"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

race matters

another imperfect grad school ed-related blog post:

At the end of Chapter 10, Provenzo implores teachers to be critical multiculturalists, and question the assumptions about US culture and US schooling. While reading Ch 10, I felt myself taking on the perspective Provenzo advocates, and feeling frustrated and disappointed with what I see.

Throughout the text, Provenzo has outlined the role of schoolng in the domination of minority cultures, in deculturalization, and in perpetuating hegemony or the dominant ideology. On page 220, Provenzo lists a range of methods used by deculturalization programs. I found the following particularly interesting:
-"Use of teachers from dominant group"
-"colonized people are directed, they do not direct themselves."
I found these ideas interesting because they manifest themselves in my observations of my school and in the Teach for America Program. Later in the chapter, when Provenzo discusses race and privilege, and the compensatory education programs of the civil rights movement, I can't help but feel this is a perennial problem in education that won't ever go away. He talks about how the inception of Title I was supposed to extend opportunities and resources to "help disadvantaged children" (248) but that time and data has proven that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do not do well in school. Maybe this is because the public schools are "middle-class and upper-class institutions that automatically place the poor at great disadvantage" (248) or that "historically, US schools have contributed to racial inequality and discrimination" (248) rather than integration and equality. When I think about my school faculty and the people who typically apply to Teach for America, Provenzo's point is confirmed: they are usually white, middle or upper class people from more affluent and privileged backgrounds than the children they teach ("teachers and those who plan to become teachers are usually white and middle class" - page 249). What message does this send to our students who are from minority ethnic groups and cultures, when the authority they must answer to and whose rules they must abide are those of another culture? And, if that culture is the one representing the dominant majority class? This sends a hidden message to our students about dominance and subservience. No wonder our students may not necessarily do well or have trouble learning in these school environments, if they feel they are in a constant state of dominance and deculturalization. Worse, when we teach SDAIE strategies or try to integrate the students' cultures into our lessons, it sends the message that not only are their cultures removed and bleached from the classroom, but they are so out of touch with their own culture that now we must teach it to them.

Furthermore, the text discusses the Supreme Court cases of Brown v. Board and Swann, and how they made efforts to transform racial attitudes and integrate schools better. It discussed busing as one solution that has proven problematic, because it takes children out of familiar and "safe" environments and neighborhoods, and injects them into "alien" places in the name of integration. "At best, busing has proved to be an imperfect way to overcome past inequalities and discrimination" (247). I strongly disagree with this. Busing is problematic because it is not a solution to underlying problems, such as the fact that segregation exists in society at large, and not necessarily because of past laws, but because of unspoken and unwritten laws. Segregation occurs because of unfair economic distribution, gentrification, urban planning, etc. It is a temporary solution and one only seen in schools, and does not remedy society holistically, but expects schools to fill in those gaps. Furthermore, what does it matter if racially different schoolchildren are being bused into different districts, if the curriculum taught at school is still "White" or lacking in color or cultural heritage to begin with?

It seems there are only problems and no easy solutions.

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