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Notes Towards Day 5 (Tues, Sept. 18): Beyond Silenced Voices

Anne Dalke's picture

from the new film Silenced Voices

I. Sharaai's silence
("Uninhibited" is up next; schedule is up @ top of home page....
note also "Hummingbird" and some powerful avatars--you all are getting the vision thing down!)

II. coursekeeping
*really happy about the way you are using the forum: both to respond to one another and to do stand-alone postings:
HSBurke: encouraged just to be casual [on-line], not to worry how good we sound (?)...also! blackout poetry!

Hummingbird reflected on the Volshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble’s performance at Goodhart Auditorium: dance is such a visceral way of expressing oneself, but at the same time, it’s silent...Another aspect of the performance evoked silence for me...of a different type….the role of the male dancer in partnered dance is to pair with the female in order to show her off….But in doing this, does the female dancer lose autonomy?  If there are any dancers in the class, perhaps they could explain their take on this?

sdane publicized a free film screening on Peace, Education and Justice @ 6 p.m. this Friday @ Friends' Center in center city

* reporting back re: Sarah's Serendip "issues": I sent you a note about notifications and time-outs; I also checked the displays, and all your papers and postings were there, though Dan, Erin, Sharaai need to go back and flag your first paper as a "web event"--which will help Serendip keep track of things as it generates your e-portfolio (and of course all of you should tag your second one, ditto...)

* this weekend, I commented on all your essays, and urge you to read one another's, if you haven't--some strong stories there, about the complexities of silence as power, as statement, as disempowering, an inability to comments often refer you to others' stories (I organized my reading around your shared images), though what I actually found most interesting was to compare what you wrote to what you'd said in your initial "visualization" of silence (many of you really traveled some distance!) well as to what some of our assigned authors have written (the linking got quite complex @ times!). I nudge you to keep on can write back to me, since I posed some questions in every case!

* heads up that by Sun @ 5 your second 3-pp. paper is due (a chance for revision and re-thinking, as you put yourself explicitly in conversation with others): Basically, I had you write about silence just to get started; by week's end, we will end our first section of the course, on silence in class, and I want to hear what you've learned, where you've moved...So: do what I did--"talk back" to your first essay, to those of others in the class, and/or to our class-wide discussions (as recorded in my notes): how would you now visualize-and-vocalize silence? How might you now tell the story of your own and others’ silences in the classroom? You might want to juxtapose a paragraph from your paper w/ one from someone else's, and discuss the differences; you might want to "re-read" your own story through the lens of someone we've read, like Delpit; you might want to put yourself into conversation w/ me and Jane Tompkins; you might want to develop a short post from this weekend...the combinations are endless!

* for Thursday's class, please read
the first chapter of Margaret Price's new book, Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life; her focus is on the "silencing" of those w/ "mental disabilities"/differences, and she really got me re-thinking some of my expectations/classroom practices (too fluid, w/out enough structure for neuroatypical brains....). Margaret visited the bi-co last February; I drove her around, she hid out in my office during her down times, and I hosted her in one of my classes as well as in a faculty group on Assessment that Jody and I were part of (so I have stories!)


II. today's reading:
everybody read (again?!) Delpit on "The Silenced Dialogue"?
who read Kim and Markus on "Speech and Silence"? and
who read Dimitriadis on "Popular Culture, Pedagogy and Urban Youth"?

making a "fishbowl" out of your postings from this weekend
(building on the conversational quality of the forum....)

cluster on personal experiences of being silenced/silencing (HSBurke, Chandrea, Sharaai, Estie, Dan):
HSBurke: Our last activity today was one that I think threw a lot of us off. When it came to the end and we were expected to share around the circle with the rest of the group we were all a bit iffy on what we were going to say. And going second, I was able to watch the rest of the groups grapple with these uncertainties. Something I did notice was that we were all so caught up on figuring out what we were supposed to be saying that no one really listened to the other groups until it come to the very end (making JHunter’s silence even more powerful). I know it's been mentioned before but I thought I'd call us all out again. What can we do to really listen when we try so hard to formulate our thoughts into something we think worth sharing?

Chandrea: …when I took AP Lang and AP Lit in high school, I was miserable….A particular activity that helped me feel this way was the Socratic Seminar. Half of the students would sit in a circle and have a discussion about the text and ask each other open-ended questions while their partners (who were sitting outside of the circle) tallied the number of the times their partners were speaking. It was my worst nightmare….Tomkins described exactly how I felt in Socratic Seminars: "The feeling of total effacement (and invisibility) when someone else is doing all the talking and you can't think of anything to say ..." I was just too busy hyperventilating over the fact that I would fail the class if I didn't speak up. Instead of listening to what other people were saying and asking, I was too busy rehearsing what I was going to say…. just like Tomkins, "...feeling smaller and smaller, less and less substantial...if I don't move or say something soon, I'll just disappear."

Sharaai: Freshman year, I worried that my vocabulary just wasn’t up to par with my classmates. I anxiously repeated my statements in my mind when I even thought about speaking up. I was terrified of saying something incorrectly or of not having enough life experience to apply it to the classroom….but by taking more discussion based classes, I realized that …all that mattered was that I could think critically about ...the topic at hand. That I could speak up when I felt the need to and I could actively listen when my classmates spoke. So I didn’t get more brave overnight, I simply (but slowly) realized that my language and my silence were just as important as my peers and professors’.

Estie: I have read the Delpit reading in multiple settings and for different reasons…. It never occurred to me to read Delpit through the lens of silence. Now…I see that silence is the consequence for students if teachers…do not recognize and proactively react to…“the culture of power.” Already in this 360, I have…wrestled back and forth with myself about what to do when I feel like the conversations are not explicit and are framed with terms I do not as we move forward with our discussions, I’d like us to be more aware of our audience....I am asking that we use silence, one that is inviting, to leave room between thoughts so we can all process and ask clarifying questions. I genuinely want to learn and want to hear everyone’s thought so please give me enough silence to do that.

Dan: I really appreciate this comment. 

I felt some very intense things reading Delpit, because I think that, in a lot of ways, I have been one of those liberal, white progressives who prioritizes process over skills in ways I did not realize were so problematic….I've felt critical of the more regulated, explicit, outlined courses I've taken because they haven't given me room to push my own intellectual and creative boundaries …and I've projected that outward onto others...But explicitness -- clearly defining one's terms, grounding new, exciting ideas by explaining where they came from, is important for our learning as a collective.

Bringing Delpit into the conversation (Estie, stay here! plus Sasha and Erin):
Sasha: While reading The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children, there was not a time where I did not find myself connecting to the concept she writes about….having to teach your students the magic concept of code switching….Everyone should learn the rules of the game (rules of culture of power) in order to have a leg up on success….unfortunately reality is that our society has set standards, and those who were not born into those standards have to be aware of them and learn to play their game until you are able to begin undoing the damage that has been done to us.

Erin: The Silenced dialogue: As the course proceeding, I always see the word silence in noun or adjective form of silent. This time, it’s a silenced. The dialogue is somehow forced to be silent…..As a foreigner come to a new country, there are some rule I have to follow….All my doubts seemly can be explained by the term “culture of power”. …it’s hard to the late arrivers to really participate in the conversations… in order to succeed in the society. There are rules or patterns you have to follow.     

Adding Kim and Markus (Erin, stay in! plus ishin, sdane & Michaela):
ishin: Reading the Kim and Markus article is a lot for me to process.  It affirms and gives insight into a lot of frustrations and opinions I have about myself….-I often don't think in words…. I speak in class.  A lot. Sometimes, it's because I don't know how to translate thought to words….-I really dislike how often I use the noun "I".  I worry about being selfishly individualistic.

sdane: I find it …disappointing, that Kim and Markus presented Western and East Asian notions and understandings of communication as being inherently dichotomous….The fact that you worry about being “selfishly individualistic”…yet at the same time appreciate and actively participate in class discussion exemplifies this.  It is possible to focus on the content of what you are saying while still being cognizant of your audience…Downplaying competition and focusing on discussion as a way to ...contribute to the learning of people around you, might help enhance education experiences for everyone.

Michaela: In conflict management, as I was taught at Customs training …people are encouraged to use "I" statements to focus in on their own feelings, and not place unnecessary burden or blame on others…But does this privilege those more in tune with their own emotions, or those more comfortable with public speaking… the more individualistic among us? I think so (and no, the number of "I" statements in this short response does not escape me). Is there an alternative?
Erin: Is talking always an active of exchanging intelligence or just a way of filling the blank? …even in college, there were moments in class that I just can’t process my peers’ distributions …there were times when I spoke for 10 minutes and really didn’t make a point.

And, finally, adding Dimitriadis (Unihibited, Sarah, jhunter, sara. gladwin, Owl):
Uninhibited: lack of effort that goes into teaching anything other than euro-centric curriculum to public school students….The same can be said for my Bryn Mawr career….I have very limited access to the Latino experience…and no women of color professors on this campus that I've been able to connect with to talk about those complications….I wish there was more emphasis placed on people of color as agents in all curriculums

Sarah: As I was reading the piece by Greg Dimitriadis, I couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not he was a white author…. is there something wrong about him writing about a group he isn’t a part of? ...What does this mean for me personally, as a white person, contemplating writing a thesis on the benefits of racial diversity in the classroom?

jhunter: On the one hand, I want to agree that certain backgrounds make one able to speak more authoritatively about different issues, but I also want to challenge the inclination to assume authority because of limited information we have...Because of the visibility of skin color or the public nature of one's name, it's tempting to use those markers as classifications for speakers' identities.  However, it's impossible to tell from someone's words or image where he or she came from, the socioeconomic class in which they were raised, or any of a number of other factors.  And any of those factors can dramatically change the background of a person's words.

sara.gladwin: We as students are constantly being spoken for- many of the articles we have been reading.. attempt to dissect and interpret the desires of students; our desires….“Students” itself feels simplified; there is so much diversity that is made invisible by this generalization….the classroom setting can be depersonalized because certain personal experiences have to be left out of the conversation…sharing three classes with the same students would put us in a more personalized setting and I’m interested in seeing what barriers are altered because of it.

Owl:  why would my race, gender, or my urban upbringing affect what the purpose of education should be for me? Shouldn't the purpose of education be the same for everyone and the manner by which we arrive at that purpose or goal be different?

III. my reading notes
Delpit, "The Silenced Dialogue":
debate over process- vs. skills-oreinted writing instruction a starting-off point
to examine the "culture of power," and concludes that we need to teach all students
explicit and implicit rules of power as step toward more just society
challenges assumption that making rules explicit limits fredom, autonomy,
that indirectness lessens the power differential and discomfort
reasonable for those w/in the culture to want their children to be autonomous,
but those outside want codes that will ensure their success: product is important,
and w/out explicit information about the rules, it feels that there are secrets being kept,
and there's a strong sense of being cheated/denied access to necessary knowledge
since working-class parents are more directive, their children may not
understand indirect statements from a teacher as (veiled) commands, w/ consequences
people of color see authority as earned, and so needing to be consistenty performed;
cf. middle-class people who see authority as acquired in the role, so not needing expression
criminal not to attend to deficits in codes needed to function effectively;
pretending that gatekeeping doesn't exist ensures that students won't pass through
to act as if power doesn't exist ensures that the status quo remains
honesty preferred: explain the games and their rules
political change can't happen from below, where we must
teach them both the realities of power and its codes
ex. of Athabaskan Indian teacher of "Our Heritage Language" and "Formal English,"
whose students learn how arbitrary, and politially charged, language standards are
teaching not conventions but cultural awareness
appropriate education should be devised with adults who share the children's culture
debate is not really re: skills vs. process, but cross-cultural communication and power;
otherwise, "silenced" by forces that claim to "give voice"...
put our beliefs on hold (cease to exist as ourselves!) to see ourselves from others' angry gaze
people are experts in their own lives: don't deny their interpretations, believe that they are rational
learn to be vulnerable enough to allow their realities into our consciousness, initiate true dialogue
[Ellsworth challenges this!]

Kim and Markus, Speech and Silence:
educators' concerned w/ silence of East Asian students;
their relative lack of verbal participation is seen as hurdle to "independent thinking"
Is talking always good? in other cultural systems, good thinking/performance associated w/ verbal reserve
with cultural model of self as free and independent, speaking one's mind =being a person
in cultural model of self as relational, listening to indirect speech w/ inferred meanings is valued
talking as expressing one's ideas, vs. connecting w/ others
BLIRT (brief loquaciousness and interpersonal responsiveness test)!
low-context cultures focus on content of speech; high-context on context
different cultural practices of parenting talking/listening--> classroom participation:
dense network of cultural values and beliefs about being a good person
cf. direct, explicit American speaking with continaed, reserved, implicit, indirect East Asians,
whose speech invites active, fully attentive listening!
Western belief that talking enhances (analytic) thinking, vs. Eastern belief that it impairs (holistic) thought
culturally specific assumptions need to be questioned, modified
freedom of silence as fund'l a cultural right as freedom of speech

Dimitriadis, "Popular Culture, Pedagogy, and Urban Youth":
"structuring of silence" in urban schools, which silence marginalized youth
"accountability"= policing
alternative curricula, "homestead" =stake out meaningful spaces outside the borders of school
decenter assumptions about what 'education' means, where they get it
scaffold lessons w/ popular texts; use media to author their lives, define selves
antipathy to how black history is taught: King indexes ideally nonviolent black population
move beyond curricular "representation" to "performance": how are historical figures are mobilized?
more "raplike" than "schoollike"--valorizing violence; drama more "real" than documentary
seeking (and critiquing) physical response to Klan rally; discourse of rights not mobilized