Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quotes from "The Shame of the Nation" by Jonathon Kozol Chapter 4 and "American Education" by Joel Spring Chapter 4

Kozol Page 93

“I wasn’t sure of what she meant by that—“no matter what you’ve done”—and asked her if she could explain this. “Even if you have a felony arrest,” she said, “we want you to understand that you can be a manager someday.””

It’s disgraceful to hear that principals in a school system are degrading their students at such a young age. Kozol even tries to ask the principal why only manager jobs were being given as opportunities, but he never received an answer because something came up. It’s very unfortunate that before these children even have a chance to live, they are being judged with how they will turn out. It seems as though because it is an urban school, the school system is in charge of making sure these children don’t run around like “hoodlums” before they even get a chance to do so. I’m not saying to give these students a chance to act like that, but why look at them in a negative aspect before anything negative actually happens? It’s really not fair to the students or the parents. How would you feel if you had a child and the teachers told you flat out that you’re child will be “trained” for the next few years to be a manager and nothing more?

Kozol Page 95

“Childhood is not merely basic training for utilitarian adulthood. It should have some claims upon our mercy, not for its future value to the economic interests of competitive societies but for its present value as a perishable piece of life itself.”

This, as well as the whole chapter, reminds me of a painting done in the education building at our school. It basically looks like children being manufactured in a factory by adults also known as these school systems Kozol is talking about. I always looked at that painting as a reflection of education’s future, as gruesome as it is, but now I see it as the beginning of the present. Teachers are educating human lives, not training them for a position to sell things in the future. Wouldn’t you want your child to have more of a say on their own life than just being a manager at a gas station? A child is a small piece of life, why make a path for it as soon as it comes to school? A child needs to explore, discover, be curious, wonder, succeed, fail, and so much more. Can this all be done if they are being trained from day one to basically do one thing and that one thing doesn’t even allow the child to try to succeed beyond a management position?

Kozol Page 96

“Learning itself—the learning of a skill, or the enjoying of a book, and even having an idea—is now defined increasingly not as a process or preoccupation that holds satisfaction of its own but in proprietary terms, as if it were the acquisition of an object or stock-option or the purchase of a piece of land.”

Children have to “sign contracts” saying that will complete a lesson and “negotiate” with each other to play with a toy. Whatever happened to the good old “do what the teacher says” and “share” techniques? Apparently, these aren’t good enough for urban schools because they are learning to be managers so they need to learn these skills in Kindergarten. What makes a child in an urban school different from a child in a suburban school that makes them have to learn different things in school? I was always told that I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up and I always had that option. It’s completely understandable that not everyone may be able to attend college or go to grad school or even finish high school given financial problems or even more. But, we need to be able to teach our children that they can have an open-mind and they don’t need to follow one path. If they want something bad enough, they can have it. Would you want to tell a class of 30 children that their future has been determined for them by a corporation?

Kozol Page 107

“Making a brief sarcastic reference to the prominent display of acronymic slogans that surrounded us, she said, “I envy principals in schools where children are encouraged to think independently.””

Would anyone want their child in a school with a principal that’s not happy with how it’s being run? If a principal is hesitant with their own school, how are the teachers in said school going to feel, the parents, the students? A principal should want students to come to the school to learn and be engaged in the teachings their teachers have to offer. They shouldn’t have to worry about their students’ futures because of how their own school is set up. It’s ridiculous to hear this is only happening in urban areas. While all of this information is great to know to prepare students for the future, it needs to be done differently, there needs to be more options, and it needs to be done with both suburban and urban schools. Students should still be able to think independently and not learn such extent options until high school.

Spring Page 103

“The majority population is often considered to be white; however, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by the year 2040 the majority of school-age children will be members of minority groups.”

That is a very hard concept for me to grasp, but at the same time it’s not. I feel as though we have more and more people immigrating to the U.S. so that most likely has a large effect on the population. At the same time, I can’t picture that in just 30 years from today, the white population of today will be the minority group. It’s definitely not something that’s going to happen overnight, yet it will still be interesting to see how the school systems work then in comparison to today. Will all the schools then have these business-like programs that Kozol was talking about or will everything simply be flip flopped around?

Spring Page 109

“A major problem for schools is finding teachers who are trained to teach students who have limited English proficiency (LEP).” 

We have more and more students coming into schools who cannot speak English. Although, it should not be the teacher’s job to teach that student to speak fluent English, but there should be more teachers who do such things. Classroom teachers should also know some of the more dominant languages of school systems, for example Spanish. It should be a requirement to take Spanish for an Education Program. I took 5 years of Spanish myself from 8th grade to my senior year of high school and I honestly cannot have even the smallest conversation in Spanish. I think Education Programs need to express the need for teachers that are trained in LEP or that just needs to be an added requirement. A child who cannot speak any English at all entering a school in the U.S. is basically like a Kindergartener no matter what their grade level. They have no idea what’s going on and I couldn’t even imagine how scary that must be for them no matter their age.


  1. Katrina,
    I also wonder what will happen as the demographics in our country changes over time. However, since we cannot stop anything from happening, we must face it head on and adapt ourselves to live in a changing world. I think that when faced with this change, many people tend to look at how America will react to the changes that are happening, but very few think about the people that are coming here (that are actually the reason why the statistics are changing). There is more than one side to this change, but I think that many Americans are selfish and think only about themselves and what they will do for themselves and their children to get ready for changes. Isn't it more important to look at the immigrants coming in and try our best to help them to adapt to life in America in the easiest way for them? The people already living in this country are comfortable in their everyday lives and don't have to worry about starting their lives over in a new and foreign place. As teachers, I wonder what is best for us to focus on in relation to our students, the students coming in or the students that are already here, or both.

  2. "Isn't it more important to look at the immigrants coming in and try our best to help them to adapt to life in America in the easiest way for them?" The best way to do that would be to not discriminate and to treat them like we would anyone else. They need to work just like everyone else, but coming here, they shouldn't end up homeless because no one will give them a job because of who they are. They are coming here for a better life or to be with family or whatever the reason being, they are not coming here to live in disaster. It's hard in a way because we cannot just make jobs, the best we can do is give jobs away properly and not discriminate. As far as the students coming into the schools, I think that's a great experience for students that have lived in the U.S. their whole life. I remember in 2nd grade we had a student from Hong Kong and I learned a decent amount from him, even being so young. Even in college I met someone else from China who was a life changing friend. They can help the other students see how other cultures live and experience different things. In elementary school the students only know of one way of doing things and students coming in from other countries can help change this. Wouldn't you want your own children to be exposed to more cultures?

  3. Katrina,
    I do agree with you that immigrants come into a hard life when entering America because they are so new to this life and most have no current ties to this country. I think I was leaning more toward the thought of what can we do as teachers in our classrooms to help the children of immigrants feel comfortable in our schools (my apologies if it didn't come out that way). I would think that it would be a good idea to learn about the child's background and add that into some lessons that are taught normally in the class. Mary Cowhey talked about letting her students lead lessons by being themselves and bringing up questions through natural conversations. She then let those questions lead into new areas of discussion and study for her class. Sometimes these questions brought about topics of discussion that included religion, cultures, race, etc. In today's education system can we, as, teachers, allow things like what Mary Cowhey has allowed in her classroom? The thought of having to teach for the test makes me think that these other teaching opportunities are impossible to have happen.

  4. When children are in elementary school, they are more accepting of others than when they get to high school. They may have more questions that may be "awkward" in a sense in elementary school, but it's just because they are curious. If they learn at a young age with how to accept people no matter who they are, this can greatly affect how our future will be for the better. The children of immigrants coming into the schools will, of course, being learn so much. That's why it's good for them to share things with students that have lived in the U.S. they're whole life. They will be able to teach the class and maybe even the teacher something new and feel comfortable talking about it because it's something they already know. As far as doing what Mary Cowhey did in classrooms today, it seems like a touchy subject in school systems of today. I don't think it should be, at all, considerable the population numbers in 2040. Things are constantly changing and this is something that must change if we want all the children in our schools to feel welcomed, wanted, and accepted. The simple fact of teaching for the test seems as though it just dismisses anything that has to do with culture or religion or race. But, if this is what's going on in the world, shouldn't the students know about it? Couldn't it be integrated as part of a math lesson or writing lesson?