FNED 346

FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

Aria, by Richard Rodriguez

In his article, “Aria”, Rodriguez begins his story by making a distinction between speaking Spanish, the private language of his family at home, and learning formal English in school, the public language of the United States.  Rodriguez compares his experience of learning English as a child with a loss of intimacy within his family life.  In his particular case the catholic educational system denied him his culture, evidenced by the nuns' visiting his parents to request that they speak english to their children.  A well meaning however insensitive intervention by the catholic church to address what they believed to be a potential student at risk situation.

For such a young child, Rodriguez had an astute awareness that it was his right and in his best interest to learn english.  It was the public language, the primary means in which to communicate with the world.  It was true.  To be denied this right was to be denied the respect and opportunities that afforded those who speak english.  This is apart from the effect of race and economic status on privilege.  In Delpit’s words, for Rodriguez, english was the literacy of power, the “culture of power.” (Delpit, "Other People's Children", 2001)   But for Rodriguez, even though he chose to learn English, it was at the painful cost of lost intimacy at home.  The nuns behavior was a far cry from the compassionate approach to learning that native Alaskan teacher Martha Demientieff took helping her students appreciate the value of embracing both their “heritage language” and “Formal English”. (Delpit, 2001, p.41)

Rodriguez recalls a pivotal moment at 7 years old, when he stood up in his class and proudly answered a question correctly in english.  A turning point by his admission, english became his primary language.  

When I was 7 years old my family took a sabbatical in Holland for a year.  My 2 sisters and I were enrolled in Dutch schools and within a month my whole family was fairly comfortable speaking Dutch, adequately, with each other, in school and in public.  However as both of my parents spoke German as a first language and english as a second language, adding another language seemed commonplace.  My sisters and I were already used to hearing two languages.  We understood enough German from listening to my parents as they frequently drifted back and forth between the two.  But by no means am I implying that my situation was in any way similar to what Rodriguez recalls except to say we were both young, impressionable and 7 years old.  And in contrast to his memories, I have never felt that my personal heritage was ever at risk based on how we were required to communicate with the outside world.  On the contrary as a first generation American with very mixed cultural roots, I had a difficult time empathizing with this story.  It felt as if there was something deeper going on, and learning the English language wasn’t fully to blame.  I do not claim to understand what that deeper issue is.  And although I am white, social and economic privilege in my family was earned by my parents.  After all they were German born and had immigrated to America in the early 50's with both jewish and christian roots.  My mother came from Germany, my father traveled from South America.

In “Other People’s Children” Delpit believes that learning to speak English in America is analogous to learning the rules of a culture of power.  But it doesn't need to be an indictment of a person’s personal heritage.  On the contrary it means one can learn the rules of the inherently privileged and how to utilize those rules to open doors to future career and economic opportunities for oneself.  Rodriguez’s recollection was the opposite.  He described a decreased connection with his family and their culture as his proficiency with the English language improved.  In exchange for opportunity, he felt denied of his heritage.

Although my parents were bilingual, english was and is my first language, and I watched my parents earn privilege through hard work and great sacrifice on our behalf.  My father was in higher education, my mother, also well educated, had to guide her family, her children through the ways of America.  Learning for the greater good was front and center in my home and community.  Our house was also brimming with the universal languages of music and art.  I never experienced the type of personal loss Rodriguez speaks of.  

Attached is a link to Wikipedia for Richard Rodriguez.  Not surprisingly, he has received many literary accolades including a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction writing.  He is outspoken and well versed in the topics of bilingual education and affirmative action.


And this is a painting from my Paternal Grandmother, a piece of my culture.  

AND, I had to add this.  It's is a link to Jon Stewart's Feb 14, 2014 interview of NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio.  The mayor talks about policy initiatives to end the stop and frisk tactics that targeted young black males, and his initiative to make Pre-K accessible to all city children. . . . this is truly amazing.  Good things are happening. . .


Dr Bogad

"Other's People's Children, recognizing Cultural Conflict in the Classroom"

In the article “Other People’s Children, Cultural Conflict in the Classroom” Lisa Delpit shares her insight on the debate among many educators on how best to teach literacy to the diversity of children in a classroom.  As students ourselves, we are continually reminded that one of our biggest challenges will be how to address that diversity.  How do we effectively teach every child everything they need to be successful?  To understand this debate, Delpit examines what she refers to as a “culture of power”.  She believes that every culture has a unique form of communication, and that in the classroom one culture dominates all others.  The result is that children who are already products of this dominant culture, middle and upper class white children, have a distinct advantage over their classmates.  The teaching ideology currently used is best suited to the learning abilities of the white children from this "culture of power", and consequently they have access to the best opportunities for future employment.  The rest of the class is labeled.  They are considered not as smart, savvy, or prepared.  But they are simply victims of a troubled educational system.

Delpit continues to help us understand this “culture of power” by dividing it into five categories.  My interest is in the second category, “the ways of talking, ways of writing, ways of dressing, and the ways of interacting”  These are behaviors that those in power understand, respect and reward.  If you already know, or can learn, and apply these rules to your social interactions, you are “playing the game” and you will have a better chance of succeeding in the world of privilege, in this case the workplace.

Delpit’s points are similar to McIntosh’s in “White Privilege” (2001).  McIntosh shows us that if the privileged deny the existence of racism, they are denying responsibility for a problem they are in part responsible for.  Delpit points out that many of the privileged do not recognize the existence of cross cultural problems in the classroom.  They too are denying the existence of the "culture of power", so deny responsibility for a failed system that they helped design.  In addition, if educators of color and the students of other cultures also deny the existence of the culture or “linguistics" of power they are doomed to fail.  As with all problems, nothing can be fixed unless it is recognized and acknowledged first.  And as we have seen in our readings so far, denial is pervasive in our society, although it could be an indication of how helpless many of us feel.  

I am grateful for this article.  And particularly grateful for Martha Demientieff.  A “masterful Native Alaskan” teacher who created an environment where she helped her students embrace two cultures, their own “heritage language” and “Formal English” (the culture of power).   Demientieff  set up visual examples of the contrasting cultures and explained that there were “people, not like those in (their) village , who judge others by the way they talk or write.”  She explained the differences as facts and helped her students see that is was a good thing.  She was teaching her students how to be successful in the real world.  I am impressed by such a simple yet effective model, she has given me something useful, and I am putting it in my toolbox.  I believe that the state of our economy can be blamed in part on this culture of power.  Imagine how different the workforce would look if it was driven by talent and skill.  Instead the judgements keep qualified applicants form securing positions simply because they cannot play the game and communicate in “formal english”.

Demientieff shows that the game can be defined, and the rules can be clarified.  My field work is at the Met Alternative high school.  All of the students are responsible for creating internships and are already learning that playing the game isn’t denying your own culture, it’s being smart about creating opportunities for yourself.  

I would be interested in discussing the power culture in the news media.  Newscasters speak in “formal english”.  Ironically Oprah Winfrey lost her first broadcasting job because she was told she wasn’t Television material.  In spite of that initial setback, she has become one of the most powerful women in this country.  Just listen to how she speaks.  She played the game.  And after achieving her position of power, she began putting programs in place to challenge that culture of power.  Below is a link to a short video showcasing the first graduating class at the Leadership Academy in South Africa in 2012.  It is important to note that Delpit believes that for true change to occur it needs to be initiated at the top.  Oprah's South African Academy is a perfect example of change coming from the top.

I am including this photo as well.  Look at the sign.  It was created by a graphic designer.  What a great example of someone in a position of "power" helping someone that doesn't have the "linguistic skills" to create this work of art.  How would you react if you drove by this person.  And look at the smile on her face.  I think this is wonderful . . . The little things add up!


FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

Jonathon Kozol, "Amazing Grace"

In “Amazing Grace”, Jonathon Kozol offers a subjective view of Mott Haven, NY in 1995.   95% of the population were poor in this section of the south Bronx which boasted the largest concentration of racially segregated people in the US.  Children in the school system received free lunches because they were categorized as “destitute”.  This, in the heart of New York City, a place where “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”  Kozol offers no solutions.  And I believe his choice to write this was about acknowledgement and raising consciousness.  He never injects his own feelings into the dialogues he had with the children, adolescents and adults of this community.  In 1995, it was with “amazing grace” that the men women and children of Mott Haven lived their lives.

As a nation if we are to have a conscience about this horrific quality of life in our own backyard, Mott Haven, we have to acknowledge that it exists.  In “White Privilege: Unspeaking the Invisible Knapsack”  McIntosh states that obliviousness to the existence of privilege (or lack there of) is strongly “inculturated” in our country so as to maintain the myth that choice is available to all.  The privileged cling to the illusion that they are doing good, helping those less fortunate, without actually doing anything.  For purposes of discussion, the less fortunate in this case are the residents of Mott Haven.  And through Kozol’s accounts, we see the inability of a government implemented welfare system to help those who “chose” to get help.  For many in Mott Haven, resignation was an easier option after multiple attempts to work within the system failed.  So this choice looked like poverty and destitution.  Our government, those with power and privilege created the welfare system and in Mott Haven it wasn’t working.  

In “Privilege Power and Difference”, I was stuck on a notion that was never addressed in the article: Do the inherently privileged want things to change, do they want their lives to change.  Can things change?  What should we as a society do to facilitate change?  What can individuals do?  How can the residents of Mott Haven change their position, if the system created by those with power to help them doesn’t work?  What can I do?

McIntosh offers that “systemic change takes many decades”.  It is almost 20 years later.  Is there evidence of change in Mott Haven?  Let’s see. . . . 

Attached is a link to an article by Jessica Glazer in the Mott Haven Herald in June of 2012.  It is one example of a positive change.  Through funds donated by a farm in California, the students in a Charter School designed for children in the welfare system planted a roof top garden.  Read more about this uplifting project at

Picture from Article "Rooftop garden opens atop charter school" By Jessica Glazer Nov. 6, 2012

Footnote:  I read Amazing Grace once, I cried.  Being oblivious felt better. I read McIntosh’s article twice and had to look up the definitions of more than one word.  This was a difficult assignment, and I look forward to seeing what my fellow students chose this week.


FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

Over the years I have had several opportunities to share my experiences in the field of Art Licensing with college students and industry professionals.  And as a mother I took every opportunity to work with my daughter's classes and her friends conducting creative workshops and hosting craft parties.  I loved doing both.  And I loved creating art.  But in the last few years, as my industry began to crumble, I had little choice but to think what do I really want to do with the rest of my life.  If I could teach the art of being creative I would do that in a heartbeat.  But the reality is I need to make a living, and what is desperately needed are science and math teachers.  I can very easily explain the connections between art and science, it is where I was heading when I was in college the first time.  But I don't need to.  I have been accepted by RIC into the Rite program to be certified to teach Biology at the high school level.  When that letter arrived, I was like a little kid.  I am grateful, grateful to have a purpose.  Last night an old college friend called.  That evening at dinner Emily, his college bound daughter, related that every science teacher she ever had would approach the blackboard saying "I'm not an artist. . . "  The conversation took a lively turn as they laughed at the thought of a roomful of teenagers slumped at their desks as I worked furiously at the blackboard with different colored chalk creating some detailed illustration of an organism, while muttering "almost, give me a minute,  just a little more cerulean blue here and push the perspective. . . "  I am so excited.  Truly excited.  When I finished college (the first time), I went to an art school for two years.  In between I attended a workshop in scientific illustration at the Smithsonian Institute's Museum of Science.  Here is a Chalk dust illustration of a Bombadier beetle.  I had 30 specimens and a microscope, and the various measuring tools employed by medical and scientific illustrators at the time.  I will always be grateful that I was given that opportunity, behind the scenes, with "primitive instruments."  In the vernacular of todays kids (and a good many of my friends), "way cool".  And being in college again surrounded by great students and teachers, "way cool".  And I really mean it.

                            © viv eisner


FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

As most of us in Dr. Bogad's class are moving forward with field assignments in Elementary schools,  I thought "full circle" might start with my Kindergarten class picture from 1962.  Look at all the good signs.  I still have artwork I did in this class.  I still am friends with kids in this picture.  Our teacher's name was Mrs. Krebbs.  We called her Mrs. Kreb-apple.  (Poor thing).  If you can figure out which one is Viv, I will name a star after you.

I would also like to share this link from "Playing for change",  a global movement for peace and understanding, transforming the world through music.  It is a moving rendition of the classic 
"Stand by me"

Four years ago while walking down the street in Santa Monica, CA the Playing For Change crew heard Roger Ridley singing “Stand By Me” from a block away.  His voice, soul and passion set us on a journey around the world to add other musicians to his performance.


  1. What a wonderful insight into your journey, and into the world of education! I am officially excited about the potential that abounds, so much "cool stuff" literally at your fingertips, but you have to have the gift to find/choose what's needed. You continue to intrigue and amaze us with your gift(s) Viv!

  2. Viv, Thank you for sharing the painting from your Paternal Grandmother. It speaks of your heritage and talent. I always enjoy the personal touches.