Sunday, September 28, 2014

“Schools and the New Jim Crow” An Interview with Michelle Alexander

The article “Schools and the New Jim Crow” An Interview with Michelle Alexander is about the mass incarceration of blacks in the United States in this post-racial society.  She analyzes a variety of statistics since 1970 and highlights that the number of people behind bars in this country has increased by 600%.  Alexander talks about the theory of colorblindness (like Armstrong and Wildman) and uses a metaphor explaining that the structural racism that exists is like a “birdcage” and “school-to-prison pipeline.” 

One quote that sticks out to me is in the beginning of the interview “What has changed since the collapse of the Jim Crow has less to do with the basic stricture of our society… In the era of colorblindness it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, or social contempt…. we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals”… we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”  It seems that with the end of the Jim Crow mindset, the 21st century attitude mirrors the racial discrimination in a different way, which keeps blacks from the same opportunities as whites.  Armstrong and Wildman write “Colorblindness is the new racism… the failure to acknowledge racial reality in the United States reinforces and solidifies existing racial inequality…” (67).  I strongly believe that society moved into the age of colorblindness where we think there is equality for blacks and whites, but use the justice system to still maintain the status-quo of white privilege and power.

Alexander also says that there is a domino effect happening when parents of color who are incarcerated are more likely to have children who will be incarcerated.   She used  the “birdcage” as a metaphor to describe “wires that keep a person trapped… they don’t have to be created to harm the bird, but they still serve that function”  Alexander says the they are “born into a community in which the rules, laws, policies, structures of their lives virtually guarantee that they will remain trapped for life.” This creates the notion that those in the “birdcage” will be denied the privileges of the "privileged."  She also says “The cage itself if a manifested ghetto, which is racially segregated, isolated, cut off from social and economic opportunities.”  This suggests to me that, mobility into a social privileged world will not be a reality for the under-privileged.   I also believe that holding people in an economic and social crunch will not only limit them, but also continue to label them as a failure (forever?).     Alexander says that “the school-to-prison pipeline is another metaphor—a good one for explaining how children are funneled directly from schools into prison.  Instead of schools bring a pipeline for opportunity, schools are feeding our prisons.”   

Alexander concludes by saying “…talk to young people about these issues in ways that won’t lead to paralysis, fear, or resignation, but instead enlighten and inspire action… it is important to teach them about the reality of the system…”  I think she is thinking along the same lines as Delpit in The Silenced Dialogue “I suggest that students must be taught the codes needed to participate fully in the mainstream of American life…” (45).   Both Delpit and Alexander make points saying that educators should teach and encourage students to think about how they can make changes and to voice their own opinions and empower them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Colorblindness is the New Racism" by Armstrong & Wildman (2013)

“Colorblindness as the New Racism” by Armstrong and Wildman gives us an insight of racism in today’s culture.  Colorblindness is a term used to acknowledge racial inequality in the 21st century which still considers white privilege in the forefront.  Color insight is another term coined to suggest that “most of us see race and underlines the need to understand what that racial awareness might mean” (68).  This new terminology sheds light on racism in the modern world.

I apparently did my own “24 hour challenge" yesterday and didn’t even realize it.  I was completely mesmerized at my findings- keeping the article in mind.  I went into a family-owned pizza parlor for dinner where I was waiting in the lobby for a table.  I noticed that there were pictures of the business on the wall- pictures from the 1950s to the present.  Many of these pictures showed the business owners with politicians, the business owners with awards, and the business owners will employees.  One picture stood out to me- it was a picture of the business owners with family (white descent) with a person of color towards the far right.  All people in the picture were posing and smiling.  All the white people were standing while the person of color was sitting on two milk crates.  All the white people were dressed nicely; the person of color dressed in an apron (a possible worker).  It was a black and white photo which suggested to me it may have been an older picture.  As my eyes drew closer to the bottom I looked at the caption- the photo was taken in front of the building during 1997 renovations.  The photo was mixed in with pictures from the 1950s and 1970s (most of the present pictures were in color). 

I was astonished thinking about “Colorblindness as the New Racism” it further advertised the worker of color in working clothes and white privileged persons in clean business clothes.  As I left the restaurant I wondered what the person of color may have been thinking.  He definitely looked subordinate in this picture while sitting with his dirtied apron.  Was this picture a product of colorblindness or was this picture taken as a product of color insight?  I still wonder about this-- even 20 hours later.

I read Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship, by Charles Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody, and Donald Haider-Markel.  In this reading (just the preface and part of chapter 1- with many pages missing) I learned about how routine traffic stops occurred in New York City and the how these routines are part of everyday police business.  Epp writes “If people who are subjected to an ongoing, discriminatory pattern learn to recognize it as such, they will come to conclude that the process is deeply unfair [even if the officials carrying it out are unfailing respectful and polite]”.  It seemed to me that non-white people who were stopped more often were felt that white police asked more intrusive question.  It also occurred to me that if minorities are subjected to unfair process then resistance and retaliation may emerge. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children by Lisa Delpit (1995/2006)

When I read The Silenced Dialogue: Power Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children by Delpit, I considered scenarios in my own classroom and am completely intrigued with what Delpit wrote.   I thought maybe my own experiences were exceptional or maybe considered the fact that universal language my school uses helps foster these “culturally influenced oral interactions”.  Delpit wrote “The attempt by the teacher to reduce an exhibition of power by expressing [herself] in indirect terms may remove the very explicitness that they child needs to understand the rules of the new classroom culture” (35).   I do believe that encouraging this behavior may set up for ALL students to be a success in the classroom.  Here are some quotes that were captivating to me.

Delpit talks about cultural misinterpretations between socioeconomic statuses.  “Middle-class parents are likely to give the directive to a child to take his bath “Isn't it time for your bath?”… By contrast, [a mother of color]… “Boy get your rusty behind in the that bathtub”(34).   I strongly believe giving ANY student a directive creates a choice factor.  We hope our students will make the positive or best choice.  I always use “Is this…?” or “Are these…?” statements and give the students a directive in any situation and then tell them why I am saying it to give meaning and a reason.  Telling students to do a task no matter how simple it is, is not something I believe is respectful and may create an anxious classroom culture. 

Delpit also says that children of color might respond differently to the directive and may feel it is “weak” or “soft-spoken” of the teacher of “non-color”.  I feel that the teachers’ authoritative nature is something a student might respond to well, but might not look at it as disrespectful.  When a teacher [of color] uses “push” statements, the child was more accepting of the “meanness” and was able to learn.  I find it fascinating that students pick up on the way teachers instruct and Delpit points out the cultural differences. 

It appears that students bond differently to teachers. I think that having a universal language and universal expectations in a school can only help construct a meaningful, positive, and "uni-cultural" learning experience.  When I say "uni-cultural" it does not mean only one significant or dominate culture, but rather a culture of understanding and respect for one another.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson (2001)

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson (2001)

Johnson talks about privilege defined by Peggy McIntosh, and how the "diversity wheel" suggests an inclusive sense of self.  The inner ring of the diversity wheel being things that are uncontrollable and the outer ring being controlled by only you, and possibly some other force.

He defines privilege, from work by McIntosh, with two major umbrella headings, “unearned advantage” and “conferred dominance.”  Johnson writes that unearned advantage is a condition that you happen to inherit or supposedly cannot help, but constructed by the social norms of your society.  So according to Johnson, white, heterosexual males have the most power in our society, simply because of a birth rite. Conferred dominance is the assumption that privileged groups have more of the upper hand than those of non-privileged groups.  So a white male, regardless of status, may challenge a higher status white woman, simply because she is a white woman.

When analyzing his diversity wheel and understanding the defined privileges as stated, I concluded that there is a hierarchical order to privilege with limited mobility.  According to Johnson, the heterosexual white male is at the top of this hierarchical order and everyone else has lesser order depending on the “social construction” of where society places.  Everyone else is placed in their own hierarchical category based on their characteristics of the diversity wheel and the unearned advantage privilege.  Those that are below each hierarchical category can show conferred dominance toward the person of higher status.

So the hierarchy of peoples’ status, which Johnson illustrates, does in-fact give you a visual of how all kinds of people are represented.  However, I think his perception fails to include people who may be disadvantaged, mentally or physically, and also does not take language difference into consideration.

For example, I am friends with a heterosexual, white male, who was badly burned in the 2003 night club fire.  At that time, according to Johnson, he was a privileged white male at the top of this hierarchical order.  However, does his physical condition and physical appearance, still make him eligible for privilege?  Does this mean the physical state he is in still make him a candidate for the top of the hierarchy?  I think Johnson fails to include that it could be taken away, therefore it is not permanent.

Language was also something that I considered after reading Johnson’s article.  Let’s consider a white male living in America who speaks English (their first language) and later becomes fluent in Spanish.  Or let’s consider another white male living in America that speaks fluent Spanish (their first language) and later learns English.  Are they both equivalent on the hierarchical order? Although this may be a far-fetched case, I am concerned about the privilege implications he emphasizes in his article.  I struggled on Johnson’s inability to look at language differences and mental and physical disadvantages people might possess.   

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Today is September 3, 2014,

     My name is Kenneth Kard and I have been teaching in the City of Central Falls for the past eight years. I must say it is the most rewarding experience working with children and teaching mathematics.  I have grown to love the students, the families, and the community. The students are creative and have great minds (8th graders have the biggest imaginations).  I welcome parents into my classroom and they always walk away with satisfaction.  These families have a great rapport with me and support me when you welcome them into your "home".  The community that Segue has built is both extraordinary and unique.  I have not worked in too many schools, but I have to say when talking to many of my "teacher friends", they are amazed at what we do as a school. Some are envious and many are baffled at how we do things.  I love coming to work knowing that I am supported by my community.

     Since working at Segue IFL for the past six years I have grown professionally.  I feel that now is the time to further my education and have a well rounded perspective of teaching.  I am excited about this new adventure and continue to be the best I can be.  I am a 2007 Rhode Island College graduate and glad to come back for the Master's Program.

    I have many other hobbies and unique  interests outside the math classroom.  First, I have a pet duck named Kicker and she is about 6 months old.  She is amazing.  When I get asked about having pets and I say I have a "duck", I get the same reaction, "You have a what... duck?"  It's different and not a popular pet, but yes, my duck rocks.

    Speaking of "Rocks", I am a huge concert goer, I love hard rock, metal, and lots of 90s alternative.rock music.   I will be seeing Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat September 28th.  This will be my 4th time seeing them since 2012.  I also have plans to see Rob Zombie (my second favorite) again in 2015.

     When it gets cold and snowy, I head up to the mountains in New Hampshire and Maine for some snowboarding.  I started snowboarding in 1997 and have maintained the love for it.  I think I am fairly great at it, but not enough to be in the Winter Olympics.  Sage Kotsenburg, 2014 Winter Olympic gold medalist, is my number one hero when it comes to the slopes.  Go USA!

    When school is out for summer I am in Florida from the end of June to the beginning of August.  I may be contradicting myself saying I love winter too, but heading down south for hot temperatures makes me happy as well.  I also enjoy surfing, wave running, going to the beach, and relaxing by the pool with family and friends.  If I had to choose my favorite season--winter or summer, that would be a toss up.