Undoing Unteaching of “Those Kids”

9 04 2009

I’ve been meaning to post a link to this article that really every educator, and every person whose tax dollars go into public education, should read. During my tenure as a teacher in a rural community where 12% of the adult population has a college degree and just over 65% have a high school degree (data taken from census.gov), I have often felt misunderstood by my colleagues and my peers. In this article, Kylene Beers, the president of NCTE, brilliantly (and succinctly) captures the cultural beliefs governing so many “underachieving” schools. The tricky thing about cultural beliefs, those because it is beliefs, is that they are usually taken for granted and thereby invisible. Beers stares down some pretty damning evidence of the kind of deficit thinking that has tainted the public educational system since its inception in the mid-1800s, when Horace Mann and his contemporary cronies established public education as a means of educating the poor. Please, please, please take a moment to read this. It’s short (only 4 pages), and it will rawk your brain!

The Genteel Unteaching of America’s Poor





as large as alone

28 02 2008

I have been really excited about the new Jack Johnson album: Sleep Through The Static. It contains his signature truth-telling lyrics with that whimsical, plucky guitar. It’s a gorgeous composition of soft and loud, and it reminds me of spring time in college. It’s the kind of music that makes it almost glamorous to be alone––the music itself is intimate, deeply personal, yet universally true. Or so I thought.This week, we’ve been writing for our portfolios, so I’ve been playing a lot of music during class. Usually I play it safe with wordless jazz and I stick to the basics: Miles and Coltrain. But the other day I decided to introduce some of my own music. Class, meet Jack Johnson. I was thinking, How could anyone not love this? I mean, I know it’s not Fergie or Van Halen or Lil Wayne, but c’mon. This is real. good. stuff. (But not as real or as good as Miles and Coltrain obviously.)Before the first song was 15 seconds in, I was greeted with the following critique from my astute musical connoisseurs. “Ugggh. This is lover’s music.” or “Awww man. What is this?” Some of the students tried to build my ego back up by offering comments like “If I were sitting in a restaurant, and this played, I would be like, hmmm. What’s that?” Of course, this kind soul’s final words were cut off by another commentator’s insistence that such music would make her “Get up and leave that joint!” Then yet another sympathetic student said, “Naw… It sounds like elevator music to me.”And so it is decided. I am lame. According to 8th graders anyway. I have to admit, Jack Johnson sounds different post 8th grade bashing, but they can’t take away my history with Jack. And so I will continue to listen and enjoy that melancholy “lover’s music.”