Wednesday, April 6, 2011

we'll celebrate our differences! but only if you're black.

Man, the title of this post sounds horrible. Please read it in context.

This morning was our literacy class, which is run by an awesome, awesome lady from CA, who did her thesis on race politics in classrooms, and is really in that 'sphere' of race, and literacies, etc. That's where she is. So, we skipped over a lesson on teaching handwriting (read: we didn't do it, because it's not what she does. Let me divert a moment here before I go on to my main point. She doesn't do it, yes, but we will. At some point, I will need to teach kids how to write. Not 'how to write' in the broad scope of 'learning to write a narrative', but in actually forming the letters. This is a b. Don't confuse it with a d. That kind of thing. Our one lesson in our degree on teaching handwriting, and we're not doing it. And this is a ridiculous thing: we're in a 2 year Masters course, and we get 1 measly semester of literacy and numeracy, which make up, what, 80% of the primary curriculum? Had we done a bachelor of ed. we would have had 4 years of this stuff. I'm feeling a little underprivileged. I'm feeling like if I have any 2 hour breaks next semester, that I'm going to find a literacy or numeracy B.Ed. class and sit in on it. Is that uber-nerdy? Yes. Do I want to know as much as I can before the future of these kids rests in my hands? Yes. When kids come out of my class writing "th3 bog i5 dlacR" (the dog is black) because they get their e's, d's, b's, and k's all messed up (or whatever it happens to be), then that's my fault. Anyway, not the point) so we could talk about being white.

Being white as in, trying to see how we are privileged, as a race, and how we can kind of... celebrate the differences in each other, within the classroom, I guess. I think that's the point they were getting at. It all seemed very contradictory. Like: Let's not pick kids out for their race, but let's involve them all in a discussion of their culture and ask them to help build a curriculum with that. Ok, awesome, except if you only have one kid of a different race in your class (and it happens, in Aus) and so you're like: HEY JOE YOU'RE DIFFERENT TEACH US ABOUT YOUR LIFE!
Or something like that.
So, yay multiculturalism, celebrating differences... which was all in the lead up for our guest-speaker guy, and to talk about indigenous Australians.
Which is something that, understandably. comes up again and again. Because there are Aboriginal ways of learning and knowing that as a white Australian, I am not privvy to. And so they try and teach us how to teach with this in mind. Ok. Good.
We talk for a long time about this guy's experience in a very remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. About how we should try and get them involved in the curriculum building process (which I agree with, but with every student, not just the different ones), and y'know, embrace the culture, blah blah.
The thing that gets me, is that we talk so much about Aboriginal culture. Sure, they're the traditional land owners (though, as far as I've been taught, they don't 'own', so this term in itself seems problematic, but I'm not an expert so I won't comment further on that), they're part of who and what we are as Australians, there are kids of Aboriginal decent in some of our schools (Ok I was trying to do some serious research on the percentage of students in Victoria who are Aboriginal, because I saw the figure today but my brain didn't process it so I can't recall. I have a feeling it was like 0.36% or something) and that's important. Students knowing about Aboriginals and Aboriginal culture is important.
But... we draw so much attention to this... But... ok, so there's apparently 22.7 million people in Australia now. Of that, just over 500,000 are Aboriginal (not all students, obviously), which makes 2.5% of the population... Of the 22 million, 683,000 (3%) were born in an Asian country- China, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, whatever. Of the 22 million, a sizeable number were also born on the Indian subcontinent.
So my point is, we make this big deal of Aboriginal kids, and how we need to make sure we're teaching them and including them... but what about all the kids from Asia? From Chinese parents? With parents who don't read to them at night because they can't? Or who do try and speak English at home, but it's not very good, and so the kid doesn't get any ESL support or funding because it's not really his second language? Do they have different ways of knowing? Or learning? Am I going to ignore these children in my class because I'm flipping out over the fact that I have an indigenous child? Hopefully not, but am I making any sense?
I just think... everyone has a right to a good, inclusive education. One that celebrates diversity, that challenges, that includes, that instills a love of learning. Somebody brought up the point that by constantly making this distinction between us (white) and them (not), we're making the gap worse, to which the teachers replied that we, as white people, just want the issue to go away, to not have to face it...
Which I don't think is true, necessarily. I think if you're a kid in my class... if I go around drawing attention to the fact that you're different for some reason, and let's do "Indian culture day because Joe's family is from India!" then this isn't helping... if I treat this kid, and help this kid like I would any other, and teach diversity and multiculturalism in general, and do, as School is doing tomorrow 'Harmony Day' (or whatever), then this has to be better than 'othering' the child who may not have necessarily felt any different until that child was put in that position. But this wasn't necessarily what I felt like they were trying to teach. I felt like they were trying to get us to celebrate those differences, yes, but only for those kids who were different- for a reason. I don't think any of us can say we're the same as someone else, or have the same family life. One girl is the youngest of 6 and her parents did humanitarian aid work in Eastern Europe with the older siblings. Awesome! I grew up on a hobby farm with a bunch of animals! Cool! Nic went to a French immersion school! Neat! Point being: We bring these experiences and differences and stories with us, as students, they can all participate in meaningful ways to the development of their school curriculum - I WANT them to! But I don't agree with the notion of only picking out the indigenous kids to help me, which seemed to be one of the points they were making. Which seems bizarre.
/end edu rant.

Why can't we all just get along?!?!?!?!?!

1 comment:

  1. AGREE.

    I think your plan to sit in on classes is genius. The years I don't have internships in my masters I try to audit counseling courses since that's what I ultimately want to do.

    Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes, even shades of white.