Author Archives: ll123

One Question for Dr. Stearns

Dr. Stearns,

I wonder if we need to post our responses to Unit Plan feedback on the blog. I will bring a hard copy to you on Dec. 11th as we meet for the seminars.  Thanks!

Posted by L. L.


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Questions for Dr. Stearns

Dear Dr. Stearns,

I have three questions here: 

First,  I wonder if you have corrected my YA paper and Unit Plan. 

Second, you said that we would have another assignment–to write a response to your feedback on our Unit Plans, I am kind of concern about that because next Tuesday will be the last class. Can you tell us what is the deadline for that response? Do we post it on the blog or give you a hard copy? 

Third, do we have to write relection on our own seminar and reflection for our peer as we did last term? How?–by blog or hard copy?     I’d appreciate it very much if you can respond to my questions.         Posted by L. L.

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Reading for Book Club (10/27)

The book I read for this week’s book club is Growing Up Asian American. It is a collection of short stories or excerpts written by authors identified as Asian American—from the second to the fifth immigrant groups. It is divided by three sections: memories, identity, and growing up. I have read some stories from the second and third sections, and found they are thought-provoking. Even though these stories are about Asian teens, yet they are representing the universal themes and events that similar to those of American youngsters in many ways. I strongly recommend this book.   Posted by L. L.


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Li’s Mini-Lesson for Nov. 27th,2007

Li Li

AED541 Post-Colonial Criticism Mini-Lesson (handouts)

Oct.27th, 2007


Talking about Postcolonial criticism, we have to know what postcolonial literature is to begin with.

Postcolonial Literature: it seems to label literature written by people living in countries formerly colonized by other nations.

Problems with this definition: this term misleadingly implies that colonialism is over when in fact most of the nations involved are still culturally and economically subordinated to the rich industrial states through various forms of neo-colonialism even though they are technically independent.

Fact: Postcolonial writers often move to England or North American because they have been exiled, or because they find a more receptive audience there, or simply in search of more comfortable mode of living. (Source:  from Postcolonial Literature: Problems with the Term, written by Paul Brians, Aug7th, 1998)


Postcolonial Criticism can be defined as subject matter and as a theoretical framework, which is our primary concern. (Lois Tyson. Critical Theory Today. pp. 418)

As a subject matter, any analysis of a postcolonial literary work, regardless of the theoretical framework used, might be called postcolonial criticism.

As a theoretical framework, postcolonial criticism seeks to understand the operations—of colonialist and anticolonialist ideologies. Postcolonial criticism analyzes the ideological forces that, on the one hand, pressed the colonized to internalize the colonizers’ values and, on the other hand, promoted the resistance of colonized peoples against their oppressors. A work doesn’t have to be categorized as postcolonialfor us to be able to use postcolonial criticism to analyze it.

 Sample Texts: Day of Tears by Julius Lester & A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid. How do you think about the following comments? 

  1. “A mule can’t think. [And] niggers ain’t no different. …I’ve seen some mules that had more sense” (28).
  2. “They [the slaves] probably aren’t feeling anything. That’s one of the ways niggers are different from white people” (19).
  3. “I had no tolerance for niggers think they [the slaves] were the equal of whites…” (39).
  4. He put on a pair of gloves, rubs his fingers over the gums and teeth of slave, and squeezes the slave’s arms and then his things (52).
  5. “Slavery has been the best thing that’s happened to niggers because it has helped civilize them, as much as that is possible given their limited intelligence. Slavery has also built America” (47).
  6. “A society based on slavery is the highest form of civilization (50).
  7. “Slavery’s the best thing ever happened to us niggers” (97).

 Jamaica Kincaid:

  1. They should never have left their home, their precious England, a place they loved so much, a place they had to leave but could never forget. And everywhere they went they turned it into England; and everybody they met they turned into English. But no place could ever really be England, and nobody who did not look exactly like them would even be English, so you can imagine the destruction of people and land that came from that (24).
  2. But what I see is the millions of people, of whom I am just one made orphans: no motherland, no fatherland, no gods, no mounds of earth for holy ground, no excess of love sometimes brings, and worst and most painful of all, no tongue (31).
  3. Have you ever wondered to yourself why it is that all people like me seem to have learned from you is how to imprison and murder each other, how to govern badly, and how to take the wealth of our country and place it in Swiss bank accounts? …But there must have been some good people among you, but they stayed home. And that is the point. That is why they are good (35).

Questions for discussion:

1.      What do you think about the ideology represent from above examples?

2.      Why does the slave think slavery is good for them?

3.      Analyze the unhomeliness in Jamaica Kincaid’s words. What does it suggest from her anger?

4.      “There is more than one way to colonize a population” (Introducing Cultural Studies, by Sardar and Loon, p.22). What does this mean?

5.      In India, the British left a whole class of brown Englishmen( Cultural Studies, P. 119)


Books Recommended:

Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. Canada: Collins Publishers, Toronto, 1985.

Kincaid, Jamaica. At the Bottom of the River. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Lucy. New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990.

Kincaid, Jamaica. On Seeing England for the First Time. Harper’s (August 1991).

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press/Avalon Publishing Group, 1989.

Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. New York: Harper Perennial, 1997.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. New York: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin, 1999.


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LI’s YA Paper

Reading Slavery from A Post-Colonialism Criticism Perspective

Day of Tears, a truth-telling fiction of the biggest slave auction in American history on March the second and the third, 1859, in Savannah, Georgia, has brought the slavery alive through personal accounts. We, as readers, not only hear the voice choked with tears, see the separation embedded with terror, but also feel the brutal oppression that shows the injustice by the societal ideology at the time. Using post-colonialism criticism that deals with oppression, inequality, and Others as sub-human will be an effective method in helping adolescents to not only acquire accurately historical information but also learn a moral and political lesson. With this purpose in mind, I choose to study this historical event with post-colonialism theory in a subjective reading method to demonstrate how we can read a work, as Lois Tyson states in Critical Theory Today, “doesn’t have to be categorized as postcolonial for us to be able to use postcolonial criticism to analyze it” (418). Thus, in analyzing how the master, the slave buyer and the slaves conceive slavery in this novel provides us the evidences of slavery ideology which is the direct production of colonialism in the form of white suppression. We are going to examine how both the white dominant class and the oppressed slaves look at slavery, how this novel exhibits the oppression and to what degree it shows the reader, and how slaves eventually show signs of resistance to their master in seeking for freedom through their voice and action. I hope this analysis will help us further understand the roots of racial bias existing in today’s American society, and how it harms the harmony of a multi-cultural country. 

As a theoretical framework, according to Tyson, colonialism seeks to understand the operations—politically, socially, culturally, and psychologically-of colonial and anticolonialist ideologies. Thus, Day of Tears would be an ideal novel for us to give the slavery topic a theoretical reading in understanding such operations of ideology. How we are going to do this? Through the main characters’ voice, we can identify the suppression and oppression factors that reflect how deep the slavery ideology has engraved in both the white and the black people’s minds through their languages. For example, the slave owner Pierce Butler’s slave auction is just as what Tyson explains, “othering( colonizers’ treatment of members of the indigenous culture as less than fully human) and colonial oppression in all its forms” ( 427).  The fact of selling 430 slaves in two days itself is an evidence of Butler’s treating the slaves as inferior, animals, or sub-human that can be traded simply because he owns debts due to gambling. His further comments prove the ideology of the white supremacy over the black slaves and also a justification of committing such a horrific crime. He says, “They [slaves] probably aren’t feeling anything. That’s one of the ways niggers are different from white people” (19). In saying so, he has despised them as emotionally unable to feel and intellectually incapable of thinking. And the slave buyer agrees with him, “A mule can’t think. Niggers ain’t no different…I’ve seen some mule that had more sense” (28). This inhuman attitude towards his fellowmen is a typical form of oppression in a colonialism system in which slaves as a race are devalued and dehumanized. This comparison is spoken among the white as if it was a social norm while slave families are experiencing tragic emotional loss in this auction. After examining what the white people’s comments, we naturally shift our attention to the slaves’ ideology of slavery. To our surprise, Simpson, an older slave declares that “slavery’s the best thing ever happened to us niggers” (97). It’s hard for young readers to understand how can slave favors slavery under such humiliation. Tyson explains the oppressed  people’s psychology as, “It’s difficult to rebel against a system or a people one has been programmed, over several generations, to consider superior”( 421), and it is  colonist ideology– the British culture and value engraved in Simpson’s mind that makes him think the black as a race is inferior than the white. He is programmed to be a slave lover as he regards such unequal system not only as an acceptable norm but also as a blessing. In addition, we are told that he also tries to influence his son Charles to accept the same ideology. Ironically, we find a duplicate of Sampson’s remark from his white master Butler, “Slavery has been the best thing that’s happened to niggers because it has helped civilized them, as much as that is possible given their limited intelligence. Slavery has also built America” (47) Butler is obviously representing the white people in voicing his ideology by justifying his enslavement as a noble cause for the goodness of America. Let’s hear what Denman, one slave buyer has to say, “A society based on slavery is the highest form of civilization” (50). Such ideology is a direct reflection of the dominant class’ political discourse.  Under this ideology, the slaves were naturally imprisoned and dispowered not only physically but also mentally. They were chained to the master’s plantation and willingly subjected to the will of their master. Thus, they didn’t seem to want a freedom in that circumstance.

The characters’ narratives seem like a film that vividly shows the reader more specific scenes about the slave’s condition as well as the white’s behaviors that directly tie slaves to animals. For example, we read that “the slaves are packed in the stall…” (52), then we are told that one slave buyer checks a slave as if he was checking a horse or cattle. He puts on a pair of white gloves, rubs his fingers over the slave’s gums and teeth, and squeezes the slave’s arms and then his thigh (52).  This is a common practice of physically dehumanizing Others that clearly defines the slaves as equal to animals. The stall is a material pen to slaves, yet the stronger pen is the mental chain- the white ideology that disarms them in a thorough way. The combination of both pens trap the black slaves and insure them are under the control of this powerful and dominant political institution. The two-day sale netted $303,850, which profits upon numerous families’ heart-wrenching separation:  wife from husband, sister from brother, and parents from children. No wonder God of mercy vs. God of warrior is told here by slaves, Will and his wife Mattie. When Will helplessly watches other fellow slaves being sold, he says, “the rain started up just when the selling began… the rain, hard as sorrow. This ain’t rain. This is God’s tears” (3-4). Mattie expresses the rain as, “comes down like it wants to kill us all” (41), and God in Mattie’s eyes is described as a warrior by the symbol of rain.  Their daughter, Emma, uses the rain as a shield to block the pain, says  that she is glad because the rain is so loud that she “mostly couldn’t hear folks crying over the ones what got sold yesterday and the crying of them what’s going to be sold today (7). The author, by using rain as a symbol of God’s tears showering down mercy upon the slaves, or God’s anger towards the cruel slave owner, or rain as a shield to Emma, shows the reader how deeply the slavery– here reflects as auction, has  drown slaves emotionally.

Thus we start to hear the voice of complaints from the oppressed. This is what Tyson calls resistance in post-colonialism criticism. We read the resistance signs that show opposition to the dominant whites. For example, both Mattie and Will express strong sorrow and anger towards their master Butler when their only daughter is unexpectedly sold by their master. Mattie says, “When I think about Master I get so angry. I think I can hear my blood boiling like hot water in a tea kettle (101), while his husband Will laments, “This grief will never end even if I was to live as long as a star in the sky” (105).The slave auction is a turning point in this novel for slaves begin to re-evaluate the slave system and challenge the white ideology. Lester depicts Joe, a white anti-slavery Underground Railroad pioneer, as a justice figure who gives Emma and others hope in seeking for freedom and racial equality. Emma’s successfully breaking- away from her master is her dream of civil rights, her dream of abolishing slavery and her claim of equality with the whites.  The courage and strength shown from the characters Joe and Emma are the foundation of Emancipation that eventually frees all slaves from their masters which serves as a big blow to the white superior ideology.  Thus, Lester is asking the reader to see how the racial discrimination originates from,  to not forget the history that is absent of justice and equalities, and to cherish the freedom we take for granted today.  

In conclusion, in reading Day of Tears from the post-colonialism perspective, we understand the notion how the blacks are treated as animals under the white superior ideology; how such ideology is being programmed into both races’ minds; how this ideology is finally broken by the opposition through the effort of anti-slavery characters like Joe and Emma; and how we have a democratic society that white and black are considered as equal by law. However, the breaking bondage from the slavery doesn’t root out the ideology that has been programmed in many whites’ minds. The law doesn’t guarantee the practice of equality in today’s society. This explains why in reality, the blacks and minorities are more or less still being discriminated by the white mainstream. We see the same ideology represented by some racists in different walks of fields across the country. The white population still dominates the politics, economics and culture in all forms. The post-colonialism criticism used in analyzing this novel can help people both white and black to understand that equality is something that are ideally easier to say, yet are practically more difficult to realize when it comes to superiority and inferiority identity. In one word, as educators, we have more work to do in trying to create an equality atmosphere in our classroom. Thus, the use of post-colonialism criticism in reading a novel like Day of Tears definitely helps us as well as our students in reaching such a goal.   

Hope Professor Stearns and my peers can kindly give me some feedback since English is my second language.                                   Posted by L. L.

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Li’s Third Book Review

Tatum’s Dream: Desegregation  

By Li Li  

Can We Talk about Race? is an educational book that consists of collaborative lectures written by the prestigious Brock International Prize winner, Beverly Daniel Tatum. The Lectures consist of the sensitive topic: race and resegregation in today’s American school. What makes Tatum address this issue, and how she is going to convince the reader that our society still in many ways allows this segregation happen is my curiosity to look into this book deeply and finds out an answer.


As an Asian foreign student in a predominantly White college, I almost talk myself out of reading Tatum’s book because I think,” Why bother?” First of all, I am not a black student; secondly, perhaps the racial issue isn’t something that I should discuss among my peers who are mostly White.” But the question Tatum asks to challenge readers in her introduction interests me, “Can we get beyond our fear, our sweaty palms, our anxiety about saying the wrong thing, or using the wrong words and have an honest conversation about racial issues?”(xiii) I was struck by that bold invitation. I have never thought about the possibility of having a conversation like that, partly due to my fear of becoming a racial anger target. Having a conversation about academic work? Yes, we’ve done that in every class, a conversation about multi-culture literature? Yes, both my professor and peers enjoy it; a conversation about politics? Yes, we definitely discuss that topic during some of our book club or literature circle discussions. But race? I doubt and hesitate.


Can We Talk about Race?  is the very first book that I have ever read regarding the sensitive race issue; yet, I finish it very quickly because it is interesting, thought-provoking and inspiring, and because it has answered my question, “how can race have anything to do with academic performance?” However, one question lingers in my mind after I’ve finished reading it, “Can Tatum really convince the poor black students to strive to success when she herself comes from a privileged middle class family, lives in a white neighborhood and is raised by her parents who both have received higher education?” Even with such doubt, I find her book useful to me personally because I have started to look at American society and education with a more critical eye based on my current education training.   


From the very beginning, Tatum warns us the racial segregation not only still exists in our schools but also has a huge impact on students’ achievement performance. She believes that racial segregation is associated with economic and residential segregation (13). Those segregation factors are the reason that teachers lack multi-cultural experiences and students are not receiving quality education. Due to poverty, insufficient learning conditions, and fixed self-images, black students tend to fail tragically. When we first look at the SAT data, then read the facts on the poor performance of color students and the achievement gap that exists between White and Black students among all grades, it makes it an urgent call from Tatum: teachers not only need to recognize their own Whiteness—“a story of achievement, success, and of being in charge” (32), which means, their privilege that has been programmed into their minds, but also need to take action by learning some effective strategies in encouraging students-both white and black to talk openly about race which is the root of resegregation in today’s schools.  One way for teachers to be able to do this is to provide both teachers and their students with antiracist, multicultural education courses or programs. She urges both White and Black students to start a meaningful conversation in order to promote an effective diverse educational learning environment that can benefit both. Tatum quotes social psychologist Pat’s conclusion, “students who experienced the most racial and ethnic diversity in and out of their classrooms benefited in terms of both ‘learning outcomes’ and ‘democracy outcomes’”(110). Tatum, a race expert, has acted on such commitment for over twenty years in her teaching and workshops. 


The author believes that universities should take an active role and the responsibility in training students some practical anti-racist courses in order to not only narrow the racial segregation gap but also to improve students academic performance. Education is the key to stop racial conflicts especially in assumption and ideology. Only when dominant Whites and the minority can respect each other on the grounds of understanding, friendship and mutual interest, as Dr. Tatum’s cross-racial friendship with Andrea shows, can segregation be broken. However, Tatum’s own story of an open conversation with her white friend, Andrea, in promoting effective and honest communication between White and Black is not quite convincing to me. As a foreign student who observes the segregation from a certain distance, I can’t help asking myself one question, “Under what condition does the friendship between Andrea and Tatum develop?” It is obviously under the conditions of a similar middle-class background, same education level, and work relationship. Their mutual respect is the foundation of such friendship, which is based on their belonging to the same class rather than to a simplified open dialogue between a white and a black individual. For example, what if Andrea were from a poverty residence? What if one of them were not educated? My point is that the communication between White and Black / minority cannot be solved by a simplistic method or strategy as is the case between Andrea and the author.  Another question I am curious about is, Since Tatum has promoted programs and workshops on multiracial and diverse learning environments throughout this book, then how is she, as the current president of Spelman College, able to justify the fact that Spelman College is not only an all black but also an all female institution? Can she invite the white students to her college in the future? If not, can the white population accuse her causing resegregation?


After reading Can We Talk about Race?, I am convinced that the resegregation does exist as Dr. Tatum claims, yet I see the desegregation is highly enforced by Affirmative Action through government and by people both white and black. My personal working experience in a couple of schools tells me that the white people are very aware of the race issue, and as a matter of fact, they put their efforts in making the minority students feeling equally important both academically and socially. The author has obviously found the factors that cause race resegregation which pinpoint the root of segregation problem.  As far as the academic gap issue, to me, is a problem existing in any society regardless there is a race issue or not. As long as the economic and political gaps exist, a sense of segregation will always be there between the rich and the poor, and the race issue is only one branch of the big tree. As much as I applaud for Dr. Tatum’s dream- letting the white and the black hold hands with sincere appreciation, as much as I value her efforts for reaching such a goal by promoting the anti-racist workshops and an effective conversation, I still don’t see how soon we can realize it when other gap factors like financial status are dominantly shaping people’s ideologies, lives and politics in America as well as in other countries

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Li’s Unit Plan( draft)

What Is Success?

What Does Success Mean To Adolescents? 

Grade Level: 11-12

This is a 5-lesson of “What Does Success Mean?” unit, and the five lessons are as the following:

 Week 1: Students will be introduced to the unit and learn the various definition of success.

  1. What is success?

1)      Dictionary definition: a favorable termination of a venture; specify: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence. (Webster 7th New collegiate Dictionary)

2)      Society definition: success now means a balanced personal and professional life, by working with more focus, alignment and balance, not harder!

                             3)       Individual definition: achieve what really important to you.

                             4)      Other definition: seek for pleasure; seek for meaning      things; seek for something larger than life.

                             5)   According to the media, success means a busy and lucrative career, good relationship and family life, a great house, exciting vacations, lots of friends and, last but not least, plenty of money and material things.

2.      Does any of the following things means success according to the definition above?

1)      Entering college with high GPA.2)      Spreading the word of God.3)      Helping the less fortunate.4)      Raising a family with big house, beautiful cars, and great kids.5)      Being rich like Hollywood stars.6)      Being famous like JFK.7)      Traveling the world to realize your childhood dream.8)      Being a writer.9)      Being a boss in a big company.10)  Being a Domestic violence survivor.

3. What was your childhood dream when adults asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

1) An athlete

2)  A stay-at-home mom or dad

3)  A traveler

4)  A fiction writer

5) A truck driver

6) A nurse

7) A mechanical engineer

     4. Can you brainstorm possible factors that contribute to success? (In small groups)·        passion·        dedication and commitment·        determination and perseverance·        integrity

Week 2: In this lesson plan, students discuss about what success means to adolescents?

  1. What does success mean to you personally?
    • Successes as you see it, feel it, and experience it and what it means to you personally.
  2. Can you list the things that you have to do in order to achieve your dream?
  3. Will you be happy to realize your parents’ dream instead of yours?
  4. Do you agree that it is equally important if you help others reach their potential success?
  5. How do you think about scarifying your family in order to reach your dream? Why or why not?

Week 3: Students discuss about two short stories that provided by the classroom teacher.

  1. How are you going to use your money if you become a millionaire overnight? (Lottery)
  2. How much money is considered enough for a family? Do you agree that the more money the better? Why or why not?
  3. Who do you admire as the most successful person? Why?
  4. Being rich and unhappy, or being poor and very happy, which do you prefer?
  5. Will you be satisfied with a routine job day in and day out, and live a comfortable life with your own family?

 Week 4: This lesson is called “Successful People I know.” (Interview)

1.      Guest speaker from local community.(In the form of news conference—questions and answers)

·        Former graduates from college

·        Parents

·        Human resource personnel

2.      Students’ findings about the successful people they know. (Parents, relatives, community members, etc.)

·  Does it necessary mean who we are by judging our social status and financial situation?

·  Between money and power, which do you prefer if let you choose? What will you do if you are given both of them?

·  Does corruption roots from money and power?

3.      Do you think the education you receive today will benefit your future success? Why or why not?

·  What is your suggestion for your school district regarding promoting everybody’s dream instead of only SAT scores?

·  Is it important to arrive at a universal definition of success? Why or why not?

Week 5: Discussion and assessment— require students to do a reflection journal during the past four weeks as homework, and they will hand in their journal and do a presentation in the fifth week class.

Unit Objectives:

1.Recognize the various definitions of success

2.Identify the basic factors that leads to success

3.Students try to define their own definition of success

4.Students dream their own dreams and understand they need build steps for their own  potential success


  1. Divide students into small groups and discuss about the various definition of success.
  2. brainstorm possible factors that contribute to success
  3. Read the related materials that provided by teacher and discuss about them.
  4. Interview community successful people, and collect information either from internet or parents.
  5. Fill out handout questionnaires
  6. Review the provided examples and determine if any of the protagonists is a success according to students’ own opinions.

 Materials I plan to use for above lesson plans: 1. Articles from (handouts) Bill Gates Tells the Secret of His Success (Jan 4th, 2006)

2. Articles from (handouts)

3. Questionnaire (handout)

4. Non-fiction stories:

·        A Child Called It, a bestselling memoir by David Pelzer, a survivor of child abuse and a successful writer.

·        Seven Habits of Highly Effectiveness to Greatness (2004) by Sean Covey

Pay attention: The above is my big vision of my five-week Unit Plan What is Success? I will add flesh into it as time goes on according to the standard lesson plan model. Some procedures and contents might be changed as I do each detailed lesson plan in the following weeks.  I’d appreciate it very much if you can offer some valuable suggestions.  Posted by L. L.


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