This week I presented on the book “The Language Police”, by Diane Ravitch. This book explored the effects of censorship of standardized tests, textbook, and literature on students.
This week was very insightful, and as a class we had a lot of great discussion. I was able to present on the effects of censorship within standardized tests, textbooks and literature. Through this presentation, my perspective shifted on just how much the material presented within classrooms is manipulated or “swayed” one way or another. Censorship is leading to robotic minds that will eventually only be able to function on low level thinking skills due to the lack of proper exposure to real life experiences and situations. Every day more and more words are being banned, which in the long run presents an unreal and unimaginative reality to students. In my opinion, there is an extreme lack of exposure to not only certain words, but to this act that is robbing children of their past, present, and future. Textbook companies are creating a false reality of what was, is, and is to come.
We also learned about other educational systems from around the world. The presentation was intriguing, because recently in my classes, and just in general, the focus has been on American education and the pros and cons of going to school in “the best country in the world”. Is America actually the best country in the world? What constitutes a good country? Is education a factor considered when determining a good country? I enjoyed the discussion that sparked in class about this, because a question was raised that that was basically “What is the price of education?”.. Even though places like Singapore and Finland have fantastic education stats, it would be interesting to see the dynamic of other parts of their country like economy, job security, “happiness of their people” (suicide/depression rate).
We also learned about sources behind the achievement gap in white students and African American students. African American students are often not held to the same expectations as white students, which often looks like making it more difficult for them to enroll in higher track or AP courses.
Take away from the Divided States of America:
Last night, the Divided States of America opened a healthy discussion about how to possibly solve disagreements about why communities, states, and cities are becoming more and more divided. We started by exploring types of division in many different realms. We identified division in politics, race, social status, and socioeconomic status that are all applicable across essentially any realm or community. Right here in Starkville there is a huge divide in simply the university and the community. Some examples of the points we discussed were 1. how to revitalize cooperation 2. Bring People In, etc. It was a night that was insightful, and something that stuck out to me was the question, “How do you get someone to change their mind?”. I think the concise answer behind this is to just sell your “why” and not your “what”. If people see the passion and genuine efforts behind what you believe, they will be more accepting of them IF you are respectful of their perspective in the process.
Another “right” answer (of the millions) was brought to our focus group’s attention by a classmate of mine. My classmate was one of the first to speak up at the table and he simply replied, “In order to make someone change their mind, you HAVE to make them uncomfortable.” He was quickly challenged with the opposition that making someone uncomfortable couldn’t be further from the route to take, because people are not going to respond. I didn’t say much during that discussion, but I see his thinking, though. I think he very simply summarized a very deep concept. Change is not comfortable for anyone, quite possibly because of pride in oneself, having to change for the better but in turn admitting that one was once not doing something the “best” way; comfort, having to change who one interacts with, the type of language one uses, or how one spends free time; routine, choosing to revise some simple life decisions to better the group even if it doesn’t optimize “betterment” for oneself, or possibly having to change more than the little things and choosing to completely revolutionize one’s lifestyle from sun up to sun down. These are just a few reasons to be uncomfortable. Although these aren’t all reasons to be uncomfortable, they do not directly answer the question. They are, though, all supportive reasons why choosing to change your mind would be uncomfortable as well. In short, it is uncomfortable to choose uncomfortable, so if you want to get people to change their mind, get them uncomfortable.
I’ve never been to a focus group like the one last night before and I think that it was worth the time and discussion.