stephanie jones

Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

race, sex, gender, and prison politics…Genarlow Wilson

In classism, critical literacy, high school, justice, politics, prison, social action, social class, teacher education on October 31, 2007 at 2:14 pm

If you haven’t been following the story of Genarlow Wilson, the young man who was sentenced to ten years in prison for having presumably consensual oral sex with a fifteen year old girl when he was seventeen, check out these pieces: CNN , NPR , Think Outside the Cage. He was released from a Georgia prison last week after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that his sentence constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Justices Hines, Melton, and Carley opposed the ruling and substantiated their opinion in the final pages of the Court’s Ruling, a very interesting document, particularly if you have never read a Supreme Court Ruling until now.

FYI – check out the Justices’ biographies

Great critical inquiry for teens, teachers, and families…

What laws are on the books in your state that could change the lives of teens engaging in various kinds of sexual acts if they were to be convicted? What other crimes are teens serving time for?

How many teens are in state and federal prisons (yes, juveniles are sometimes incarcerated in adult prisons)?

Are there differences in incarceration rates related to geography (north vs. south vs. west U.S.), race, gender, social class?
Do you find anything wrong with the picture of justice for teens in the U.S.? If so, what can you do?

Who benefits from incarcerating teens (and, if you want to extend it, people in general)?

What are the differences between state funding for education and state funding for jails and prisons?

Interesting websites for inquiring into issues of incarceration and probation:

International Centre for Prison Studies

Mother JonesĀ 

Prison SucksĀ 

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Kids today aren’t dumb, they seem to know precisely when an education offered to them is worth engaging or not

In high school, politics, social class on October 26, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Dumber kids? Dumber schools? Dumber parents? Dumber policies?

Where does this all end? And when does one generation NOT look out at the younger generation and drop their jaws at the lack of enlightenment of the kids growing into adults? I would love to know what lmv over at adolescent literacies thinks about this.

Mark Morford, SFGate columnist writes this about today’s dumb kids. Toward the end he makes some good points that I might chisel down to “social class stratification folks!” but there are so many other issues I have with the assumptions in the piece that I couldn’t stop there.

TV is bad for us? Really? And bad for kids too? And video games? And smut journalism? And the Internet?

Come on, we can’t seriously be continuing to have these debates can we? Young people across the country and the globe are engaged in revolutions right now – starting them, leading them, pushing them. Check out Youtube and search for ‘justice’ or ‘social change’ or any other phrase that interests you.

Perhaps if teachers were not under the thumb of NCLB mandates they could encourage revolutions inside their classrooms! Perhaps this Oakland teacher that Mark writes about could have put video cameras in the hands of his students who wouldn’t “awaken” and tell them to film something that is meaningful, something they would fight for, something they dream of, something they want to change, dammit. And then connect them to the Internet to do research, to create their own version of, to find a larger community that cares about the same issues, to read widely and deeply on the topic, and to find some purpose inside the four institutional walls other than to sleep or rebel.

But ah, some of the comments about Mark’s piece raise real challenges: How can government-funded public schooling ever encourage a revolution? If working-class and poor kids really get a rich, deep education in K-12 that leads to class mobility and even the challenging of the whole class structure, how will future generations be able to stratify themselves?

Please don’t be duped by the “dumber kids” mantra…

Even when they appear to be less engaged in classrooms, that’s more likely a reflection of the level of relevance, interest, and motivation inspired in the classroom than the kids themselves.

And when they don’t know how to form a sentence in high school? Well, that’s pure proof that whatever one-size-fits-all (most likely skills-based drill and kill) curriculum a particular district adopted is simply not working.

And when they don’t know how to hold and use a ruler to draw straight lines? Well, that’s when we better reconsider a paper-and-pencil math curriculum as well as the funding necessary to ensure all kids have access to and use a diverse range of tools and materials in their learning.

It’s about class folks, yes, but it’s not about the “parents” feeding kids too many Doritos or keeping the TV on too long or that steady diet of video games. It’s about the sickening way that states and districts make decisions about what will and won’t be taught in schools and to what teachers and students will and won’t have access.

One of the comments made about Mark’s piece notes that horrible decisions are sometimes also made in wealthy public school districts and even in private schools. I hear you – and that’s true. But then who suffers? Even if wealthy and poor districts have equally distributed oppressive curriculum policies, the status quo will be maintained. Rich kids have rich social networks and safety nets…you know where I’m going with this.
Are kids dumber today, or are education policymakers too dumb to realize that reductionist policies reduce everything – and everyone.

Kids today aren’t dumb, they seem to know precisely when an education offered to them is worth engaging or not.

book on Class wins AESA critics’ choice award!

In classism, critical literacy, family-school relations, great books, high school, language, mothers, poverty, professional development resources, publications, social action, social class, stephanie jones, teacher education resources on October 19, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Read the rest of this entry »

and it rains…time for critical inquiry

In communities, conservation, critical literacy, politics, professional development resources, social action, social class, stephanie jones, teacher education resources on October 19, 2007 at 12:05 pm

I have never been so happy to see, feel, and hear rain in all my life. My windows are being pelted with droplets, the leaves on the trees are dancing wildly, and I am smiling from ear to ear. When news programs claim one day that “experts” say the greater Atlanta area has 3 1/2 months’ supply of water and then the next day those same “experts” say we are already down to 81 days’ worth of water, what is one to do but panic?

How does the ol’ saying go? The mother of innovation is necessity (or something like that, no?)

Well, we certainly need water. So where is our innovation now? Or do some people still hold onto the hope that a magical spring will be discovered to replenish our lakes?

It is time to conserve.

It is time to imagine.

It is time to be innovative.

It is time to be critical.

And what a perfect time to engage students of all ages in interesting critical inquiry work around water.

Wouldn’t it be great if students researched a community’s water usage and plotted the usage alongside size of family? Size of home? Size of household income?

Having lived a number of times as a child without running water in the house, I know for a fact that folks struggling to pay the water bill are likely to conserve and reuse water supplies in the home. It has been said before, but I’ll ask it again here, could we learn valuable lessons from people with humble means about stretching resources, conserving resources, and living in ways that are more eco-friendly?

Now there’s a great critical inquiry: What is the carbon footprint of a family with a low income level versus a family with a high income level?

but back to water…

Who is using all our damn water???

Could students learn about and work toward promoting climate-appropriate landscaping versus the kind that needs constant watering?

What about swimming pools, fountains, and other privately-owned luxuries that slurp up water supplies? Now that would be an interesting mathematical investigation: How many gallons of water are used in the greater Atlanta area (or any metro area for that matter) for private swimming pools? If those private pools were not filled in late summer, at what levels would our major lakes be now?

And what a great ethical inquiry too: The Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing millions of gallons of water from north Georgia downstream to save the mussels in Florida. When wildlife and humans both need water, and the water supply is greatly diminished, who gets the water?

How Should We Work Toward Social Change? An Angry Commenter Pushes Me…

In classism, communities, critical literacy, language, politics, poverty, professional development resources, social action, social class, stephanie jones on October 18, 2007 at 1:18 pm

A comment was sent to me about the hospital letter and it is the closest thing to hate-mail that I have ever received. The more usual comment/email I get is glowingly complimentary thus I wasn’t sure what to do with this particular post!!! Though the writer was passionate in her expression of disgust towards me for writing the letter about my experience, she did raise a couple issues that might be important for readers to consider as I work through them myself. She claims that the worker had a right to freedom of speech, that I should have stopped to “educate” the worker regarding my experiences and views that opposed those she was espousing, and that I should not have sent a letter to her supervisors but instead handled it with her personally.

I’ll briefly respond to each of these issues below, then write about what all this might mean as we work toward a more socially-just way of being in the world:

Freedom of speech: This is tricky territory isn’t it? When does my “freedom of speech” become diminished as a result of the professional expectations of my job? How, or does, freedom of speech get played out differently in one’s work life and in one’s private life? I haven’t given enough thought to these questions to offer any insight here, but I do know that as an educator I do not see it as my “freedom of speech” right to denigrate groups of people who are supposed to be served by the educational system.

Stopping to “educate”: African American folks often complain that they are constantly expected to “educate” White folks about their racist ways, even when they were presumably unintended. Some people take on this position happily while others steer completely clear of it. Perhaps working-class and poor people should also be expected to “educate” middle-class and affluent folks about their classist ways – even if they are presumably unintended? I don’t believe this is always possible, nor always the best route to take, but I’ll offer some thoughts here:
1. On a better day, I might have pushed back a little and (too) politely asked, “Why do you say that?” or “I actually disagree with that,” because I do those things on a regular basis. But I was in PAIN, exhausted, and more than anxious to just simply get out of the hospital and get home. I didn’t have it in me in that moment – and there are many other moments when I don’t have it in me either.
2. I completely agree that personal interactions are an important way to work toward changing racist, classist, sexist, etc. beliefs and behaviors. But such change is not likely to happen in a 5-minute one-time talk with a stranger. At least a letter to the facility will put the issue on their radar and perhaps create opportunities for more “talk” about the issue to be ongoing and productive rather than a one-time shot.
3. So, I guess, I believe that it takes lots of efforts on lots of levels (interpersonal, institutional, private, public) to work toward a society that is filled with people who respect one another and act in respectful, non-judgmental ways.

Don’t go to the supervisor: Would the commenter suggest that this is true if the worker violated me directly (shaming me for being on Medicaid) rather than indirectly? My guess is no, at least my advice to anyone who is personally violated by a worker in an institution that is supposed to be caring for citizens would be to approach the worker’s supervisor to register a complaint. So…how is it different when the listener of offensive comments does not directly belong to the group that is being overtly offended? Does the listener have the right to complain? Ask for an apology? Go to a supervisor?

Here’s what I think: Different experiences are differentially “offensive” to me as a person, and differentially offensive to others as well. I have experienced thousands of interactions that are blatantly classist – some against me, others against me indirectly, and still others that were much farther removed from me personally. Sometimes these experiences make me feel so powerless in the situation that I simply can’t respond in the moment – and those are times when after-the-fact letters, complaints, conversations, etc. may be the only recourse. Other times the experiences are so enraging that I can’t help but lose my temper in such moments. But, most of the time, the experiences are somewhere between those poles and I make decisions about which offensive comments to essentially ignore, which ones to register in my mind and decide not to patronize the business any more, which ones to “talk about” with family, friends, and colleagues afterwards, which ones to push-back on in the moment requesting that the offender reconsider her/his comments, and which ones to take-on beyond the offender.

On my spectrum of offensive, had the woman in the hospital stopped the bantering when I tried to wheel myself out of the office, I would have likely ignored it or talked to friends, family, and colleagues, but little beyond that. It was the persistence of the comments even as I was trying to politely excuse myself that pushed me to take-on the issue in a broader way. I was not in a position to “handle” this issue with the woman personally, and feel very strongly that this is an issue that is much bigger than me and the woman in that office. It is unfortunately an issue that impacts millions of people’s lives daily and therefore should be talked about, cared for, and responded to in public, private, and institutional ways.

What are the best ways to work toward change?

My favorite answer – it depends.

Sometimes it’s interpersonally, sometimes it’s publicly, sometimes it’s through writing, sometimes it’s through relentless pushing-back, sometimes it’s through revolt, sometimes it’s through teaching, sometimes it’s through kindness, sometimes it’s through anger, sometimes it’s through sheer desperation. But it’s always through passion and persistence.

Positive Responses from Hospital

In classism, communities, critical literacy, language, poverty, social class, stephanie jones on October 15, 2007 at 5:14 pm

I received two phone calls this morning from representatives of Athens Regional Hospital. They were each genuinely concerned about the experience I had at the hospital and vowed to make a change, including conducting sensitivity training through their Human Resources department. Each of them said that such comments are never appropriate, but particularly inappropriate in the context of Athens Regional Hospital in Clarke County.

Kudos to Athens Regional for taking a stand against classism and racism in their health care facilities.

And for the rest of you out there – silence is complicity. Speak out – do something to make a change.



Classism is everywhere – My experience in the hospital

In critical literacy, language, politics, poverty, social class, stephanie jones on October 13, 2007 at 5:53 pm

I have deleted the original letter I wrote to the hospital to show my support for everyone who works hard each day to provide professional, respectful, non-judgmental health care to the citizens in and around our county as well as across the country. You know who you are – thank you for making this world a better place one interaction with a patient at a time.

The hospital did not ask, or even imply that they would like me to remove the letter from the Internet, but I have decided that their response was a positive, productive one and I don’t want future Internet surfers to make quick ongoing judgments about the facility based on my original letter.


%d bloggers like this: