Navigating Geographical and Cultural Terrain: A Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching English Language Arts Dr. Karen Magro, Associate Professor The University of Winnipeg April 15, 2011, Adolescent Literacy Summit Victoria Inn, Winnipeg. Cultural Studies.
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Navigating Geographical and Cultural Terrain: A Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching English Language ArtsDr. Karen Magro, Associate ProfessorThe University of WinnipegApril 15, 2011, Adolescent Literacy SummitVictoria Inn, Winnipeg
-Intercultural competence can be a transformative learning experience where individuals move beyond the boundaries and limit of understanding one cultural paradigm to understanding the complexities and strengths of different cultures..
-Classic works can be combined with contemporary themes.
Examples: The Role of Women in Society: Jane Eye ( Bronte), A Doll’s House ( Ibsen), and The Bluest Eye( Morrison), In Search of April Raintree, and Half Breed ( Campbell).
“Some might say that the role of language arts teachers is to teach reading, writing, and language and that we should not be worrying about issues of injustice, racism, and discrimination. The reality is that any piece of literacy is political. Any piece of literature from cartoons to children’s books reflects a “social blueprint about what it means to be poor, wealthy, or what it means to be a man, woman, gay, or straight. That vision is political –whether it portrays the status quo or argues for a reorganization of society.” ( Linda Christensen, 1999)
Red Scarf Girl Key Themes
-award winning memoir
-Explore China’s Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a young girl
-similarities to The Diary of Anne Frank
-persecution and fear
-inner courage and resilience
-based on a true story
-80,000 unaccompanied migrant children attempt to enter the U.S. -many children are deported or go missing; some die on the journey from countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Guatamala, and Mexico
-poverty and children
-fragmentation of families
-Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services
Blue Jasmine Key Themes-
-immigration and acculturation
-loss of homeland
-adjustment to a new culture
-When twelve-year-old Seema Trivedi learns that she and her family must move from their small Indian town to Iowa City, she realizes she'll have to say good-bye to the purple-jeweled mango trees and sweet-smelling jasmine, to the monsoon rains and the bustling market. More important, she must leave behind her best friend and cousin, Raju.
The Ask and The Answer: Key Themes
-book can be compared to War of the Worlds and other books/graphic novels with “apocalyptic” themes
-encourages critical thinking about the world and the future
Wanting Mor Key Themes
-Wanting Mor is about a girl named Jameela, living in post Taliban Afghanistan, whose mother dies during the war. Her father gets remarried, but her stepmother doesn't want her so her father takes her to the marketplace and leaves her there.
-Based on a true story about a girl who ended up in one of the orphanages.
-Link to The Bread Winner Trilogy
-War and its impact on families
-social injustice and child poverty
-moral courage and resilience
Children of War Key Themes
-impact of war of daily life of children
-children coping with stress and crisis
-resilience and courage
-strong social justice component can be linked with local and global projects
-non-fiction can be a powerful way to connect students with current issues of war and peace building in today’s social context
-local projects ( “From Me to We”)
Slave by Mende Nazer:Key Themes ( Senior High)
-autobiographical account of Mende’s remarkable journey toward freedom
-modern day slavery
-oppression of girls and women
-set in South and North Sudan
-inner strength, perseverance, and resilience
-struggling in building a new life
Little Daughter Key Themes
-the strength of individuals and family within a violent political context
-war and resistance in Burma
-strong female narrator
-good book to use for Senior High Students and could be compared with Unbowed by Wangari Mathai or Slave by Mende Nazer
-There are increasing numbers of students coming from Burma and this book can provide valuable background knowledge for teachers working with students fleeing Burma/Myanmar.
Anne Frank: Key Themes
-graphic biography of Anne Frank
-hope and courage amid tragedy and social injustice
-family solidarity and loyalty
-compare Anne Frank’s Diary with Hannah’s Suitcase and My Childhood Under Fire
-can be used with Anne Frank’s story “Fear” and Wiesel’s trilogy and S. Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower.
A Bed of Red Flowers:Key Themes (Senior High Level)
-war and displacement
-persecution and social injustice
-survival and change
-navigating a new life in Canada
-loss of culture, language, and homeland
-resilience and courage
-compare with Escape from Slavery and other texts charting the immigration experience
In the Convent of Little Flowers :Key Themes ( Senior High)
-set in India and the U.S.
-lives of girls and women
-gender and oppression
-cultural and social shunning
-identity and role confusion
-the influence of culture and tradition on behavior
Children of War by Deborah Ellis
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
-encourages creative thinking and writing
-reflective quick writes
Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures
-from the archives of Anne Frank House
The Heaven Shop-by Deborah Ellis
-young adult fiction ( Grade 8-9)
-Moral courage and resilience
-Young teen dealing with family members who have AIDS
-Shunning and discrimination
*Teachers’ Guides available on line
Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
-Setting ( 1942-seven months after attacking Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy invaded Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The entire population was gathered up and evacuated to dense forests in Alaska’s Southeast).
-war and dislocation
-loss of traditional ways of life
-story told from the eyes of a young girl
-struggle to survive and keep community and heritage intact
The Connector: embodies what skillful readers most often do-they connect what they read to their own lives, their feelings, their experiences, to the day’s headlines, to other books and authors.
-find memorable, special, important sections of the text to re-read, reflect on, analyze, or share aloud.
“Parvana moved through her days as though she were moving through an awful nightmare---a nightmare from which there was no release in the morning.
Then, late one afternoon, Parvana came home from work to find two men gently helping her father up the steps to the apartment. He was alive. At least part of the nightmare was over.”
skillful reading requires visualizing, and it invites a graphic nonlinguistic response to a text.
Other RolesDiscussion Director
Sources: Harvey Daniels Literature Circles; Faye Brownlie: Grand Conversations
“Culture affects the process of learning. Most life histories reflect intercultural dimensions…Today the intercultural dynamic is related more to migration and refugees, and the globalization of the work market. Many adults have to adapt to another culture, to a culture that they were not prepared to face, and this process of change becomes partly a process of education. Adults have to learn a new language, understand new rules, and adapt to a new set of cultural values.” ( Dominice, 2002, pp. 88-89)
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, and influence. When trusted and respected, emotional intelligence provides a deeper, more fully formed understanding of oneself and those around us.” (Cooper, 2002).
*Ability to connect with and collaborate with others
*Ability to listen
*Interdisciplinary connections between English and content areas like Psychology, World Issues, Peace and Environmental Education,
and Human Rights
*Literature circles based on thematic topics
*Life History Writing
*Creative use of the biography and autobiography
*Quick writes ( L. Rief)
*Experiential teaching and learning strategies that integrate reflective and practical approaches
*Creative ways to link art, film, and other texts
A long way gone- A. Beah
Escape from slavery-F. Bok
God grew tired of us: A memoir- J.B. Dau
They poured fire on us from the sky-B.Deng, A. Deng, & B.Ajak
What is the what-D. Eggers
Then they started shooting: Growing up in wartime Bosnia: Lynn Jones The swallows of Kabul-Y. Khadra
Slave: My true story- M. Nazer
Prisoner of Tehran: A memoir- M. Nemat
A bed of red flowers-N A. Pazira
Emma’s war-D. Scroggins
Chanda’s secret- A. Sratton
The idea of using literature and other texts to help students broaden their perspective of world issues and the plight of refugees can encourage transformative learning. Greenlaw (2005) writes that readers “can learn to probe their own emotional responses, gather information to help them interpret what they are reading, develop a vision of what a better world might be like, and critically examine injustices both in their own lives and the lives of others” (p. 46).
Despite anti-bullying programs and other initiatives designed to foster inclusion and maximize motivation, too many children and young adults are feeling increasingly alienated. “There is the growing isolation of children as they spend increasing periods of time in front of screens, learning the literacy of violence in video games, learning the literacy of insensitivity from TV “reality shows,” or learning the literacy of consumerism from an endless bombardment of
advertising” ( Gordon, 2005, p. 116- Roots of Empathy).
“Literacy, broadly conceived as the basic knowledge and skills needed by all in a rapidly changing world, is a fundamental human right. In every society, literacy is a necessary skill in itself and one of the foundations of other life skills. There are millions, the majority of whom are women, who lack the opportunity to learn or who have insufficient skills to be able to assert this right. The challenge is to enable them to do so. This will often imply the creation of preconditions for learning through awareness raising and empowerment” ( UNESCO, 1997)
The Right to Learn is:
*The right to read and write
*The right to question and analyze
*The right to imagine and create
*The right to read one’s world and to write history
*The right to have access to educational resources
*The right to develop individual and collective skills
“Democracy and democratic education are founded on faith in individuals on the belief that they not only can but should discuss the problems of their country, their continent, their world, their work, the problems of democracy itself. Education is an act of love, and thus an act of courage. It cannot fear the analysis of reality.”
-P.Freire ( 1997)-Pedagogy of the oppressed
“Transformative learning involves experiencing a deep, structural shift of consciousness that dramatically and permanently alters our way of being in the world. Such a shift involves our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations; our relationships with other humans and with the natural world; our understanding of relations of power in interlocking structures of class, race, and gender; our body awareness; our vision of alternative approaches to living; and our sense of the possibilities for social justice and peace and personal joy.”-E.O.Sullivan (2002), OISE, The University of Toronto, Centre for Transformative Learning
From Mezirow’s (2000) perspective, transformative learning does not only include the addition of new information; rather the way we understand and interpret our world can be transformed through a process of critical reflection and action. Learning is understood “as the process of using prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of meaning of one’s experience in order to guide future action.” –Mezirow (2000) Learning as transformation.
“We are living in a period of the earth’s history that is incredibly turbulent and in a epoch in which there are violent processes of change that challenge us at every level imaginable. The pathos of the human being today is that we are caught up in this incredible transformation and we have a significant responsibility for the direction it will take. What is terrifying is that we have it within our power to make life extinct on this planet. Because of the magnitude of this responsibility for the planet, all of our educational ventures must be judged within this order of magnitude.”
-E.O. Sullivan (2002) Expanding the boundaries of transformative learning.
“An act of learning can be called transformative only if it involves a fundamental questioning and reordering of how one thinks or acts.”-Stephen Brookfield (2002).
“I’m not really sure what a transformative educator means. I think that if someone calls himself or herself a transformative educator, that’s a very demanding claim. I think that if you can help people a few steps along on their journey of learning, you’re doing well. I see transformation as having a lot to do with the student, and their own readiness, rather than being with the teacher. I am very wary of the educator as change agent. I have to ask myself: what kind of change? Certainly, I critically challenge the students to examine their ideas and the nature of society, but I do not think that I should be directive in suggesting that they should change either their lives or society. I am not a moral arbiter. It’s different if someone says, ‘I don’t like the way I am, and I’d like to change.” The initiative to change is not the responsibility of the educator….it’s not my role to start counselling people about major life changes.”
*Instructor-tells what to do
*Facilitator-responds to needs;encourages and supports
*Resource person-provides material
*Manager-keeps records, arranges, and manages
*Mentor-advises, guides, and supports
*Co-learner-learns and mutually plans with learners
*Reformer-challenges, stimulates, questions, and fosters transformative learning
*Researcher-makes observations, formulates hypotheses, develops a theory of practice
*Advocate-helps students connect with outside agencies/resources
*Cultural Guide-help learners understand and navigate a new culture
“Literature provides shape and form to life’s questions. That’s what keeps people reading. I have a desire to make shape out of different facts. Unlike other kinds of teaching where the curriculum may be very set and specific, there is an element of discovery in teaching English. Freud studied literature as a way of understanding personality and motivation. There is something bigger than an academic discipline in studying literature. We all have a narrative to tell. At a basic level, literature exists to help people understand themselves and the world.”
-Craig, Community College English Teacher
“Writing is an act of seeing. I try to encourage my students to be good observers. Poetry allows my students to share their deepest fears. I think that the whole idea of teaching literature and creative writing is to inform, uplift, and serve as a useful psychological and spiritual guide. Part of my work involves demystifying the language of poetry to make it accessible to students from different backgrounds.”
-Rob, inner city senior high English teacher
“I teach in the center of pain and poverty….A lot of talented people grow up with poverty, prejudice, and a lack of hope. They don’t feel accepted…Lots of students have lost friends and relatives through suicide. I try to get them to explore their feelings and share with others by writing about it. I have seen many students overwhelmed by their alcohol and drug habits. Students who have grown up in parentless homes are now parents themselves. Everywhere I see the streets pulling at them.
Teaching is a humanitarian act and I try to transform lives. I try to help my students recognize how vital they are and how, in fact, the can move mountains if they are willing to realize that their negative experiences in childhood can be a resource of tremendous energy and insight. Your mission as an English teacher is to help individuals feel hopeful about themselves.”
-Rob, inner city senior high English teacher.
“Readers can learn to probe their own emotional responses, gather information to help what they are reading, develop a vision of what a better world might be like, and critically examine injustices both in their own lives and the lives of others.”
“Learning is more than an accretion of facts. It’s changing the architecture around you. Major learning to me means a paradigm shift of sorts. The things that I’ve always valued have involved a recognition that now I see things working in a different way. I can see my students learning if they start challenging me and asking me questions. Sometimes I see it in their assignments where they are applying a skill or a strategy in a fresh or original way. They’re not just regurgitating information. They’re taking a different way of looking at poetry and then applying it to writing their own poem…..
I want students to read a range of authors—Manitoban, international, and so on and from different historical periods. However, I believe that it is vital for students to write their own literature and enter the literary process. I guide them through this journey.”
Personal and social empowerment
Balancing the rational, analytic, and intuitive/creative
“It is not enough to be able to help others read words; we must help others to read the world.”
-Freire uses the word “conscientization” to refer to the process of becoming critically aware of one’s life world through an in-depth interpretation of problems and through dialogue with others. Through “praxis” or the interplay between critical reflection and action, individuals are able to move from being “carried along in the wake of change” to empowered individuals who can create and intervene in situations. Ira Shor (1987) emphasized that the teacher’s conviction that she or he can learn from the student is a cornerstone in Freire’s problem-posing education.
“It is important to ground the learner in a sense of place, history, culture, and identity….Transformative teaching must examine how notions of self, personhood, place, history, culture, and belonginess to community are manifested in specific cultural contexts and values.”
-George S. Dei (2002) Expanding the boundaries of transformative learning.
“I work with students who live on the margins. The greatest barrier to learning is this complex thing called poverty—whether it’s not being able to buy a bus
pass or not eating properly or living in a house where everyone is up all night partying. We’re talking about food, shelter, safety, and feeling a sense of belonging and self-worth. I try to break down these feelings of isolation that my students experience….I am also not under any illusions about assessment. The transformative philosophy is what I strive for but the reality is that I have to be realistic and practical and help my students develop essential literacy skills. At some point, they will have to write a test or an entrance exam and I have to prepare them.”
“We would be lost if we did not have an intellectual and spiritual conscience yet in many ways we are heading for that….
We have to fight to keep the word education in our programs. So many literacy programs today are becoming “training”. Our administration keeps asking for key productivity indicators and this is particularly frustrating when you are working with literacy learners who are at different levels. Many of our students have also bought into a myth that education guarantees a job. Maybe if enough people question how the economy works, major changes would take place. When my students come to class, I’m hoping that they will find some control over their lives in some other way besides the economic way….A real tension for me is that I feel that society thinks that my job as a literacy educator is trying to help people fit into the system. Am I teaching them to fit into a society that has contributed to their marginalization? I want to offer students new direction and opportunities. I’d rather have a society where everyone is welcomed and needed. We do not have this yet.”
-Barb, Community College English Instructor
“I think of teaching English as tapping areas of the imagination. I want my students to trust their own judgments while also considering appreciating the opinions of others. I teach in a multi-cultural setting and what may be difficult is the language barrier or the content. I try to work around those barriers….In my view, educational programs should come from a need within the community and they should be engineered in a way that people can identify with their own realities. We are too work and grade focused. As a result people lose touch with their creative side. We have to emphasize personal development as well as academic mastery as equally valuable goals in education.”
-Ross, High School English Teacher