A Little Bit of Everything

Since there was a great number of topics covered in our reading this week, I thought I’d give a few points on each one. Overall, the focus would be to diversify the classroom, as I found myself struggling to do in only five weeks of instruction for my S of I.

Including psychoanalytic criticism seems even more important after talking to teachers at SWW. We already knew that teens are interested in teens, but to have it reenforced by teachers facilitating interdisciplinary classrooms was powerful for me. Teens want to read about themselves, write about themselves, talk about themselves. That is what they choose, if given the choice. So, our structure should be around those identity topics and psychoanalytic theory is a great investigation of those. Despite the difficulty for adminstrators, I think that classrooms should engage in discussions of gender roles and sexuality. Family structures, relationships and healthy choices may be difficult discussions also, but necessary for changing the repetitive nature of society.

African-American criticism was a little more difficult for me because I strongly believe that continuing to distinguish individuals by color is perpetuating discrimination in mulitple directions. I do not consider myself “white” and have difficulty being grouped with all other people who are “not-black”. Yet, I also strongly believe in celebrating cultures in literature classrooms. African-American culture deserves to be part of our examination, whether or not the class is primarily made up of students of African-American descent. In order to examine our own cultures, we should read multicultural works of students’ ethnic backgrounds, but we should also read works relating cultures students have yet to encounter. Based on the diversity of this nation, they will eventually.

Both of the articles/ handouts we read sparked the same reaction for me. If we know all this and have since at least the 1970’s and 80’s, why did my high school experience look similar to the 1960’s column? I found John Gatto’s article powerful, especially as it was directed to parents. How many parents would send their children to school for these lessons? Yet, what is the alternative?

** Finally, a note to LiLi and Mandy: I have my feedback for your units. If you want me to email you my comments, just send me a quick note (jeverly@twcny.rr.com).



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7 responses to “A Little Bit of Everything

  1. sunyprof

    Jillian, thanks for commenting on the Gatto reading–I met him some years ago. Quite a compelling speaker/man. As teacher, I feel implicated in every line of his advice to parents since he is also talking about what schools assume/do/teach about/to kids. What do we all think of the “lessons” he says he teaches??

    I also appreciate what you say about which column you find yourself in — in the discussion of the “progression?” of middle level education–ch. 2

    I gave the Gatto piece to you as a kind of follow up to thinking about what we saw at SWW; and the book chapter as an introduction to our guests next week, esp. Prof. Mahar, who spent her career at the middle level.

    RE: what you say about psychoanalytic theory. Yes, I agree. These frames for thinking about/judging, etc. human behavior permeate our culture in ways that we can make explicit to adolescents through analysis of a variety of texts. I’m interested in what you found most interesting about the Tyson chapter and how you see other texts you are reading through this lens. KES

  2. ll123

    I absolutely agree with you about the importance of psychoanalytic criticism. I personally like that chapter very much because all of own behaviors and that of the protagonists from literature books we have read so far can be analyzed by this criticism. As a matter of fact, it can be used in any field.
    Posted by L. L.

  3. allison

    Thanks for your post. I really liked this part: “Teens want to read about themselves, write about themselves, talk about themselves.” This made me think of the critical literacy teacher from SWW who agreed with this when discussing what students wrote about. It seems like all students put themselves into their ELA work, even if they do it unintentionally. As they read, their own opinion and bias colors their interpretation. Same thing happens as they write or talk. It seems almost impossible to expect students to completely remove themselves from their work in ELA.

  4. sunyprof

    I love our avatars! Just had to say that. KES

  5. jexter1


    I can relate with you in trying to incorporate the lessons in our recent readings into our unit plans, as well as any other classroom settings we will encounter. Teaching African-American texts, and identifying them as “African-American criticism,” definitely perpetuates the singling out and categorization of races/cultures. Rather than specifying it as “African-American,” perhaps the teacher can label it as “diverse” or “multicultural criticism and literature. ” We would then be opening doors for other cultures and perspectives, and any minority students would (hopefully) not feel alienated from other races and cultures.

    Thank you for your blog; it was very interesting.

  6. sunyprof

    Re: Ethnic Critical Theory–This is an issue that requires more reading and developing of an understanding of where African-American (and/or other ethnocentric) theoretical positions originate and why/how they are circulating in the academy. I’m glad you’re considering the topic. What does Tyson say that might shed light on the nature of this analysis?

    Take a look at some of the texts that could help us do that.

    One of them, Black scholar, author, Harvard professor and public intellectual, Henry Louis Gates The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism (1988) is seminal to our understanding this stance.

    An excerpt from this Wikipedia entry on Gates is useful to speak to both Jillian and Jessica’s questions about African-American criticism:

    “. . . Gates has combined literary techniques of deconstruction with native African literary traditions; he draws on structuralism, post-structuralism, and semiotics to textual analysis and matters of identity politics. As a black intellectual and public figure, Gates has been an outspoken critic of the Eurocentric literary canon and has instead insisted that black literature must be evaluated by the aesthetic criteria of its culture of origin, not criteria imported from Western or European cultural traditions that express a ‘tone deafness to the black cultural voice’ and result in ‘intellectual racism.’ Gates tried to articulate what might constitute a black cultural aesthetic in his major scholarly work The Signifying Monkey, a 1989 American Book Award winner; the work extended the application of the concept of “signifyin(g)” to analysis of African-American works and thus rooted African-American literary criticism in the African-American vernacular tradition.”

    I was fortunate enough to hear Gates speak in Syracuse a few years ago.

    I hope Ray will shed some light on this topic on Tuesday night. KES

  7. sfarah19

    I have to say this is one of the more interesting blog discussions I have read. Whenever race is the topic of conversation I am always curious to hear others perspectives. I think KES is right in saying that maybe we need to study ethnic critical theory further before we attempt to determine why we study African American criticism. I’m not sure it singles people out any further than feminism might single out women as members of our society. Do you feel feminism helps to perpetuate sexism? I’m also not sure if distinguishing a text as “African American” is a bad thing. If we are all about celebrating other cultures in our classrooms then why is it negative to recognize these cultures individually? I agree, Jess, that it is important that we study other cultures as well, but I guess I’m unsure whether distinguishing them from each other alienates.

    I would argue that race is a social construct but being “white” by racial guidelines has made it easier for me to overlook the struggles many minorities on our country face. Not that I have intended to do so by any means, but the truth is, I can not pretend to understand that type of oppression. I think viewing texts from any person/peoples perspectives who have been oppressed is important for our students and our society. We are a country who is growing increasingly diverse and unfortunately, the oppression of minorities in our country is a large part of our history and most likely will continue to be. This topic being so prevalent in our society is in turn taken on largely in literature. This is why, I believe, our students learning African American criticism is not alienating or perpetuating racial segregation, just giving them a different perspective as all theory does.

    With all that said, I hope that others (not only Ray) will help shed some light on this topic.


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