Friday, December 5, 2008

Ethnography Learning Paper: One Pager

From Laughter to Tears: Inquiries into Context and its Affect on Controversial Subjects

I. Research Questions
How does the context/maturity level of a classroom affect the way teachers approach controversial issues and texts?
In “unexposed” classrooms, the maturity level of students can be classified as below average in regards to controversial issues, thus, resulting in immature reactions to controversial texts and topics. In a setting such as this, should teachers push buttons and attempt to expose the students to issues beyond their immediate maturity level, or should they accept their maturity level as a sign that they are not able to handle such texts and issues?
What are some of the different methods for approaching this type of classroom if a teacher decided to, or was required to expose students to certain issues and texts?
II. Primary Resources
- Interviews with Boltz Junior High School teacher, Nancy Beauprez
- Observations conducted in a Boltz Junior High School 8th Grade English class
- Peer feedback provided by Colorado State University students, Jonson Chatterly and Paul Rhode
III. Major Findings
- Avoiding controversial issues and texts may indirectly make students feel ashamed of exploring the issue, or unaware that talking about these issues can be absolutely necessary (e.g. if they are experiencing some traumatic event(s) related to a controversial issue).
- If presenting material of a controversial nature, it is best to offer a sufficient amount of examples and explanations in order to make the issue more tangible to the students.
- Regardless of the context/maturity level of a classroom, approaching controversial issues whenever applicable to lessons seems to be vitally important for a successful classroom (i.e. in a secondary classroom).
- Teachers should work together with parents and students in order to create a classroom which makes controversial issues more tangible to the students.
- It is foolish to perpetuate ignorance in order to protect innocence.
IV. Implications/Future Questions
- Though I’ve determined that students must be exposed to controversial issues before veering into adulthood, how can a society collectively determine at what age this process begins?
- I am implying that teachers must force this information upon students even if their reactions suggest they are not ready (Implicit claim, exaggerated and slightly out of context)
V. Secondary Sources
- Hannah Edwards: “Taking magic out of books; occult a target as children’s book censorship increases.”
- Julie Gorlewski: “Christ and Cleavage: Multiculturalism and Censorship in a Working-Class, Suburban High School.”
- Suzanne M. Kauer: “A Battle Reconsidered: Second Thoughts on Book Censorship and Conservative Parents.”
- David L. Ulin: “Don’t Shield us from Unease: Banned Books week has rarely seemed more timely; but the issue remains thorny.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Having Your Say

The secondary resources I have researched thoroughly discussed the issue of book censorship. One source touched on some things concerning the appropriateness of certain texts and world issues; however, he came to the conclusion that if a book is offensive, then it must have some value considering the important feedback it might create. He did go on to say that that does not make every offensive book necessarily appropriate for all ages; instead, teachers need to approach the offensive issues within the classroom first and justify beyond a reasonable doubt the appropriateness of the text.
What gap still exists?
How does a teacher determine the maturity level of their classroom in order to justify the teaching of particular texts?
I plan to conduct interviews with junior high teachers in order to evaluate their opinions and knowledge on the issue. I also have been observing junior high students in order to make some quality inferences regarding the issue of book censorship, maturity, context, and appropriateness.

Friday, October 24, 2008


How do you establish when a student is mature enough to deal with certain texts?
I chose to respond to this particular question because I, in fact, posed this question last class period. I wanted to further explore the issue, but do not have any sufficient answers. I found that most of the texts we have read throughout this course are constructed by professionals, teachers, and researchers who believe, without question, that their students are mature enough to handle the majority of the material they discuss. Additionally, some of the writers do not mention specific texts but argue against and for certain issues pertaining to censorship with the assumption that their students are being denied something they can definitely handle (not all of the writers and texts gave off this impression). However, some of the texts I have read in my Adolescents' Literature class this semester would lead me to believe that certain students, at any age (i.e. in regards to secondary schooling - middle and high school), may not be mature enough to handle the content. For instance, we read "American Born Chinese," which I believe is an excellent book that contains value concerning race and identity issues. However, the light-hearted way in which the author handles the content may incite some immature behavior in middle and high schoolers that leads to problems in the educational environment. Furthermore, some students may not be mature enough to handle the hyperbole and irony with which the author addresses certain issues, leading them to believe that the author is encouraging the harassment of certain races, cultures, and anything/anyone that is in some way different from the norm of the environment. Therefore, I believe some of these professionals should use specific examples of texts that are banned and thoroughly justify their position in regards to why that text should be allowed in the classroom, thus giving some substance to relate to the overall argument of the text.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Responding to Gee and Delpit

Quickwrite #1:
The terms used by Gee are directly related to the overall argument concerning Dominant Discourses and Non-Dominant Discourses. He uses terms such as “apprenticeship” to illustrate the relationship Gee believes is required for one to acquire a new discourse. “Acquisition” is a term used by Gee to illustrate the process by which these different discourses are obtained; that is, in a subconscious, immersed fashion. These different terms work in collaboration with the other terms, primarily the ones related to Discourse and literacies, in order to frame Gee’s overall argument. His argument and the Survival Words used are relevant to teaching and learning considering the nature of their use. For instance, Discourse is discussed in order to establish a relationship between Dominant Discourses and “social goods,” as well as Non-Dominant Discourses and a lack there of. He discusses the inequality between Dominant Discourses and Non-Dominant Discourses with a focus on the education setting. Additionally, Gee addresses the issue of Discourse and the social situations and educational environments that may be created in order to fix the problem; however, Gee states that a social change must take place before any educational change can be effective.

Quickwrite #2:
The Survival Words used by Delpit relate to the article because of the message the terms alone convey. For instance, the terms “cheating,” “not-teaching,” and “not-learning” illustrate some of the issues Delpit wishes to address and some of the concerns or objections she has with Gee’s article. The terms are very relevant to literacy and teaching considering they deal with Delpit’s argument in favor of teaching students Dominant Discourses and her belief that his can be done. Additionally, the terms depict some of Delpit’s objections and disagreements concerning Gee’s article. For instance, Delpit argues that if teachers were to heed Gee’s advice, they would choose to “not-teach” because they would believe it somehow empowers the students. However, Delpit argues that “not-teaching” and “not-learning” do quite the opposite. She believes that students need to acquire a Dominant Discourse in order to express their beliefs and opinions to a wider audience, and therefore empower themselves by obtaining a discourse that allows them to make direct objections to the community that makes use of the Dominant Discourse.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Language Investigation #3

My primary and secondary school teachers addressed reading and writing from a much different approach than the majority of my professors. I believe this has a lot to do with standardized testing. We were always pressured to develop clearly stated opinions about a particular topic and then write the standard five-paragraph paper (introduction, three main points, and conclusion). I was rarely given the chance to practice creative writing. Come to think of it, I am not sure I was ever given a chance to experiment with creative writing in the classroom. I found chapter five of Lives on the Boundary to be particularly interesting and inspiring because of this. According to my secondary and primary teachers, grammar is one of the most important aspects of writing. Therefore, grammar played a major role in the grades we received based on our papers. I happened to be mediocre at grammar, but found it unusual when I received better grades on what I considered to be worse papers simply because my grammar was up to par. It was as though the content held very little value in the eyes of my teachers. I never thought of it as unusual at the time because that was all I had known. Therefore, I would spend much less time considering which theme I thought to be most prevalent and important in a certain reading. Instead, I would spend the majority of my time grammatically revising each paper. Incidentally, my grammar was still below average by the time I completed high school, and my creative writing skills remained dormant. The methods of writing practiced at my school only left me with a mechanical knowledge of writing.

As for reading material, we often read adolescents’ literature in middle school and high school. We were asked to write based on very clear and simple prompts. For instance, the most common writing prompt in my high school was “State and develop what you believe to be the driving theme in” whichever book we were reading at the time. All of these characteristics of my experiences with reading and writing in primary and secondary schools greatly affected my previous experiences as a college writer. For instance, I took a “Study of Literature” class first semester of my freshman year, and attempted to write standard five-paragraph response papers to certain readings we completed. My professor was not at all upset by this, but did, however, inform me that it would be a good idea for me to try and expand my boundaries and attempt to write more freely. He even advised me to try and write a paper without initially having a clear answer to the prompt in mind, and that the answer will eventually make itself apparent. Ever since that particular course, I have struggled to find my own style in regards to writing. Until college, I was unaware of such a thing as style as a result of the methods by which I was taught. I suppose the implicit “rules and regulations” in regards to writing in my middle and high school primarily constrained imagination and creativity. The explicit “rules and regulations” were based on mechanical and grammatical errors. My education prior to college did help me understand the value of creating a well developed paper with clearly stated points, proofs, and examples. However, my college education has allowed me to tamper with certain writing conventions and restrictions, therefore increasing my creative writing abilities.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Warm Up #2: Rose Ch. 5-6

1. What kinds of reading and writing did you see students doing in school? Why do you think Rose chose these assignments?

Rose had the students at El Monte simply write about what first came to their minds after viewing certain pictures. He told them not to worry about spelling or grammar errors. He chose these assignments in order to build confidence in each “troublesome” student’s writing skills and to facilitate practice in regards to their writing capabilities. Rose discovered that these “remedial” students had amazing writing skills that few other teachers had acknowledged. In fact, the students were most likely discouraged by the other teachers and consequently chose to conceal their full potential.

3. What did you notice about the language schools used to refer to the students Rose featured in this chapter? How did this language mark students as “insiders” or “outsiders” to school? How do you think these labels might have influenced students’ literacy development later on?

El Monte’s elementary school avoided using terms that referred to students as less or more intelligent than others. However, the students were well aware of what these terms implied; for instance, one student informs Rose that he was in the “dumb” math class until the teacher realized it was too easy for him and then he was placed back with the “normal” students. Additionally, the school performed tests that labeled some of Rose’s students as “mildly retarded.” Of course, the students were not aware of these labels but Rose discovers that many of them were most likely mislabeled. These terms that the students have come to realize the meaning of do in fact mark students as either “insiders” or “outsiders” because the ones marked as “remedial” are treated as different or less intelligent by the others (including teachers). This can affect the students’ literacy development because many of the “remedial” students were not receiving the attention they needed from other teachers and were dumped onto other professionals; and furthermore, were discouraged to the point of losing concern or care for their own education.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Language Investigation #2

I have a community of friends that happen to have coined a rather large amount of terms and phrases. I believe they use these terms and phrases in order to feel like a more intimate group, and one that has distinguished itself from outsiders (which is why I don’t typically use these terms or phrases; that and they sound a bit contrived when I try). Some examples of the terms/phrases and their meanings…

“Tease it out” – this is a term used when one is telling someone else to use finesse when handling whatever situation/object they are currently dealing with

“Let’s talk about it” – typically used on the phone… it means to come over to the location of wherever the speaker currently is (it’s not exactly an invitation because the speaker only says this once they have established that the person is in fact coming over; however, it is not a farewell either because the speaker still says a farewell following the statement)

My friends also have a nickname for almost every person we know (except for me and my roommate Grant – this is not because they like us any less… I think it’s because Grant and I are the only two in our group that refuse to refer to these people by their nicknames and they have therefore understood that we do not want nicknames ourselves)

Some examples…

“Hot Sauce” – my roommate Jonson

“Squirley McSquabblesome” – our friend Shirley (hence the beginning)

“Diesel” – our friend Cody – it started as Codice (dice as in “niece”) and eventually transformed to “Diesel”

Most of my friends grew up together in Colorado Springs. Consequently, I do not know the origin of most of these terms and phrases, and have included the origin in the definitions of the few that I do

Apart from my friends, I also skateboard from time to time and there are many terms and phrases associated with it. However, I am only going to list the more general terms because every trick has a term itself and I do not want to list all of them. But here are some examples…

“Primo” – Primo is a position on the board in which the skater is standing on two wheels while the board is on its side… this position is sometimes purposefully incorporated into tricks, but sometimes it is an accidental position you land in when attempting flip tricks and can be incredibly dangerous and painful

“Flip tricks” – a trick that involves flipping the board perpendicularly to the ground for at least one complete rotation (different than a spin, which is when the board remains parallel to the ground throughout)

“Sketchy” – I feel like this term is used by a lot of people; however, it is used when one is making and observation or trying to discourage someone from attempting a trick that involves a potentially dangerous outcome (e.g. considering doing a trick down a 12-stair)

“12 stair” – figured I might as well explain this term next… a 12-stair is a stair set with 12 steps and any number can be placed before stair and the meaning changes accordingly

“Manual” – a trick that involves balancing the board on either the front or back trucks

“Shin-slap” – a bit more painful than it sounds… this is when you fall off your board while attempting a grind and proceed to bang your shin(s) on the ledge or rail you were grinding (can be very, very painful… I once had trouble walking for about a month because my shins swelled up so badly… you couldn’t tell where my knee-caps ended and the bruises began)

That’s about it for skateboarding, apart from the hundred or so tricks which all have unique names that I don’t care to mention.