Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday's Post

The Dilg chapter made a lot of points I agree with, but the thing that stuck out the most was the section on social hierarchy (haha...I typed "hierarchery") and social dominance.

I have to disagree with Dilg slightly on this. I do agree that the dominant population marginalizes minorities. But I would argue it's not so much about race as much in Minnesota as it is about social class. I think people are much more likely to be looked down on and treated differently based on their socioeconomic status. People don't want to be seen as being poor or behave like they're poor. It's been a long time since since I've mentioned Rick Beach, so I'm going to now. He once told us that people can take classes, watch videos, etc. to act and "look" upper class, sort of like Pymalion or, if you want a musical, My Fair Lady. That's right, you can learn to walk like you're rich. I understand that a lot of times race and poverty can go hand in hand, and that socioeconomic status embodies race. I just feel like things that are typically marginalized have to do with being lower class these days. For example, I see a lot of high school students mocking gang signs. I think more and more, gangs are increasingly a problem among lower class teens rather than just minority races. I'm sure the students I saw making the gang signs have no idea what being in a gang is like beyond MTV (and we know that's about as realistic as it gets).

I also sometimes think that social dominance is this innate survival mechanism because I've seen so much marginalization within the dominant culture. I went to a mainly white school and I was definitely not part of the dominant culture. I'm not sure what I did wrong early in my school career, but I learned to avoid most people in school and had very few friends. Not only was I marginalized because I didn't fit in with my peers, but also because I was a girl. A math teacher actually told me once that he wasn't surprised I was doing so poorly in his class because I was a girl (nevermind the fact I had gotten A's up until that point).

I'm now going to address the MTV issue in our society because this is what came to mind when reading the Dilg section on social dominance (I'm not quite sure why). I don't think any media source marginalizes minorities more than MTV. My main issue is the glorification of women as sex objects. No mainstream popular female singer gets on MTV unless she's wearing barely anything. I discussed this in a previous post on Fergie. You can find that here. It's fairly brief. I definitely feel like kids are receiving so many ridiculous and harmful messages in watching MTV. Women are portrayed as this sexually empowered, attractive creature whose only job is to walk around in underwear and tease men. Why have actual music talent and intelligence when you've got a nice rack? I remember watching MTV in high school and it disgusted me even then. Rather than feeling empowered, women receive messages that they should be over concerned with their looks. When was the last time we saw a realistic portrayal of a woman in the media? They receive messages that they should have casual sex with men and be treated as sex objects. They receive messages that it's okay to be called derogatory slurs and names that reduce them to said sex objects. This is a video of two of the top selling artists, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg. I'm sorry, did you just write a hit song attempting to talk women into prostitution? I think you did. You're right, the woman could choose to go into prostitution as a productive means of income. Silly me, the men are just bosses and the women like it. No one is dominating anyone. My favorite line in that song is when Snoop Dogg says, "I'm about to show you how my pimp hand is way strong."

I have a short clip from The Merchants of Cool which discusses media messaging to teens. It supports my marginalization of women claim. This video would be good to look at as a class to start talking about how races, genders, sexes, and whatever else are portrayed in society. Watch until the end. I think the last 30 seconds made me throw up in my mouth a little.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday's Post

No, no, no, no, NO. You cannot change the the name of English or Language Arts to Cultural Studies. I'm sorry. I really couldn't handle it if I had to teach "Cultural Studies." Why? Because that's not what I'm teaching. It's part of what I'm teaching, but not enough to teach all of it. My argument for this can go in two directions. One is that if you change the name, are you changing the approach too, or are you just changing the name to make people feel better? Because if you're changing the name just to make it "sound" better, I think that's a little patronizing. While I was reading the article, it seemed like things would change, but not really. If you're changing it with a massive emphasis on culture, you will miss a huge aspect of Language Arts that doesn't have much of anything to do with cultural studies.

Another problem I have with this is that the name is too close to social studies. I didn't think this article distinguished what the differences would be enough. I'm not convinced that what we would be teaching as "cultural studies" would differ all that much from social studies. Is this social studies with books? It would seem so. I need to know what the application would be and explicitly how English would be taught as cultural studies. I just wasn't seeing this clearly enough in the article. I liked that the article recognized that the subject of English covers a lot, but didn't like that that we weren't teaching them enough. I know he wasn't blaming teachers, but it was still a little irritating to read.

This brings up my final question. To me, at the very end of the day, literature is an art. When I read a book I look at the artistic techniques the author uses to express their purpose/point. Yes, there is a large cultural aspect. But there's also the mechanics, the message, the dynamics of the work that play into literature as well. Culture is only one piece that is used in understanding an artistic statement in writing. Let's not go overboard.

Maybe a better solution would be not to change the name of English, but to break up the class or use it in conjunction with social studies so English and social studies units are planned and taught together. For example, the English department could teach The Diary of Anne Frank while the social studies department teaches historical and cultural aspects of the Holocaust. I've actually heard about a lot of schools doing this and the teachers and students seem to like the set up. Or, since English is such a broad field, why not split the class up. This way students receive a balance of grammar, literature, culture, literary techniques, journalism and media and whatever else we have to teach that I forgot to mention. If not splitting up into small narrow-subjected classes, maybe splitting into two different English classes would be better, although I don't know how it could only be broken up into two classes. The thing about English is that it's so broad and there are so many things to teach, but not enough to be broken up into very productive classes.

I am solutionless on this subject. But I definitely don't think it's to change the name.

Also, Ann, I was still laughing about something you said in class on Thursday. "It's fresh start; kids, bring your own teachers!"

Wednesday's Post

I heart Love Medicine. If Louis Erdrich was a man, I'd want to have her babies. I just love her ability to wrap humor in such a sobering story like Love Medicine. I've never laughed at a book like I did when I got to the end.

I like Louis Erdrich as an American Indian author because, unlike James Welch, she doesn't play into stereotypical speech and brings up contemporary issues on and off the reservation. She is able to create this complex story that incorporates critical things like alcoholism and poverty on the reservations as well as bring up issues with Indians that leave the reservation. I would say she is very much the female counterpart to Sherman Alexie, although Alexie's humor is difficult to compete with. I also like this book as a text for class because it is a collection of stories on two families. This means the perspective changes from girls, boys, adults and children. It appeals to a broad audience and the use of symbolism is brilliant.

I liked this chapter for a couple reasons outside of getting to read about Love Medicine. The first was that it actually showed the application of a multicultural text and the discussion the class had. I liked how it used several different text examples and how they can be discussed in the class.

I also liked that it discussed other issues present in Erdrich's novel, for example Catholicism, as other topics for discussion in the multicultural genre. This was crucial to me, because sometimes when we talk about multicultural literature, it seems like we can only focus on one aspect that makes it multicultural. This was part of my argument before on choosing multicultural texts. With Erdrich's novel the students were able to talk about multiculture in terms of American Indians, Catholicism, as well as age and gender. Up until now, it seems like if we do choose a multiculture text, we choose it for only one reason. I'm not sure if that's how it's actually practiced, but it seems like it is when it's discussed sometimes. This chapter gave me an idea of how I can adequately use a novel for multiple topics.

I don't have too much else to say about it. I'm sorry this is a short post. I absolutely love American Indian literature, so it was fun reading about Erdrich's book.

So! I've got resources for American Indian books below to make it seem longer.

The first is a link to a professor I had during my undergrad, David Treuer. I had him for my American Novel class and he was great. Once he went on a rant about people who hang dream catchers in their car, "Are we supposed to assume they sleep in their cars?" He also lectured us as a class on how we did not get out enough as he clearly saw more movies than anyone else present at the time. But really, he was an incredible instructor, and I should say I felt quite inferior to him. I also sold my soul to him as he wrote one of my recommendations to get into the grad program and may have single-handedly gotten me into it. Thank you, I owe you my life.

This is an interview with Louis Erdrich, that really kind of beats out all entertainment value in her novel and Minneapolis, but it's pretty recent. I swear, her books are way better than this interview would lead you to believe.

And finally, an interview with Sherman Alexie, on his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. He reads quite possibly the best part in the book and does it well. I love him too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Okay, Okay, Okay. Tuesday's Post for reals

I'm done procrastinating now, I think.

I thought the articles on GLBT were all helpful. I'm not trying to be sarcastic, I promise. To be honest, I'd never really thought about incorporating these topics as a unit or "a thing" in the curriculum. I think this may be for two reasons.

The first reason is that I don't really think about GLBT as being an issue in literature since two of my very favorite authors, Oscar Wilde and E.M. Forster, were both very gay and several of their works allude or even graphically discuss their homosexuality. I've been reading Wilde since I was 11 or 12 (he was one of the authors that helped me to like reading, Ann), and Forster since I was 16. I knew Wilde was gay and it didn't really have an impact on how I felt about him. Obviously I didn't get the full allusion to gay sex (bunburying) in The Importance of Being Earnest until I was about 17, but that's not the point. I do understand for the most part that both Wilde and Forster's most well known (which isn't saying much for Forster) works are about heterosexual relationships with subtle references to homosexuality. But a lot of Forster's lesser known works, short stories and essays are very open and honest about it.

The second reason is that I don't know what kind of books I would teach that discuss GLBT issues. I feel like Oscar Wilde is thrown in between this middle school/high school limbo where he is sometimes too difficult for middle school or too simple for high school. Forster doesn't seem to be a well known author. His short stories are brilliant and often bring up homosexual issues in addition to other social conflicts in a wonderfully satirical way. The only other book I've really read (to my knowledge anyway) that deals with these issues is Funny Boy. I refuse to teach this book because I just felt it was so poorly written. Not only that, but I feel like it would encourage the ridicule of gay people, especially given the involuntary maturity level of high school students.

Another issue that I continue to think about is that, while I do agree that these issues should be a big deal and treated as such, I think you can bring GLBT issues into a class without centering an entire unit on it. I think this is a safe way to incorporate it into the classroom without this feeling of losing your job or going against the entire school. I know this isn't ideal and I'm not advocating for this necessarily. But when you deal with a subject that is seemingly so taboo, even for a liberal state like Minnesota, you have to find ways of incorporating these subjects without trying to "push an agenda." I think this gets especially tricky with GLBT topics because so much of it can become political. When a teacher advertises that they are spending an entire unit solely on GLBT, it is forcing people, people who will not always agree at all with your views, to digest a "political" statement. I do understand that this is not the purpose of a GLBT unit, but some parents and students will interpret it this way. Like I said, the situation is not ideal, but I'd rather teach them gradually, over time, mixed with other issues in a text, than not teach them at all.

While I was reading, I thought about instances of teachers coming into conflict with parents, staff and administration. Sometimes I worry that we get in this position of being the expert (as we should be) so much so that we stop listening to other sides of the story. We get so caught up in needing to be right, or standing by what we believe is right, that we lose sight of our very present opposing view, and tend to spit on it as we walk all over it. This goes for both sides of the literary argument. Traditionalists and multiculturalists alike partake in this. I'm still arguing for a balance. I don't think this needs to be so extreme. I feel like once we only discuss "multicultural" texts--which I still feel has a somewhat passive-aggressive definition in terms of inclusion and exclusion--or only discuss the canon, we are losing something important in our teaching: the ability to gain perspective out of all works. If we are so forceful, we are not teaching the kids anything, regardless of what text we use, except our own projected values (which really defeats the purpose of studying literature altogether).

Tuesday's post

I dare you not to smile.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday's Post

I liked the points made in the Ensisco article. I remember attempting to read Maniac Magee in middle school, a book that was pushed on me by my peers because the character's name was like mine but it was a boy. Eleven year olds think they're so funny. It didn't help that this was a highly recommended book too. I think I got about 30 pages in before I couldn't read it anymore. Up until reading the article, I couldn't remember what the story was about (honestly, I was thinking run away time traveller; obviously I didn't remember the book). There were very few books that I did read during the age range of Maniac Magee. But I remember my younger brother reading it with my mom years later. My mom really kind of expressed the same issues the researcher had in this article; the black characters seemed to be so one-sided and stereotypical.

Ensisco talks a lot about the power of authority when it comes to choosing texts. He mentions the Newberry logo and the power it has over students. That emblem to this day makes me cringe because I hated reading between fifth and seventh grades, and I mean hated it. Up until about eighth grade, I was considered a struggling reader because of my lack of interest. The Newberry books were supposed to be the "good" books, and harder and better and probably God himself wrote them (at least in my mind anyway--I was cynical even as a young kid. Ask my parents; they'll agree). These books were so important, that we were given double points in class. The only Newberry book I read in middle school was Number the Stars. I liked that book better than most when I was between ten and twelve.

I don't remember a lot of these books being all that rich in exploring multicultural perspectives though. All of the books that were recommended to us by librarians and teachers (people of authority) seemed to be about poor people in the south, or some kind of time travel/separate world kind of thing, like Freaky Friday or The Giver. I wasn't all that interested in these kind of books. I'm not sure why nothing looked appealing. I liked the American Girl series about the Swedish girl. I could read one of those books in an afternoon. I liked that it referenced culturally relevant things that my family, as Swedes, practiced or had. I liked seeing the illustrations of trunks that had the Kurbits painting style on them because I saw them in all of my relatives' homes. I was so excited when I read the Christmas story in that series and found out that I was not the only girl to have to wake up early on St. Lucia Day to make breakfast wearing a crown of fake candles. No, you cannot see pictures.

I asked a librarian once if they had other books like that series and she told me they didn't carry books like that because they weren't the right kind I should be reading and had no value in a school library. I cried out of frustration and stopped going to the library after that. These memories, trivial as they may seem, are ones that still haunt me. I don't go to libraries, if I can help it, even today. At ten years old I knew that what that librarian said to me was wrong. Not only were my interests insulted, but so was my cultural background as well as my family. The worst part is, I am not a minority, nor am I all that culturally diverse from the dominant one.

This article reminded me of the influence we as teachers have. It's reminded me to choose class texts carefully and provide other varying works that compliment it for additional perspectives. I sometimes wonder if students coming from a minority culture experience similar situations in libraries. Is this why so many students who aren't of the dominant culture struggle with literacy and/or education in general?

Also, out of curiosity, some of these articles are capitalizing the words "White" and "Black." Have I been wrong to not capitalize them? I feel like they shouldn't be.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Unwritten Rules at the U of M

Forget academics for just a moment. I'd like to discuss what I've really learned at the U.

First, the university will not spend money on things related to liberal arts or education. During my undergrad, I had the classrooms that were not air conditioned, falling apart and had a general smell that wasn't pleasant. When I started my graduate program, it was the same thing plus cockroaches (I didn't even know we had cockroaches in Minnesota). Once, I had class in one of the science buildings. It was freezing, and the seats were padded. The building was well maintained. Sometimes I wonder if Peik Hall is ever checked. It just always remains open and people use it. The university doesn't even realize it. It seems that way anyway.

Second, waiting to get to a crosswalk is for sissies, no matter how busy the road is. If there's a break in traffic, make a mad dash. This one is well practiced and is mainly recommended when crossing Washington and University Aves., or 4th St. Also, if you happen to be at a crosswalk, don't wait for the signal to turn if at all possible. I've noticed in other parts of the city and suburbs, these rules do not carry over. I walked before the signal turned not too long ago while I was downtown and people stared at me like I was insane.

Third, the squirrels, regardless of what you may have originally thought about the food chain, are in control. Once, I threw something in a garbage bin outside and a squirrel came out of it and nearly killed me. They're not afraid of anything. A lot of them look quite rabid, with only patches of hair, and some have no tails. I imagine this is due to the bike traffic. Seriously though, don't mess with the squirrels. They don't even look cute on campus. I think a horror movie should be made about them. Well, actually it would be more like a documentary since all the film crew would have to do is set up a camera near garbage cans and watch defenseless students run away screaming and crying. Don't ever get caught near a squirrel alone at the U; you'll never survive.

Finally, parking is a bitch. The choice is to pay $5,000,000/day to park in a ramp or at a meter, or to park nearly out of the city. I usually park about a mile away, two neighborhoods over. I don't mind the walk; I tell myself I need the exercise. Yesterday was a little problematic since it seemed to be race-to-your-car-before-the-massive-storm-starts day. If I could have, to save time, I would have jumped onto moving cars and leapt onto the sides of brick walls, climbing to the rooftops with my impressive upper body strength, flinging myself from building to building in Dinkytown to the roofs of homes in Marcy Holmes, until swinging from the branches of a tree back onto the ground. I'd have my own theme music too (I could be just like Kronk). But I was wearing a skirt, so this was not possible. Although my mom will tell you I had no trouble throwing myself over the backseat of their SUV in the very same skirt. I made it to my car just as it was starting to rain anyway. My superhero powers were not needed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why I sometimes think these articles are trying to talk us out of becoming teachers

What was with the Goebel article? That was certainly not a pleasant thing to sit through. Instead of naming it "'Who Are All These People?'" it should have been "The Reasons Why You Will Be A Terrible Teacher." This article came from the University of Utah, and we all know my recent experiences with things from Utah.

I mean, come on, the first section talks about all the ways that a student, even if they're from similar races and ethnicities, is so entirely different from everyone else in a classroom and we as teachers need to accomodate for that. I feel like some of these articles seriously over analyze the situation. At the end of the day, the students are all moody, confused and struggling. They may be feeling this way for different reasons, yes, but nevertheless, they are experiencing similar feelings and attitudes.

I sometimes worry that in the process of attempting to create and build a curriculum around each individual student, we are losing sight of giving students an ability to adapt, change perspectives and understand each other. When we focus so much on an individual and how that one person learns, that person then doesn't see that other people learn differently. They don't understand that other people have equally important needs, they lose the ability to share in understanding and asking for help from peers. In some ways I think it even encourages a student to feel the opposite of its goal. That is, instead of helping students to feel accepted in general society, they may feel even more isolated and unusual.

Students are durable creatures too, believe it or not. Keeping an open communication with your students that invites feedback and clarification will help to eliminate most conflicts in dealing with different cultural backgrounds. Encouraging understanding when mistakes are made as well as correcting when necessary will help the student to understand that not everytime someone says something wrong, it's meant to be offensive. I understand that I am a white middle class woman with absolutely no difficulties or personal challenges of my own as such, but I didn't fly off the handle or completely shut down when someone asked if I was German, or thought lefse was German, or funnier yet, when someone asked if I was Asian (you would be shocked to know how often that happens).

I worry that when we start to bring up differences and expressing uniquenss and individuality it makes people develop a belief that they are incapable of being understood and these mistakes (within reason, of course) are reasons to become angry and expect to be treated differently, which is a little contradictory of what it means to be created equal. And yes, I do know that this is not always the case, and some people are stupid and ignorant and can't be changed and that is offensive. I'm not arguing against that. I'm saying that for the vast majority of the population, this shouldn't be a problem, and drawing attention to life's frequent awkward moments is making a small barrier even greater to pass.

I still don't think the five paragraph essay is the work of Satan

I took a course on teaching writing this last spring. I'm pretty sure I was the only one in it that still supported using the five paragraph essay and did not want to have Tom Romano's babies. I had to do blog posts for that class too. If you want to read more about my thoughts on essay writing, see how embittered I was, or make fun of me, here are two posts that are probably most relevant:

Multigenre Writing
My Rant Continued

The second one is funny because the people that commented thought I was entirely serious in my post.

Anyway, I'm still going to say that the five paragraph essay is a must. I agree with the article that it has a poor name. Because, for the last time, just because it's called the five paragraph essay, does not mean it has to be five paragraphs. In terms of academic writing, I still don't really know what or how you would teach it without using the five paragraph essay format. While I do think that multigenre projects are valid, they are not the same thing, have the same purpose, nor reach the same goal as an academic essay does. When people argue for other ways of teaching writing, their answer is always the vague "there are other ways to teach writing that are creative." The problem with this answer is the five paragraph essay is not stifling, perhaps formulaic, but the students are still able to fill in their own thoughts in an organized manner. The second problem I have with that response is that I am still not getting specific examples or methods of teaching or ways of writing. And finally, when we are teaching academic writing we should not be especially concerned in how creative the students are. If that's what we're after, we should be teaching a college creative writing course.

The second answer I hate getting is how the five paragraph essay forces competition in grades. I think this is a matter of perspective. When I grade my papers, I don't look at subjective things, like creativity. While I think that makes a good writer and the paper more enjoyable, my main concern should be that the paper making a point in clear and logical way. This is the goal in high school. For some schools, that goal may be even lower. I hate grading on creativity; it's too subjective and not all students are creative or want to be creative in writing.

Finally, and I know this is going to piss everyone off, I don't care what anyone says, if you're doing academic writing, you are still using the five paragraph essay format. Maybe it's not as simplistic and has grown and developed, but it's still going to have an introduction with a thesis. It's still going to have supporting evidence paragraphs for your thesis and you're still going to have a conclusion that sums up your paper. If we're looking for a little mix up in the paper writing, we could make students do an experiment and research project and have them write an APA style paper. Kidding, kidding.

Anyway, I do agree with the article when it states that the five paragraph essay is a victim of poor naming. It gets a bad reputation for being extremely rigid and stifling creatively. I also agree that it shouldn't be used for everything. I think you can incorporate creative writing projects and other multigenre projects into the curriculum. But I don't think these things should ever replace or dominate over the five paragraph essay because I still strongly feel that multigenre projects do not provide skills for the general population's success. We still need to keep in mind as English teachers that we are teaching high schoolers skills that will be useful to them in the future, and very few of them will be professional writers, or even want to go into a profession remotely related to that.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Water Hoses

When I read the Dilg text, it immediately reminded me of when I taught The Secret Life of Bees to my 10th grade students. My classes were not like the author's. Mine were fairly limited in terms of multicultural-ness. The Secret Life of Bees is about a white girl who goes to live with four black women in the south during the civil rights movement. Instead of telling my students about the 60s and preparing Powerpoint after Powerpoint, I made them do the research and present to the class. Each week they had a different topic, and as small groups would go on the internet and do research, post it on a wiki, and then present to the class on Friday. I remember the day we talked about the riot in which black children were being sprayed with fire hoses. Each class was the same. The group would present the topic, tell what happened, show the pictures and finish, waiting for me to ask them questions or add to their topic. I could tell no one thought this was a big deal, not because they wouldn't be outraged if it happened today, but because they just did not understand what it meant. They did not have that perspective since they were so far removed from the situation.

To fix this I asked the group to show the pictures again. I told the students to study the pictures and tell me how threatening or violent the people in the pictures seemed, what their facial expressions looked like and what their body language said. After a few stock answers I finally asked the class if they knew how powerful a fire hose was. I asked if they understood how painful getting hit with a fire hose was. One girl said her dad was worked for the fire department and said that it's really dangerous because it can actually tear your skin away. Finally, I started to see some students understand. I asked the group to tell the class what the students were doing to cause the fire hoses. I then asked how it would make them feel if they were the ones in those pictures, and finally how they thought the people in the pictures would feel, and people fighting for the same cause would feel. I asked why such measures would be used. After constant prodding, they finally started to get it and I could tell the images were starting to greatly disturb a few of the students. But it wasn't easy.

This wasn't a continuous and natural discussion through the rest of the unit for my students. They did not have that tension in the class without purposefully putting it there. It was something I had to teach them to do. By the final topics, they were picking up on asking these questions in their own research, but just barely. Their brains, I don't think, were developed enough to place themselves in such situations to fully comprehend, nor were they ever taught to look so critically at something. I sensed these both earlier when we studied the Harlem Renaissance. It wasn't a matter of experiencing the tension. The tension was not being recognized in my classes because they did not have the personal history of cultural tension yet, at least not in terms of the civil rights. To them, that was history (I know this because I asked them). It was something that was studied from a distance and not something that they thought about on a personal level, because, as one student pointed out, racism is in the past. They were the typical American white kids that felt that they did not have any culturally independent value (because in many ways white Americans are raised to believe that they have both no culture and are not part of the word "multiculture"). They were not aware of their influence on other cultures, and they weren't aware of other cultures' influence on them. I don't think it's getting the students to discuss their own history that's a problem for schools like the one I taught at. Rather, it is the cold fact that they are not taught that they have a culture and are not exposed to understanding what it means to be multicultural.

Back to Class...Again

Here's my first post for my summer class. I'm sorry we talked about this so much in class already, Ann.

I think it's interesting to note that Smagorinsky states within the first page that while the slogan "celebrate diversity" is all over our schools (a phrase that makes my skin crawl), people don't practice it. S/he says this is because people are not open-minded enough to do so. This automatically made me look critically at this article because I don't think it's fair to assume that people are closed minded, or choose to be ignorant and that's why we don't "celebrate" multiculturalism. I feel like a more logical cause for this would be that people simply don't understand how to celebrate it, much less comprehend what specifically diversity is. It's not fair to blame the population for not understanding something that even some "experts" can't agree on. However, beyond this, I agreed with the author, although it was hard not to since it really seemed like just 13 pages of questions that aren't answered. Valid questions they may be, but it left me feeling more frustrated and a little more lost.

One thing stuck out, and this was something that has been in the back of my mind since I began the program. I feel like in terms of multicultural literature, there will always be this predicament in which teachers choose multicultural texts at the cost of historical and artistic aspects. This is not to say that I want to teach the canon only, or think that it should be the only thing taught by any means. What I'm saying is that texts are not being chosen for either their great writing, use of literary techniques, or the importance to society. Instead they are chosen solely because they're not about white people. This is where my dislike of Toni Morrison comes in. Sure, she writes (somewhat) controversial things about black people, but her writing ability falls short of inspiring. And I certainly don't think that all authors in the canon are great writers either. I'm looking at you, Shakespeare.

In my fuzzy dream world, I still feel like it's possible to incorporate artistic ability with multicultural topics into lessons and even traditional texts. Isn't this one of the goals of literature after all: to express overarching themes, feelings and social situations across cultures and history?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My Classic American Life

My plans for the fourth this year were busier than any other year. Normally I might go see the fireworks. I didn't have any real plans until about Tuesday, when Lisa invited me to her entire weekend with her mom. Her mother's name is the same name as my mom's so I usually just referred to her as "Lisa's mom" the whole time. I would not say that I am generally someone that is caught up in a lot of overly American things. I blame this partly on my father, who would make us leave the fireworks before the finale because he didn't want to deal with traffic.

Lisa's husband does fireworks over the holiday so we went to see one of his shows at Treasure Island Resort and Casino. The four of us, which included Jessie, drove clear across the metro to see them. The car ride was half the fun. I'm sorry Lisa, but it was hilarious when you said the tipi lights were a pyramid and wanted to know if the casino was on an island because it was called "Treasure Island." These things make me love you more, especially because it's usually me that says things like this, and you come off as the all knowing and super smart friend. The fireworks were a strange set up where we actually sat in the parking lot rather than on grass, but they were amazing. We sat so close to them and they had different designs and shapes. Some were smiley faces and others were hearts. Precious. On the drive back, I swear we saw a UFO. We were driving on a mainly deserted highway through fields. When we pulled over to turn around we saw quite possibly the brightest flashing light through the trees. No one in the car could figure out what it was, and it was done within a couple seconds. We were all slightly creeped out.

On Friday, we went to the parade in Apple Valley. Lisa's mom set her blankets out on the sidewalk at 9 AM the day before the parade. This was a necessity. Some people taped their chairs to fences and trees. We were not so eccentric. The parade was decent. I don't know if I've ever seen such a parade. It was over two hours long, but fun. Lisa gets really into them. I made a video of our day.

On Saturday, I went to my aunt and uncle's cabin. My great aunt and uncle, Mark and Judy, visited and made dinner. They are known for making the best steaks and long islands on the planet and for just being really nice people to talk to. I went tubing and have a sore body and burns on my arms to prove how much fun it was. My cousins and I went water skiing towards the end of the day. I made a video of my cousins, Ashley and Nick, and I. It is mainly of us laughing. But that's okay, they're adorable.

This whole weekend, in a way, showed me what it means to be American. These are the times that I like being American. It reminded me of my all-time favorite Simpsons episode. Because really, everything in my life relates back to the Simpsons in some way or another. It is the episode where the family goes to the Flanders' cottage. Lisa becomes popular and Bart and Milhouse aren't. This is my favorite because there are just so many good jokes and lines. It's loosely based off of American Graffiti, so dad, you should like this one. I have a link to the entire episode below. If you've got 20 minutes, watch it. It's hilarious, and kind of a forgotten episode it seems like. I don't have a favorite part, because there are just too many scenes that are awesome. I would just end up quoting the whole show, and that's no fun.

The Summer of 4 ft. 2

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"You Talk Funny."

Here is my final post on Salt Lake. I was only there for four days. It's not like that many amusing things happened. Well, maybe to me there were, since I was kind of looking at this trip cynically to begin with. So I have four different stories to share with you.

While I was in Phoenix, I couldn't find my gate, or really any gate, that wasn't U.S. Airways. And, since my connecting flight to Salt Lake was on Delta, and boarding in about an hour, it was somewhat critical. I stopped and asked an old man who worked for the airport where to go. I apologized, explaining I'd never been to the Phoenix airport before. The man smiled and asked, "Where are you from?"

Thursday night I had the rehearsal and dinner afterwards with everyone in the wedding party, which included the groom's family and the bride's family. I was the only person that knew no one and was from another part of the country. Also, in Utah, when you tell people you're from Minneapolis, they seem genuinely impressed. Also, apparently in Salt Lake, calamari is still that unusual, crazy thing no one eats. My friend bough me a shirt, to fit in better I think, that read in large bold letters: SL, UT. Amused as I was by it, I didn't wear it.

I spent the night with my friend on Thursday. Honestly, I wasn't sure I would live to see the next morning. I know it gets hot in Minnesota, with humidity, but I have never experienced heat like I did in Utah. When I got into Salt Lake, it was 93 degrees F (which is almost 34 degrees C for all you non-Americans out there) at 2:00 in the afternoon. And for those of you that know me, I can get sick in the heat when it's only 78 F (25 C). By the time we got to her apartment after dinner, it had cooled down significantly outside. It was really quite pleasant. She opened the door and a wave of heat came out of her apartment. I looked at the thermostat and it read 96 F (35 C). Their air conditioning was broken. They didn't have any windows open, and the ceiling fans weren't running. Maybe these things don't help the heat there. I'm not sure. I took two showers before midnight to cool down. I turned the water on as cold as I could get it. It was the coldest water I'd ever felt; it hurt so badly to stand under that water. I dried myself off, put clothes on, opened the door and was sweating again. At midnight or one, we finally relocated to her mom's house. We slept in the basement with the air conditioning running. I almost cried out of happiness.

I realize now that I do have a Minnesota accent. Originally, I had been lead to believe that I spoke fairly close to standard American English. The guy on the right is the one that said I talked funny. He posed like that in the picture on purpose. He thought he was incredibly amusing, or that I was really attracted to him, or something that he and I both clearly weren't. For some reason, I'm not especially concerned with what he thinks about how I talk.

Here are the most common things I heard over my four day stay:
1. "What just came out of your mouth, that was all Minnesotan."
2. "Say 'crayon.' Okay, now say 'milk.' Now 'boat.'"
3. "I like listening to Maggie; she's so Minnesotan."
4. "You don't have as much of an accent as some people from Minnesota do."
And my very favorite:
5. "You're a disappointment to talk to. You have almost no accent."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Observations from a Plane Window

I had to catch my flight at 7:45, which is too early to think about anything. I got hot chocolate, since I don't drink coffee, at Caribou. I pretended to look all professional and sophisticated with my coffee cup, but I can't pull it off like the real coffee drinkers.

There was no hope of sleeping on this flight. Storms the entire way with an extreme amount of turbulence made that impossible for me, although the girl next to me slept peacefully the entire way. But since I am the world's most difficult person to get to sleep, I instead sat listening to the iPod my brother so generously gave me for my birthday and pretended the plane didn't seem like it was going to crash at any given moment.

Phoenix-Salt Lake City
The plane I flew out on was tiny, easily the smallest I've ever flown on. I swear I could have been sitting next to the pilot. In Utah, we were let off on the tarmac and had to walk outside into the airport, which seemed to be mainly made up of cement and steel beams. I wasn't sure if I should have set my watch back 30 or 40 years.

Salt Lake City-Denver
Rather uneventful. I slept most of the way. I've given up any chance of understanding what time it is at this point. In Phoenix it was two hours behind Minneapolis because they don't do daylight savings, Utah was an hour behind Minneapolis, and I don't even know where Colorado stands on this.

When I got to Denver and checked in, my flight was delayed an hour. After two hours of waiting beyond the time of my layover (which was two hours), the woman at the gate announced that they could not fix what was wrong with the plane, but they got us a new one at another gate. My father had so nicely set up text message alerts with the airport on my phone to keep me updated. I received four text messages during this time telling me my flight was delayed.

The woman announced that they were waiting for the cleaning crew on this plane. It was a moment in which I didn't realize that what I was thinking was also coming out of my mouth at an obnoxiously loud volume when I said, "I don't care if the plane is dirty; I just want to go home." An overwhelming majority of people waiting at the gate clapped. The woman sitting next to me patted my shoulder. I received two more text messages.

During the safety presentation, finally on the plane, a guy in the back seat got angry and hit the woman next to him. Four flight attendants swarmed around them and tried to get him off the plane. He got confrontational, and the cops were called. The woman, who was clearly too drunk to make the decision on her own, sat for 20 minutes debating with the flight attendant on whether she should get off the plane with her brother. I called my dad to let him know that we still hadn't taken off and why. The two men sitting next to me laughed at my side of the conversation: "No, we haven't left yet....because some guy decided to hit his, they have to be at least in their, I couldn't have made this up if I tried...okay, bye." I got another text message telling me the flight was delayed.

After finally getting her off the plane, we had to start all over again with the safety procedures. About 2/3 of the plane mimed the speech with him for fun. I finally got into Minneapolis close to eight. No Denver, you cannot keep me.