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Schooling the Symbolic Animal, Essay Example

Pages: 8

Words: 2066

Essay

Section 1: Several of the articles in the first section of the book focus on the development of the anthropological concept of culture. What are the important features of this concept?  How did we see culture as important for thinking about education?

There are many features to consider in the anthropological concept of culture.  Because society and culture is comprised of many differences, it is important to take all concepts into consideration for the best understanding of their functions.  Anthropologist study these cultures and how they shift when the people of these cultures change.  Students learn in the classroom setting for a greater portion of their development and this is where these students overall role in the environment is formed.  It is not just about their mom and dad, neighborhood, or even society, there are many other factors that make up the overall concept of a culture.  Education in one community may not be as effective as that in another.  The anthropological concept of culture broadens an individual’s overall learning process.

An example is the historical emergent process is that of the symbolic animal.  This is a way to understand the change, what is gained or lost, and how to use that in an educational change.  Children go through a development process throughout their entire lives.  Thesechildrenbegin learning from their parents and in their homes.  They then go into a learning institution, they have to adapt to their educators methods.  This process continues to change and progress as they retain the knowledge presented to them.  As educators, students, and teachers it is important to understand symbolic animal as well as how society is started, organized, and transmitted into social life.  By implementing and understanding the development of the anthropological concept of culture the learning and teaching process can be far more effective.

Culture is important for thinking about education.  “The process of education thus can be construed broadly as humanity’s unique method of acquiring, transmitting, and producing knowledge for interpreting and acting upon in the world. In the broadest sense, education underlies every human group’s ability to adapt to its environment.  Effective education allows a group to continually adapt and thereby reproduce the conditions of its existence.” (Levinson)  How an individual is brought up essentially dictates their entire process and importance of education.  For example, a child who never experiences their parents reading to them will be less likely to have that desire later on in their learning process.  A child who is exposed early on to reading and utilizing their own imagination will have a greater outcome with literacy and understanding during their education.  Many cultures continue the patterns of what they themselves were taught as well.  Understanding culture is an important part of thinking about what form of education would be most effective for the learner.  It is also vital for implementing change when necessary.

Section 2: In “What no Bedtime Story Means,” Shirley Brice Heath talks about the three different forms of literacy among the families in Maintown, Roadville and Trackton.  Can you talk a little about each form of family literacy?  How does Brice Heath think these different forms of literacy will impact kids in school?

Maintown operated on an “incipient literacy” pattern.  This is a community that considers themselves middle-class or just typical.  Reading is implemented at an early age, as young as six months, and the children are continually challenged to improve their literacy abilities.  Reading and comprehensive understanding of their reading was far more acceptable than writing and other academic functions.  The what-explanation also played a vital role in the overall comprehension that coincides with literacy.  This is when students are taught to identify topic sentences, answer standardized testing’s, and create outlines based on their own individual readings.  As the children progress, the training shifts from what-explanation to reason-explanation.  This when configuration is utilized more so than hierarchy skills.  Maintown encourages this change because it prevents predictability and prevents the redundancy that could potentially surface.  Reason-explanation demands knowledge and understanding, it does not allow individuals to get by without a thorough understanding.  Maintown’s literacy practice has encouraged their youth to not only read, but also comprehend and communicate it with others.  Their practice has been beneficial for their community and starting with the young, has been continued on throughout their entire educational experience.

Roadville believes that the best literacy approach is that adults teach the children how to talk.  This community is comprised of white-working class community of textile mills workers, going back at least four generations.  From an early age, adults read nursery rhymes to their children and use typical graphics to surround their young.  Children are taught early on that word etiquette is a requirement.  This include please, thank you and other similar phrases.  Adults take phrases and make them into proper sentences so that children can hear and mimic the proper way to communicate.  Books are used to teach letters, numbers, and the alphabet.  Reading occurs for the children during their developing stages.  Lastly, workbooks are used to allow children to allow questions and answers of specific readings.  They also enhance a form of reading comprehension.  Roadville’s literacy practice differs from Maintown in several ways.  Roadville believes that literacy does not have to go beyond reading a book.  If one can read, they are considered literate.  Perhaps by definition this is true, but without real understanding of what a group of words is saying, literacy is not truly obtained.  Roadville’s day to day routines do not always require the use of reading as well.  For example, cooking is done from memory, building is done from personal knowledge, and teaching is done from experience.  Literacy is continually utilized in their adult lives.

Trackton takes the literacy perspective that children learn to talk.  This community is made up of black working class individuals who is either land workers, or employed by the textile mills.  The luxuries that the other two communities have, are not prevalent in Trackton.  They live simple due to a lack of money and or real need.  Reading material is not available for children, outside of Sunday school papers that are given to the young.  Adults don’t practice sitting and reading with their children.  Older children sometimes read to the younger ones, but because it is not a typical practice in their culture, the younger children are eager to go play instead.  Children use rhyming and other banters as a form of learning and communicating.  However, adults typically do not acknowledge this behavior unless the children become loud and bothersome.  And finally, as they grow, their interactions with adults is how they learn.  When they finally reach school, they are forced to face situation and information they have never been exposed to previously.  They score low on their reading comprehension and lose interest in their educational experience.   Whereas they learn to read, there is a much lower comprehension skill than that of other communities.  Their low grades and lose interest in their education at a very early age.

Shirley Brice Heath has completed an extensive study on how different forms of literacy impacts kids in school. What, or how, children learn as they grow up is essentially gained from the environment around them, which they live.  Reading about the real world is thus interpreted based on as natural versus learned.   Literacy is not only about reading the words on a page, they are about true understanding and comprehension.  With true literacy, students succeed much better in every area of education and in life.  The research that Heath has compiled based on Maintown, Roadville and Trackton shows how much a culture can affect the overall well-being of their children’s literacy and education.  Early preparation and knowledge arms the children to have a working knowledge of what is being presented in the classroom and gives them the opportunity to excel in their education.

Section 3: What is the argument that Holland and Eisenhart make about the “gender status quo” in their article, “Moments of Discontent?”  In the final section of the paper they ask the question why don’t more women resist the system.  What do they mean by this question and what is their answer to it?

Holland and Eisenhart address the unspoken challenges that arise regarding gender status quo in an educational environment.  They believed that students will act in school in a manner that society had afforded them.  “The students’ discontent may lead to an oppositional stance that disrupts the social status quo, but often, for various reasons and despite its oppositional character, their response results in reproducing cultural values and patterns that con-tribute to the reproduction of structured inequalities and traditional class and group relationships. In this article, we begin from.” (Holland)  Culture forms acceptance, and it is not exclusive to race or religions, in this article it addresses the very real issue of educational discrepancies based on gender.  And in addition, does the weaker gender, as proposed in this article, stand up to the dominate gender in order to acquire the educational experience they feel they deserve?

In the article, “Moments of Discontent?” they do an in depth study of women in two specific universities.  The sample consisted of women who has some career involving science and math.   These women had a variation of majors, size of peer networks, ideas about their futures, and extracurricular interests.  This group also had a strong high school academic record.  One university, SU, had predominately white, middle-class students.  The other university, Bradford, was mostly black lower-class students.  In the study they found women to complain about their treatment.  Holland and Eisenhart found that the major discontent associated with these women was based predominately on social statuses. This means their peer-relations, or more importantly, romantic-relations were what affected their perception of status quo.  Their own personal value was based on attractiveness.  How attractive a women was to a male determined their peer-relations.  Their relationships with other women was also determined by their overall relationship with the men as well.

Another concern that these women presented was their treatment by the male students.  This does not mean the male is not respectful or does not treat her well, it means that they do not necessarily allow the women to think for herself.  They try to dictate the future that they believe is best suitable for her versus what she herself believes is best.  There was no clear way for the women to oppose the age-old system of a male/female relationship.  The women trying to strategically change or negotiate the system was ineffective as well.   Allowing such peer relationships to emerge in this manner without some type of mediation is not necessarily beneficial for either the male or female.  Cultures have trained these peer groups to see situations in this manner.  Basing rankings on attractiveness can truly be detrimental to the females.  The schools are not void of responsibility in the patriarchal system, however in this study the universities involvement was not really relevant.  These women were not completely unhappy with the peer-status quo as they perceived it, but they were away of the system in place.

It is an important question to consider, why don’t more women resist the system?  In this case, it is safe to conclude that there was no clear way to oppose the system.  The complaints warranted no real grounds to address with their teachers or to contest their grades.  Perhaps part of the problem was based on the eye of the interpreter.  This means that what one student views as a negative, another student may view as a positive.  The study did show that an attractive women’s experience maybe more favorable than that of an unattractive women.  “However, the peer ranking system was sufficiently vague and sufficiently ameliorative that it was difficult to grasp or to oppose.” (Holland)The answer to the overall question is that there is no specific formula that enables these women a way to oppose or fight the status quo that occurred on these college campuses.  It’s not that they would not have stood up for the situation, but because it was subjective to individual perception, there was no way to stand up and demand a change in the system.

References:

Holland, Dorothy C. & Margaret A. Eisenhart.  Moments of Discontent: University Women and the Gender Status Quo, 1988. Print.

Levinson, Bradley, A.U.; Borman, Katherine M.; Eisenhart, Margaret; Foster, Michele; and Amy E. Fox.  Schooling the Symbolic Animal: Social and Cultural Dimensions of Education, 2002.  Print.

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