Friday, March 18, 2011

Service Learning Reflection

Throughout reading “In the Service of what?” by Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer I constantly kept my own given service learning project, trying to figure out what kind of contribution I was making and what kind of project it was. For me, this article gave words to the dread I felt about service learning in the past. In my sophomore year of high school, I had to do a service learning project where my assigned group and I, along with some help from the organization Save the Bay, cleaned up the shoreline underneath the Mt. Hope Bridge. Like in the article, I did have a good feeling afterwards, but overall I felt the project was a bust because it was only a “band aid” because the shore was still going to get dirty once more. We didn’t do anything to educate the community about how harmful littering is to the environment. I found the whole process painful and annoying. This would be an example of a charity like project.
The VIPS service learning I find much more meaningful. Maybe its because I’m older or it directly affects my interests and future. I can relate to the students who traveled to lower class school to perform for them. Before my service learning project I was freaking out. Being placed in a first grade ESL class I was afraid no one was going to speak English. I was trying to put a face to my anxieties and all I could picture was a room full of kids staring up at the board confused and whispering to each other in Spanish. I know that all may sound ignorant, and I agree it is, but my views changed completely after my first day. I feel as though I have a better grasp on children of color and even some of their backgrounds.
Right now, I, and pretty much all of you, are taking this service learning in both a giving and caring ways. Of course we are all physically hands on with the kids, interacting with them, teaching with them, and aiding them with their studies. We even help the teachers. But we all also helping ourselves by experiencing what its like in school where more than fifty percent of the students come from poverty stricken homes and/ or are a minority. I never thought I’d teach in such a school because my school experience wasn’t anything like that. I broadened my vision, and got comfortable with other people who didn’t have the same past as me. They aren’t ESL kids to me, their just my students.
So I guess the question is how is the balance for you? Is this more of a charity project to you or is it intrinsic as well? Do you feel you’ve made a lasting impression or really made a difference or are you simply doing busy work? What are you going to keep from this experience when you leave the classroom for the last time? 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Subliminal Argument

In “Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us,” Linda Christensen argues that there is a “secret education” being fed to children through easily available resources such as cartoons and children’s books that reinforces and continue the status quo of society; and people need to recognize this. Most cartoons, especially older ones, reinforce racism, sexism, and do not model individualism or rebellion. According to Christensen, there are patterns to these such as a lack of female presence that isn’t alluring, minorities being servants or holding ranks of a lesser power, fat people being stupid, or the bad guy being smart and ugly. 
Such cartoons also teach children values favored by the media such as consuming and violence. These subliminal messages shape what we feel and how we act as adults. Like Barbie dolls, they set an ideal standard  of how a person should look. For example, woman should be slender and curvy. She believes that her students need to be informed about these messages and imbedded ideas in order to see past them and make judgments for yourself.  These cartoons are hazardous and continue to enforce stereotypes and the culture of power. Below is an explain of such racism in Disney. This scene is from Peter Pan, where we see the Native America’s wearing big feathered headdresses, teepees in the background, and a stern, long face drawn in a frown. Images such as this become the foundation of what children think of when they think of different minorities, and such isn’t right. 
Now what I would like to know is how do you erase all the years of influential damage? As I became older and especially now, I’ve become more aware of such message encoded in materials geared towards children. But still, the fist thing most people think of when they think of native Americans, Asians, or even English people are what we were all exposed to as children. Can we even erase all the misinformation or is preventing the spread of this epidemic all we can do?