Sunday, April 20, 2014

Empowering Education - Connections

Okay, I need to start by saying that I seriously can’t believe this is our last blog for class, and that the semester’s already over! I’ve really enjoyed this adventure with everyone!
            So, emotional segment over, down to business! When reading “Empowering Education” by Ira Shor, I found myself making connections to a number of authors we have read this semester with almost every point she was displaying. Needless to say, this last blog will be my connections piece, and I’ll attempt to tie together the ideas systems we have learned thus far. The authors that really stuck out to me were Delpit (She’s everywhere, I swear!), Oakes, Kohn, and Rodriguez, as well as the ideologies described through SCWAAMP.
            Shor explains the concept of empowering and participatory educational systems, and their pros and cons. What I gathered towards the end of this was that education is unfortunately very political and ultimately situational. It depends on where the student is from, who the teacher thinks they are and how they perceive the students in front of them. Basically, education has become a series of reactions to situations presented by and affected by the surrounding environment. I feel like I may be talking myself in circles, but it made sense in my head I honestly!
            My first connection was to Delpit, when it says that “The deficiency is the curriculum in schools, which he [Piaget] saw as a one way transmission of rules and knowledge from teachers to students, stifling their curiosity” (12). Piaget said that it is not good to have the classroom be a teacher-rules-all situation. This is where Delpit would disagree. She argues that teachers need to explicitly explain and perform the rules and codes of power to students, especially to those students who do not learn them in their home environments. Piaget says that this is a problem- for teachers to have full rule- and Delpit thinks it is the best mode of operation. So, is there a happy medium? Of course! A compromise would be a “reciprocal relationship” (promoted by Piaget as well) that would require the utmost respect for the teacher, alongside student-centered enrichment. This way, everyone is happy and equal! Yay equality!
            The next connection was made to Oakes, when it was said that “…schooling supports existing power and divisions in society by sorting students into a small elite destined for the top and a large mass destined for the middle and the bottom…”(19). Oakes studied this way of schooling and determined that it is detrimental. It would be better for students to have inclusive classrooms where no one is sectioned and everyone is equal no matter their ability or disability. This fits perfectly with the empowering and participatory schooling that Shor describes, because inclusion does just that. It empowers every student to do their best and strive for what they desire, without any limitations.

"Education is complex and contradictory." (Shor 13)
                        The ideas of Kohn were also shown in this piece, when Shor was explaining traditional classrooms. Shor was explaining that teacher-centered classrooms have a negative impact on the learning process for students. Also, it was mentioned that competition in the classroom based on academic performance “…interfere[s] with the cognitive development of many students…” (23). Kohn would whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment, based on his findings explained in his chart about a successful learning environment for a classroom. He says that it is worrisome for a classroom to be teacher based, which would obviously interfere with student involvement. Kohn also believes that interscholastic competition is detrimental to self-esteem and performance of students who do not find their name next to the gold stars on the wall.
            This may be somewhat of a stretch, but I believe that the ideas of Rodriguez can be found throughout most of the article. Rodriguez emphasizes the difference between private identity and public identity between different classes and throughout schools. I noticed a connection to this when Shor was saying that “Humans do not invent themselves in a vacuum…The goals of [empowerment] are to relate personal growth to public life, by developing strong skills, academic knowledge, …and critical curiosity about society, power, inequality, and change” (15). What children learn in school and how they apply it to their society depends on their private and public lives. In school they may act a certain way, which could be the complete opposite to how they behave in a setting outside of the classroom. With empowerment and participation enforced in the classrooms, especially at a young age, students can be taught to mesh their private and public identities so that they are consistently one person; a good citizen with an immense amount of knowledge to offer the world in hopes of change.