Pursuing Our True Selves

With the semester coming to a rapid conclusion, I can’t help but appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given. I didn’t expect myself getting accepted into another college, much less a graduate program. Here I am writing my response to one of our readings, but I stopped and thought about the kinds of material I’ve been experiencing as of late. Each brought important insight and interesting things to consider, and these two articles are no exception. With RECONSIDERATIONS: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries, Peter Elbow made me think harder on my stance on the individual voice in writing/art, and how the situation isn’t as easy as picking a side. In The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children, I’ve actually found myself getting upset at reading accounts and incidents that felt all too real to me, while at the same time had me think about the culture I grew up in and how other people can resonate with those feelings.

Stemming heavily from my background as an artist, I’m a heavy advocator for bringing in personal touches to one’s work. A signature, one might say. Going back to art really quick, I can point out a Jackson Pollock painting amongst a group of paintings, and I will never fail at identifying an El Greco work. I wanted to say I feel the same way about writing, in which I believe that there can be room to place in a bit of individuality in some passages. It helps differentiate one’s ideas and statements among others, like looking at a gallery.

Reading through the article helped emphasize some of those feelings. There are examples that people will connect more to a more personalized reading (which I can’t help but say that I’m also more swayed towards this) and it removes the notion of an academic ‘norm’ that must be in place. Why don’t we do allow these types of writings to continue, as they can invite more casual writers into the field without gatekeeping?

Then I realized as I read, that there are many drawbacks to this. My favorite example of this is having one ‘interpretation’ being the norm. Like if one thinks about the book The Catcher in the Rye, everyone has different perceptions of how Atticus sounds/looks, the mannerisms of Scout or how we can picture Boo Radley. That is, unless one has seen the movie adaption. By seeing that film (which is pretty close to the story), it takes a dominant place in the mind, where reading the book after has the reader only picture the actors in the film. That’s a limiting notion, and as Peter Elbow says, restricts creative interpretations.

I think of the art field I hail from, and the same can be said there. While that field is teeming with creative individuality, there is a room for conformity and uniformity that has their own merits. I think of graphic design, in which the basis of this medium is to create logos or iconic images to spread information/ideas. There is a sort of conformity in how colors interact and what each image can say, but is that really a bad thing? There is a reason many people pursue this field, because while the building blocks are the same there is leeway in interpretation. I also think back to a discussion I’ve had with Tom, and how in his work in comic writing there is uniformity in writing there. While I can contest and think differently of what the norm suggests, I can see why this industry is the way it is, but I also can see that there have been examples of branching out from this.

In my linguistics class, we discussed that in language, voice is the most important component in communication. Writing comes second. Can we say with this in mind that we should have voices in writing then? I thought yet, but maybe it’d be difficult to do so. Language, especially voiced, is highly arbitrary so there’s too many variables to consider. Perhaps it goes back to the idea of ‘there’s a time and place for everything’, so maybe the idea of having voice in writing shouldn’t be discarded or untaught, but rather be added to a writer’s toolbox. It can prove to be a secret ability of sorts, like how there is an art of speaking so to is there for writing.

With the second article, The Silenced Dialogue, Lisa D. Delpit illustrated the divide of power amongst minority groups in the academic fields, where such groups are often not taken seriously in comparison to their middle class counterparts. Without getting too into my own personal life, I’ve had my fair share of these experiences. They’ve always annoyed not just because of the underlying feelings I’ve felt, but there wasn’t any reason for it because I came from a middle class background as any other.

The frustrations from the excerpts at the beginning resonated with me and I felt their anger just the same. I understand not everyone comes from the same background, but this article illustrates that the marginalized need to have their own voices be expressed and learn from it. There are many examples I’ve seen recently of protecting cultural identity and who gets offended for who, and while those sentiments can be considered kind-hearted there needs to be a self-evaluation in place so that it doesn’t damage.

The other part that caught my eye is how the education system is a player in this phenomenon. I can’t think of any personal examples, but the article makes mention of two teachers of different backgrounds teaching differently. It’s almost an interesting reflection of what occurs in their culture, which I cannot say more as I do not want to come off as assuming. I do resonate with the idea of what power can come from a voice. I’ve had a laugh at the examples of parents implying a direct order for their kids (‘Isn’t it about time to go to bed?’) because that wasn’t a thing in my household. The minute we can a command from our parents, we are to oblige because respect for parents were strong. That’s not to say my upbringing is better for this reason, but that there is diversity in everything.

What can schools do to better nurture a wide variety of minds? There are too many components to consider, and not enough resources to sustain that. There are many rights and wrongs of varying degrees, so who’s to say what can be done?

I love how both articles compliment one another, both emphasizing self-identity in writing. One speaks on a fundamental level of connecting voice to text, and the other making claim about cultural identity in academics. I had an interesting time going through it all, and I’ve bookmarked them for later revisits as I find them compelling in their findings. I’m looking forward to what will be discussed in class, as we all come from different backgrounds that can contribute meaningfully.

Silence Is Not Always Golden

The Silenced Dialogue made me feel all types of ways: angry, sad, annoyed and most of all, I felt heavy with the knowledge of how injustice just roams freely in this country’s system (just like any other country) without being reprimanded. With the growing demographics of students in this country, there has come alongside a sense of power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. It’s no longer just white or Caucasian residents; this land has become colorful. And there should be pride in it, but unfortunately, it’s still far to reach. In the education system, the infrastructure in which there should be the most acceptance, the most diversity, the most open-mindedness, there is still unfairness and racial inequality. And maybe there always will be but the truth is, it is costing heavily for the victims of this system: students and teachers.

Black and Native American educators are frustrated, furious and overwhelmed…kind of like how I felt while reading this article. They try and try and try again but nothing happens to bring about equity and equality in the education system for culturally inclusive classrooms. One black teacher stated, “You can only beat your head against a brick wall for so long before you draw blood.” Wounds are building up and blood is dripping, but yet, no change. As a result, colored educators were considered to be agreeing with logic and why? Because they stopped disagreeing with their white colleagues. They didn’t stop out of choice; they stopped because they were done.

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It is unfortunate to think that the socioeconomic status of students predict how they will do in school; another form of proving that the “culture of power is a reflection of the culture of those in power.” The white educators don’t feel what they are doing, or rather they aren’t aware of it…or are they? They are so brainwashed into thinking what they are commanding is right. Their “…good intentions are only conscious delusions about their unconscious thinking.” They are making a huge mistake, and they don’t know it…probably never will. Because only “those will less power are often most aware of its existence.” How will one know the effect of something if they never experienced it? A black mother protested, “My kids know how to be Black – you all teach them how to be successful in a White man’s world.” Many colored students fail in class because they aren’t given the chance to prove themselves. Being a darker skin color makes teachers assume that they won’t do well because “Well, have they ever?” or “They are probably poor or aren’t smart. Why try?” Prejudices need to be prevented but since it’s natural for everyone to have them, then leave them at the door. Don’t let the students’ exhibit what they already know…teach them. Make them leave the class feeling it was worthwhile, not a “show and tell” event. For this to happen successfully, teachers and instructors must create culturally appropriate instruction. And this can only occur if the administration takes it seriously first. They should stop wasting time on the product, when the process is being discouraged. There’s no emphasis on the journey, and the destination is given all the importance.

But no, that’s why we have students in high school or even universities cheating their way through everything. “It doesn’t matter if they don’t learn anything, as long as they get an A.” If that’s the mentality, the education system has failed…BIG time. And there’s no need to clarify why. It’s too obvious to put into words. Let the students take the lead on what they should learn. Take some time and learn their interests and celebrate their culture. When “both student and teacher are expert [s] at what they know best”, then the classroom is guaranteed to be a successfully intellectual and fun environment. And being fun doesn’t mean not being direct when necessary. Use directness and indirectness. There should be a balance of authority and “chumminess” in the classroom. Don’t intimidate the students but don’t make them forget why they are there. And if any student doesn’t understand your way of doing something, don’t label them as “behaviorally disordered.” Don’t be unfair and let a colored person’s misunderstanding represent their culture when a white student’s problems goes to the extent of being a personal issue that needs to be taken care of. And if the student speaks a different type of English, learn about it. Research, understand. If it’s Black English, is it wrong? If it’s Singaporean English, is it wrong? If it’s American English, is it right? In teaching, there is no wrong and right when it comes to a sea of colors in the classroom but only acceptance and broadening your mind when it comes to learning about culture and equality. But for this to really change, voices need to be heard. People need to speak up because this is one of those times, where silence is not golden.