Category Archives: Reading Responses

Quantifying Emotions: Creating a Racial Battle Fatigue Scale

I apologize for posting my article late.

I believe this article is important for several reasons but primarily because work on emotions are important the ability to quantify anything in research is a powerful tool. I wholeheartedly agree with the authors who state that “developing and validating a scale appropriate for RBF study is an important first step in assessing and furthering the research of racial microaggressions”. Although the article is filled with mostly the key findings and results I am more interested in a discussion of the themes used, a critical look at the questions asked and maybe some questions for the authors because I planned on contacting them.

Also, because we all are looking at some aspect of the human experience, I am wondering about how others feel with the idea of quantifying something as subjective and personal as lived experiences.

Special education, Nonprofits, and the Immunization Paradigm

I decided to post my article a little early.  You all can find it on the group site.  It is a piece by Tyson E. Lewis entitled Education and the Immunization Paradigm.  The article informs my research with its examination of biopolitics in education, especially as involves the creation of a “normal” standard.  Before I begin talking about the article, however, I think I should give some background on my viewpoint and research.  I will be looking at the Born This Way Foundation website with a critical eye to how the medical model of disability is reproduced through their discourse.

The medical model of disability what most of us believe about disability and disabled people.  It positions disability ultimately as a problem to be fixed, an issue residing solely in the individual, and as inherently negative, requiring treatment or cure.  This view of disability manifests itself in the treatment of disabled people as charity cases, or as inspirational in striving to overcome their disability.  In contrast and critique, many people with disabilities have defined themselves as a political minority (the largest in the United States) and believe that people with disabilities are not disabled by whatever impairment they might have, but rather by the laws, cultural values, attitudes, and constructed environments that surround them – structures which are all based on a fabricated normal standard. Ableism keeps this system in motion, the idea that disabled people have something wrong with them, that able-bodies are the normal standard to strive for.  This is often called the social model of disability.

In the social model, intersectionality comes into play.  Indeed, the normal standard is not only defined by ability, but also gender, race, sexuality, SES, etc.  In the article I posted, Lewis talks about the idealization of the bourgeois body, the male body, the heterosexual body.  This limited normal standard begins to explain why there is such an over-representation of poor, black kids in special education.  Indeed, educational institutions often define what is normal and what is not.

The monster, the masturbator, and the incorrigible individual are three figures that Foucault uses to demonstrate abnormality and its role in biopower.  The monster challenges “the fundamental laws of nature separating humans and animals”, while the others exhibit less extreme abnormal behaviors thought to be correctable through institutions like schools (p. 486).  Indeed, the special education system is  built on this premise, that people who are “abnormal” or disabled can and should be corrected through schooling.  Lewis asserts that society tries to immunize itself against the threat of the abnormal by “surveillance, hierarchical examination, and the construction of new academic knowledge systems in the psychiatric field”  (p.489).  I would suggest that society also attempts to immunize itself against the abnormal by pathologizing learning differences and excluding children with disabilities from general education classrooms and curriculum.  Lewis quotes Esposito when pondering the inherent conflict in immunization – namely that the attempt to immunize society will end in a “certain form of disqualified life” for that society (p. 488).  We can see this clearly in the attempt to immunize society through the process of special education.  Exclusion from the curriculum, reduced standards, and appallingly low graduation rates among special education students will not serve to protect society from their presumed abnormality.  While educational rhetoric would have us believe that encouraging normalcy in these students is the ultimate goal, they are instead being tracked into low wage work or prison.  Lewis calls this a process of “educational eugenics”.

The process of  does not only occur in school, it is widespread in society.  I chose to look at the Born This Way Foundation website for my research project for this course because their mission initially intrigued me.  The Foundation claims a goal of fostering “a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated”.  This more macro outlook is somewhat unique among organizations providing support and services for youth experiencing mental crisis.  For example, one of the best known of these nonprofit institutions is the “It Gets Better” campaign.  Even in the title we can see that It Gets Better is much more survival tactic than social movement.  What I am finding in looking at the Born This Way Foundation is that, despite the language of their mission, the Foundation does embrace the medical model, placing responsibility for fixing the problem on the individual and not society.  The emphasis of the organization is on encouraging youth to be brave in the face of societal pressure, not trying to change society itself.  I need to do more analysis to see if they are also engaged in subtle practices of immunization through exclusion of “abnormal” kids, but perhaps the very act of creating a community of “abnormal” youth and not working more openly against the normal standard indicates that those young people are regulating themselves.

The second part of the project I want to do for this class is create some sort of digital tool that addresses the gaps in services provided by organizations like the Born This Way Foundation.  I’m in the brainstorming process there and would welcome any suggestions that you all have.  That’s it for me.  I hope you all enjoy the article.



Microaggressions and Emotions

I read the Turner paper that Ferzileta posted and then I read Racial Microaggressions and the Difficult Dialogues on Race in the Classroom from Bisola and I appreciated the opportunity to think about the two together.  While I found the Turner piece a helpful introduction to how emotions have been theorized, I was excited to see emotions come up in the Sue et al. paper. With only a brief explanation of the emotions generated during experiences of microaggressions, I think a deeper analysis of participant emotions could have been connected to power and race using a stratified theory of emotions. As part of this theory, “those who have had power, material resources, and prestige will experience positive emotions toward self and exhibit confidence” (Turner p.350), while those who lack power will experience more negative emotions towards self. It seems like the experiences of the participants in this study on microaggressions all seemed to experience a power imbalance especially in relation to the professor where there is expressed concern about grades. The work on microaggressions interests me, as I believe we are all mutually implicated in the cause and the effect of these experiences on one another, especially as educators. I find myself wondering about my own students, where they may have had these experiences, in my classroom and how these experiences must contribute to their relationship to school, learning, teachers, classrooms and their own identity and self-efficacy???

I see that a lot of my work has an emotional component and I continue to think about how emotions, my students and my own, play a part in the classroom and how I might theorize the expression of these emotions, what triggers them and how we (myself and my students) make meaning from them. I am also interested in reading more about theories related to difficult dialogues. I would most definitely categorize many of the discussions that occur in my class as difficult ones related to race, class, gender, stereotypes, oppression, and I believe a lot of my own guilt and emotions comes from not feeling like I have the knowledge or skills to address my student’s concerns (I know that it is not realistic to expect that I can address all of my student’s concerns but it is part of my innate feelings about myself as the/their teacher to want to fulfill that for them = a tension I often wrestle with). I appreciated in the reading the guidance for teachers to be honest and allow themselves the opportunity to say they do not know how to respond as well as acknowledging that I come with my own experiences that have created biases and stereotypes about others. In my class we often explore these life experiences and I share my own along with my students. There has been a lot of feedback from my class that it is exciting and liberating for them to be able to share stories about themselves, their cultures, and their experiences that have led them to see the world as they do.

Bisola, I have heard you speak about your research a few times now and correct me if I am wrong but I believe you are planning to do individual interviews with your participants, yes? I am wondering if you have thought about the focus group similar to the one used in this paper? I appreciated how the nature of focus groups in general allows for crosspollination of ideas and an added layer of group behaviors that can be analyzed. I am sure you have thought about this but just thought I would throw it out there.

Disabled people as an overlooked minority group

In this post I would like to address the readings and then I will write another to address issues that have come up for me during the in-class presentations.  As a reminder, my research this summer (and interest in general) lies in the field of Disability Studies and my stakeholders will be young people with disabilities.  A brief theoretical background of Disability Studies will help me to explain my thoughts. Ingrained in our cultural views is the idea of disability as deficit.  In Disability Studies, we call this the medical model.  The disability is a deficiency existing within the individual that should be treated in some way (whether by medication, educational intervention, etc.).  The social model of disability came about as a direct critique of the medical model.  In the social model, people with disabilities are viewed as the largest political minority in the United States and disability seen as a form of oppression (Barton, 1992). People are disabled not by any physical, cognitive, or other impairment that they might have, but rather by the physical environment, cultural attitudes, and discriminatory policies of their society.  As Len Barton says, “in a society fundamentally organized and administered by and for white able-bodies males, the position of disabled people in relation to education, work, housing, and welfare services is a matter of grave concern” (1992, p.51).  If society was more accepting of diversity, impairment would be less disabling.

Given that I am a proponent of this minority model of disability, I could not help but read disability into the Ogbu and Simons article.  It has been in the past somewhat of a contentious idea that the plight of disabled people should be compared to that of racial and ethnic minorities in this country.  However, it is important to keep in mind that the construction of disability has been and continues to be used as a tool to maintain the oppression of other minority groups.  In practice, disability is how we explain people who fall outside of the culturally constructed view of normalcy.  At different points in history, racial and ethnic minorities. poor people, and women were diagnosed and treated according to the deficit model (Baynton, 2001).  They were considered to have something wrong with them because they did not conform to the white, middle-class, male ideal of what was normal and that justified their oppression.  They same is true today for children labeled with various learning and emotional disabilities who are segregated into special classes and presented with watered-down versions of the curriculum and low expectations from their teachers and administrators.  Indeed, racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented among the population of children in special education.

The Ogbu and Simon article discussion of involuntary minorities sheds some light on the situation of students in special education.  While I do not think it is a perfect comparison, there are certainly elements of his analysis that can apply to children labeled with disabilities.  Students with disabilities certainly often share the “dual frame of reference” in regards to education.  They view their situation, often both economic and social, as inferior to that of their able-bodies peers.  In addition, the families of students with disabilities have both historical and practical reasons to mistrust schools and other powerful institutions.  Schools have certainly not held students with disabilities to the same standards as other students, which is evident even if we just look at graduation rates (which hovers around 30% for students with disabilities).

Ogbu and Simon give advice for what teachers can do that involves building trust with students and families.  This is necessary, but for me it’s necessary to think bigger.  Gadotti says in his article that we need to treat “education as a foundation for another possible world” and for emancipation.  Nothing will change about the way we treat students with disabilities until we begin to truly embrace diversity as a culture and see it as a necessary element to the success of the human race, much as ecological diversity is necessary for the success of the planet.  I agree with Gadotti that such a shift involves social and political movement that goes beyond traditional education.

Barton, L. (1992) Disability and the necessity for a socio-political perspective. In L. Barton, K. Ballard & G. Fulcher (Eds.), Disability and the necessity for a socio-political perspective. Monograph #51. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability.

Baynton, D.C. (2001). Disability and the justification of inequality in American history. In P.K. Longmore & L. Umansky (Eds.), The new disability history: American perspectives. NY: New York University Press.


Teacher Stress – R. Sergio Guglielmi and Kristin Tatrow

I think this a particularly important article for David (and others interested in teacher stress) to reflect on where this research was in 1998 when this was published and has moved since then. I also find this article interesting on a more personal level, thinking about my own experiences with teacher stress and my coping mechanisms and health. For my own research I am still thinking about ways to document my stress and emotional experiences after teaching my Global Environment course as a way to reflect and learn to manage my emotions.

Obviously this article raised many of the limitations of the existing teacher stress/health relationship research and I had many questions for you David about how you see your work addressing some of these limitations. How are you thinking about using this paper? Are you thinking about one particular model for teaching or another variation of one of the models that incorporates some of the variables that were discussed that are often limited in these models (individual personality, gender, type of teacher)? Do you plan to strictly do a quantitative analysis or will you include some of your qualitative findings? How are you defining stress, burnout, and how will you be “measuring” stress?  Do you believe that teacher stress can be measured? How do you hope your research will address some of these limitations into this kind of research on teacher stress that are raised in the paper?

I am curious since this article has been published has more work come out on some of the health patterns associated with teacher stress? Has research built more theory around some of the teacher stress and health factors? Not knowing much about how this field of research has progressed since 1998, it seems like there is a lot of work that can be done and exciting that a few members of our class are tackling this issue from multiple perspectives. I think the issue of gender that David has mentioned before would also be interesting and I was wondering if there are other ways that women physiologically express their stress and if anyone has looked into this more?

In thinking about prescriptions for teacher stress, where do the types of prescriptions you have been talking about, mindfulness, social supports, etc…come from? Are they supported by the research or is that what Ken’s group is really thinking about and working on? I can see how your idea of the creation of a space for teachers to share their thoughts would be beneficial as it seems like social supports can alleviate some teacher stress according to this paper.

One thought I had was about the distinction between public and private workers? As public employees there are situations that teachers must deal with, a level of disinvestment and strain that is being placed on the profession by larger federal and state policies…as well as the range of unequal environments that are experienced, some raised in the discussion of lack of support, lack of decision making power, lack of resources, and high demands.

One of the most interesting parts of this paper to me was how in the United States we tend to value the person-environment fit model, which emphasizes the individual ability to withstand stress. This speaks to the U.S. ethic of worker productivity and individual competition…whoever can withstand the most stress gets the job, a value that we pass along to our students in our classrooms. Whereas in Europe, the demand-control model has been more utilized to address work stress, a model which places the intervention and responsibility for stress on the organization as opposed to the individual.

Gadotti and Furman and Gruenewald

Maybe I am cheating by combining my responses to the two articles into one post, but as I read both of them first I thought of what providence in having these as our first two discussion texts since they complement each other so well and it also reminded me of the Santos (an earlier assigned text).  Santos writes about the dangers of what he calls “orthopedic thinking”—the constraint caused by reducing the existential problems to analytical and conceptual markers that are strange to them.  To me, this speaks to the deficit and myopic approaches that seem to plague the way current social and environmental issues are addressed—as if there is one cause and one solution.

Intersectionality and interdisciplinarity are two important themes that came to mind when I read these texts.  Both authors honed in on the importance of not only considering multiple factors when addressing any societal issue but also the need to rethink current assumptions, definitions and approaches to education and addressing current societal issues, especially those of injustice–whether we are speaking of social injustice or ecological injustice, or as Gruenewald and Furman urge us to do, thinking of issues within an ecojustice framework that interrelates the social and ecological–a human-within-environment approach.

Both of these article made me think of the need for authentic integrated approaches to education—that is having problem-based approaches to teaching and learning that allow students to learn about and address issues using an ecological framework that is reflective of the context in which the issue takes place. What does this look like?  I ask this both rhetorically and literally because, as both articles mention, this will require us to rethink the way we have been taught to view the world in a way that recontextualizes or “replaces” our learning in the communities, spaces and places where we enact our daily lives.

In relating this to doing research, I also think about having authentic research approaches that documents life as it unfolds or as it is lived.  Traditionally this is done with ethnographic approaches where one “lives” with research participants and documents their daily lives through observations, fieldnotes, formal and informal interviews, maybe with some digital recording assistance.  However with an important part of our daily lives being lived out in the digital world, what do these methodologies look like? In what ways does intersectionality play out in these digital spaces and how does that then intersect with physical lives experiences? Things to think about as educators and researchers as these worlds become increasingly venned.  When we are thinking about researching and addressing modern issues, it is going to become increasingly important in include a digital level—I believe.

Gadotti reading response

As an educational policy student interested in sustainability, I was curious about a biographical reference I found suggesting that before his death in 1997, Paulo Freire had been developing a conceptual framework highlighting ecology education as an essential form of critical pedagogy. I wanted to see how Freire had connected the two and used the lens of environmental justice to expand the discourse on pedagogy for liberation. I didn’t find such a statement by Freire, but I did find this essay by Moacir Gadotti, of the Paulo Freire Institute in Brazil, discussing this connection. The Gadotti piece is interesting to me because, 1. like the Furman and Gruenewald piece, it argues for ecopedagogy as a central field of study and 2. because it situates the conversations about ecology education within global-scale educational policy-making structures and discussions.

Some of the ideas Gadotti puts forth that I see as being important to my teaching and research are:

Ecology education constitutes a pathway for developing in humanity a sense of global citizenship and mutual responsibility that are essential to the survival of life on the planet. I want to explore how the sense of “global citizenship” can be defined, manifests, and can be nurtured in formal and informal educational settings.

Ecopedagogy is an internationally recognized pillar of education and diplomatic cooperation, as reflected in agreements such as the Earth Charter and the establishment of the “Decade for Sustainability.” I want to better understand what (if any) role such agreements play in shaping educational policy in the US at national and local levels, and why.

Despite ambiguities around terms such as “sustainable” and “development,” and the notion of “the good life,” ecopedagogy offers important opportunities for human beings to uncover and interrogate the relationships between aspects of our lives we take as “givens,” including economic frameworks, human relationships to each other and to the natural world, desire and consumption, and many others. How can such deeply ingrained aspects of our ways of being in the world be problematized effectively, what alternatives can we imagine, and how can we educate to build a world that reflects other possible realities?

I look forward to hearing what others made of this reading…




Furman and Gruenewald

I enjoyed this article as a firm advocate of expanding the landscape of social justice.  My work in Disability Studies is centered on human diversity rather than ecological diversity, but there were many familiar themes throughout the article.  In the book The Short Bus by Jonathan Mooney, a mother of a child with Down syndrome contemplates a future in which the syndrome is preventable (through screening of pregnant women).  She says “we don’t know what the loss will be but if I believe my presence is tied to the presence of diverse individuals and those people are gone, I think we’ve become less human” (2007, p. 193).  She compares human diversity to the diversity of the rain forest and emphasizes that we do not know what the consequences might be of wiping out that diversity.  Unfortunately, the dominant paradigm disvalues people with disabilities, considering them to be deficient rather than merely different.

Like Furman and Gruenewald, I believe that assumptions about progress in our culture are problematic and threaten diversity.  Our constructed ideas about what is “normal” cause some people to be labeled as outsiders.  Treating disability as disease means that “progress” is the eradication human diversity.  In fact, it is often the cultural attitudes and legal structures of society that disable people, rather than any physical or mental impairment.  Furman and Gruenewald suggest that a beneficial way to teach about diversity is through direct contact with communities, and I agree.  Educators must question “their deepest cultural and educational assumptions” about human diversity as well as ecological diversity (Furman & Gruenewald, 2004, p.62).  Students must come to know and appreciate the contributions of people labeled with disability.  I think that many of the ideas put forth by Furman and Gruenewald could be applied to human diversity as well as ecological diversity.

Mooney, J. (2007). The Short Bus. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Furman Reading Response

I appreciate the posting of the Furman article and appreciated that although it touched on ecological and scientific themes, I was able to access the reading, not having a science background. The points of the article that engaged me the most were the discussions around the growing sense of urgency, among many people committed to educational equity and social justice, to “close” an “achievement gap”. This discourse often makes me uncomfortable and I appreciated the balanced discussion within the article around social justice themes and the importance for all scholars to embody a social justice perspective. I feel the authors were able to remain balanced due to their commitment to “surface the assumptions and narratives in which social justice is currently embedded” (page 50).

As a constructivist, I was excited to learn through the reading of the theory ‘critical humanism’ which reminded me of Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory asserts that racism in American society is normative and should not be questioned. Similar, to the way the authors described critical humanism as a theoretical framework, which views social constructions as inherently value-laden. This in is itself problematic because we include the values of one we inherently exclude the values of others. What I did find discomforting within the theory is its call for radical changes. While needed, I find to be problematic thinking when discussing systematic changes, especially in the field of leadership. The question that troubles most stakeholders in education, especially when considering inequities in education is the question of change. I believe change is at its core a complex and difficult and cannot be devoid without a discussion of how change can be sustainable in the face of widespread disproportionate inequities.

I also found “the focus on school underachievement as an indicator of social justice” to be problematic and too close to an subtle discussion that is often found within the deficit perspective, which places too great an emphasis on the what is wrong and has to be fixed within a community and not enough of a discussion on the wealth found within the community.  This brings me the article’s discussion of critical pedagogy of place, quoting hooks who defines “decolonization as a process of cultural and historical liberation; an act of confrontation with a dominant system of thought” (page 58). This is why my work is centered on identifying and debunking the subtle occurrences of the deficient perspective because it becomes a dangerous and systematic “system of thought” which believes that a cultural deficit perspective is comprised of two parts: (a) the attribution of an individual’s achievement to cultural factors alone, without regard to individual characteristics; and, (b) the attribution of failure to a cultural group. In other words, a cultural deficit perspective is a view that individuals from some cultural groups lack the ability to achieve just because of their cultural background.

The danger of the deficit ideology is that it represents a repressive disposition and is a symptom of larger sociopolitical conditions and ideologies born out of complex socialization processes. The perspective cannot be combated without acknowledging and examining the processes that can eliminate racism and white supremacist ideology, which I feel the article began to acknowledge.

Overall, this article was thought-provoking and I learned about critical frameworks that I was not aware of prior to reading the article and I always appreciate scholarly works that call for a reimaging education, learning ad justice.

Furman and Gruenewald Reading

I chose this article because for me it introduces a socioecological justice framework that speaks to me and my research, it introduces the concepts of a critical pedagogy of place which speaks to my curriculum implementation, and it highlights many of the challenges and tensions that I have experienced working within the current education system. Below are my thoughts and some of the questions this article generated for me. I would love to hear from others about ways they see this article being relevant to their own work and how I might utilize it in mine.

Socioecological Justice Framework: Furman and Gruenewald identify the links between social justice and environmental justice and how modern developed economies have created environmental problems that impact both humans and nonhumans, these are inseparable. Environmental problems are experienced as social injustices and are disproportionately felt depending on race, class, and other social groups. How are the issues that my student experience felt differently by differing social groups-what social groups do they identify as? Youth, gender, urban, minority, class???

Critical Pedagogy of Place:I have been thinking a lot about how to develop my own critical pedagogy of place and about how I can infuse the values of critical pedagogy and the environmental situation that we find ourselves in today into a curriculum that speaks to young people in the city. As I shared with you all at the USER-S, the research that my students and I have been conducting tries to address and “problematize the taken-for-granted assumptions, and unjust outcomes of conventional educational and cultural practices” (p.58) as well as incorporate a local experience that is present in the lives of my students.

Through implementation of my own critical pedagogy of place I have seen in my students how their ways of viewing the world are so strongly influenced by the capitalist, globalized city/country/world that we live in. A larger question I have for myself is how do we help people/my students realize that they are interconnected and mutually implicated in one another’s lives…I find this very difficult – that it matters to care about all kinds of people. A question my students have raised and struggle with is whether people are inherently good or bad??

Current Education System: Much of this article really spoke to my own critiques/limitations/assumptions of the current education system and continue to challenge me on how I view the the purposes of education. I feel this is the larger picture and implications of my own work, especially thinking about how might we reform education to embrace a socioecological ethic, why this is not part of the larger discussion on education and if it is even possible to imagine an alternative educational system? Where do we fit the economic, social, and moral purposes of schooling into our current system and how do we prioritize (or not prioritize) these?

I mentioned at the USER-S some of the tensions that I have experienced working within the traditional education paradigm with an emphasis on western values of progress and achievement for economic advancement. I have the privilege of not having to teach my course with any high stakes tests and have the luxury of developing more alternative assessments however, this has created confusion for students who have one experience in my class where they are receiving a message from me about schooling and then their other classes that value competition, individualism, and achievement. This has also raised questions for me about what are my own assumptions in my classroom? What are the implicit messages I am sending to my students and what are the ideology and values that I am conveying? Are these better? If so Why?

I have some larger questions that this article helped me to frame for myself and my course…What are the cultural and ecological conflicts that come from a preparation of young people to participate in the global economy? How does the dominant culture impact/affect people and places, humans and habitat? What are the purposes of education/schooling in the larger arena of cultural and ecological conflict? How do we prepare our students within our modern capitalist world to engage politically and ecologically with a knowledge and understanding of how social, economic, political, environmental systems are interrelated and value outcomes of care for humans and the earth?