Tuesday, July 8, 2008

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?

1 comment:

  1. You make a valid point about Smagorinksky—how can we fault teachers (who, let’s be honest, take PLENTY of flak as it is—for doing something that is ill-defined? I think what S. is referring to is what the middle school I worked in did: Unity in Diversity day. Kids ate food from different cultures, dressed up in clothing from their culture (basically a costume), and at the end of the day we had an assembly with a few kids performing something from their culture—a dance, poem, etc. Sure, it was nice, but it didn’t do anything meaningful; it didn’t change the fact that the school was run on middle class white norms, or the fact that the tracking system meant my classes were terribly racially imbalanced, or the fact that kids who were born in the U.S. were still being placed in ESL classes.

    That list of questions can be frustrating. One of the reasons I think they’re valuable, though, is that we might not think of them otherwise. Until I read this chapter, I didn’t consider the fact that the vast majority of books about the African American experience that my students read were pre-Civil Rights era.

    I have to say I disagree that texts that can be considered multicultural of necessity have to be of lower literary merit (however you judge the literary value of a book). I personally think Morrison is an amazing writer with a complex, thoughtful, incredibly allegorical style. Still, I appreciate you making your case here, and I completely agree with your last statement—let’s read all texts with culture in mind—all texts can be “multicultural.”