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.