Bye Bye AERA, Hello Games for Change!

  Thank you Chicago & AERA. It has been indescribable. Looking forward to DC next year! Hopefully the weather will hold out just a titch longer & I can extend my stay next year to include Smithsonian days. Unfortunately I barely viewed Chicago’s wonders beyond a comic book store, a few queer bars, & the park with the giant metal bean. 

Currently I am warming myself in a Chinatown cafe before boarding my bus back to New York City. Games for Change begins on the morrow & I know I am ill prepared. Hopefully the bus ride provides sufficient time to process the wonderful research I was exposed to over the last week. Special thanks to Dr. De La Vega, Vanessa Folds, GLSEN researchers Emily Greytak & Joe Kosciw, Dr. Meyer, Jake McWilliams, Dr. Stevens, James GambrellCatherine Kemeny Gambrell, and all the others that I can’t seem to hold in my head. You made this a great event.

My Vlogging broke down and I have yet to edit today’s video (yesterday did not happen) but feel free to check out my vlogs listed below:

Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNxw7WAV0HqB6F6ExiXlSIgn5OwtRrPG6

Day One: https://youtu.be/rMhnao46nDU

Day Two: https://youtu.be/lY9EHfYFieo

Day Three: https://youtu.be/ZZY19Emi5MA

 

Also – photos…

       

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Writing is Important-er-er

Importanter-er

Spelling and Grammar: Important, Writing: Important-er-er

Many of my blog posts and LinkedIn writings contain spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. I love these little gems of reality. I need an editor of course. When I worked with an educational team or at the university I relied on a group of colleagues for peer feedback. Sometimes students volunteered to help with my less than fluent writing. The thing is, I love writing and I love writing wildly.

I love writing, not for the act of writing itself, but for the expression. Writing, like my digital art endeavors and videos, provides an opportunity to say something. Let a thought out into the wilderness. Unfortunately writing comes with a cost. It is not pure expression.

Too many short sentences in a row breaks a readers concentration. Too many long sentences slow down the pace too much. Repetitiously using the same sentence style drives folks batty. Referencing obscure puns while starting each sentence off with the same sound does not help the reader echo-locate their way through a passage. You said the the same article twice. An article in a sentence makes the writer a bat without flight…..

These are sneaky grammatical and spelling issues. Well, “the the” is really a typo. Typos and spelling errors are actually the sneakiest of writing stumps. Especially with spellcheck. Or is it spell check? Who knows? Spellcheck doesn’t spell check or check the spelling of spell and check. Does it matter? In a recent letter of interest to a position in equity education advocacy that I would dearly love to have – “the the” happened. It was supposed to be “to the”. I only noticed after my nerves calmed down post-application submission. Hopefully the-the reader “to the” letter will give-give me-me a break-break. Now I sound like juvenile. This letter mattered to me. So spellcheck or spell check – it does matter. Except on my blog and on my personal social media. Here I write for the wilderness.

Why do I love to write if my product is full of errors and open to so much criticism? Why do I love to write when my colleagues and friends have become inhibited in their writing? I think, in part, this was due to a teacher of English I met as a sign language interpreter. To them writing was artwork. Make mistakes. Discover gems in mistakes. Let students write wildly. Let the writing roam the wilderness for a few months. We can peer edit later, once the wilderness starts to pale.

I loved this philosophy and yet I hear friends state that they loathe writing. My belief is that this comes from the systematic education of our industrial age education system. Writing became, less art, more system. Education targets perfection in writing over art. Since when did perfection, grammatical soundness, or correct (and arbitrary) spelling have anything to do with expression?

Real English used by native speakers does not exist within the idealized written form. So why do we strive, and beat ourselves up for failing to achieve, the idealized form of English? “Standard Written English” is a consensus form of English. Over the years folks at the upper echelons of academic society (publishers, writers, educators and others) developed this consensus agreement of what is clear and proper for English writing. The idea is that a uniform standard of communication can be understood by all speakers and users of English regardless of differences in dialect, pronunciation, and usage.

My objection to this idea is that the consensus version of Standard Written English creates a class barrier. English educators, untrained in taking a social justice approach to sharing Standard Written English, often lay the foundations that inhibit potential writers. Happily, new training and conferences are slowly correcting this issue.

Recently, attending a social justice for teaching English style conference, I listened to presenters urge teachers to follow the critical reflection; six “re-s” of reflecting, reconsidering, refusing, reconceptualizing, rejuvenating, and reengaging as applied to lessons. As APPLIED to lessons! How does your writing assignment (not classroom culture but CURRICLUM!) support the diverse student body culturally? Does your approach to sharing Standard Written English perpetuate class barriers? Or break them down? Teaching for social justice is not just an act of student reflection, acceptance, and respect, but an act of teacher reflection, acceptance, and respect.

Let us not disenfranchise writers. Please do not oppress the writings of diverse people. Let them write into the wild – on blogs, LinkedIn, and other sources. Then, cautiously and with respect for the diverse wild creature of self-expression, show writers how to create and domesticate their works into the docile Standard Written English version of their writing. Grammatically correct sentences are important. Spelling is important. Writing is important-er-er.

What is Educational Equity Doing?

scales balancing educationEducational Equity AKA Equity in Education:

Defined as fairness, opportunity, and measure of achievement in education according to the indomitable wikipedia. The idea of educational equity is much more nebulous than the wiki definition. According to some scholars equity in education is most significantly influenced by race and class. Others cite gender and socio-economics. Language diversity. Religion. Sexuality. Rural vs metropolitan areas. Regardless of which area viewed as the “most” influential, I think educators can agree that all children deserve the advantages they need to graduate from high school and either succeed in college or find competitive employment opportunities. So what are the resources needed to give all children the opportunities they need to meet this goal?

  • Qualified Teachers, Principals and Other Personnel
  • Suitable, Up-to-Date Curricula
  • Additional Resources for “At-Risk” Youth
  • Resources for Youth with Additional Needs (Disabilities, English Language)
  • Class Size/Group Size
  • Safe Environment
  • Facilities that are Accessible and Adequate
  • Books, Media Center, Technologies and Other Supplies (Desks etc)

How many? What type? The Equity Campaign found deficiencies in 28 out of 33 schools in their study. Those were based on state (NY) minimum requirements. That the state minimum requirements have become the maximum that students can expect in some schools is pretty terrible. And that assumes state minimums actually achieve educational equity. Not only are the minimum violated, but these basic requirements do not sufficiently meet the needs to provide students the opportunity to meet standards for a high school graduation that leads to college or career readiness.

Oregon, my home state, also struggles with how to build an equitable educational system. Senate Bill 253 requires that all adults in Oregon will have a high school diploma or equivalent by 2025. Sounds great. Wait? 2025? The Bill also says that 40% of adults will have an associate’s degree or another postsecondary certificate and another 40% will have a bachelor’s or other advanced degree. Just in case you are worried that the 20% without a college degree will be those who are already treated inequitably – the Bill stipulates a 40-40-20 representation of every student in Oregon. People of color should, if the Bill achieves the goals set out in it, attain 40% bachelor or higher degrees, 40% associates, and 20% high school diploma or the equivalent. Great goal but are they going to achieve all this?

There is still a disportionality in terms of people of color receiving fewer opportunities. Social opportunity plays a big part in educational opportunity. The Oregon Investment Board discusses implementing more culturally responsive teaching practices but how will they provide the educator development to meet these goals. A young person in second-grade today is supposed to graduate high school under this 40-40-20 ratio. Have their teachers received the training they need to make this happen? Have class sizes shrunken appropriately? Is the curricula up to date?

Cornell West said, “A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue.” I would love to join the educational equity dialogue world-wide and seek to make the substantive changes within explicit, implicit, and hidden curriculums. Why does the bell ring have more significance than immersion in a learning opportunity? What are the root causes of disparity attributed to race, class, language, and other societal and institutional barriers? How can we make school culture visible so that all stakeholders can look to implement a culturally responsive culture. What needs to happen to help educators adapt their discourse and perspective to the ideal of equitable education?

I think about these issues a lot. Usually in the context of LGBTQ educational equity. Typically people can agree on the need for the big picture to change. As we dive into the specifics, educators, policy makers, parents, and others start to argue about what suitable curricula look like. Whether class size really matters. Financial constraints. What composes a qualified school administrator or teacher. I might say an LGBTQ identified educator provides invaluable mentorship to LGBTQ youth. Another educator immediately disagree and suggest such a member of the educational team is not needed. I have witnessed a faculty agree that hiring more diverse candidates is the priority during a hiring cycle only to discard the resumes of people of color. The discourse, therefore, needs to be reflective and continual.

Whether conflicts center around behavior, work habits, pedagogical ideas, policies, or practices, to attain educational equity for a school requires school leaders and educators to build trust and healthy collaboration. Relationships are critical to the work of schools. Student-teacher, teacher-teacher, teacher-administrator, all the relationships are important for building and maintaining a school climate conducive to equity in education according to the National School Climate Council. In this, questioning the systemic causes of disparities amongst students, schools have the opportunity to attain greater equity.

Anti-LGBTQ Legislation & Youth

This year, as marriage equality has gained ground, the religious freedom legislation appears to proliferate across the United States. Recently Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law that he claims will protect religious liberty. What the law does is allow businesses and workers to refuse service to anyone they find objectionable, citing their religious beliefs. Legalized discrimination in public accommodations. If you are confused and think that, as private business owners, these places are not public accommodations let FindLaw explain:

Generally speaking, it may help to think of public accommodations as most (but not all) businesses or buildings that are open to (or offer services to) the general public. More specifically, the definition of a “public accommodation” can be broken down into two types of businesses/facilities:

  • Government-owned/operated facilities, services and buildings
  • Privately-owned/operated businesses, services, and buildings

To read more click here.

As anti-discrimination policies and laws have started including sexual orientation and gender identity as protect classes, LGBTQ people were protected from discrimination in the public spaces. With 36 states already allowing marriage equality and 56% (NORC survey) of Americans in support of this issue it is fairly clear that the anti-same-sex marriage campaign is on the losing end. Now, hiding behind religious freedom, opponents to civil rights for LGBTQ people are putting together bills that give them the right to discriminate.

Indiana is already facing #BoycottIndiana, my favorite tweet of which was:

 


Hopefully the bill is challenged in court or new legislation invalidates this but my question is how will these bills impact young people? Adults can move and boycott. Large businesses can move their operations and refuse to hold events, conferences, and conduct business. But what can a young LGBTQ kid do? What harm might come to them?

I engage in this question because the initial posts on this issue were about bakery owners refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage. This action, while hurtful and definitely discriminatory did not strike the deep horror in some of my friends as it did in me. Getting a second tier cake, even given a potential bridesilla/groomzilla moment, seems harmless to them.

Lets fast forward to an instance reported in the Boston Globe: Lawmakers Approve Intolerance:

In February, a lesbian couple took their newborn daughter to her first appointment with a Michigan pediatrician they’d chosen months earlier. When they arrived, they were told that the doctor, after “much prayer,” decided she could not treat a child of lesbians.

As described in the article, all this reminds me of studying the Jim Crow tactics and racial segregation. There is a rising hostility even as LGBTQ folks gain equality in marriage. Examples already exist, such as Tyra Hunter in 1995 being denied and given inadequate care after a car accident and subsequently dying, of what this could look like at scale. News organizations maintain industry standards that discourage journalists from reporting details on suicide, thus silencing the final words of trans people as represented in the death of Aubrey Mariko Shine.

LGBTQ kids often do not have LGBTQ parents or community to support them in this adverse environment. What are they going to do? Reports from GLSEN and other youth focussed LGBTQ advocacy organizations show increased resiliency among openly LGBTQ youth even while facing increased victimization. How will this change if “public accommodation” can refuse them service?

Male Privilege in the Comic Book or Gaming Store

Just 'cause it is pink doesn't mean it is for girls.

Just ’cause it is pink doesn’t mean it is for girls.

I walk into a game store and…

No one comes up to me asking what I want. No one questions my interest in Halo. No one smirks when I coo (yes, I cooed) over the new Zelda game. In fact, gaming stores and comic stores are one of the first places I realized I could display non-normed behavior someone perceived to be male. If I accidentally squealed in excitement as seeing a new Final Fantasy release on the demo stand someone might smirk a little but it would be with understanding. Games are exciting. Gamers are geeky. Squealing might get you mocked in the locker room but at GameStop you are accepted and respected as a member of the club. If you are male.

I identify as outside the gender binary. BUT my transgressions against my biological sex actually help me fit in deeper with the gamer and comic book crowd. These places were staked out by scrawny geeks looking to have a bit of territory safe from harassing elements that viewed their interests with disdain. Now the male behavior in this space seem extremely territorial. If you do not fit into the geeky male archetype you are viewed with suspicion. Someone biologically female actually gets a double whammy of alienation and harassment.

Many women go into one of these spaces and suffer overly attentive clerks when they just want to browse. My friend related the story of buying Grand Theft Auto and being asked who she was buying it for. She seems to have suffered the swath of prejudice and suspicion that I never experience. She sighed over the Legend of Zelda game she was buying for me. The sigh was probably because she knows I think Link is hot. Apparently someone in the store guffawed. Her word, not mine. If she had squealed over the Sims (something she bought for me) would they have treated her with increasing hostility?

Why should she have to prove her gamer cred? Why should anyone? Yes, gamers get territorial but that doesn’t mean it is right. In fact I find the fact that male gamers behave in these ways very distasteful. Uncouth. Disgusting. I get that membership in a group of privilege often causes blindness to the benefits. I have my own privileged blind spots to figure out as well. Hopefully my friends and colleagues continue to graciously point out when I start taking someone else’s struggles for granted.

If you really want to get into this check out Jonathan McIntosh’s article “Playing with privilege: The invisible benefits of gaming while male” on Polygon Gaming. You can also take a look at the video embedded below based on that article or watch it on YouTube.

Full transcript available at: http://www.feministfrequency.com/2014…

Utah’s LGBT Anti-Discrimination & Schools: Questions, Questions, Questions

LGBT Brick Road

I think Murrur’s “Russian Embassy in Helsinki, LGBT pavement” makes a poignant reminder of the threat to civil liberty that continues to harm LGBT folks all over the globe.

This essay describes my thoughts after reading the Utah LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill and Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act that has since gone defunct. I kept looking for articles describing how these acts impact education. My research references, so heavily focussed on game design, the student experience, and increasing minority representation in the educator body, have not prepared me to understand how legislation impacts policy and the embodied experience in schools. If anyone wants to share resources I should look into I would appreciate it. What follows are my initial thoughts peppered with experiences that might better describe my concerns.

Following the passage of the Utah LGBT anti-discrimination bill I have a lot of questions about how this will play out in education: public, private, charter, higher education, and early childhood education. The bill makes it illegal to base employment, housing, or loans decisions on LGBT status. It makes an exemption for religious affiliated organizations like schools and hospitals. It also allows people to express religious beliefs in the workplace without retribution.

In education there are ethical and legal considerations around what a teacher says to their captive audience. Still would an educator see the provision for expression of belief as a loop hole? Probably not, after all that would interfere with the running of the school, right? The policies by the Utah State Board of Education as codified in this legislation protect the rights of parents with children in public schools to know about and consent or withhold consent on topics of “human sexuality”. I think any educator who wanted to share religious views relating to sexuality would need to consider this provision. By expressing religious beliefs about the nature of human sexuality they would require both informing parents about the nature of the discourse and obtain consent.

It does mean that openly LGBT educators who serve as valued community outreach agents and role models for LGBT students and families may have to put up with religiously-based homophobic discussions in the staff room. Even if no one is specifically targeted or even in the room I have observed the rumor sieve that the faculty lounge provides the entire school population.

In terms of bathrooms I am curious how the gender-specific restrooms and other facilities section with play out in schools. The wording for the rules and policies on this section was “reasonable” but sometimes what a school sees as reasonable can place an undo burden on students who identify outside the gender binary. Use of a private bathroom that also serves as administrative bathroom accommodation or a facility in the health room carries a stigma that may potentially be harmful or simply inconvenient in larger schools.

I remember one student who, on an average day, had no problem accessing the staff bathroom. However, when the secretary was out sick her replacement forbid the student from accessing the appropriate facility. The student, unable to use other facilities, spent several hours in discomfort as well as enduring verbal harassment from the substitute. Eventually, after the young student gained access to a faculty advocate, the situation reached resolution.

Is this reasonable?

This brings me to other legislation that includes religious exemptions. Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act would allow business owners to refuse service to people in the LGBT community. In a sly twist Rep. Emily Virgin added an amendment that would require business owners who refuse service to the gay community to post their refusal publicly on websites and their front door.

“If you want to discriminate under this law if it passes, then you’re legally allowed to do that, but you need to own it. You need to fess up to it,” Rep. Virgin said.

Of course I decided to imagine what this might look like if teachers were required to post their bias on their classroom doors. As a student I would never have stepped inside a couple classrooms that it took me months to see the extent of an educators racism, sexism, and a host of other prejudices. As an educator I am curious how millennials would react to this system. The ability to clearly see and avoid places refusing to serve diverse communities would definitely impact and drive home the economic repercussions of such discrimination.

Last I heard the bill had been pulled. If another bill arises, and other similar bills in other states go forward, I hope to see similar amendments. I like the juxtaposition of legislation providing acknowledgement of religious freedom but actually highlighting the hypocrisy and prejudice underlining the reason for its creation. Yes you are free to practice a religion that encourages prejudice – but no skulking around feigning tolerance.

I want to see what this would do in education. I expect something messy and scary. Almost a year ago I interviewed an administrator who spoke positively about a diverse educational communities. Later data collection revealed this same administrator consistently denied students access to programs or the ability to form students organizations that supported diversity. If they were required to post their bias before denying these programs the community would have them out of their position immediately. Instead, because they are allowed to operate obscurely, they continue to marginalize diverse members of the student body.

These are complicated issues and I am probably simplifying ideas and not quoting the theorists who could support or refute my statements. Instead this essay has allowed me, in a semi-critical way, to think through current scenarios in education. While the laws tend to focus on domestic and business interactions they impact the culture of school in more ways than I have expressed. I am curious how this will all play out.