Monday, April 25, 2011

Education Is Politics by Ira Shor

extended comment/ quotes/ hyperlinks:
      When reflecting upon what I just read I have to agree with Conor when he said, "I believe that this chapter from Shor's book is a good conglomeration everything that we have learned in FNED.  To me, the reading was like a channelling of all the things we've talked about into the perspective of a teacher."

         This reading was difficult for me at first but once I got thru a few pages I started to really be engaged in it. Although I could probably tie in everything we have read so far this semester in some way, I related this one most to Christopher Kliewer's Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome. This is probably because I enjoyed that article so much and because it is fresh in my mind.
          The first quote I want to pull from this article is a few sentences from page 12.
                                    "The defieciency is the curriculum in schools, which he saw as a one-way transmission of rules and knowledge from teacher to students, stifling their curiosity."
                                    " People are naturally curious. They are born learners."
                                    "Empowered students make meaning and act from reflection, instead of memorizing facts and values handed to them."
               What strikes me about the first quote is why it is acceptable to treat children with a different respect than we do adults. Why is it that in the United States we are supposedly a democracy but then in the classroom suddently it is a dictatorship? Why do adults think that they are so much better and wiser than children to the point that the children have no valued voice or opinion? I understand that the article further discusses this issue but I have never understood this concept. I have been a nanny/ babysitter most of my life and have gotten the comment from parents several times that their children are so much better behaved for me than them. I would explain to them it is because I do not have the authorative role of mom or dad. Typically in the situations I experienced, this role would be of the father being the diciplinarian and the mother being the push over. Next, I have to relate this again to Parelli natural horsemanship, I observed my own actions and saw that I was neither the diciplinarian nor the push over, I was what Parelli would call, "a carrot-stick person." He says there are carrot people and stick people that are both extremest but he wants you to be middle-of-the-road-ists by using both tactics in small amounts and appropriately in order to build stronger communication. I found that I first became "friends" with the kids I babysat; in order to do this I had to act equal to them, I am realizing now that basically I showed them respect and didn't act better than the children. If I did this, since I wasn't mom or dad, they then would open up to me and respect me back(and they would tell mom + dad they liked me and I would get steady work lol). I would set boundaries with them and myself or when we were in my car or alone with me but I often would include the children in setting the boundaries so that we all agreed upon and understood them... so when the boundaries were tested there was a clear understanding of what was acceptable. I found this prevented yelling and over diciplining as well as saved me some money because I didn't have to spend it on buying the kid what they wanted when they were pitching a fit. The second quote I think Parelli would also agree with 100% when talking about horses and people. I think he would agree that both horses and humans are born curious and learners and I also think he would agree that what our education system does to our children is directly affecting the relationships that people create with their horses.Pg.18 in Education is Politics states,"Participatory classes respect and rescue the curiousity of students."Parelli would call this, "revealing your horse." People come out of this political education system with the teacher being the authoritarian and they then become that dictator upon their horses. Shor explains that, "Students do not practice democratic habits in co-governing their classrooms,school, or colleges. There, they learn that unilateral authority is the normal way things are done in society. They are introduced in school to the reality of management holding dominant, unelected power. At the same time, they are told that they live in freedom and democracy."(pg.19)
                 The third quote made me think of tracking and inclusion because those articles made me realize how much we learn from group work and reflection, not just being given an answer to memorize and believe. Kliewer states that,"Freire (1993) emphasized, democracy can only occur when no person's voice is deterministically silenced...(and that)...Dialogue imposes itself as the way by which [people] achieve significance as human beings." (pg.72-73)  This statement, to me, emphasizes how important it is to create a safe learning environment that allows people to feel comfortable and confident enough to participate. Shor says, "Participation challenges the experience of education as something done to students. This is key to the passivity and resistance produced by the traditional syllabus: education is experienced by the students as something done to them, not something they do." What is so crazy to me about this statement is how true it really is. I know from personal experience I always hated school up until I was out and, on my own, chose to go back and therefore it is something I am now doing...not something being forced upon or done to me.

              I thought this video was great when looking at stereotypical teachers and childrens perspectives on school. This ofcoarse makes me think of Christensen and how much the media influences our perceptions on things and can create these stereotypes. This video especially made me think of Shor's explaination of empowerring education. Shor states that, "it is a social interaction involving both thought and feeling...(and) The difference between empowering and traditional pedagogy has to do with the positive or negative feelings students can develop for the learning process."(pg. 23) As you watch this cartoon you can see it focuses on how all of the children are feeling; mostly they show this by students speaking their true feelings to their peers, this is because school is such a social thing in addition to intellectual. You can see that most of the kids have negative feelings about school, teachers, principals and school work but I find it most interesting to what teachers are portrayed as the "cool" ones. In some clips this is the teacher who is laid back, dances and hands out snacks like popcorn is the one that everyone wants but the teacher I admired most is the one from the Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle. Ms. Frizzle would say things like,"Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!"  and make sure all learning was participatory learning. Shor quotes Horton and Friere(1990, 168-72), "The good school is that one in which studying I also get the pleasure of playing." Ms. Frizzle's class certainly did both; also I noticed that often times in the episodes Ms. Frizzle would disappear - this would leave the kids on their own causing them to interact, work together and really reflect amongst themselves to find an answer or solution. Shor seems to mention this often when discussing Student Participation and Positive Affect: The Teacher's Role. (pg.26 - 30)
                   Ira Shor says, "To help move students away from passivity and cynicism, a powerful signal has to be sent from the very start, as ingal that learning is participatory, involving humor, hope, and curiosity. A strong participatory and affective opening broadcasts optimistic feelings about the student's potental and about the future: students are people whose voices are worth listening to, whose minds can carry the weight of serious intellectual work, whose thought and feeling can entertain transforming self and society."(pg 26) I think Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus did an excellent job of this but it also made me think of a recent experience I had during my service learning project. I typically work with two groups of young people, the first being one boy and the second having two girls and a boy. This particular day was a bit different because not only was the teacher absent but so were some of the students. For my second group, which is normally three, was down to one girl today. I have heard the teacher label this girl as a "hand ful" at times but I didn't see her that way. I thought of Kliewer's article when Lee Larson's teacher Colleen said, "It's not Lee you're picking out. It's your stereotype, your mind-set. It's you, and it has nothing to do with Lee. But if that's how you choose to see him, I don't know that anything I could do, we could do, I don't think there's anyitng Lee could do to change your mind."(pg. 84) With Colleens words in mind, I was excited to work one on one with this girl today. At first I noticed she was hesitant to work with me, she had something she was into doing and had no interest in what I had for her to do but she was polite enough to come work with me anyway. Since I observed her hesitance I decided to ask her what she would like to do for the day, she started to name the typical options I have to offer as a tutor such as dolch words, segmentation, game, or book. She simply stated all the options but was not enthused, so as she was paused in thought about what to do I also gave her the option of continuing the work she was in the middle of. This work was a packet that the absent teacher had left for the students. At first the girl/student gave me a funny look as if that was not allowed, then I said to her that it was up to her, whatever she wanted to do would be fun. She chose the packet and was so excited to show me how much work had already been done and to ask me if she did it correctly. She then asked me how long I was going to be there for and I responded, "kick me out at any time, I am here for you." She smiled from ear to ear and just really seemed to open up to me, I have yet to witness this type of respect for students in the school and I could clearly see that it was shocking and exciting for this girl to be able to make a decision and be in charge of how long she is tutored for. To my surprise she kept me there up until the rest of the class was lining up for lunch, she then told me, "you can go now, its lunch time," and I was released. 
       Although I could probably quote this whole article I'd like to end on this one by Shor, "What students and teachers reinvent in problem-posing is their relationship to learning and authority."  I think mutual respect is key which can build up the confidence to question, reflect, share, and learn. What I would like to discuss in class is the discussion on the bottom of page 43 that talks about supervisors not following the same rules that is expected of the workers. This is the case at my work where all of the management and elites at the restaraunt have special privileges, do not need to follow the rules and act as though they are above others - often times I hear comment from the servers like "uh this is stupid, they(management) act as if they are in highschool again." When thinking about this I jotted down three quotes that I have no idea where they derived from but I have heard them thruout life: "Actions speak louder than words" and "lead by example" and "do onto others as you wish they do onto you"


  1. i really enjoyed reading your blog!! i thought the videos you posted were very good and you brought up alot of good points!

  2. this was a very informative post!

  3. i liked the quotes you picked and the videos you found!

  4. Your blog got better and better over the course of the semester... a pleasure to read!! LB :)