Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gorski and Anyon

   I think the Anyon and Gorski articles work hand in hand. While Anyon presents the symptoms and side effects of having an education system damaged by class issues, Gorski looks into what could be done to save the education systems. 
However, while I think Gorski's attempt is fantastic, it is simplifying a problem that runs much deeper than the educators themselves.
    Gorski's suggestion that we have a broader understanding of class beyond the one-sided experience offered, is a solid first step. However, this is largely easier said than done. While programs and educational courses have been implemented for the newer generations of educators, what about educators who have been in the field? Anyon, while offering a look into how classist ideals and values were being enacted through schools, does not offer a look at which is at the heart of this. Is it the the educators own biases and possible privilege? Is it the education systems, as decided by executive boards and directors, that is locking the teachers into the expectations that is held for both them and their students? While it is acknowledged in the conclusion, I wish this had been delved into deeper - knowing the symptoms doesn't necessarily help as much as knowing what is at the heart of the issue. Due to the misconceptions and biases surrounding class, more damage can be done than good through programs that ultimately shame the working-class students and families.
     I think this Gorski quote sums up why the process of a stronger education system needs to go beyond simple awareness programs: 
"It's all too easy, for even the most well-meaning of us, to help perpetuate classism by buying into that mindset, implementing activities and strategies for "working with parents in poverty" or "teaching students in poverty that however subtly suggest we mix fix the poor people instead of eliminating the inequities that oppress them." - Gorski, P. 1
To truly help the students, as well as the educators, there needs to be a lot of open, honest discussion between all levels of education - the school boards, the educators, the parents and the students. 


      Reading Matsios' "Media Magic" was incredibly eyeopening for me, in a way that it probably shouldn't have been. I assumed it would look at the issues of class as presented through media such as television, film and literature - such as my beloved Roseanne. I didn't expect for the article to cover the news media. As economy is such a huge part of our political stream of consciousness, and so often discussed, that the inclusion of the working-class would be a given. I would surprised by the statistics offered:
"…yet less than one in five hundred articles in the New York Times and one in one thousand articles listed in the Reader's Guide to Periodic Literature are on poverty" (100).
      Even Inclusion, of course, does not equal out to be fair and valid representation, which I think ultimately ends up being Matsios' argument. I recently did a literature review on the ways that the News Media represents (or doesn't, as is often the case) gender and feminism in their reports. One section from one of the texts I included jumped back to me while reading Matsios':
"Even a concept as basic as "woman" is riddled with cultural codes coveted and interpreted in the various media texts we encounter on a daily basis. There is no objective "feminine," Fiske would argue, only a culturally-defined concept created and perpetuated in part by media texts."
 - Debra Baker Beck, "The 'F' Word: How the Media Frame Feminism"
 I think the same can be applied to class - the values we have regarding class are so ingrained into our society's identity, it seems almost impossible to separate them from the realities of the situation. Objectivity towards class is nearly impossible, especially from an outside position. This is so important in the news media because while fiction reflects back caricatures of our society, the news influences nearly every  public event and happening - it helps we shape our political leanings and how we feel about a public figure or event. Professional Journalism has slowly been built around a world of elitism, academia, and big word using - and it's those voices that largely end up shaping the news media as it is presented today.
     I think my sense of betrayal - as naive as that sounds, because I should have known better - at the statistics that Matsios offered is based on the fact that I hold the news accountable for what it presents. While I know it fails that accountability often, fueling a large distrust of the news for many, I didn't expect that numbers to be quite so low when it is such a large, dominating issue in society. Why are so few voices and experiences valued? Would objectivity be a greater possibility if the news was influenced more greatly by citizens voices? Or is it our skewed sense of class and equality that enables the lack of objectivity?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Coontz and Currie

The two articles for this week worked well together to explore the factors that have led to the individualistic climate of how our society interacts with class issues. Both Currie and Coontz actively work to undermine the importance and value of individualism within our social support system. While I felt they counter-acted each other in some ways, the combination of the two pieces helped strengthen the ideas I took from the two.
Usually when I read articles together, I look at one as the ‘supporting’ article – one whose main, sometimes only, purpose is to lay the groundwork for the second. However, with Coontz and Currie, the issues are tied together closely. Coontz’s piece, “We Always Stood on Our Own Two Feet: Self-reliance and the American Family,” acts to explain how the myth of Individualism has been cultivated, and then discredits the evidence offered in support. When Currie picks up the idea, focusing on the late 80s, the effects of Individualism are now apparent. Initially, I felt the articles conflicted – Coontz’s article is specifically calling away from the romanticizing of past generation’s stability, mobility, and ability to grasp the ‘American Dream,’ while Currie’s continuously calls back to ‘better days’ before the deindustrialization of our economy. After re-reading, I understand that Currie was trying to discuss the lack of growth and adaptation of the resources and support offered. However, we often forget that government support comes in forms beyond the SNAP program and unemployment. I think without the Coontz article to juxtapose, I would have viewed the Currie piece differently – that as the economic climate changed, we needed to create government assistance, not adapt the government assistance programs that, as Currie explains, helped past generations with issues similar to ours now.
I will say that I had issues with the way in which Currie discusses class issues. I felt that he attempted to use class as an equalizer of oppression.  While he does mention that the effect was worse for minorities, it was the ‘young white male’ that he really seemed to feel the need to save – as if the downfall of the white male was the way in which to gauge the downfall of our society. I think it’s important, if we’re going to discuss the influences that led us here, to wonder why this wasn’t a crisis until it stopped effecting ‘just’ minorities.
“We know that social and economic deprivation and a sense of exclusion from the “good life” breed drug abuse; but we have consciously chosen policies that have spread and deepened poverty and widened the gap between the deprived and affluent.” (Currie, 366)
Not only did we choose policies that deepened poverty, we chose not to enact policies to help the people who have lacked mobility for multiple decades. If we are going to compare the economic situations of one generation to the other, isn’t discussing the ‘downfall’ of one group by comparing it to the long-standing inequality of another degrading and ignoring the strife of the initial group?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rationalizing Poverty: Kozol

       While pieces like Kozol's are incredibly important, the purpose and intended audience of the author matters so much. The language that is chosen and the facts and details that are included can influence - both negatively and positively - what impacts the reader. I think Kozol toes this line very carefully. When many try so hard to dehumanize and demonize the idea of poverty - and what traits "land you" poverty - Kozol offers the argument that there is no way to rationalize poverty.

      The way that he presents the individuals he interviewed is powerful, and brings the human element of class struggles that is so often ignored. However, I was conflicted with the moments in which Kozol paints Mrs. Washington's anger or indignation as passing, moments. This feeling stayed with me throughout the rest of the article. Yes, society needs to be reminded of the parts of the population we have forgotten. Who have, quite literally, been lost in the system. But I don't know if painting away anger by highlighting sadness is the way to do it. The moments of anger are no less important. I don't think Kozol actively attempted to do anything other than present a powerful, moving piece. Yet, in the end, I don't think Kozol does anything to dissuade the idea of "bad poverty" - individuals who have ended up there due to their actions - versus the idea of "good poverty" - individuals who, like Mrs. Washington, ended up there at no fault of their own. Yes, one of Kozol's strongest points is that there is no way to rationalize poverty. Yet, there is a subtle contrast  between the story he paints of Mrs. Washington and her son and the individuals on the street - the ones who ultimately will represent the "bad poverty."

As a Social Work Major, this makes me uncomfortable. I cannot begin to understand the struggles  of Mrs. Washington, her son, or any other individual Kozol interacted with. However, I do not believe any of them are any less worthy of help. I can't help but feel like society has created a hierarchy within poverty itself. I fear that, there will still be a need to point fingers at other individuals who are not as saintly as we want them to be. Would this story be as powerful or moving, if it wasn't about someone a general audience could draw empathy to? As debates about welfare, and who deserves welfare, and what testing should be done to guarantee welfare, and what can be bought with welfare abounds, I think what Mrs. Washington's son said about the people in power, is the only explaining that needs to be done:

"'Evil exists,' he says, not flinching at the word. 'I believe that the rich have done to the poor in this city is something that a preacher could call evil. Somebody has power. Pretending that they don't so they don't need to use it to help people - that is my idea of evil."

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Hey, I'm Alexis, or Lexi, and I'm a social work major with a gender studies minor. I wanted to take this class because this is a topic I've been reading a little about in my free time lately, and I think having a much better understanding of it is important - especially in a social work context. My favorite activities include sleeping, the internet and making pop culture references.  I have a Harry Potter tattoo, can quote Grease 2 in its entirety, and have no shame regarding that fun fact. I work at Kohl's and between that and school, I lack a lot of free time. However, as much as I complain, I really enjoy both, especially the classes I take. Until someone offers me a job as a professional sleeper, that is. I am highly qualified for that and will be done with my education on the spot.