Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Diversity Event- RIC Drag Show

For my diversity event I went to something really different: a drag show! I didn't really know what to expect going in, but it definitely sounded like an event that would be fun. I brought my friend Courtney with me.

Going in I wasn't sure what a drag show was exactly. I knew that there would be people dressed in drag, but what did they do? Did they walk around and socialize? Did they preform? Did they just kind of do a walk down the catwalk and get judged on how well their drag looked, almost like a custom contest?

I was also thinking things like "if a man is dressed as a woman, would they prefer to be identified as a he or a she? Should I refer to a women dressed up as a man as "him" or "her"? It made me a little uncomfortable going in with out a clear knowledge of queer etiquette. I think the best way to describe it was that I was being put into a position that I wasn't familiar being in. I didn't know the codes of power when it came to gay, lesbian, and transgender people. I was also the minority in the group being a straight girl. I think it was a real Delpit moment for me.

I think it was a great experience to have because I found myself thinking things that I wouldn't normally expect myself to think. I was thinking "I wonder if people presume that my friend and I are gay because we're here" and then I thought "well, who cares if they do?" and then I thought "What if they think I'm straight and they're wondering why I'm here", almost as if I felt that I didn't have the right to be there because I was straight. It was all very strange.

The show itself was really cool. First they had an amateur drag contest and they had experienced drag performers judging. The performances were all done to songs with the drag queens and kings dancing. One of the perforers did an interesting thing. They started off dressed as a girl, and then during the dance she changed her clothes and appearance to make herself look like a man. It was clever because she used mascara to make her facial hair, turing something that females are encouraged to use to look beautiful and feminie and making into something that made her look masculine. And she did it to the song 'Be a Man' from Mulan.

After that they had performances by the experienced drag queens. All of the performers just had incredible energy and lots of personality and they made everyone laugh. I found myself thinking of them as the gender that they were dressed as, and so my question about whether or not I should address them as a "he" or a "she" became less important. I just didn't even think about it anymore.

I had a very unique experience. When I first sat down and my friend and I were waiting for the show to start, one of the girls came up to me and said "Hi, Shayla."

I smiled, unsure, and said hello back, then asked if I knew her. It was my childhood friend, Kevin, who lived one street over from me. I was really, really shocked, but at the same time I felt really happy to see him there. I can't really explain why, I think it's because he seemed so happy doing what he was doing and he doesn't have to hide who he is.

Overall I'm really glad that I went to the event. I think I have a better understanding about what transgender people are all about. They're not just a joke, they're people who are doing something that they love to do. They like to be able to be the sex that they identify with, even if it's just long enough to preform for a night.

What Can We Do? Becoming Part ofthe Solution

I think Johnson's 18 page chapter can be summed up as this: In order to change anything, we all need to start making different choices ourselves. I believe that Johnson's main point in everything that I've read of his is that WE need to change things. Right here and right now, we all need to start taking the harder road.

"This suggests that the simplest way to help others make different choices is to make them myself, and to do it openly."

The harder road has many faces. It could be taking openly about racial issues. It could be defending someone who is being demeaned. No matter what it is, it has to start with yourself. He thinks that if we all start making choices to avoid that "road of least resistance" than other people will see our new path as an option. Using the words is just a tool in this bigger goal. The words need to be used or else the issues are made invisible.

"Large numbers of people have sat on the sidelines and Seen themselves as neither part of the problem nor the solution. Beyond this shared trait, however, they are far from homogeneous, Everyone is aware of the whites, heterosexuals, and men who intentionally act out in oppressive ways. But there is less attention to the millions of people who know inequities exist and want to be part of the solution. Their silence and invisibility allow the trouble to continue."

Another point that he makes is that not enough people see issues like heterosexualism, racism, and sexist as their problem. When we don't see those kind of things as our problem, we distance ourselves from them and wait for someone else to fix it. The problem is that the people who think that it's not their problem are the people who need to take the most responsibility to try and fix it. The reason is because often they are the people who have the most influence in society.

"A key to the continued existence of every oppressive system is unawareness, because oppression contradicts so many basic human values that it invariably arouses opposition when people know about it."

I think that this is definitely true. I don't think that many people think about systems are prejudice. Whenever I heard people talking about how this was racist, or how that was sexist, I always felt like they were the kind of people who always needed to complain about something. Now I understand that I was probably the ignorant one. If we make choices that demonstrate our resistance to follwoing prejudiced systems, than more people will realize that those systems are unfair.

Overall, I think that Johnson came up with somewhat of a weak conclusion to what we should do. I think that he could have focused more on his idea of changing ourselves to start influencing others to change too. Intsead he talks about how the question of what to do is a tough question. It definitely is, but I think changing ourselves is definitely a good start.

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

Kliewer talks about how children with disabilities are excluded from the community when they are segragated in schools. He makes many good points about how segregation doesn't allow for children with disabilities to grown linguistically and socially. When "abnormal" children and "normal" children are separated, the "abnormal" children, all the children miss out. Special needs students feel defective, and "normal" children never get a good understanding of special needs people.

"Those who appear not to make use of these conditions (supposedly open to all), or who appear to lack the potential to accrue privileges, are systematically devalued as less than full citizens-charged as they are with having the differences that matter."

Kliewer uses many examples from peolpe who have written about society and democracy and says that citizens who are unable to make full use of their rights as citizens and do not contribute to society as much as other citizens do are devalued. They are seen more as a burden to society and their community rather than an important part.

I think that some teachers feel that way about children with special needs, especially if they have inclusion in their classroom. I don't think anyone would deny that it's harder to have an inclusive classroom than a segragated one. It's going to be hard, because a lot of people don't have patience for people who have special needs and because the teacher always needs to think about ways to make all the children feel included. I think inclusion will be easier once more schools start making it a priority.

"Those students who exhibit the canonical mind are credited with understanding, even when real understanding is limited or absent; many people . .. can pass the test but fail other, perhaps more appropriate or probing measures of understanding. Less happily, many who are capable of exhibiting significant understanding appear deficient, simply because they cannot readily traffic in the commonly accepted coin of the educational realm."

This seems like it's a big flaw in the way that schools assess their students with special needs. Students with disabilities may have an understanding of what they're being tested on but fail a test on it. The same can be said about students without disabilities, they may be able to pass a test on a certain subject but don't understand it well.

Shayne Robbins did not hesitate in her response when asked why she devoted so much energy to creating a classroom community where all were afforded citizenship. "Don't think," she told me, "that those special needs kids drain anything. That class would not be half what it is if anyone of those kids got segregated. We're all together in there."

I really admire that teacher for all the work she does with her students in her inclusive classroom. When she was talking about how she had a special needs student in her class who loved the book Where the Wild Things Are, and how she had the class put on a play so that he could participate without feeling frustrated. But at the same time she sees the good that those kids with special needs are doing in her classroom.

I wish that I had gone to a school that had inclusive classrooms. To this day I still feel a little awkward around people with special needs. I think it's because the only experience I've ever had with a person who has special needs was when I was a kid. I met my friend's sister who was autistic and she had a sudden fit and she was screaming and thrasing and her dad had to hold her down.

It scared me a lot, and ever since I feel like I don't know how to act when I meet people with special needs. I think that it's definitely easy to see people with special needs as an "other". Maybe it's similar to how racially segragated schools were, kids were seperated so they saw each other as the "other" kids. This unease that I have tells me that I need more experience working with people with special needs. I think that I need to be able to see the humaness in them and look past their disability. Disibility shouldn't define who a person is.

Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work

Jean Anyon claims that, after observing five 5th grade classrooms of different social class, that students are already being prepared to occupy specific jobs and have specific roles based on their social status.

I found the whole article to be very interesting. As Anyon says herself, it's no secret that schools in wealthy areas are better than schools in poor places. I didn't find it surprising that the wealthier kids were getting the better educations. I think the thing that I was surprised by is just how much students are being taught just enough to occupy the jobs that people in their neighborhoods would commonly occupy. It's ridiculous and it's obviously set up to keep poor families poor and rich families rich.

When students are given expectations just high enough to fit in with their social class, it leaves very little room for greater achievments. It leaves the rich families with more oppertunities if for no other reason than the fact that there's less competition for 100K+ jobs.

"One teacher explained to me, "Simple punctuation is all they'll ever use." Regarding punctuation, either a teacher or a ditto stated the rules for where, for example, to put commas."

That's such a horrible thing for that teacher to have said. How does that teacher know that one of their students won't go on to become a great writer, or a journalist, or go to an Ivory League college. They don't know, and the sad part is that many of their students probably don't even think of those options as possible for themselves because of the low expectations set for them. It's sad, really, when your teacher doesn't even believe that you can do it. A teacher's job is to TEACH, not to decide to skip the hard parts because their students won't amount to anything more than store clerks.

The point is that there is nothing wrong with growing up and being a store clerk, or a garbage disposal person, or a mail person. BUT, who has the right to tell you that that's all you CAN be. That those are the only positions open to you. The schools are saying just that through their actions. By having such low expectations for their students, they're giving them a below par education. Since those student have been given that below par education, they're already behind compared to their peers from higher social classes. Because of this, even if they want to be a doctor or a lawyer, they're already behind. They're going to be competing against students who had a rich education.

"In the middle-class school, work is getting the right answer. If one accumulates enough right answers, one gets a good grade. One must follow the directions in order to get the right answers, but the directions often call for some figuring, some choice, some decision making."

Well, at least these students are being asked to figure things out, right? I hated all classes where the main objective was to come up with the single correct answer. I think this may be one reason why I detest math so much but love literature. Instead of being told that there's one right answers, with one way to find it, and that's it, it's more valuable to be taught to think about WHY that answer is right. Why is there only one right answer? That's not what the middle class students are getting. Another issue is that when students are so focused with finding the right answers, they're less likely to be creative or to take chances. They'd rather have safe, correct opinions, than have risky opinions.

" A child hands the teacher his paper and she comments, "I'm not accepting this paper. Do a better design." To another child she says, "That's fantastic! But you'll never find the area. Why don't you draw a figure inside [the big one] and subtract to get the area?""

This sounds harsh, but I think it's so great! This is what I'm talking about, finally a classroom showing some expectations. This is what students need. They need to be taught that just drawing any design is not good enough, that they need to try their best the first time so that they don't have to repeat their work. If you start with high expectations in small things like homework assignments, than students feel important because you expect better from them. They're important enough for you to correct, and not just ignore their poor work and accept the paper and give them a C.

I think that Anyon did a good job giving us a peak inside each classroom. I do wonder if she was biased, if maybe the working class schools did do SOME things better than the higher class schools that she didn't give them credit for. Maybe that's not true though, but I have a hard time thinking that most teachers in the lower class schools care about their students less than the teachers in the upper class schools. But, it's obvious that there's a problem here. Students are NOT getting equal educations. I doubt that too many people, people who could actually change this on a big level, care though. As long as their kids are getting a great education, I don't think they care about the other kids.

Tracking: Why Schools Need to Take Another Route

Jeannie Oakes discusses the problem of tracking in class rooms. Although some people think that separating the gifted students from the slower learners is necessary to provide more challenging material for the fast learners, Oakes argues that there are ways that work well to get the most out of each student by intergating fast and slow learners.

"in John Goodlad's national study of schools, reported in the book A Place Called School, students in high-ability English classes were more likely to be taught classic and modem literature, provided instruction in expository writing and library researcb, and expected to leam vocabulary that would eventually boost their scores on college entrance exams."

This is a real example where seperating fast learners and slow learners create a huge disadvantage for those slower learners later on in their education. The teacher takes the time to teach the fast learners important vocabulary words and provides them with work that makes them think rather than worksheets. They learn how to research and use the library for that cause. The slower learning students don't get that information later. It's not offered. The problem is that faster learners are getting more from school. The slower learners learn less just because it takes them longer to learn. That's not an equal education, especially when you think about the different ways that these students are being asked to learn. The faster learners are being challenge while the slower learners are just being asked to keep up.

"In low-ability classes, for example, teacbers seem to be less encouraging and more punitive, placing more emphasis on discipline and 'behavior and less on academic learning. Compared to teachers in high-ability classes, they seem to be more concerned about getting students to follow directions, be on time, and sit quietly."

I noticed this a lot when I was in middle school. I was put into the lowest level classroom in 6th grade. Kids acted up all class. The teachers hated us. Sometimes they would try and control the class and sometimes they would just give up. Either way they got tired of getting interupted and would end up assigning book work to do all class.

I didn't learn very much.

but I saw what the highest level class was doing when I'd walk by. They were having discussions, even in middle school! I'd never really remembered an open discussion before high school. They were talking about things, they were behaving. They didn't even have to raise their hands half the time to voice their opinion. They did projects and worked in pairs. And they were learning, and I wished that I was doing those things instead of doing book work because book work was what made me hate school to begin with.

"Perhaps the most important and difficult task for those who would change tracking is to confront deeply held beliefs, such as the belief that academic ability is fixed very early and is largely unchangeable or that achievement differences can be largely accounted for by differences in ability."

So true! I wasn't a very good student at all in elementary and middle school. I didn't get things right away and I didn't have the patience to do half of the reading and book work assigned. But I changed. It's not impossible. "Stupid" kids aren't stupid unless you condemn them to be. They can learn, they can catch up, they can get straight A's without having to study twice as hard as fast learners.

I think it all comes down to expectations and interests. If students hate book work, which MOST do, then you NEED to change the way that you're teaching. Don't cut out book work entirely because it may be useful for students later on, but incoporate a variety of learning styles. Some teachers don't give the slower learners that variety. No wonder they're not interested, they're bored.

I still don't know how much I agree about completely getting rid of tracking. I see all the bad in it. At the same time, I know how distracting it was to be with kids who had no interest at ALL in school. Sometimes I wonder if they would have had interest if things were taught differently. I don't know. I also think that there should still be programs for gifted students just like other students need IEPs and resource classes. Why should you punish the fast learners?

I do think that classrooms should be mixed though, mixed but with programs for both students who need addition help and students who need more of a challenge. It's tough to say that because I can see the problem with slow learners not getting as much information as fast learners in school. At the same time, you can't deny fast learns the right to expand their knowledge. They shouldn't be punish, I really think that there's just some matieral that's IS too hard for slow learners. Matieral that IS too intimidating. Material that they're just not ready for yet, and there's nothing wrong with that at all.

I'm all for high expectations, but in my middle school some of the fast learners were learning math that would have made me want to cry. Every teacher should set high expectations for their students, but they need to be practical. I'm sure some of my current classmates could write a 80 page essay on World War II. Right now, I feel that something that big would be overwhelming and a ridiculous expectation of me. I haven't been prepared to write essays that long yet. I'm not ashamed of that, but if a student wants to take honors classes where they have to write an 80 page paper, why shouldn't they? Yes, I'm not learning that skill, but maybe I'm not ready for it yet. Maybe I'm still trying to perfect my 20 page papers.


"Anita Hill is a boy"

In this article Orenstein argues that our school curriculum are male dominant and that more needs to be done to make classrooms more gender fair. She looks at a classroom where the teacher is trying hard to incorporated more women into the curriculum and to make boys more comfortable with learning about women while at the same time trying to build confidence in girls.

"Individually, teachers find that calling on students equitability, or simply waiting for a moment rather than recognizing the first child who raises his hand, encourages girls to participate more readily in class."

I can relate to this because growing up I was one of those girls. If a boy raised his hand first, I would keep mine down. If a girl raised her hand first, then I would raise mine if I had something to say. I know that if I really wanted to, no one was stopping me from raising my hand after the boy did, but I didn't want to compete with a boy. The fact that I was uncomfortable competing with a boy tells me now that I couldn't have been very confident that I was that boy's equal.

"As the girls talk, I recall what a teacher at Weston once told me, that "boys perceive equality as a loss." Apparently, girls are uneasy with it, too. Even these girls, whose parents have placed them in this class ill part because of Ms. Logan's sensitivity to gender issues, have already become used to taking up less space, to feeling less worthy of attention than boys"

This whole issue makes me mad. I think it's because I get impatient with some men and their pride as it is, to think that seeing equality as a loss is what some of them think (even subconsciously) makes me frustrated. There's a lot of denial, or at least ignorance, of gender inequality. Any guy I've brought the issue up with have wanted nothing to do with it, or would just deny everything that I mentioned. I don't think that some men feel women have the right to complain. Even though women are treated as sexual objects in the media, and men enjoy it. Even though rape is still a huge problem, as is domestic violence. Women can vote and women can work, so they feel that women should feel content. But women are still not equal.

I think that girls are taught to behave. Or, at least, are taught to learn how to be out of the way. Almost as if the old idea that women should be seen but not heard hasn't faded away completely. I think that's why girls have trouble speaking up in class disscussions, why they take up less space, and why they feel comfortable not competing for attention. It makes me want to tell women to start changing their behavior. To try and be more outgoing. The problem is that no one tells girls that they're being passive. It's not realized.

"It is important to be explicit withnthese reassurances right away. Feminist teaching is not about allowing anwin/lose situation to develop hetween boys and girls."

I love this quote because I feel as if that's what's going on these days. Men feel like they're being attacked, like if they admit that there are gender biases than they'll lose and have to admit that they're wrong. That's not the way that it should be thought about though. This doesn't have to be a boys vs. girls situation. Honestly, I don't think that gender has to be as big of a factor in our society as it is. It shouldn't matter if a student is a boy or a girl. Boys shouldn't be disciplined more often than girls for the same behavior. Girls shouldn't look into a classroom and see not one female representation. If a girl can wear a skirt to school, then a boy should be able to wear one. The way that both girls and boys are treated unfairly aggravate me so much!

"Luis tells me that he chose to take this class because he was interested in the topic. "But I don't tell my friends," he says. "If I told them I was interested in women's history, they'd call me a fag. So I just take it and don't' talk about it."

This is the most important quote of all. This is the root of the problem. Boys are put under a huge pressure to be masculine. Things are put into categories. Masculine, Questionable, and Feminine for them. Football= Masculine. Enjoying cooking= Questionable. Enjoying women's studies= Feminine.

Not only does it limit men and boys in such a way that they're forced to cover up the things that they enjoy in fear of being singled out, they are also forced to see certain issues and things as not their problem. Some men don't want to learn how to cook because it's not their problem. It's not their problem because it is a woman's problem. It's a woman's problem because it's questionable for a man to like to cook.

It reminds me of a class that I took last semester, Critical Issues in Contemporary Africa. I was asked by people, on more than one occasion, why I was in that class. "You're not black" they'd say "why did you take that class?" And it felt like an accusation. It felt like I was being asked to defend myself. As if Africans only matter to black people. As though I had no business taking a class on Africa because it's not MY problem.

That's how Luis felt. Except I didn't expect to be questioned about my class choice and he was totally expecting that. So he didn't talk about it because he didn't want to have to defend his choice. He didn't want to have to explain why he was taking that class even though it wasn't HIS problem.

It ties in well to the things we've read about race and about how white people need to make racism their problem too. The hard part is always having to defend yourself.