Introduction Post

Hey everyone, my name is Tessa Gonzales. I am from Muskegon, MI and completed my undergrad at Michigan State University – the best school on Earth! There I received a Bachelor’s in Education with a concentration in Language Arts and a minor in TESOL. Currently I am a first grade English teacher at Anuban Khon Kaen in Thailand. I enjoy traveling, running, reading, and could listen to Bob Dylan all day, every day. I hope this course will help to expand my perceptions in the culture of education.

The Wire

The blatant juxtaposition of race, class, and gender within a low socioeconomic community, portrayed in this television series, depicts the overwhelming concern of inequality within American culture, specifically the American education system. I could very well go over 500 words expressing my concerns after viewing:

the ineffective classroom management by the token white male,

the misuse of classroom resources in an urban school district,

the importance of equity versus equality when working with students

and/or the effects of disciplinary actions on students’ portrayal of authority

– these are all purposeful depictions of barriers faced far too often within the world of education, but what concerns me is the bigger picture: how is the existence of this show relevant to American culture?

This series works to portray a message; it was not created for the value of pure entertainment, but to act as a medium – bringing the politics of education, poverty, class, and race to life. My concern with these genres of storytelling, whether it be on television or a movie, in a book or magazine, an interpretation in a painting, or song, they all tell contextual stereotypes as generic truths. Stereotypes are derived from types of truths within in culture, as much as it pains me to succumb to this reality, stereotypes have some merit. Growing up in a biracial family I know it was difficult to my white friends to believe I did, in fact, engage in piñata swinging, tortilla consuming, and mariachi listening while celebrating each and every holiday. It’s uncomfortable for the majority to admit the preconceived assumptions of minority culture, and I get that. However purposefully displaying them for an entire culture to absorb is a completely different endeavor.

Watching Mr. P teach absolutely nauseated me, his demeanor, lack of knowledge, and overall awakwardness tightened every muscle in my body. Once calming these aggressive instincts I took a look at his role in the story collectively. There is a team of writers, producers, and consultants focused solely on the portrayal of this character, right down to his schoolboy wardrobe and white-boy walk. The same goes for each and every character – they are depictions of what these writers want to demonstrate about American culture. So again I ask, what is the message here; what objectives are these staff members trying to reach?

Before this can be answered I suppose we must consider what demographic this series is trying to captivate – is it the young, black man they are trying to give a voice to, the bleeding-heart educator they are trying to sympathize with, or am I completely off-based and this is merely a creation of entertainment bliss? The objective derives from the intended audience, but is the average American suited for the comprehension of these portrayals?

While I appreciate the existence of this show and the message it is putting forth into the world, I cannot help but feel annexed toward this movement. Immersing the audience in pretending to know the other half is kind of ruining the joke.

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2 thoughts on “Introduction Post

  1. Hi Tessa,

    Welcome to the course! How exciting to have you “here” with us, writing from Thailand. I can’t wait to learn more about your experiences there. I’m very curious about your take on the Japan reading from cycle 1 and if you see any similarities as a first-grade teacher in Thailand.

    I love your hard-driving critique here! The first thing I take away is that you were pushed hard by these clips, pushed to the point of nausea. The emotional reaction is always the first thing I want to focus on, and in your case, that seems pretty clear.

    Your worry about the way in which this show (any show?) takes stereotypical partial “truths” and converts them to “absolute truths” is well taken. You are very right to ask these questions. And I’m perfectly comfortable and excited to have you engaging the show on this meta-level.

    My only dialogic response is that we spend enough time with these characters to realize they are not stereotypes. They are stereotypes when I appropriate some youtube clips to show in class; but when you watch the full season, you realize that these kids are as complex, individual, rounded as any other person you will meet. The tragedy here is how society and “the odds” convert complex individuals into all-too-predictable outcomes.

    I encourage you to use this course to continue to think about these issues. How do we portray difficult realities without stereotyping or confirming prejudices? Is there anything a white American (like myself) can use to educate himself on the “other half”? Can my critical sympathies ever be engaged enough to rise to the occasion–to treat these children as full rounded characters, engaged in tragic life events every bit as compelling as Shakespeare?

    I welcome your further comments and thoughts!

    Again, welcome to the course!

    Kyle

  2. HelloTessa:

    I enjoyed reading your post for cycle one and thought you raised very important issues for the three articles regarding parental involvement, discipline in schools and exterior identification in the form of dress for students and teachers I envisioned myself clearly in Rosin’s article, I reflected on my role as a parent of an 18 year-old bright, open, nerdy, inclusive, loving, caring and compassionate African-American college bound child and I applauded your position of challenging dress among adults and their students to assert power, authority and position.

    The question you raised about parenting awards for being paralyzed by fear and being a helicopter parent rang true for me not because of I am in need of being “SuperMom” but it is the reality of the world in which we live of a child who looks like mine. My son has always been a “kumbaya” type of child with compassion and caring for others that continues to amaze me. However, it is his look and gender that people come to erroneous assumptions. For example, when he left the Jesuit high school that he was attending in Detroit and went to Vernon Hills High School when he moved to live with his Dad, the staff recommended that I test him for Special Education services and agreed. He was not eligible for the services, tested superior in all categories including 99th percentile in writing and math. What was amusing to me was the meeting with Dad and I about the results of the testing. The psychologist exclaimed, “It was such a joy to test Mario because I test so many severely cognitively impaired children and he knows so much about so many things!” She continued by saying that he was well traveled, spent a considerable amount of time with both of his parents prior to him coming to live with Dad. Other staff who observed my son in class realized that he was bored in class, already knew the material when asked and in Chemistry why he did not take notes or do homework. He responded, “I don’t do the homework because we do not receive a grade and the lesson that she was teaching I knew about and read it on-line and in the Popular Science magazine (My son is an avid reader).

    With your perspective about discipline, I agree with your statement about children needing to develop their own reasoning skills during challenging situations. I believe that when we step in too much, we rob our children of developing coping skills and working out issues when adults are not present. With my aforementioned self designation as a helicopter, I am reminded that I always allowed my child to have a voice, be heard and state his opinion, according to his Godfather. I am by nature, a strict disciplinarian because I want my students and my children, (my son and others that I have “adopted) to be behave appropriately in various situations particularly when their response or reaction can be beneficial or detrimental. I am open to explore an observer approach to allow children to work through disagreements.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your position about dress. Although I understand mandating a school uniform policy, I also believe that students need to express their individuality and creativity without penalty. I was raised with very strict guidelines for dressing from my parents and family with certain expectations of how one should dress at school, at home, at church and other events. I do however believe that teachers should “model” a professional dress for the classroom appropriate to the age group and school environment. For example, when I worked as a School Counselor at a Crockett Career and Technical Center, we dressed as business professionals. On certain occasions, i.e. holidays and Fridays we dressed down for those days. I just remembered about the nine page dress code our district published this year and how infuriated I became when I work in a building with water leaks and pipe bursting in my office. In addition to that, half of our building is air conditioned and the other half, (where I am housed) is not because someone stole one of the compressors from the roof.
    As I think about my own style of dress, I have become more relaxed in my day to day dress but will dress up with a “full face” for special occasions. And when the children tell me how pretty I look, I tell them that I dressed up for them because it is a special time and they are special. Their little faces light up and give me a hug. I realize that the extra effort was worth it for my “babies.”

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