Posts in: GS554

GS 554 — Contemporary Issues: Personal Experiences of Ascent and Immersion

Here are some resources that came up in class today: — Go to Archive — Go to Gallery, Pick Theme — Go to Memory Cloths

GS 554 — Coming of Age in America: Contemporary Issues (Continued)

Explore Roberto Rivera’s

Questions of Application:

  • What do we do with the ideas that have come up over the course of the institute?
  • How do we apply our understanding in our specific schools and classrooms?

Useful Notions:

  • Ascent and Immersion
  • Borders
  • Double Consciousness
  • Tension Between Stereotype and “Reality”
  • Post-Colonialism
  • Call and Response

Philosophical Questions:

  • How can teachers help a student become a unique individual and a member of a community?
  • How do you go from being touched to being moved?
  • How do you maintain a school system as a cornerstone of a progressive and democratic society?

Questions about Students:

  • What is the impact of popular culture on our students?
  • How can you help students find their voices and tell their stories? How can you find and tell your own?
  • How can you foster a sense of worthiness in students?
  • How do we help students understand their identities?
  • To what extent should we shelter students from difficult truths?

Questions about Teachers:

  • How can teachers form authentic relationships with students while respecting professional boundaries?
  • How do we balance pressures to achieve (frequently measured by dictates and standards) with the meaningful, non-quantifiable elements of student growth?
  • What responsibility do teachers bear for promoting digital citizenship?

Questions about Curriculum:

  • What would it look like to have a coherent, aligned multicultural curriculum?
  • How can teachers develop a multicultural curriculum without threatening (or seeming to threaten) the established values of the larger community?

GS 554 — Coming of Age in America: Contemporary Issues

Our discussion today began with the following texts: In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason, and Born on the Fourth of July (1989).


  • The lasting and growing impact of war on our youth and their experience.


  •  How can we foster a meaningful and nuanced understanding of issues related to war without relying on cliches that oversimplify and limit meaning?

Recommendations for Further Reading/Viewing:

GS 554 — Elaborating on Native American Perspectives

Our class discussion drew on our reading of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Thomas King’s Truth & Bright Water, and the 1998 film Smoke Signals.


  • Borders as human constructions.
  • Belonging as something that necessitates that there are those who don’t belong.
  • Varying definitions of success.


  • How can humor be a vehicle for truth?
  • When can humor be dangerous?
  • What possibilities exist in the threshold spaces between borders?
  • What role can place play in relation to the understanding of the self?
  • What is the relationship between grief and growth?

Suggestions for Additional Reading:

GS 554 — Native American Perspectives: Education for Extinction

The beginning of our examination of indigenous perspectives of education included a discussion of information from the text Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience 1875-1928 by David Wallace Adams.

Chris Teuton delivered a myth-challenging “Indians 1491” lecture. Areas of focus included: indigenous population numbers, intertribal trade, disease and its role in conquest, warfare as a means of conquest or as an indicator of status, patterns of conquest, cultural and linguistic patterns and differentiation between the great number of distinct native nations and tribal bands, indigenous contributions to agriculture, settlement, slavery, linguistic studies, archeology, terminology, migration theories, and indigenous studies.

Explore this link to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.


  • Reformers with ethnocentric “good intentions” contributing to destruction and alienation due to a fundamental lack of understanding of the intrinsic value of all peoples and cultures.
  • The paradoxical nature of the idea of “progress” as a destructive force.
  • The assumption that a particular value system should apply to everyone.
  • The intentional, calculated, and conscious destruction of groups of people in the name of morality and progress.
  • The accumulation of personal wealth as a moral obligation.
  • The complexity of the relationship between economics and religion.


  • How have conceptions of cultural evolution and civilization contributed to a rationalization of the systematized destruction of indigenous people and culture?
  • Does our current education system have any parallels to the government practice of separation intended to “protect” groups from mixing with each other?
  • What echoes of the value system forced upon indigenous people remain central in our culture today?
  • How has the influence of cultural relativism shaped the formation and practices of our public education system?

GS 554 — Reimagining the Gendered Classics: The Bluest Eye

The following are some highlights from our discussion of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye:


  • The complexity of the role of black women in art, literature, Civil Rights, and continually evolving hierarchies (both in the family and society).
  • The projection, condemnation, and internalization of anger as a result of feelings of unworthiness.
  • The cyclical nature of such feelings.
  • Morrison’s use of language in relation to her purpose — to highlight the depth and beauty of black culture while telling a story about the ugliness permeating the experience of a black female.


  • From what sources do children receive and interpret societal conceptions of beauty (and in turn, ugliness)?
  • How does commercialism shape and reinforce cultural ideals of beauty?
  • What does it take to expand cultural conceptions of beauty?
  • What is the relationship between individuals and society in formulating and perpetuating value structures for human beings and children?
  • What is your potential in the process of growing others (students, peers, family, friends, etc.)?

Here’s Brett’s viewing suggestion: A Girl Like Me.

GS 554 — Reimagining the Gendered Classics: The Catcher in the Rye

Our discussion of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye spawned the following:


  • The call and answer (or lack of answer) in Holden’s experiences.
  • Holden’s preoccupation with protecting innocence.
  • Authenticity versus phoniness.
  • Grief.
  • The importance of human relationships.
  • The commodification of elements of universal human experience.
  • Desperation.
  • Alienation.
  • Connection.


  • As children/teenagers form identities, which relationships are most important in their lives?
  • What can we learn from Holden about truly listening to children?
  • How can we find existential truth in fiction?
  • How can we as human beings ourselves, acknowledge the humanity of our students and their own existential struggles?
  • What narrow expectations and frameworks do we take for granted in public education? (Schedules, measurements for achievement, etc.)
  • How is Holden’s struggle a result of mainstream American values?

Food for thought:

“The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

GS 554 — Reimagining the Gendered Classics: Huck Finn

Here is a growing list of themes and questions that have arisen during our discussion of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:


  • The cultural image of the teacher/reformer as a heroic savior figure/miracle worker.
  • Huckleberry Finn’s growth as a result of loving relationships rather than instruction.
  • The role of place in grounding identity and having a sense of one’s self in relation to one’s environment.


  • How do the varied spheres of influence Huck passes through to learn particular types of literacy (cultural, moral, religious, linguistic, etc.) inform our understanding of the role of public education in the development of young people?
  • Where/what is the symbolic river for kids today?
  • What is the relationship between physical freedom and freedom of thought?

GS 554 — Reimagining the Gendered Classics: Little Women

Here is a growing list of themes and questions that have arisen during our discussion of Luisa May Alcott’s Little Women.


  • The gendered nature of toys and products targeted at children (American Girl dolls, Spiderman vs. Disney princess backpacks, etc.).
  • The limits of subversive elements in literature.


  • What is the relationship between expectations of perfection and ideals of girlhood and womanhood? Of subordination?
  • How does consumer/commercial culture interact with and influence gender ideals?
  • What influential texts serve to illustrate gender expectations in today’s society?
  • What forces in society today continue to subvert or reinforce expectations of a patriarchal status quo?

GS 554 — Classrooms in Motion: Hip-Hop Based Education

Our discussion of Marc Lamont Hill’s Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity produced many themes and questions. Here are a few. Feel free to continue discussion by posting comments.


  • Teachers being afraid.
  • The importance of storytelling in cultivating meaningful relationships.
  • The various levels of resistance (social, institutional, and psychological) to treating humans as individual beings.
  • The role of bravado and machismo in identity work.


  • Is there more of a need to cultivate authentic relationships with students in a culturally diverse classroom?
  • How can you cultivate meaningful relationships with students while honoring the need for professionalism?
  • What do you have in your “teacher’s toolbox” beyond curriculum?
  • Has fear prevented you from culturally engaging students in your classroom?
  • How can you engage youth perspective of popular culture as a rich and meaningful source of learning that has traditionally been subordinated to traditional academic perspectives?
  • What is the role of popular culture in the formation of a young person’s identity?

We also viewed and discussed the 1995 film Kids.