Tuesday, November 6, 2007

10.30.07 response to class 9 - Noddings chapters 4, 5

The opening discussion today was what role does the state have in education. Much was questioned and little closure achieved. This is not something new in our class, but I think the professor gets a little frustrated. Many times I wonder if the role of our classroom isn't just to talk about what we wish things were or why they are like that. I wonder if we can really change anything. I don't say that in a defiant tone, I really do. I have very little knowledge of education in America, and many times things just seem too far fetched to me.

One of the questions the professor rose was the fact that the Federal Government mandates that every child legal or illegal has to be taken in by the school. Can they give such an order? It was interesting to notice that some people in our class did not know that illegal immigrants could go to school. Actually I have just learned in another class that not only can they go to school, the school is not allowed to question their legal status. I am not sure if that is a recent law, because about 10 years ago, when I went to Ohio to spend some time with my aunt, she tried to enroll me in Norton High and they gave her a hard time because I did not have a proper visa. Honestly, these kind of things make me really upset. I always have the feeling that whenever someone is trying to do something by the law, he/she gets the worst of it. Illegal immigrants come to this country and in a few years they have it all. Those of us who try to do everything right, getting the proper visa, the proper funding, the proper everything, never go anywhere. Here I am, after striving so much to come to the U.S. legally, about to get married to a working class American who is not going to make my lifestyle any better. I do love my boyfriend, but, from a strictly pragmatic point of view, so much for keeping the law.

Does that affect my judgment on whether or not the government has the right to say what school districts can do or not? It does, but in funny ways. I think there should be guidelines to ensure that basic things happen. But I think guidelines should be consistent. The government is saying that every child should be educated. But the same government also says that school funding comes from taxes, and my thought is here we have a handful of immigrants with no documents, not paying taxes, using tax payers' money to give their children an education. If that doesn't flip out an regular American citizen, I don't know what will. Charity should be volunteer, shouldn't it? Though one classmate mentioned that illegal immigrants do pay taxes, I don't really think you can ever tell how many of them do, I mean there is no data on illegal immigrants who pay taxes, so really one can only talk about one's personal acquaintances.

So yes, I think the government should tell some basic things, basic guidelines, like who should be educated, which level of literacy they should have, but the people should be respected, and the policies should be consistent. I really can't tell where the line should be drawn. From my perspective, knowing so little about the whole system, I don't want to say something on the risk of not making any sense. I can't even start to assess most of the issues. This is such a complex theme! Because I do believe that, even with all the politics and interests that get in the middle of the discussion, people that are making these laws and people that are trying to execute them or to change them, they are all concerned with the betterment of education (I hope I am right here), they all make good points, and they all are to a certain extent stubborn mules. So what's one to do? Keep trying? Yes, why not? We might just get somewhere decent.

About the discussion of the readings for this class, the first chapter was the one on the challenge to care in schools.

Noddings simply lays down her dream school to us. She mentions at one point that her changes are completely possible. I will agree with the classmate that presented it and say, I really think there is no way this is happening. This week I have been discussing the readings with my boyfriend, and guess what, he came up with his ideal school system. We all can do it. We can all come up with great ideas that would make everyone's life perfect. Are they doable in the real world? Well, besides the fact that you will have to convince people that this should be the best course of action, you also have to have the means to get the whole system changed, you also have to figure out what to do to the children that missed out on this whole change and are about to graduate. You have to figure out what to do with the children that will go through this whole system and find a society that is completely different from what their school taught them.

Noddings says at one point that part of her ideal plan is already what is done in magnet schools, so it is not that impossible, but I still think most of the things she talks belongs in discussion classes like this one. I am sorry to be so skeptical, I just never see real changes anywhere. This past summer I was in Brazil when 200 people died in a plane tragedy topping with horror the awful situation of our air traffic. Everyone in the country was deeply moved and the newscasters made a whole lot of noise for a couple of weeks. 200 people died, so many left behind yelled that something had to change from now own. I am still waiting. It is not that I don't believe in changes, I don't believe in big changes. I can make a better world for those around me, I can't solve the real problems, no one can, because it is just too much. No one would want to go that far.

Noddings seems to have an obsession for the lunch period. Her idea really sounds great. And that is one idea that could probably work if people would just listen to her. But here's the secret, if people would just listen. Some classmates said that this is already done in some private schools. Well, why can't it be done in public schools? Some classmate mentioned it would cost too much. Cost too much because people would have to be trained. Well, didn't Noddings make a point again and again, that she is against the specialist craze? That every adult is able to sit down with a child and talk about basic common knowledge? Didn't she even suggest that not teachers, but people from society come in? What kind of training would we need? Maybe we just can't communicate. That is probably why we have to be trained, we can't do anything if we're not provided with a manual of instructions.

The second presentation was about the caring for self. I was wondering what kind of reading we are doing of those texts. She has a lot of great ideas in taking care of the body and in viewing housework in a different light. But I have to highlight that she did not say she is a type of Pollyanna! She did not mean to suggest that house working is super fun. She was just asking people to think how they can make the different areas of their life more integrated.

Unfortunately though, I have to disagree with her that scrubbing floors is a good work out. I have met a number of house wifes that complain that they do so much work at home and that is why they just don't have the time for the gym. It is not a matter that they can't integrate their lives departments, it si a matter that these ladies I know are up and down the stairs with loads of laundry, crying babies, bottles, kitchen floors, and they keep gaining weight in parts of their body they wish they did not. So for some mysterious reason house work and workout are not the same and do not accomplish the same goals. Just a thought.

The last part I would like to comment on, because it really got me thinking and also because it lead the class to a huge difference of opinions of every kind is Noddings idea of spiritual education. I think it is great that she brings up the idea that we should not ignore that at schools. My boyfriend always makes a point that separation of church and state is so different from what we do today in schools!

But Noddings suggest something that is quite impossible – that children actually get spiritual education at school. Well, how would anyone do that? It is a great concept, but how would anyone do that? Unless it was an open discussion room for people to talk about what they believe without anyone judging anything, one group or another would be at a disadvantage. For instance I would not want her teaching my children about spirituality. Her notion of God and religion is completely twisted from my point of view. And there are so many points of view! In classroom today we had a handful of them. No one could agree on anything.

The most a school could do would be to provide students with an environment where they can talk about religion, where they can pray, where they can even proselytize, just like we can do all these things in the adult world. Each adult can have their own religion, and choose to convert or to associate with people from his/her own beliefs. Schools should not put religion outside, but allow everyone to be religious is different from teaching about religion or even from enforcing one religion on the students.

I just have to finish this paper but I can't not talk about wonderfully foolish idea that some naïve or not so naïve teachers had of teaching the Bible as literature. Honestly, it is a religious book. It is beautiful, but it is a religious book. Does any teacher ever think of teaching the Evolution of the species as literature? My children will hopefully go to Sunday school and study the Bible as the sacred scriptures, and then they will go to school and have some lit teacher open the sacred book to talk about metaphors? That is not great for Christians and detrimental of other religions, that is offensive to religion, any one of them. While some people might regard religion as a manifestation of a people's culture, fears, hopes, some of us do regard it as something real – there is something more here than meets the eye. If a sacred book is treated as literature, anyone that has a belief should be aware that religion is not being treated very respectfully.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

10.23.07 response to class 8 - Noddings chapters 2,3

The presentation of today was all on the chapters 3 and 4 of Noddings. The classmate to present did mention something at the beginning that reflected my own feelings when I read that chapter. She disagreed from Noddings at first, because she believes in liberal arts education, and she was a little confused whether or not she agreed or disagreed because she wasn't sure when Noddings was referring to college or pre-college education.

I had many mixed feelings when I read this text. I don't think liberal education is a bad idea or a bad option. But also I grew up in a family that has always highly valued formal education and college level education; my grandmother and most of my aunts are teachers and it was simply expected from me that I would finish school with honors and go on to college to make something out of myself and not be stuck in some low qualified profession. So even then some of Noddings arguments contradicted things I have been taught to pursue for my life. The reason why I am in Grad school is not because this particular field is so especially important to me that I had to go to grad school for that, it is rather because I was taught that the more education (degrees) you have, the more educated you are and that makes the difference between you and the garbage truck person.

Two major things in this chapter challenged my view of education then. One is the fact that I have always believe liberal education, college, to be the desired form of education to form a well rounded professional, someone who knows a little about everything and can function in the world, as an educated, respectable person. Two is the fact that I always thought of college education as being something that all people should pursue to get rid of the lower status occupation.

That latter one is actually one of the reasons why this text spoke so much to me, even though I still don't know if I agree much with it. I made me think about one of the main reasons I fight with my boyfriend, who has nothing more than an Associates degree, which I dare not mention to my family or friends in Brazil, and sees absolutely no value for further higher education like a BA, an MA or anything. All he really needs for his occupation are certificates. I do not know whether or not he is right, my mind has been trained to think that the number of degrees you have define what kind of a value you have in the work market.

But in this chapter of Noddings she refuses to accept the idea that all children can learn everything that we propose to teach them. Children have different abilities, and no matter how fine the teaching is, there are always going to be differences in achievements. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

She even mentions the question about algebra, which is her field of teaching. In real life many people will never use algebra, so why should people struggle through it? The classmate who presented this also started had an idea to refute Noddings argument, an idea that many times in my school life has been the only thing that kept me going in those subjects I hated, and made me actually enjoy them – sometimes is not the subject that matters, but the learning of the technique of getting through that, overcoming something that is not your strenght is a lesson in itself, because that kind of situation is going to be part of life.

Noddings questions how equal access to education can not mean one same education for everybody. Our classmate disagrees with her, saying she always thought that we should let children be exposed to all things. If we do have the chance to choose whatever they like, and education is based on that, what would happen if in 10 years they realize that it was exactly not what they wanted. Then it will be too late to go back, because througout their lives they had been trained for that one thing they thought they wanted. That is why I defend liberal education and disagree with the education tailored for the child.

Noddings says some people are never going to learn certain things and that this fact doesn't make them worse people, we just have different abilities, some are more oriented towards the academic, some are more manual. The problem is that in our society manual work is looked down upon comparing to reflective, philosophical work. I wonder though, if everyone is properly trained they will learn everything – some people just don't get theology or art, because they were not properly exposed to it...? I wonder if everyone got proper exposition to every subject from the liberal arts curriculum, they would all prosper at an acceptable pace. Now the question would be if that curriculum is really meaningful to constitute a fine educated person. Also, even though she says that everyone should not have identical education, but an education that will enhance their talents, one-how would you discover hidden talents, especially in the timid children like me? And how would you decide up to where in education the curriculum should be universal?

She does mention that there are certain things every child should learn, but then I question how democratic that is? At some point we can't talk about democracy. We do have to do things in a dictatorship model.

Noddings points that the liberal arts system is based on political issues, and that is fighting a losing battle. She gives the example of Dr.Seuss story of the star-bellied Sneetches vs the no star Sneetches. She also gave the example how the inner city schools are using a more prestigious model , teaching the children to discuss and create arguments, while the wealthier schools were drilling children for standardized tests. So privileged knowledge is not necessarily the best one. That is a good point. But I guess we can say that there is such a thing as a better model of education. At least in this specific case, the children in the poor school are not getting prepared for the tests but they are learning something important, which is the ability to think critically. But then again, a classmate even raised that argument in class, what is the definition of success? For some might be academic achievement, education, personal satisfaction, or financial success. Financial success will probably come for those who do well in standardized tests and will go to the better schools and get a profession that makes good money. Not necessarily the thinkers.

If we go after this model, everyone succeeded, everyone would go to white collar jobs. Those who did not do as well just as today would go to menial jobs that they fell into because they could not get where they wanted, not because that is what they are good at. But if our society looks at certain occupations as low status, undeserving, really who will want to be in them? Even if I know I have the makings of a great plumber I would probably look into some academic position, just because my family and my society taught me that this is the good type of occupation.

I have the feeling that she defends liberal education for early school grades though. After all how else are children supposed to be exposed to all the abilities they can develop? She does mention that children that have more manual abilities don't have to be doing a menial job, but they can also study the history of their fields. That somehow sounds like she believes that academic knowledge is important.

One of the impressions I get from all this reading thought, is that we are talking about things that are not really going to happen. This confuses me. She mentions that now she is just dreaming. I think it is great to dream, but I really wonder if there is a practical point in all of that or if this is all beautiful talk to stay in the books and in the discussion classes of graduate or teacher prep schools.She talks about a school in which children would be educated to learn about every occupation and profession. That school just doesn't exist, and it is unlikely it will.

10.16.07 response to class 7 - Greene's chapter 1

I had the opportunity of discussing the text with Vivian before she presented it in class and I noticed that we identified with some of the impressions we got from Maxine greene's chapter on Freedom and Education and Public Spaces. We both thought Greene was very dense, so I tried helping her doing her presentation because I thought it would help me better understand Greene's language, but we ended up losing communication over the week. It turned out our works came out very similar. Actually Wendy Kholi's review of Greene's book was a great help to figure out the book.

Greene's main topic is to imagine things to be able to act on them. So, she gets the idea of freedom and contests it - the individual is free to do what he or she wishes to do,within the context of self; she brings a new concept, that freedom is within the context of a community. It is about responsibility.

Vivian mentioned the movie Blood Diamond and how that made her think of that concept. Responsibility to the society. I have not seen the movie, but it has been suggested to me by my family ever since I started asking my boyfriend for a ring. I really am curious to know what the implications are of buying cheap diamond here. How is that part of my responsibility as part of a community.

Another example that Vivian mentioned was the fact that the rapper 50 cent visited a high school in Bridgeport – what role models are we bringing to children? Who should they look up to? Greene's view is that people don't care about the community. We have an industry of violence that targets children today – video games and movies. How is that a good role model for them? If a child sees violence over and over again, how will she/he think that violence is not the norm? I think though, that as parents and care givers we have a choice of changing that. According to Greene, freedom is the action we take before the situations we encounter. Therefore the action we take to protect our children from possible harm will define our exercise of freedom. I have a little brother, and I remember not letting him sit through certain video games with my older brother. It would have been easy to let him sit there and play with my brother, but I decided to take action. I think parents can do that today, if they care about raising whole human beings.

We should protect the young mind as a society. I guess that is Greene's point. The society should care about making sure the industry of violence doesn't target kids. An exerpt from Bill Clinton's speech was read to the class. The speech says that even though we have freedom of speech we will restrain ourselves from producing certain things that will harm young minds. A classmate argued that there can't be freedom of speech and restraining. I do believe it is possible. I think that has to do with personal and social responsibility. I will keep myself from certain aspects of my freedom in order to protect others. Ultimately of course it is up to each parent what their children have access to or not, but the whole society should be concerned with creating the best environment possible.

I do have another look on this matter of violence though. The professor did mention that there was violence when he or we were growing up, cartoons like Tom and Jerry are filled with violence. And our generation did not come out terribly wrong – not perfect though, but not terribly wrong either. Sometimes I wonder if today's parents worry more than normal about violence. Cartoons that 30 years ago would be considered harmless fun, today are viewed as evil by parents. I wonder if today's parents are over-concerned about violence.

Maybe, even though all this concern is exaggerated, the fact that today's children are the worry of our generation is grounded in the fact that we (and they) are being exposed to more violence than ever before. And today's youth has been the protagonists of horror stories like school shootings and other similar acts of violence. And this is on TV all the time, and most chidlren watch tv all the time.

The professor and the students think Greene's cause is very noble, if there are problems, changes need to be made. And it needs to be a social approach, because there are too many pieces to it.

So is Maxine Greene's banner unfair? Society has changed. Children see violence all the time. But I also saw violence in cartoons when I was growing up.

Is it TV's fault? Is it the newscast fault then? Well, yes, there are ways of reporting the news that can make it not so sensationalist and glamorized, but the news are the news, we can't really run away from it. It there is more violence being reported children who watch tv news are more exposed to violence. If the games are more and more real, children, who obviously play video games, are more exposed to pretend violence that looks real, then real violence becomes not so much of a big deal. A classmate gave an account of her personal experience – she lived abroad, and watching American television there, she realized there was a lot of violence on her country's tv.

I believe though, that as one classmate mentioned, children are not just growing up with war lately, many of these problems are simply true of human condition. That means there has always been violence in our world. Not only violence, but other evils. Children have always been exposed to death and tragedies. In a world that brings violence from afar inside our homes through TV and games, we over protect our children to a point where some of them can't deal with death or violence, because they have been over sheltered. Some Christian parents I met were afraid of telling their children about hell for instance, for fear they would be traumatized. Well, if that is the faith you are teaching your children, you should teach it as a whole, or the child will have a handicapped faith. Children should also learn about life as a whole, or they will be handicapped individuals.

Ben made a wonderful comment in my opinion: he said television and radio don't create captive voices, you can always hang up. What is being lost in our society is the teaching of character values. Ben is always mentioning how he views every moment he has with a child as a teaching opportunity. And the truth is most of us don't think of it this way. Most parents shelter their children from violence because they do not want to deal with explaining to the children what is going on or they don't know how to deal with the children's reaction to it. I am afraid that my child will be exposed to violence and become an assassin because I really don't know how to deal with the reaction that child will have to that kind of violence.

Ben was actually arguing against the presidential speech that I agreed with, but I think he made a good starting point to talk about parent's responsibility. I do think that society should feel responsible too, but not to the extreme of censorship. Another student for instance mentioned that we put so much emphasis on all the academic education, but we forget that ethical behavior is equally importatnt. You wouldn't have to tell people to act with restraint, because if they had that ethical education they would know how to do it. We judge our society for the lack of morality today, but morality is the very thing we are forbidden from teaching in schools today. Greene also made that point. And I think that is the one thing above all others that should be reconsidered in our schools.

10.09.07 response to class 6 - video and Greene's chapter 2

On this class we watched another video. This one was about the SAT tests. The video questioned its validity. What do they measure? Are they really fair? We are talking about a 3 hours multi choice exam, in which today most children taking it are aiming for the perfect score of 600pt so they can enter top universtities. For that goal preparation starts earlier and earlier and it costs more and more.

It was a complicated subject for me. Coming from Brazil I am used to something called vestibular, which I think is worse than the SAT. SAT and GPA are the 2 most importatnt criteria the university admission looks at, but they are not the only ones. Vestibular is a test and its score is the sole determining factor of whether or not you enter college. At least up until a few years ago. Now skin color also matter. And to me that is really more a form of reversed racism than social justice.

It looks like now many schools here in the US also consider skin color as a criteria to admit students, so they can have diversity in their campus. Again, i think this is a form of racism. The argument used by the schools in the video was that they want to keep their campus diverse and give everyone a fair chance. When California population banned racial preferences in college admission, the number of blacks and latinos dropped amazingly. Well, I guess that is unfortunate. That means that probably these groups are not getting that great of a basic education. But their color or ethinicity should not give them the right to get into school. One way that seems fair is that grades are not the only thing looked at, personal history and academic efforts count too. Some schools do that. That is not racism, that is just another way of evatluating whether or not a student is a good fit for a university.

If it is not going to be solely like this then i guess we should either decide for racial quotas for everyone ( so many whites, so many blacks, so many reds) or SAT scores for everyone. Not one and the oter, so a black student with a very low SAT gets in while a white student with that same score would be out. That to me is not only racism, it is also an isult to the black people. The gap is not of color , it is of class and preparation. If the preparation is not adequate, than it is not the tests fault

The problem with the SAT is actually the efect it has on the students. Those who fail it feel awful about themselves. Those who did not get into college after having spent so much time in preparation for it went on to community colleges. That was so disturbing! It means it is either all or nothing – either the top notch schools or community college.

The discussion of the text was Greene's first chapter. The classmate in charge of it felt lost in her task to deliver Greene's message. It was indeed a dense chapter, but I thought I lot of it was a repetition of wha twe had already read in the review of her work by Wnedy Kholi.

Concern for freedom is a recurring theme in our life time. Freedom is always there, we have to talk about it. It can olny be obtained thru ressistance agains toppresion, is it not to be give, it has to be achiveed.

The student who presented this chapeter thinks her idea is really unrealistic, bc she doens't think it can happen in the real world.

Schools don't allow children to be free from automatism Children are taught what society requires them to know, not what they want to know. Certain requirements are needed to work in society

Someone gave one example from Korea; there, it is hard to get jobs bc there's a huge competition, the school you graduated from plays a big part in job selection. Too many people are out of jobs. It makes people who want to try their best very disappointed. Are we talking about the struggle for freedom? I am still trying to figure out her point and how it relates to the text.

We talked about the difference in the concept of Democracy and the concept of freedom. There is a basic difference. Freedom is almost non-existent in some countries. But what about in America? How free are its children? They have pre-selected courses – are they free?

There was a movement in the 70's to try to have children selct their classes. And i wonder how much successful would that movement have made the country's children, had it succeeded?

Greene says sometimes poets and artists are closer to the idea of being free bc they had their piece of work in which they expresses their freedom . Children are not free, bc what they learn has been pre-selected. Democracy is an empty word.

Another's classmate comment was that kids still have the freedom to want to learn . If the course is not their passion they can choose not to learn. It is an element of freedom. The things is that freedom will then entitle responsibilities that will come with those choices right? If Ichoose not to learn, fine, but I will get penalized for that and that might determine the rest of my life opportunitites and restrictions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

10.02.07 response to class 5 - greene's review by Kholi, religion in schools

Today's class dealt with a very rich theme. Religion or religion related subjects being taught at public schools. The professor showed a video about the decision of the public schools in Kansas to teach criationism at schools, together with the theory of evolution.

The text discussion was on Maxine Greene's idea of freedom. The text discussed on this day was actually not her book, but a review of her book by Wendy Kohli. I actually tried reading Greene's book before starting this review, and I did find it much easier to do the opposite. After I started reading the review, many concepts that were difficult to understand, became clearer to me.

Well, I will start by the right order in which things came in class. The Kansas case video.

As a Protestant Christian there are so many things I could talk about here, or to respond to what was presented. I do have to say that many times I feel that my rights as a Christian are violated when a theory is considered truth at the expense of another theory that is part of my set of beliefs. Some scientists in that video did make evolution sound so certain that if that was wrong all of science would colapse. That does make it sound like the common belief that faith is the enemy of reason is true. And that does make it sound like no one has a right to question evolution. Sometimes it seems like evolution is more a religion than a scientific theory, by the way people defend it. So we have no right to question something in the field of science? How is that different from many religions that do not allow its members to questions their dogmas?

Another thing that was upsetting was the idea that every Bible believing Christian believes in creation as an oposition to evolution. Many Christians I know see no contradiction between evolution and the book of genesis, they actually believe that the 2 intertwine. So the idea that faith and science are in a battlefield is really offensive.

On the other hand there are non Christian scientists that do not believe in evolution, like those who defend the theory of intelligent design. I read a book my Mike Clark, and he claimed to not believe in God. But his whole book was devoted to contesting Darwin's evolution. That means all these theories are really are just theories.You can't defend them as if the reputation of the whole sicence field depended on it.

One question that was raised was that it was not fair to children to teach them that there were opposing views. That should be taught at universities. And then a question was raised in my mind – it is not fair to children to let them know that there are contradictions in the field of science? Why not? Are we trying to teach children that science is infalible? That sounds a lot like religion.

The next topic went on to discuss religious faith in universities. It mentioned how students feel their beliefs are suffocated when they go to college. There is a common belief today that faith is the enemy of reason. Unfortunately that happens today, because it used to be the opposite – religion has been viewed for centuries as the beginning of wisdom. That is how this country's universities were founded.

What happens today is that students that go to universities have their religion as an important part of their lives and are told that that important part of who they are has to be left outside the school's gates. Their gods are not welcome there even though that is a vital part of their beings.

Today we question why we have professionals with no morals or sense of right and wrong. Could it be that lack of religion might lead to lack of moral vision? Most religions are responsible for teaching moral to their followers. The reason why I think we don't need to make morals about religion is because most religions have very similar morals. So we don't need to favor on religion or another. I really don't know how to teach morals without a sense of respect for a higher being, like God. I really don't know how to teach morals based on an atheist humanism. But that doesn't mean I have to teach morals promoting the God of the Bible. I can teach about God through the teaching of morals, if I want to, and that is probably what I would do in a Christian school or at Sunday School, not in a public school.

The article read was about freedom - what is the meaning of freedom after the enlightment. Before it was being able to make choices. After it, it was a meaning of gettign things and be independent in captalism.

Considering that freedom is a way to make choices, some contemporary critical educatoors, like Paulo Friere, think that educators should be a mean to improving the current conditions of people, bringing them freedom, freeing them from oppression. The more oppressed people are,the less they have room to act, to make choices.

Greene, the author of the text being discussed, believes in being part of the community and try to better one's views trhough education. That to her is real freedom. Freedom is social rather than individualistic.

Her father was a very traditional jew. She isnsited that freedom cam e trhou chosing how to interpret your role in life. It was about making choices of how to live, but how to live in a community.

She complained that people don't care anymore, but that is because we have become individualistic, that is our notion of freedom. When all that matters is my own success and my own pleasure, the community is not important, morals are not important.

She mentions how not everyone has the freedom to take for granted. Many groups are oppressed in our society. And also people that have more means think they are entitled more freedom.

She mentions the reason why people search for freedom barriers. We all meet barriers, walls, ism's. We have to fight. So according to Greene, freedom is achieved not received. And it is not easy, because we are used to being oppressed.

Greene identifies a lot with Paulo Friere idea of education. He was exiled from brazil bc he was teaching people to fight for their rights. He had a movement called concientização. Reflectiveness on what makes a better community. We have to work together. Freedom is found thru resistance (ex. Rosa Parks), one has to be resistant to bring things around. (The exmple was give in class about the story of the RED LETTER – the kind of people we should be, choosing how to act in our role, the lady in the Red letter chose to act in a way that beneffited the community).

Taking about this concept of freedom one question was raised in class - Can students feel safe to speak their minds in a classroom? Hwo would you do that? One classmate said that the tone had to be set on the first day. But when you are younger you are much more succesptible to being teasing, and the teasing doesn't occur in front of the teacher. How can we avoid that? Students are afraid to express their views bc there are afrid they will be laughed at. A possibility was having a bulletin board online where studetns can contribute anonimously

A few things that were discussed in class:

It is terrifying when the state controls individuals.

Shouldn't the public school be free for the community to express their religions?

If I live in a democracy and don't believe in democracy I am not free. None of our teachers could say they don't believe in democracy. Or they would lose their jobs. Is that freedom? Freedom is a very lose idea.

Good pedagogy offers freedom for children. But at early grades freedom should be very limited. As we know children can hurt each other.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

10.16.07 Maxine chapter 1 and Noodings chapter 3, 4

Greene – the dialectic of freedom

Chapter 1

Today freedom = self determination, self reliance, independence

If we are independent we can do what we want, we have power.

If that is true we should be celebrating today, but the times are troubled with irresponsibility, illiteracy, unethical behavior and relativism.

Greene questions if todays notion of freedom is a good one. She believes today's troubles are due to it, and questions what we are teaching our children – what kind of culture we are perpetuating.

Many poets in the 20th century have realized this carelessness, thoughtlessness, lassitude, but we keep on celebrating our “freedom”.

She complains of som sort of apathy. We have this one idea of freedom as of being independent, but that type of freedom leads us to not question what is wrong. We take everything for granted.. Few of us do question. Even those who do, lack a set of shared values in their solutions. The general feeling is that of not caring about public concerns.

The reason is that people do not have a desire for thinking. Thought = freedom to reflect, to distance yourself from the subject and look at it and at what it could be. (look at things as if they could be otherwise.)

Because we have no desire for thought, we don't feel need to gather in public spaces and establish a “sphere of freedom”- maybe that means getting involved with community issues. That sort of lack of involvement leads to a feeling of victimization and powerlessness, which makes the concepts of freedom, bill of rights, like “inalienable rights” meaningless ideas, simple slogans.

Freedom = the capacity to reflect, the capacity to distance yourself from your life and look at it as it could be, “look at things as if they could be otherwise.”

She says we are in a time of reform (what reform is that?)

In this book she wants to explore alternative modes of being in the world, and the implications of this idea for education.

She mentions ideas of freedom of Dewey, Sartre, Foucault and Merlau-Ponty, Freire.

To Dewey freedom is about consequenses not antecedents. “we are free as we become different”. So freedom to him is about the ability to change ourselves?

Freedom is to be attained in to be attained in a context of social situations, making transactions with conditions and people. “whatever is chosen and acted upon must be grounded [...] in an anwareness of a wolrd lived in common with others.”

To Sartre freedom is an opening of spaces or perspectives dependent on our actions, motivated by our becoming conscious of a deficient reality. The movement only happens when we feel there is a challenge.

The problem she sees with our culture today when she thinks about this view is that accomodations come too easily – in life and in school.

Contemporary schooling doesn't challenge children to interpretive thinking, to relfect on the reality of their lives. They are supposed to attend to what is given from the outside world. This leads us to view reality as objective and to take things for granted, to not care.

What are the consequences of this way of living:

-unreflective consumerism

-having more instead of being more.

-freedom being self dependence instead of relationship (freedom is supposed to be social)

-people consider themselves free if they can get what they want, or if they have no obstables on the road to success.

To Freire freedom has to be grounded in accepting a situation as ours, “overcoming alienation”, that means to affirm oneself as a human being capable of decision, and recognizing the situation we are in.

This means that what we have today dehumanizes us. We need to find our true vocation, to become human again.

Greene talks about the dialectic of freedom. She wants to eliminate the either/or relation. For instance, she wants to reaffirm the significance of desire and the significance of thought. I am not sure if she means that she wants to go beyond what other philosophers believed and find a relation between what they consider to be bad – the desire to have more things – and what they consider to be good – the reflective thinking.

She repeats that every human situation is marked by a type of dialectical relation, there is always some tension, not the kind that can be overcome or synthesized peacefully.

Freedom will only be achieved when obstacles are perceived as obstacles and not as given. The examples she gives are: an immigrant that suffers indifference or neglect, minorities that face discrimination, children that face barriers imposed to them in the search for the creation of their authenticity. If those hardships are perceived as natural, you can't imagine a better state of being. SO you might even be proud of your autonomy, but you won't try to change your situation.

Another option for these option for these people is not to stay accommodated to their situation, but to simply uproot themselves and leave their traditions behind!

She mentions a book that deals with the uprroting situation – it is the Czech “the unbearable lightness of being”. This book talks about a person who leaves home and moves to the US, and does what she wants, but has no real realationships. She is free, but her freedom is meaningless. The lightness of being means the lack of links.

That is used in opposition to kitsch, which means slogans that are part of a culture, but are usually taken for granted. Slogans like “our traditional vaules” or “the barbarism of communism”. The people that break out from that and leave their traditions have some sort of negative freedom, and she examples Daniel Boone, and the hippies.

In another Czech book that deals with freedom , she thinks the author is trying to say that freedom is not missed if you don't have anything to be obstructed. Like in a dictatorship, you may feel free if there is nothing you might want to say that will get censored. If you don't feel that you are being restricted, you take freedom for granted, like breathing.

Under dictatorships some people want to say things they are not allowed, those people are the ones that feel like they are in a gas chamber – that is when you finally fight for freedom as someone who desperately need air would .

She thinks that is why freedom is usually a very strong value for people from eastern europe.

All of these things she is describing are relevant for education because education should be the means to lead the people to go beyond themselves, to think about what they are doing to open a world of learning and reflective thinking. But that doesn't occur very often today.

What happens is that the schools are required to prepare the students to feed the world of economic competitiveness, consumerism, lack of ethics, with the students being prepared to accommodate to this world, and not to think and challenge it. Almost nothing is done to solve the problems we faced today like homelessness, pollution, crime...

but schools are asked to prepare people for being successful in this world and put a stop to the problems that they are challenged with, like suicides and teen pregnancy.

She mentions how the teachers, even the ones who had other plans, are constrained to adapt to the present demands and prescriptions. Many educators might have chosen to be silent even if they are those who find it “difficult to breath”. And they are so important to model to the children the search for their own freedom.

She talks about how important it is to this current system that people feel no need to rebel. If they believe the promises of this world (wealth, security and happiness) they will stay quiet and do what is prescribed. They will be passive audiences.

She says that the world today is interpreted that way, people are given things to believe in, so they keep passive. And when the world is so interpreted, it is not easy for people to see something wrong with it. They just live in this world of symbols that is presented to them.

These symbols are like the gas chamber. No one feels that the air )freedom) is being taken away.

But she mentions there were instances in which people challenged a reality that seemed unalterable. She mentions the French Resistance in WW2. Those people took action become they had beomce challengers. They belived a different reality could come, and that Nazis were the obstacle they had to come together to overcome. They could have used excuses such as the fact they needed to take care of their families, but they preffered to fight for the possibility of transformation. They only did that because they thought that their current situation was unbearable and it could be otherwise.

She brings this case because those men believed they could come together and fight for a change. They could have simply complained and done nothing to change anything. Also they veiwed freedom as something that is was coming to them for the first time. It was not a gift, but something they had to fight for. She suggests that people find freedom when they have a project they can mutually pursue.

It is unlikely that people think about breaking through the structures of the world if they don't have any attachements to others. We create a society of strangers, where noone cares about anyone's problems.

She talks about two ways of withdrawing from the challenge of thinking. Some people play the game of society, they identify with the notion of freedom and just move through it looking for success. Some others go into the search of themselves and create their own shelters inside their minds, but they keep on playing the game in their real lives. Both of these groups refuse to take consciousness. The cooscious person is always engaged with others.

It is taking all of that into consideration that she wants to explore the problem of freedom and to develop a view of education for freedom, that would take our realities and our human condition into account.

Finally she mentions that she knows her book is not the first to talk about the need for an awakening. She knows of the problems a pluralistic country faces, and she is aware of ambivalences regarding equality and justice, and of the tragic dimension in human life. She belives that tragedy brings challenges though. She mentions it might be time to confront this challenges and empower the youth to recreate a common world and rediscover what it means to be free.

Noddings – the challenge to care in schools

Chapter 3 – beyond the disciplines: a critique of liberal education

She will argue that liberal education is a false ideal of universal education

(what is liberal education exactly? - it is a set of disciplines designed for general education rather than specific occupations)

Main argument – inadequacy of traditional subject matters as the ideal universal education.

Question left open in the end – is there a set of subjects that are deisreable or necessary for all?

It is considered the ideal education for college people.

It is standard for sceondary school, as college prep.

She will focus on qustioning the use in secondary school. I assume then that she assumes that primary education must be identical and universal for all children.

Her arguments will be in this order:

-it is inapropriate as universal education bc it is a small set of human abilities, which will lead to unequal outcomes.

-the political rational for it is misguided

-the content is not what all children need.

-popular arguments agains tracking can be used against liberal arts.

Some people argue that true democracy comes only with equal education for all children.

But equal doen't mean identical. And besides, equal should include something beyond subjects, like decent schools, adequate coaching, encouragement and advice.

One author says that there are no unteacheable children, but failing parents and schools. Noddings believes that most children can learn most things, but children should have educational opportunities that enhances their talents and not that measures their ability to do algebra. If they are not good at algebra, they are considered inferior.

Some people are never going to learn certain things. That doesn't make them worse people. (I wonder though, if everyone is properly trained they will learn everything – some people just don't get theology or art, because they were not properly exposed to it...? I wonder if everyone got proper exposition to every subject from the liberal arts curriculum, they would all prosper at an acceptable pace. Now the question would be if that curriculum is really meaningful to constitute a fine educated person. Also, even though she says that everyone should not have identical education, but an education that will enhance their talents, one-how would you discover hidden talents, especially in the timid children like me? And how would you decide up to where in education the curriculum should be universal?)

There must be some body of math that every children should know (she answers my argument), but she will not discuss that at this point of the book.

She mentions for instance drug babies, many of them might not even be able to learn. Some of them might want and be able to, but liberal arts might really not be their top priority when they have so many other needs to learn. Once they meet their basic needs, they should have a curriculum tailored to their interests and abilities.

It is a waste of money and talent to insist on liberal education for all.

She questions “the best education for the best is the best education for all.” Who can decide which curriculum is the best education?

It would be ideal if we could design a curriculum that gives attention to every human capacity and that people were incentivated to develop the ones they identify with.

And should capacities be unqually valued? A curriculum that values only a couple of these capacities, creates unequal and unfair results.

Some arguments are strong in favor of liberal arts. The political aspects – it has been historically associated with the people that were privileged with power and wealth. So why should we deny children the opportunities of getting privileged education usually reserved for the cream of society?

But she is not convinced that this type of education is really the best for everyone, neither for the mass nor for the elite. Except for those with talent in linguistics or math. Although that wouldhave to be modified.

Also she uses Dr. Seuss story of the sneetches, to talk about the power structures, and how the notion of best shifts to accommodate those who are privileged. From this point of view, giving all children the education of the best just for this political standpoint's sake is useless. This education is only privileged because those who are privileged claim it as their own. Privileged knowledge will change more easily than the power relations.

She requires instead an educational, not political, argument for requiring all children to take those privileged subjects. Because this approach fails to address the question of whether or not this knowledge should be important.

She thinks a good test to evaluate this type of privileged education is the question “what would happen if we succeeded?”

Everyone would follow on to college and to white collar jobs – the question she raises is – would everyone want this? Then a bunch of intellectuals would share blue collar jobs (unlikely), or those who did not do well in the system would end up in jobs by default (what happens today), without an opportunity to really develop their own strengths, they'd not be in the best job for them.

This type of ed indeed preprares students for a class of jobs. And the children might learn to view the other types as contemptible.

A more familiar argument to liberal education (mine for isntance) – the contents are things that everyone in society should know.

Her argument is :

teachers of different areas will complain that students or people have no culture if they don't know certain things particular to their own fields. But so many people excell in their fields without really mastering the core contents of others.

She is distressed that 17-year-olds don't know certain things, but more that students are not learning what schools are teaching now. The situation here is not this one: The students are not lacking the knowledge because the knowledge is not part of the curriculum. The situation is: the students are not mastering the content. If they think no one cares, they can't find a reason to attend to the content.

Students will listen to people who matter to them and for whom they matter. The ignorance of today is because children do not find meaningful adults in their lives to comment on meaningful content. “Relation preceeds engagement in subject matter.”

now most of the curriculum content is not really necessary for everyday life. It is just a mark of the “best” (the elite), because it has been like that traditionally. That is why oppressed minorities make it a point of having it universalized.

(did not understand the point of page 38 and 39. but...) she mentions how we are so worried about not getting into each other's field. We even withdraw from giving any sound advise that any sensible person would, fo rthe sake of not entering someone ele's field.

At public schools, teacher's refrain from talking to students about morals, bc they say it is the pastor's or parent's role. But intelligent adults can and should talk to children about values.

Next argument has to do with trying to put everyone on the same track, but lowering the quality of the course for some so much, that it doesn't prepare them for anything really.

So she argues for tracking, I think that means putting students in tracking according to their interests, either in liberal arts or in commercial, or industrial tracks. She says there is nothing sacred about the liberal arts curriculum. The arguments agains tracking are not educational – they are political and economical. (WHAT IS TRACKING?)

So we strive for placing everyone in higher tracks instaead of attacking the hierachy of those tracks, because we are disturbed about the fact that minorities are usually placed in lower tracks at large numbers.

Schools could focus on giving the students an integral kind of education, by taking them to cultural events, having them participate in discussions with adults from the community at meal time and talk to occupational models from society who would take some of them as apprentices.

Many people reduce the responsibilities of the school to academic only, bc they believe schools are being asked to much, and that is why children don't learn anything. The one writer's argument is that schools should value only academics, and students that fail here should learn that this failure is only in one type of failure, and that there are many other areas that person could succeed.

Noddings argues that a student that has spent 12 years receivein gthe message of failure at school will be unlike to realize that there are other areas in which he might succeed. That is why other abilities should be part of the school curriculum.

She doesn't completely ignore the validity of his argument. Schools maybe have too much that is asked from them, but that is because schools are burdened to accomplish something society doesn't want to itself, like getting rid of racism.

Next chapter she will look for an alternative to morally deficient schooling.

She compares the fact that rich and poor schools are so different from each other in their conditions, and that to bring them to equality would require the wealthier to be willing to share their resources or sacrifice a little and they are not willing to do so, yet they are the products of the current education we have, which goes to show that morally this education is deficient.

The 2 authors she counter argues here are Robert Hutchins (the best for the best), and Mortimer Adler (evry child can learn everything-identical education for al)

Noddings – the challenge to care in schools

Chapter 4 – an alternative vision

Imagine a world in which education was designed by people that valued relationships above all.

Dewey believes that the community should want for all children what the best parents want for their own children. He disagreed from Adler and Mortimer.

Dewey admired Plato's idea that a child should be educated according to his own needs and talents.

Plato only believed there were 3 categories of admirable occupations. Dewey disagreed from him.

It says that Dewey did not think that the children should be educated based on societal needs and occupational destinies and I thought that this was what Plato defended.

She asks us to imagine that we have a large family with many different children to raise – how would we want them to turn out.

This is a complicated experience bc since we have different cultural perspectives, what we want as the best for our children may vary. Because more than intelligences we are concerned with the development of characteristics important to the groups we belong.

But most parents would say they want their children to be happy, escape severe illness, develop talents, and be loved and respected.

Parents want to preserve the live of the children, to foster growth, shape them according to what is acceptable. Some times these 3 ideals conflict.


Ruddick puts together 3 schemes we should consider in order to successfully answer this question, even though we are so different:

1-there should be one set of different programs that will work on the children's different intelligences (7 to Gardner), and for those subjects that every child should learn, there should be an adaptation to capitalize on their abilities. There should be no testing unless requested by the parents or child. The most iportant shuld be the interests, not the testing of cpacities.

2-because moral and acceptability are still missing from that, there shuld be another set – human activities – that concetrates on activities and behaviors that enable to children “to live productive and acceptable lives”.

3-The next set to be part of a child's education, the one that will teach the different forms of care, is the set of basic affiliations (race, gender, class, religion). This set of affiliations will influence the way we will teach the children the different types of care, and which of these types will have priority over which.

When talking about care she speaks from her own perspective and afiliations.

Not talking about any special school organization in this chapter, she is just giving way to dreams. What should this ideal education for this large family of many children have.

Care for self – what that means from Noddings perspective.

She wants the children to be educated for physical health and grace.

Grace – key word for her here – means integration of body, mind and spirit – it is about recognizing that we can't control everything and that we all have gifts and limitations we are born with.

There are several aspects of self. Physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual. We can't separate them in real life, but it is easier to label them to talk about them.

Physical self – nutrition, hygiene, exercise, appearance.

It should not be reduced to physical education and classes that talk about parts of the body, like biology. Things that really matter to teenagers should be dealt with – complexion, stature, missed periods, unbidden erections, drugs. Drug education today is only in some curricula because drug is a problem, but it is usually not with the intent of explaining to the student that this is not a problem that is particularly evil or unique to them.

Spiritual self – almost no attention at public schools. Students have a lot of questions about spiritual things, about god and life after death, and these could be discussed without violating the establishment clause. A particular religion can not be taught in a public school, but the students can “learn something about the human longing for god or spirit.” Some students are going trhough the worries of rejecting their parents religion. It is also important that they can ask important questions concerning religions, so they will not accept non-sense, so they will not confuse indifference with respect.

Occupational self – choosing an occupation comes in addition to finding out who they are and what they want to become. Students whose talents fall in the spatial and bodily categories are usually diagnosed with some learning disability, anf their parents generally fight to prove that the kid can fix that, bc he is a bright kid. These kids would be the leading ones if all children were to have access to manual works of various kinds. Such students would feel much better about themselves if school credited them for their talent.

This would not necessarily doom these students to a set of narrow curricula. Academic skills could be learned focusing on their interests. Eg.Learn the history of machinery, visit museums, debate and investigate ethical and enviromental problems. I had a teacher who wanted us to do that. When she saw students that were failing in her subject, she would ask what they were interested in. I had a classmate who was a surfer, and the teacher asked him what good articles about surf he had read lately, what what his favorite surf magazine was. She wanted him to see, that he could become learned in the subject that really interested him and at the same time learn his language skills.

Care for intimate others – intimately related to self. The kind of persons we are affect the quality of relations we enter.

Forming relations with friends, relatives and mates are part of our aspirations in shaping an acceptable child.

If we can't agree on how to do that at schools, because we are culturally diverse, should the children suffer the lack of that learning? (I think children should learn that at home. They can practice it at school bc school is part of society, but how will teachers teach something that parents might not be happy with?)

Her expectation is that boys and girls would be prepared for the work of attentive love.

She questions how we see it as a problem that women have little room entering occupations typical of man, but no one seems to see a problem the fact that men have little participation in occupation typical of women. There should be more men in childcare.

Also the students should learn about the cycles of life.

Because families don't provide experiences in this area anymore, the school must do it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

getting a little behind with my responses. will do them tonight!!!!

greene's outline of the first 2 chapters will also be here at the end of the week.