stephanie jones

Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

Men Evolving Badly or Class and Gender Stereotypes?

In classism, families, feminist work, gender and education, politics, poverty, prison, sexism, social class on April 30, 2008 at 10:03 pm

This post on Glenn Sacks’ blog supporting father-child relationships led me to Vanity Fair’s story Men Evolving Badly, a weak feminist attempt (by a man) to reassert and deconstruct the power of the penis among the super rich. Sadly, however, the writer generalizes this power to all men and does not engage with the class hierarchies in the U.S. My letter to the editor:

James Wolcott might claim to be a feminist given his perspective in “Men Evolving Badly” but he would be well-advised to step back and take a lesson or two in radical feminism. Just as he writes “The primary threat to the psychological well-being of most men (and women) isn’t sexual or pop-cultural but economic…” he reveals the limitations of his own class privileges when focusing his attention on the super rich. It may be true that the “odds still favor the penis-bearer” in the wealthy class, but take another look at the working-class and poor ranks in the U.S. and you might find another story altogether. Keep in mind the millions of men behind bars who were largely (90% or better) arrested during a time when they were living below the federal poverty level, and many because they had fallen behind in child support payments while struggling to keep a roof over their own heads. The “roof entry to the helicopter pad” is foreign territory within a context of deindustrialization and the feminization of working-class jobs where many men are lucky to find minimum wage jobs or day labor. Instead of focusing on the devolution of the narcissistic, power elite, take a walk through neighborhoods annihilated by the greed of corporations and financial institutions where fathers are playing soccer with their children in the street or crying behind closed doors because their wives left them, took the kids, and now they can’t afford child support payments. Radical feminism aims to end oppression of all kinds – you can’t look at privileged men in one class without recognizing the sufferings of men in another.

Terrific piece of research/writing: Turning an observation into inquiry

In creativity, kindergarten, professional development resources, teacher education resources, teaching writing on April 30, 2008 at 1:08 pm

This story about the lives of elevators in the New Yorker last week is fabulously written and reminded me of how a simple observation in the world “wow – a man was stuck in an elevator for 41 hours” can turn in to an in-depth inquiry. If I had been conducting this research, I would have incorporated more issues around labor regarding elevators (installation, technicians, operators, etc.) as well as some of the challenges various elevator workers have faced across time and in different parts of the country/world. Alas, it wasn’t my piece, so I found myself content with the incredibly engaging style of writing, the movement between technological information about elevators and the urinating man stuck inside one, and my own envisioning of the animal-like organs always at work inside the steel, wood, stucco, brick, and glass structures we have built around us.

Even kindergarteners can turn a simple observation into a lengthy inquiry…we just have to take the observation seriously and recognize the yet-unearthed understandings waiting to be created from it. Well, and also provide the space, time, and resources for allowing students to do such research;)

Gender and Education Conference in Cincinnati May 13, 2008

In feminist work, gender and education, professional conference, professional development resources, teacher education resources on April 28, 2008 at 11:07 pm

For you folks around the Cincinnati area – the first ever Gender and Education Regional Teacher Conference will be held on Tuesday May 13, 2008. It would be great to see some of you there!

French movie pushing issues of class, geography, and stereotypes

In anti-bias teaching, classism, fiction, films for teacher education, professional development resources, social class, teacher education resources on April 28, 2008 at 1:43 pm

This movie sounds fab!

If I get a chance to see it I’ll post my own tidbit…

Gender and Education Association: Call for Conference Proposals

In call for papers, feminist work, professional development resources, Uncategorized on April 28, 2008 at 11:45 am

Call for Papers
Gender and Education Association 7th International Conference

Theme: Gender: Regulation and Resistance in Education
25-27 March 2009, Institute of Education, University of London

Keynote speakers

Deborah Britzman Raewyn Connell Gloria Ladson-Billings

Plenary Panel 1: Intersectionality, Black, British Feminism and
resistance in educational research

Suki Ali Heidi Mirza Ann Phoenix

Plenary Panel 2: Regulation, resistance and activism: troubling margin
and centre
Bagele Chilisa Sylvia Grinberg Grace Livingston

* How do education and gender regulate?
* How do we theorize, research, talk about and enact resistances
to regulatory practices and gendered power relations in education?

These questions and the conference theme, Gender: Regulation and
Resistance in Education, invite engagement with gender and feminism at
every level of educational practice, including politics, theorizing,
policy creation, research methodologies, pedagogical engagement and
grass-roots activism. The conference draws together an exceptional
range of international speakers working at the cutting edge of
feminist and gender theory and research, and political and
educational activism, including those who are resisting current
contexts of neo-liberal economic reform and increasing global
disparities. Our goal is to create a space for dialogue about gender
and education that spans disciplinary, theoretical, political and
national boundaries.

Proposals

We invite proposals for contributions that critically explore
questions relating to issues of gender regulation and resistance in
education.

These may include the following:
* Power/Governance
* Politics/Policy
* Neo-liberalism/

Neo-Conservativism
* Standards agendas in education
* Histories, genealogies of gender
* Religion, nationality, citizenship
* Globalization /Marketization
* Community /Activism/Struggle
* Agency/ Structure/Subjectivity
* Pedagogy and curriculum
* Primary, secondary schooling
* Higher, further education
* Intersectionalities, race, class, gender, age
* Psychosocial approaches
* Gender, disability, inclusion
* Sexuality and queer theory

The papers might engage with these themes from a variety of fields and
areas of study:

* Feminist Studies
* Women’s Studies
* Queer Studies
* Sociology
* Health
* History
* Literature
* Philosophy
* Cultural Studies
* Media Studies
* Postcolonial Studies
* Development Studies
* Social/Educational Policy Studies

Session Formats
We are interested in a diverse range of formats and welcome proposals
for:
* Papers
* Symposiums
* Interactive Sessions
* Performance pieces
* Roundtables or Posters

Workshops

We are also interested in hearing from anyone who wishes to organise a
stream/theme that runs through the conference.

Education Practitioners

We are keen to include education practitioners in the conference as
presenters and participants. We will be pleased to receive proposals
from education practitioners for standard conference format sessions
(such as papers and symposium) or for more innovative/interactive
sessions such as roundtable discussions and workshops. We are also
looking for proposals for sessions that will be of interest to
education practitioners.

Students

We will be holding a student networking session, for student teachers,
undergraduates, graduates, postgraduates, postdocs and researchers.
The session will address concerns around doing gender research and
finding career paths in gender and education. This session will have a
question/answer component with leaders in the Gender and Education
field in collaboration with the student and postdoctoral reps at GEA.

Submitting proposals

Proposals should offer a summary of the presentation/session being
proposed, including a short rational for the focus and indicting any
conceptual framing and empirical material to be covered or activities
to be undertaken. Proposals for single papers, posters, roundtables,
etc should be no more that one side of A4 (approx 300 words).
Proposals for larger sessions, such as symposium or workshops may be
up to 2 sides of A4 (approx 600 words). We anticipate a standard
allocation of 20 minutes per presentation and 80 minutes per session,
however, we are open to proposals that suggest alternative uses of
time – please state this clearly in your submission.

Please include:
title; author name(s);
institutional affiliation/country; technical requirements.

Closing date for abstracts: 30 September 2008
Send submissions to: genderandeducation09@ioe.ac.uk
Further details are available at: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/

fps/genderconference09

Finding space for trying new things: Mentor and student teachers

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2008 at 12:04 pm

As universities work harder and harder to prepare teachers who can be powerful and successful educators for/with students from increasingly diverse backgrounds, student teachers can actually find themselves in an enviable position. Sometimes mentor teachers and/or administrators and/or family members will tilt their heads and raise their eyebrows at a classroom practice that doesn’t look familiar…but the student teacher can easily “blame” the craziness on their university professors ;) “I have to do it for an assignment” is one easy way out of a politically tenuous situation…but I urge you to also add, “are you interested in seeing the books/videos/articles we’ve been reading to do this?”

Teachers are busy, and mentor teachers have taken on even more responsibilities by inviting you into their classrooms. This means that many of them don’t have lots of opportunities to read the latest research, keep up with the most recent books, or even just sit for a few hours and reconsider how they’ve done things for the past year or so.

Lots of mentor teachers accept student teachers because this is an opportunity to engage with ideas promoted by local universities…so give it a try, and if your mentor teacher is receptive and enthusiastic, you may have just found a fabulous collaborator to work through some new practices.

Some “new” things students have been trying in my course this semester:

Critical literacy practices

Invitations

I’d love to hear how student teachers have been/continue to negotiate the “disconnect” between current classroom practices and their attempts to insert critically-focused practices that may not be familiar to teachers/students/families/administrators ;)

My daughter is half vampire: Stories of lives inside a kindergarten classroom

In creativity, family-school relations, fiction, identity, kindergarten, language, teacher education resources on April 18, 2008 at 1:39 am

Hayden (my six year old) and I were sitting outside tonight eating our dinner when she suddenly said to me, “Mom, all the kids at school have cool lives. But mine, mine’s not that cool.”

“Well hon, all kids have different lives and different families and different homes and different food and different things they do together. But that doesn’t mean one way is cool and another way isn’t cool,” I told her, thinking what a great opportunity this could be to chat about difference in the world and in her classroom in particular. But that quickly changed…

“But mom, I lied to them.”

“To who?”

“My friends at school, cuz I wanted my life to be cool too.”

“What did you say?”

“That I’m half vampire.”

“Okay…” Oh boy.

“And I’m half Indian. Well, but that’s not a lie, I am half Indian.”

“That’s partially true,” I’ve told Hayden about our American Indian heritage on my mother’s side of the family, “Hayden, do you think they really think you’re half vampire?”

“Well, definitely M. does. Definitely. And A. has seven dogs at her house and I just want a puppy and I keep telling you I want a puppy but I’m not allowed to have one. But I told them I have a puppy too.”

“Okay…”

“That might be a lie though. A. might not have seven dogs.”

“Hayden, I know you love to pretend,” this is true – she does…she creates fictional worlds constantly, in fact I’m starting to wonder at this point if this is one of the fictional constructions or if she really did tell her friends these things, “but you know they will learn that you didn’t tell the truth about your life. Is that okay with you?”

The conversation went on a bit, but I share it here to push myself (and invite others) to think about the fictions of lives lived inside school walls and the “cool” factor that was playing out for Hayden in this scenario. How do we encourage imaginative creations (fictional lives) while simultaneously discourage the commodification of lives used to compete with others in school and the larger society? How can this fictional play be aimed toward goals that are not competitive? How can the competition of “cool” lives be diminished?

And just as I put forward these questions for consideration, I think too how brilliantly Hayden – and all children – recontextualize their experiences in such creative ways. Just last week she watched “The Little Vampire” and she has woven parts of this popular film together with another “different” sounding identity of American Indian to re-present herself not as very-White-European-looking-Hayden, but as half-vampire and half-Indian. What fun it must be to reconstruct yourself so imaginatively and perform with such confidence!

And yet such brilliant fictions can still be considered lies…

Mandates: Child support…and next health insurance?

In justice, politics, poverty, social class on April 16, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Policies that “mandate” a particular action are on my mind today, perhaps because I’ve crawled out of my conference-induced fog and I’m turning my attention back to the presidential campaign a bit. John Edwards (just love him) and Hilary Clinton both recommend “mandating” health insurance coverage for every American citizen – Barack Obama “mandates” health insurance for every child but not ever citizen.

What do mandates get us? What is the underbelly of mandates that might punish the very people who always need a little extra financial wiggle room? Let’s think about “child support.”

Picture this: A mom and dad argue a lot and finally one of them hits their breaking point. The mom decides to move out of the house with the child, and though the dad wants desperately to have custody of the child, the mother is awarded custody. Now the father and child are separated, but allowed “visitation” as long as child support is paid.

I didn’t tell you that both parents were working for minimum wage – but that’s a very important part of the story.

So now you have two separate single-headed households trying to make ends meet on minimum wage earnings (about $240.00/week take home). Out of approximately $1,000/month, each has to pay rent, buy food, provide clothes and food for the child when the child is with them, pay for gas, gas and electric in the homes, etc.

The court orders the dad to pay $480.00 a month in child support. That’s approximately 1/2 his income and moves the dad from poverty level living to well below poverty level living. He can’t pay his bills any more when he takes his weekly child support payment to the courthouse.

He falls behind in child support.

Goes to court.

His license is suspended (YES – this is one of the punishments for not paying your child support).

Visitation is suspended (YES – so now he loses his son too).

He tries to find alternative ways to get to work, but arrangements fall through.

He loses his job.

Gets further and further behind in child support (only 3 months can quickly be more than 1300.00 – a very heavy debt for this father).

He experiences depression.

Goes back to court because he is now 6 months behind in child support.

Goes to jail (YES – this is another punishment for not paying child support).

Dad is wrecked. Child is wrecked. And mother still doesn’t have any additional financial support that she so desperately needs for her son.

He didn’t want her to leave in the first place and cried on the phone almost daily trying to get the family back together, but she insisted it would never work. He wanted custody, but the courts would not seriously consider that.

Who does this “mandatory child support” policy help? Hurt? Destroy? Advantage?

Who are the dads (I say dads here because we rarely hear of “Deadbeat Mothers” but instead “Deadbeat Dads” – the derogatory way of referring to dads who don’t pay child support) who didn’t want to lose their families in the first place, tried to get custody of the child, then experience a rapid spiraling out of control of their life because they fall behind in child support payments?

Who are the dads who never feel the financial pinch of the hundreds or thousands paid for child support each month?

These “mandates” always seem to hurt the ones who have persistently been hurt by the economic structures in our society. In many working-poor families everyone loses when child support payments are mandated and policed by the state.

What will happen if health insurance is mandated? The same folks will be punished for their inability to pay the price of coverage and still maintain a roof over their heads.

Testing Time Again…A modest proposal for change

In communities, democracy, great books, high-stakes tests, justice, kindergarten, NCLB, politics, professional development resources, social action, teacher education resources on April 10, 2008 at 10:29 pm

I was in a kindergarten classroom this morning where children are not allowed to make any noise for two and a half hours each day for three days for fear of disturbing the testing classrooms next door. Instead of their usual greetings, sharing, mingling during their creative projects, and moving about the room – the way kindergarteners and other students need to do – they are watching videos. Instead of engaging in rich curricular work, they sit silently at tables.

Kindergarten is not tested in this school.

But the kindergarteners are. Their experiences are yet another one of the “unintended consequences” of a high-stakes testing regime in our country. And they know the “big kids” are taking a “big test” and everything needs to be silent. So the kids taking tests can’t think of anything but the tests – and the kids supporting the “silence” for the test takers can’t think of anything but the tests.

More “collateral damage” done by the billion dollar testing machine wreaking havoc in our schools and on our future as an educated, engaged democracy.

We know tests are biased and advantage students from English-speaking, White middle-class and affluent homes.

We know schools and teachers have narrowed curricula to focus explicitly on the high-stakes test-preparation areas of reading and math often leaving behind science, social studies, language development, fine arts, physical education, and project-based experiences.

We know children vomit on testing days, teachers have insomnia, and principals are stressed to the max.

We know children, teachers, principals, and parents cry when a score comes back only 1 or 2 points below proficient.

We know test-preparation has dumbed down curricula and bored our students (and teachers) to death.

We know so much  more…

WHY DO WE KEEP DOING THIS?!

I modestly propose three steps toward change:

1. Find colleagues and community members to read and discuss Collateral Damage

2. Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and encourage them to read Collateral Damage (perhaps we could even buy an extra copy to send out to folks – or photocopy the first chapter and mail to them)

3. Start a local, grassroots campaign to “End High-Stakes Testing and AYP Sanctions”

Find some others concerned about the same issues:

No NCLB

Susan Ohanian

Anti-NCLB Legislation

Awesome Anti-NCLB merchandise

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