some schools offer "bilingual education" in which students are taught in both English and Spanish; however, the problem with this so called "bilingual education" is that the goal typically ends up being to teach students with as little Spanish as possible, funneling them as quickly as possible into mainstream, English-only schooling.  This chart, presented by Potowski in her talk, brings a third educational program to the to light: two-way immersion.
In a two-way immersion program, grades K-4 are taught approximately 90% in Spanish and 10% in English.  After that, classes are taught in 50% Spanish and 50% English.  This idea might raise concern in this day and age, considering that standardized tests required for admission to most colleges (SAT and ACT) are given in English.  In response to that argument,  Potowski displays this chart: 
It shows results from a study that followed children who were learning English who were now in the 11th grade.  Students in the two-way immersion program clearly out-performed their peers who were in bilingual education or English only programs.  These programs included children whose heritage language was both Spanish and children who spoke only English.  For those who may be concerned that English-speaking children would be held back and under perform in a program taught 50% in Spanish, this study proved this incorrect.  In fact, English-speaking children in a two-way immersion program performed at the state average for English reading achievement.  
My mom speaks fluent Portuguese, Spanish, and French.  She also speaks almost fluent Italian and some German.  Unfortunately, she and my dad did not raise me to be bilingual, something all of us regret now.  I wish that I had the ability to speak two languages fluently; however, three years of high school Spanish did not allow for this.  With the results Potowski presented in her talk regarding two-way immersion programs, I wonder why there are only 400 such programs in the United States.