Sunday, January 31, 2010

Examining Cultural Differences in the classroom

After reading the Dong article, I really do understand where she's coming from. There needs to be cross cultural literature in the classroom. It's very important to start implementing this into curriculums because if not then we aren't preparing students for the real world. Students aren't necessarily going to need to know what type of narrator the story has or where the climax and rising actions are when they go into the real world. I mean these things can be learned by someone who has ever read a book or watched a movie. All you have to do is ask them when the main conflict reached the breaking point and that's the climax, or what caused the conflict to reach the breaking point and that's rising action. They know these things even though they may not know the technical terms. But what the students do need to know is how to be aware of different cultures and things that are going on around them. Students need to be aware of what is going on outside in the real world that isn't the classroom. When it comes down to it, everyone knows that the classroom isn't the real world. There are things that go on in school like discrimination and racism, but these instances are almost never as serious in the classroom as they are in the real world.

With that being said, as teachers we need to make sure that we prepare the students for what they are going to encounter in the real world. They experience doses of discrimination at school, but that's in a setting where hopefully the school and it's staff will help to remedy the situation. There aren't always going to be people there to stop these things from happening and it's important to make sure that the people who are the ones discriminating and the ones who are being discriminated against know how to fix the situation when their parents or other prominent figures in either culture might not encourage a healthy appreciation for someone else's culture. By encouraging discussions and showing that there are ways that conflict can be resolved without it turning into something serious, we can show students that things can be remedied even when others say there is no remedy for a problem. Just as the teachers in the article expressed, a discussion in a healthy environment can make people more aware and even show them that they are participating in things like discrimination and racism without ever meaning to. I think that the overall goal is to make students more aware of other cultures so that they can appreciate those differences and they can learn that there is a way that we can share each others cultures without losing our own. I think that the main people who need to understand this are European-Americans. They don't realize that there are things that they could never understand unless the actually listen to the accounts of people who have been through it. By encouraging experiences with other cultures then we can show that it is possible for people to coexist without all of this conflict.

I definitely thought about what some of the responses were saying about culture and the author writing in particular dialects, because I encountered this in Esperanza Rising. The author reminded us that we were the outsiders because at times we didn't know the language and I think that becoming the outsider, even just for the duration of the book, is a good way to help students empathize with people of different cultures. We also see instances of this with Copper Sun too. The white people were portrayed as the bad guys, and that makes Caucasians aware that there are things that our race has done to harm others. We aren't necessarily responsible for things that our race took part in, but we definitely have a responsibility now to try and understand what happened and how we can work together with the cultures that were wronged to fix things. If we can do this by encouraging discussions about cross-cultural literature, then we are on the right track to doing our part. Even teachers who don't understand why they have to do this or what the purpose of this is can learn to understand that this is very helpful. The teachers in the article that had misgivings about teaching these things eventually learned that they weren't crossing a line in doing this. They were simply encouraging students to take part in their culture and be proud of where they are from. The teachers realized that they weren't taking part in any form of discrimination by bringing these issues into the classroom and all teachers can benefit from what the article had to say. If we can implement students cultures into our readings in the right way, then it is definitely a healthy experience that needs to happen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Twilight and Harry Potter

I might be a little biased just because I really enjoy both of these books and have read them multiple times. I feel that both of them have earned the right to be at least considered for classroom use. My initial feelings toward very popular literature are that they might not be the best things to teach in the classroom because of the fact that so many people can get caught up in only reading them for pleasure. I feel that books taught in classrooms need to be interesting enough to where they offer some entertainment to keep the reader in the story, as opposed to losing the reader and causing someone to have to re-read passages over and over because they can't remember what they just read, but also doesn't enthrall them so much that they just keep reading and forget to do any analyzing. I think, a good book for a classroom is one that makes you want to analyze the text and ask questions. I definitely think that these two books would be great to either start out a class with or to end a class with. If you start a class with them, you can use them as easy examples to teach the children how to analyze things since there are themes that obviously show themselves on the surface. If a teacher taught them at the end of their class then it might offer a bit of a break from rigorous course work. So I do think that they have a place in the classroom.

I honestly think that Twilight would be a very good book to teach in maybe a freshman english class because obviously when kids reach high school there are certain things that come up that have never been issues before. Sex is of course a big topic in schools now and kids are facing it earlier and earlier. While I agree that students need to be taught about safe sex practices, I think there should also be something in the schools that promotes abstinence. This book does a very good job of showing the value of a love that is very pure and just that basically it is possible for two people to love each other without having sex. I just think that it's very important to promote the best defense against teen pregnancy and health problems that children could get themselves into because they don't realize that even though they are being safe there are things that can still happen.

As far as Harry Potter goes, I think that this book does a very good job of showing a few great things that are good values for children to see. It promotes ideas of acceptance and equality by showing that a "muggle" Hermione Granger is still equal to the other students even though she isn't a "pure-blood". I think that J.K. Rowling is definitely making a statement by having this conflict of "pure-bloods" hating "muggles" because of the fact that there are still instances of racism. It isn't gone like some people believe and this makes kids aware of some of the things that they are doing to discriminate against children even if it isn't saying straight out, "Billy you shouldn't pick on Johnny because he is of a different ethnicity." I also think that this book promotes certain values like courage and testing yourself to find your abilities that kids need to do. They need to put themselves out there to try out their abilities and find things that they're good and Harry and the others characters in the books and throughout series do a good job of promoting this idea of how testing yourself is the only way you'll find out your own strength.

I think that the question "but is it good enough" is definitely a very good question to ask. I think that every single text that has a chance of making it in the classroom needs to be placed under scrutiny to make sure that it offers some form of enrichment or teaches some key point of the curriculum. I know that there are some teachers who would break there back to find a way to use Twilight in their classroom simply because they really enjoyed it, but they wouldn't really think of why they wanted to use it. All they know is that they want to find a way to introduce it to their students and if they add to their curriculum then they know that their students will have to read it. This is a very horrible thing, but I have known teachers like this. I think that there's a very fine line between what needs to be brought into a classroom and what doesn't and I definitely think that certain texts need to be put through the wringer so to speak to make sure that they are actually doing the job that they are supposed to be doing to hold up whatever they are supposed to cover in the curriculum.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Copper Sun

Copper Sun was a very eye opening book, but at the same time I didn't really feel surprised, if that even makes any sense. I guess what I mean by that is the fact that there were things in the book that I didn't know about, but I just wasn't surprised that those things actually happened. One of the things that really surprised me was the amount of interracial sex that went on. I had always thought that it was something so frowned upon that it would never have happened back then. I suppose I should have realized that just because certain subjects were tabooed didn't mean that those particular things never happened. The book did have it's moments where it moved me and made me feel something which is something that I value very highly in a book, but it didn't really hold my attention all that well. Even though it did show a different side of what we're normally shown about slavery, I felt that the subject is one that I've heard so much about that I was turned off by the initial subject matter. However, I still feel like it was a good book, and had it been something that I hadn't heard so much about I feel like it would have held my attention better.