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.

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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.

LGBTQ Youth Threatened by Indiana RFPA?

First, the frustrations:

Governor, as of this writing, still has not provided a solid answer regarding the impact of the Religious Freedom Bill’s application to LGBTQ people. Watching the interview below, he actively dodged the question. All of the political maneuvering leaves me feeling sick to the stomach. The people of Indiana will eventually correct their errant politicians. Especially with folks trying out new hashtags like #INsupportsLGBT.

Meanwhile, we get to learn painful factoids like Governor Pence used to serve on IFI, the anti-LGBT organization in Indiana.

 

Also, despite Pence refusing to identify the lobbyists in the photo, we have that tidbit. (He does realize this is the 21st century right?)

Lobbyists at Pence signing of Religious Freedom biill: Micah Clark, Curt Smith, Eric Miller Now to my worry:

What does all this mean for LGBTQ youth in Indiana? This was my worry in yesterday’s post. Luckily, part of my answer came from GLSEN.

Dr. Eliza Byard, of GLSEN, also provided this interview neatly summarizing my worries and what needs to happen to rebuild trust and security for LGBTQ youth in Indiana:


Twitter was full of support as well:



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…

LGBTQ Issues 2015

LGBTQ-Issues-2015What are the biggest LGBTQ Issues of 2015?

My top three:

LGBTQ Youth Homelessness

  • Depending on which resources you reference it is estimated that gender and sexual minority youth make up 40 percent of homeless youth in the United States.
  • At the intersection of race and gender and sexuality diverse young people the fact that the Congressional Research Center shows double the proportion of black homeless youth makes this and the following issues even more troubling.

Law & “Order”

  • LGBTQ youth on the street often face harsher penalties for petty crimes.
  • In some states running away from home (which an intolerant home environment may have precipitated) is considered a criminal offense if the individual is a minor.
  • Survival sex, detailed a bit in this article, becomes a last resource but police may use condom possession in general as evidence of prostitution for transgender women.
  • An inequitable percentage of queer and transgender youth, especially youth of color, are detained or imprisoned.

Safety and Violence

  • In addition to facing heightened police attention for prostitution and other crimes transgender women face the danger of physical violence. With at least twelve trans women of color’s deaths under investigation as hate crimes it is especially frightening.
  • The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report (2013) indicates that LGBT people of color experience physical violence almost twice as often compared to white LGBT people.
  • Issues of domestic violence in same-sex partnerships do not have adequate resources allocated.
  • According to GLSEN’s 2013 School Climate Survey, while things are improving, there are still large gaps in LGBTQ student safety and support at school.

Other Issues:

There are tons of other issues that remain important. The prior three are just the ones that stand out to me within the United States. Conversion therapy, marriage equality, representation in media, employment discrimination, and the struggles faced by LGBTQ senior citizens are among the big areas of concern. I suppose as an educator and youth advocate I am more aware of safety, homelessness, and police interactions than the others. Outside the United States there are much more intense struggles. The international LGBTQ advocacy scene really interests and frightens me. Even suspicions result in treatment that is beyond anything I could have imagined even in totalitarian societies. Those folks remind us that, as a global society, we have a long way to go.