A book review by Laurie Slovarp C&I 508 Fall 2012
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Ten short true stories about students who, despite horrendous situations, rose above and got an education that changed their lives for the better. Common themes: Difficult family lives (to say the least) Poverty Tragedy Low expectations from most 1-2 very influential individuals who believed in themI will highlight a few of the stories
From the projects of Baltimore Friends into gangs and drugs Mother gave him to her father (Big Rod) “You know, I never wanted you. You wouldn’t be here if your father wasn’t so cheap. I needed money for an abortion, but your cheap XXX of a father never gave me the money. Now, you all in my bizness. You need to leave here…” (p. 28) Big Rod “Boy, I ain’t got a lot of money, so you gonna have to find a way to get your own money, but I do have time and I will give you plenty of that.” (p. 28)
Ronnie‟s 5th grade teacher, Ms. Tillman Introduced him to poetry, which he loved Believed in him and encouraged him Drug dealing friend Moon Secretly tutored him in reading and looked out for him Big Rod Encouraged him, attended school events, taught him how to be an honest and hard working man
Ronnie graduated college and created a self- sufficient and honest life for himselfA majority of his friends growing up dropped out of school and several were either shot and killed or went to jail Moon is serving a life sentence for murder
Functionalism (Brint, 1998; deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999) Clear order in the gang/drug culture Don‟t mess with those at the top of the order This culture is resistant to change and there is pressure to not venture outside of the „accepted‟ mentality/culture. Those that are entrenched in the culture feel threatened by those that pursue different lifestyles Conflict theory (Brint, 1998; Collins, 1971; deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999) Those within the gang/drug culture with money and/or power dominate the structure of the society A lot of conflict between gangs or different neighborhoods as well as conflict between those who accept the gang or drug culture and those who do not
Interpretive Theory (deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999) Ronnie‟s personal relationships with his grandfather, Moon, and Ms. Tillman had a huge influence on his ability to escape the culture he grew up in. Critical Theory (deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999) Ronnie grew up in an oppressive environment that is the result of many factors Minority status Poverty and social stratification Lack of education But…he was resistant to his „lot in life‟ and both macro and micro elements lead to the development of the skills and perseverance needed to get an education, which provided the means for him to create a better life.
Born in Afganistan before Taliban rule Girls were educated and allowed to work Zina loved school and education was emphasized in the family Mother – professor Father – government worker Taliban took over and made it illegal for girls to go to school and women to work Father and grandfather killed by Taliban Family moved to refugee camp in Pakistan and eventually to US through Global Missionaries Zina eventually went to college and studied Sociology and Women‟s Studies with significant help from a teacher (Joy)
Conflict Theory – macro level (Brint, 1998; deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999) Great deal of conflict in Afganistan between Taliban and the citizens, men and women, girls and boys, etc. Taliban gained control and made the rules Ended education and work for women with goal of socializing them towards extremist Muslim traditions Women as servants Men have all the power Clearly made a huge impact on the socialization of everyone in that country. Even boys who were allowed to be educated were indoctrinated with Taliban ideas. Acceptance of violence and brutality
Interpretive Theory – micro level (Brint, 1998; deMarrias & LeCompte, 1999) Personal interactions made a huge impact on Zina‟s eventual socialization and the person she would become Family, particularly her father who supported education for girls Teacher (Joy), who helped and encouraged her to go to college
Originally from Puerto Rico Alcoholic father beat the mother regularly Mother took kids to DC to live with a cousin Excited about the opportunity to go to school in US Outgoing and a fighter – took on role as protector from her father Raped by an uncle repeatedly, which completely change her Withdrawn, self-destructive, fearful, lost all self-esteem, didn‟t care about school, very angry and mean Got pregnant in 8th grade Decided she wanted to become a truck driver Eventually went to a Charter school that helped with childcare Vice Principle Mr. Stewart showed her kindness and mentored her Got a Master‟s degree and ended up as Dean of the charter school she attended
Interpretive Theory (deMarrias & LeCompte, 1999 Micro-level events seemed to overwhelmingly shape who she became She was destroyed and saved by individuals Father Uncle Principle
Lots of examples of different elements of each of the sociological theories discussed in class Interpretive Theory dominated in these stories Makes sense since they were personal accounts Unfortunately, these cases are exceptions rather than the norm Analysis of groups of individuals with similar situations would likely reveal more elements of functionalism and/or conflict theory as a whole One person can turn someone‟s life around even under the worst of situations With perseverance, and support, any one can change their life We should never …. stop believing in students stop encouraging students have low expectations for students make assumptions about what a student is or has been through and how those events have impacted them make assumptions about what a particular student is capable of
Strengths Enjoyable to read Inspirational As an educator As an individual Great examples of how individuals can overcome the odds Demonstrates how education is one of the primary gateways to a changed life In every story it was ultimately education that allowed them to create a life different then the one they had grown up in Weaknesses Nothing of any consequence Could have used better editing. I noticed several typos
Can you think of an example(s) of a student that you personally gave up on or had low expectations for (or you observed that in another teacher)? If so, tell us about it. How do you think that impacted the student‟s eventual success? Do you have any examples stories similar to those in Voices of Determination (students who defy the odds)? If so, who were the influential individuals in their life? Why do you think we have a tendency to give up on students or to make assumptions about their potential? What can we do as educators to insulate ourselves from our natural tendency to think this way?
Brint, S. (1998). Schools and societies (2nd ed.). Stanford, CA: Standford University Press, 1-30. Chavous, K. P. (2012). Voices of determination: Children that defy the odds. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. Collins, R. (1971). Functional and conflict theores of educational stratification. American Sociological Review, 36, 1002-1019. de Marrais, K.B. & LeCompte, M. D. (1999). Theory and its influences on the purposes of schooling. In The way schools work: A sociological analysis of education (3rd ed.). New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1-22.