Monthly Archives: February 2016

Marika and Katie: Society must be defended: Linguistics Wars

Theoretical background

If politics is the continuation of war by other means (p. 15), this continuation emerges and is pushed forward by discourse. Foucault, “…invoking the name of J.L. Austin, argued that the description of a statement was not complete when one had defined the linguistic structure of the statement, that the analysis of discourse could not be reduced to the combination of elements according to linguistic rules that therefore, ‘discourse is something that necessarily extends beyond language’” (p. xix, emphasis ours).

In arguing this, Foucault counters Chomsky’s generative grammar, a linguistic theory that views grammar as a system of rules intended to generate combinations of words which form perfect sentences. Language, then, is an exact science, and the unit of analysis is the sentence coming from an ideal native speaker (Mitchell, Myles, & Marsden, 2013). Language is a biological, innate capability in humans, appearing as an instinctive mental capacity, the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), in the child’s brain. Arguments for this view of language are that children move through developmental stages in language, that these stages are very similar among all children learning the same language, they are similar cross-linguistically, child language is rule-governed and systematic, though the rules of the child are not necessarily correspondent to the adult’s; and children’s processing capacity limits the number of rules they can apply at any one time, and they will use older hypotheses when more than one rule is competing simultaneously (Mitchell et al., 2013, p. 65). Chomsky would say that the social and environmental are important, but that they are not language.

But language is not a “hard” science. It is housed in the language arts, and the social sciences, and beginning in the 1970s and continuing through what is known as “the social turn” of the 1980s and 1990s in language acquisition studies, more academics began to argue that language is not innate, that it is emergent in participation, it is a doing, it is an action, it is a social activity. It is dynamic, contingent, made up of choices and dependent on resources and multicompetencies. If one is coming through the door with a full bag of groceries in her hands, she need not yell the complete sentence, “Someone please open the door!” at her children. She needs only to scream, “Door!” as her children imply meaning from that and come running to help. If one says, “You were a real big help today!”, Chomsky’s grammar does not allow for an analysis of pragmatics — was that said literally or sarcastically? Children don’t naturally know this. In fact it takes years for children to register pragmatics, adult humor, irony, and other parts of language outside of its mere syntax. Yes, language is partly biological, and Chomsky contributed much to the study of language. Language is also majorly social and environmental. In fact, without the social and environmental, if one merely relied on biology, language would not occur.


An overwhelming amount of evidence from fields as diverse as neurolinguistics (fMRI studies prove that there is no LAD), sociolinguistics (study after study shows that culture and environment shapes language, not the other way around), supports Foucault’s argument that “… “a statement is not complete when one has defined the linguistic structure of the statement, that the analysis of discourse could not be reduced to the combination of elements according to linguistic rules, that therefore, ‘discourse is something that necessarily extends beyond language’” (p. xix, emphasis ours). Language and discourse are emergent in action; it is not “language,” but “language-ing,” a verb, a process, a movement that moves us forward while at the same time connecting us backward — in dialogue with the past, present, and future all at once.

For Bakhtin, it is the utterance, not the sentence of Chomsky’s theory, that is the unit of linguistic analysis, and is marked by “addressivity” and “answerability” (always addressed to someone and it always anticipates a response). Discourse, then, is dialectic and dialogic and historically contingent: occurring within, and indivisible from culture, history, and place. Foucault urges us to consider the facts of discourse as strategic games, discourse as a strategic field, a battle. It is a performative act of war, and “[t]he historico-political discourse of war puts forward a truth that ‘functions as a weapon’” (p. xxi). This leads us to the battle of knowledges and the discourses constructing what constitutes legitimate versus subaltern knowledges.

Scientific discourse and literacy / Subjugated knowledges

Foucault defines subjugated knowledges as “disqualified as nonconceptual knowledges, as insufficiently elaborated knowledges: naive knowledges, hierarchically inferior knowledges, knowledges that are below the required level of erudition or scientificity” (p. 7). In essence, this means a devaluation of local knowledges, which have not been scientifically or politically validated.

To do research ‘right,’ it has to be done according to “scientific principles.” Research in the humanities, such as linguistics, draws from methods used commonly in the natural sciences – systematically, and preferably using at least some quantitative methods. Looking back at the history of linguistics, this is exactly what the earliest researchers were trying to do. This helped establish linguistics as a legitimate “science” in academia, perhaps even education. Today, we can peer down from our ivory towers and claim our knowledge is better than your knowledge because we allege to be a science.

However, it is worrisome how we arrive at these knowledges we possess and preach. Thinking about Second Language Acquisition research, for example, much of our knowledge is derived from quantitative studies. Assessing language proficiency and development is largely reliant on various types of assessments, which need to be quantifiable. Although researchers have attempted to take social, cultural, and other factors into consideration, in terms of producing legitimate research and ‘knowledge,’ the “other” gets pushed aside in favor of cleaner, more straightforward analyses. As such, there is an element of power in numbers – numbers produce careers. However, as mentioned in the previous section, language is not a hard science, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – just that knowledge produced any other way is not recognized.

Foucault also raises the question of “What types of knowledge are you trying to disqualify when you say that you are a science?” (p. 10). In terms of local knowledges and language education this means western academics can suppress knowledges regarding what constitutes ‘good’ language education in remote areas, for example. Suresh Canagarajah talks about this in his article “Teacher Development in a Global Profession: An Autoethnography.” Essentially, he recounts his own experiences with western academics coming to Sri Lanka and telling the teachers there that their ways of teaching are, well, wrong, despite the local ways working just fine. This sense of inferiority was also instilled in the local educators – they believed and legitimized the negative discourses regarding their local practices.

Furthermore, on page 10, Foucault says “[…] what subject of experience and knowledge are you trying to minorize when you begin to say ‘I speak this discourse, I am speaking a scientific discourse, and I am a scientist.’” This resonates with academic discourse in general, and how powerful fluency in academic language can be. Not only are you giving legitimacy to your knowledge by proclaiming you are a scientist, but participation and the effect of your words are intimately tied to proficiency in academic discourse.
National English-Only Movement in the U.S.

If politics is war, just the continuation of war by other means (p. 15), we can look at English only movements in the United States as an extension of past conflict: “Power relations are anchored in a relationship of force that was established in and through war at a given historical moment that can be historically specified” (p. 15). In this way, “We are always writing the history of the same war, even when we are writing the history of peace and its institutions” (p. 16).

A common implicit ideology in language policies is that monolingualism is a solution to leveling out socioeconomic inequality and ensuring future success. Thus, requiring or encouraging everyone to acquire a dominant language may, as a result, seem like the common sense approach (Tollefson, 1991). However, one need only to look at the linguistic descrimination of the African American community to see The United States has for decades had a war on bilingualism, or perhaps more accurately, a war on diversity. In terms of Foucault’s reversal of Clausewitz’s aphorism, that policy can become an instrument of war this might be an instance in which that applies. In other words, the ‘war’ on diversity was already ongoing, but policies were enacted to support that war, and discourse created to support the commonsensical view.

Also note the double-standards: the American dream is unattainable to most Americans, yet we are holding immigrants to this nonexistent standard – learn English, become successful. This discussion also excludes the fact that Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans do not have to pass English proficiency tests to become American citizens (Ricento, 2006).

So who exactly are we talking about when we say “immigrant?” Is there a difference between ex-pats and immigrants? Marika identifies as an immigrant, but others might insist she is an ex-pat. In fact, this happened not too long ago, Marika was questioned about using the term “immigrant” to refer to herself. The interlocutor corrected her and offered the term “ex-pat” instead. Marika’s insistence on sticking to the original term led to an awkward comment about “America needing more blonde, blue-eyed immigrants.” It is probably not a coincidence that race also plays a part in bilingual education. Although all immigrants/ex-pats are foreign to the country, not all incomers were created equal.

Although the U.S. does not have an official national language, there have been attempts to change this to protect the status of English. Despite the unofficial status of the language, it is clear that many consider English a de facto language of the United States, and that all immigrants should acquire English as soon as possible. The reasoning is that in order to succeed in this society, one must speak the dominant language. Dr. Hayakawa, a former California Senator, said  “Bilingualism for the individual is fine, but not for a country.” He even went as far as founding U.S. English, “a foundation that contends that learning English quickly and learning it with peers is the best way for learners to get ahead academically and socially” (U.S. English Foundation). This view completely disregards immigrants, especially young immigrants, needs for other types of education and support. Language skills are equated with success, with no reference to other (socioeconomic) factors.

Although this sentiment is fairly common, and even immigrants such as Dr. Hayakawa himself subscribe to it, this ideology has also had an adverse effect on bilingual education. The focus seems to have shifted from demanding a common language to fighting diversity.

Proposition 227: “English for the Children” Act, California (1998)

According to Krashen (1995) and Collier (1997), acquiring a native language is a continuous process that human beings engage in their entire lives. The same is true for developing fluency in another language. Current research indicates that it can take up to seven years for school-aged children to develop the second-language (L2) skills necessary to perform at grade-level in that language (Thomas & Collier, 1997). Collier (2005) explains:

It is important to recognize the complex, lifelong process that we go through in acquiring our first language and the parallels in second-language acquisition…. [C]hildren add reading and writing skills [to listening and speaking skills they acquired as toddlers]….An adolescent entering college must acquire an enormous vocabulary in every discipline of study ….through adulthood …we…acquire new subtleties in pragmatics, as well as the constantly changing patterns in language use that affect our   everyday oral and written  communication with others. (p. 315)

If acquiring language, then, is a never-ending and always-changing process dependent on the context that surrounds it in a particular point in time, then Proposition 227, the 1998 California initiative that requires all immigrant children to take intensive English instruction for one year (California Secretary of State, 1998), contradicts what Second Language Acquisition (SLA) researchers and language teachers know about the social, cultural, and cognitive aspects of language learning. Disregarding the knowledge that it takes up to seven years to master a second language, Proposition 227 requires that Limited English Proficient (LEP) students move from special classes to regular classes once they have acquired a “good working knowledge” of English, that these special classes will teach almost completely in English, and that they will normally last no more than one year (California Secretary of State, 1998). This paper emphasizes this contradiction by presenting Proposition 227 against current research and pedagogical practices on L2 acquisition and featuring changes in teachers’ classroom practices in order to comply with the law. Further, the sociocultural implications of the law give evidence for a language socialization framework for language pedagogy. Politicians, researchers, and educators must acknowledge the necessity for greater communication in order to provide immigrant children a socially relevant and fair education in English that allows them to find value in their first language, culture, and home community, while still being able to compete academically with their native-English-speaking peers.

Notice how the proponent is citing figures to support his claims? But what is he not saying? Were more heightened methods of surveillance imposed on these bilingual classrooms that someone wanted eliminated? Where is the data from English-only mainstream classrooms and subject literacy, for example. Where is the data on how older children and teen immigrants do with such intensive immersion? 

School districts responded in vastly different ways to the new mandates of Proposition 227, and had to adjust or forgo their teaching theories to attend to the goals of the law. Those that “had relied on a largely English-only strategy for educating their English learners tended to abandon dual language instruction altogether and adhere closely to a conservative interpretation of the new law. Districts that had a strong commitment to the idea of bilingual instruction, and a corps of qualified bilingual teachers, were much more likely to help parents seek waivers from English-only instruction” (Gándara, 2000, p. 2). Some teachers forwent their theories about contextual learning, replacing activities that develop student literacy in both their native language and English, like storytelling and sequencing activities, with those that would help students pass standardized English tests (Gándara, 2000, p. 7). Because of this, children often were not formulating meaning within the context that they were learning. In Gándara’s (2000) ethnographic accounts of the “Post-227 era” she describes the following obstacle of an English learner: A teacher instructed students to “circle each long vowel sound in each of the sentences and write this word in the long vowel column” (p. 6). The young boy started to perform the task; however, when he repeated the sentence out loud multiple times, he said that the sentence did not “make any sense,” even though he continued to write down the correct words with long vowels. Gándara concludes that the boy could decipher the goal of the exercise, but that he had “no idea” of the meaning of the words in the sentence (p. 7). The boy was learning how to be a good test taker, not learning how to speak, write, and understand English.

Insight into how two southern California schools changed their programs after Proposition 227 shows other significant impacts of Proposition 227. The Khmer bilingual programs at Walnut and Alamitos Elementary schools vanished after implementation of the law. Walnut and Alamitos Elementary schools were the only two schools ever in California to implement a complete Khmer bilingual program (Wright, 2007). In the early 1990s, the California Department of Education threatened to deny the district $8 million in funding unless they adhered to state laws enforcing bilingual education and ESL programs; thus, the schools implemented a Khmer bilingual program in 1993. The program was highly successful, employing and training over 20 Khmer bilingual teachers, and creating and translating materials, along with a “comprehensive authentic assessment system” (Wright, 2007, p. 4). Students in the programs at Walnut and Alamitos made “similar or greater gains in oral English proficiency as their peers in the English-only classrooms” and most “were reading at or about grade level in English by the end of third grade” (Wright, 2007, p. 5); however, they were also developing proficiency in Khmer, allowing children to hold on to their language and culture.

The programs at both schools ended in 2000 after implementation of Proposition 227. The schools tried to implement a bilingual program, Dual Literacy Plus (DLP), which allowed for “45-90 minutes each day to teach literacy in the students’ heritage language” if parents obtained a waiver from Proposition 227 guidelines (Wright, 2007. p. 6); however, the district told schools not to encourage parents to seek waivers. With the combination of Proposition 227 and high-stakes testing, teachers had to focus more on teaching to the test instead of teaching children their first language. Naturally, the programs died.  

Sociocultural Implications

Proposition 227 is not working as intended. According to Crawford (2003), it had a 92% failure rate in 2002, failing at least 1,479,420 children who remained limited in English. Unz and supporters claim that Proposition 227 has increased student test scores (Gándara, 2002, p.2); however, a review of data collection and the climate of educational policy in the past decade, test score increases cannot be attributed to the law (Wright, 2007, p. 17). Gándara (2000) states, “California has been in the midst of massive reform efforts over the last several years that have made it extremely difficult to separate the impact of one reform from another” (p. 4). Further, the statewide impact of the law on ELLs has varied considerably among districts, schools, and even classrooms in the same schools (Stritikus & García, 2003). It works well in certain schools with certain ethnic populations and economic backgrounds, and it backfires in other schools with other ethnic populations and economic backgrounds.

Acquiring a second language is a long, complex process, and learners, especially immigrant children, face a variety of obstacles while learning language. Issues arise within the home, community, and at school where children have to negotiate their surroundings, make meaning out of them, and attempt to find a space that accepts them for being, in many cases, both an immigrant and an American. English-only programs have created a great disconnect between immigrant parents and their children: “[Students] often felt that their parents were not resourceful and they did not perceive them as the best role-models in assisting them with their education or with advice in life. Parents were losing self-respect, and they mourned their children’s loss of their traditional values that had been passed down for many generations.” (Wright, 2007, p. 8). One parent in a recent interview for a San José Mercury News article says, “There are a lot of subjects that we haven’t been able to help them with, such as reading….We feel very helpless. I’m very worried” (Bazeley, 2008).

Not only do many children not get the homework help they need from their parents, but they also have a long day at school in intensive English programs, English tutoring, and after-school English programs where they do not understand most of what teachers and their English-speaking peers are saying to them. One teacher from Gándara’s work (2000) voices the following concern:

I feel like the children are forced into silence…they’re really not getting any opportunity to           express themselves as they normally would were they in a bilingual classroom. And I feel sorry for them….I don’t think they’re receiving an equal opportunity, equal education in the sense that they are not really learning to read. They’re learning to decode….But their decoding skills are coming along nicely but the problem is that second language acquisition takes time. (p. 8)

Students are simultaneously losing interest in their parents, in home life and in school. This shows in nationwide statistics: one tenth of White students, one fourth of African American students, one third of Latino students, and two thirds of immigrant students drop out of school annually (Stritikus & Garcia, 2005).


Global Englishes

On the topic of excavating subaltern knowledges over the fifteen-year period that Foucault references (we are assuming the beginnings of postmodernism and poststructuralism), he states, “I am not the only one to have been doing this… . Far from it” (p. 15). One such thinker is Walter Mignolo, who has written on what he calls “border gnosis,” or knowledge kept on the margins (2000, p. 9). A border thinking implies new forms of thinking that works toward the restitution of knowledge that colonialism erased.  His books The Idea of Latin America (2005); Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking (2000); and The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (2011) have proven to be highly insightful histories — and subaltern histories — of the colonizing of Latin America.

When it comes to language policy and planning, much of the world implements schooling practices born out of colonialism and that continue today through ideologies of globalization and neoliberalism, views that promise believers that they will become competitive in an ever-connected world market. The design of education policies and pedagogies often are created in light of “Western” epistemologies that shaped these structures for over 500 years through colonial rule. In the last sixty years, English as a foreign language has gained status as a highly sought type of social and political capital. Since the mid-twentieth century, however, non-Western epistemologies have called for de-colonialization in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on all levels of society, from philosophy to government, from community to school organization.

Although official colonial rule has come and gone in Latin America, it leaves many marks behind, including a linguistic one in the form of Spanish, Portuguese, and in some areas English and Creole English languages. In the past 20 years, English has emerged as the lingua franca of late capitalism. English language ideology, the myth of socio-economic mobility through English language attainment, is rife through the world and especially in countries in development. The truth is, implementing English language policy throughout the globe benefits some, but does not benefit a great many others (Ricento, 2015). The discourse bound up in the ideology of language policy finds its roots, still, in colonialism and the dependency that weak-economy nations have on global leaders, and it “…assumes that English is a neutral, beneficial, and freely chosen language, (equally) available to all” (May, 2014, p. 381).

On the contrary, research over the past 20 years has found that there is no correlation between English policy implementation and stronger economic growth (Macedo et al. 2003; Pennycook, 1994; Ricento, 2015; Tollefson, 1991). Despite this, countries like Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere behind Haiti (CIA Factbook, 2015), have recently implemented a policy requiring secundaria school youth (roughly the equivalent of U.S. high school) to have five years of English. Rural Nicaragua especially faces economic hardship. There is a high rate of illiteracy among those 15 years old or more (37% in 2000) (CEPAL, 2003, cited in Bartlett et al. 2011, p. 178), and only 17% of rural adolescents attend secondary education (IPADE, 2010, p. 53); education is required only through sixth grade and secondary education is not mandatory. Forty-three percent of secondary teachers nationwide have no formal training (FEDH, 2012). In a country where attaining literacy and educational opportunities in one’s first language is difficult, students — and teachers who have to teach English without knowing it themselves — feel overwhelmed. Classrooms are not equipped with electricity or books, and students have little more than a notebook and pencil. The malnutrition that children fact not only stunts their physical growth, but also physically changes their brains, their memory capabilities, and other functions.



A classroom in northern Nicaragua functioning with no electricity and limited resources.


Looking out at a vast landscape of mountains, volcanoes, and forest, one easily begins to wonder what purpose English is here and what apparent mobility it is supposed to provide.

However, even under the policy there is hope and a push to overcome dominant ideologies and make a space for unorthodox knowledges. One such program is called Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial (System of Tutor Learning), where teachers do not have to be experts, but are encourage to learn with their students and apply knowledge of math, science, literature, and now English as practically as they can to their local environments. Katie has spent the last seven years working with Nicaraguan teachers, doing professional development activities, exploring ways of increasing confidence as capable teacher leaders, and promoting other ways of teaching and learning that fall outside of traditional expectations. Even this, however, can have imperialistic undertones, as Katie is an outsider from the north, from a rich, English-speaking country who has benefited from several privileges in this lifetime. Does she have the right to intervene in the lives of teachers who are ultimately affected by their own choices? Is this just another form of imperialism? If Katie had the right to learn knowledge (including languages) that she thought might provide her socioeconomic mobility, who is she to tell others that learning English may or may not benefit their lives?


Bakhtin, M. M. (2010). Speech genres and other late essays. University of Texas Press.

California Secretary of State. Primary 1998. Proposition 227: English language in public schools.        Initiative statute. Retrieved May 23, 2009,                                                                                                  from <>.

Canagarajah, S. (2012). Teacher Development in a Global Profession: An Autoethnography.                   TESOL Quarterly, 46(2).  

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Collier, V. and Thomas, W. (1997). School effectiveness for language minority students.                         NCBE  resource collection series (9). Retrieved June 2, 2009, from ERIC.

Gándara, P. (2000). In the aftermath of the storm: English learners in the post-227 era. Bilingual           research journal online (24)1. Retrieved May 25, 2009, from                                                                     <>.

IPADE. (2010). Experiencias relevantes de educacion rural: Aportes pedagogicos y metologicos de               organizaciones de la sociedad civil Nicaraguense. Instituto para el desarollo y la democrocia             (IPADE). Managua, Nicaragua.

Krashen, S. (1995). The cause-effect fallacy and the time fallacy. In J. Alatis; et. al. (Eds.),                          Georgetown University Round Table of Languages and Linguistics (pp. 346-360).                                    Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press.

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May, S. (2014). Contesting public monolingualism and diglossia: rethinking political theory and             language policy for a multilingual world. Language Policy, 13, pp. 371-393.

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Mignolo, W. D. (2005). The Idea of Latin America. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

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Mitchell, R., Myles, F., & Marsden, E. (2013). Second language learning theories. Routledge.

Pennycook, A. (1994). The cultural politics of English as an international language. London:                   Longman. 

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Ricento, T. (2015). Language policy and political economy: English in a global context. New York,       NY:Oxford University Press.

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Getting Into Trouble and Other Guy Stuff by Isaac Bretz

Chapter 6 Getting into trouble got me thinking about what a feminist intervention program might look like. Putting things in quotes –e.g., “victim”, “troublemaker”, “natural”- might be reflective practice, but it can also be a form of erasure. There is a certain valorization of the Carnival with a Foucauldian research perspective. As a result, I am left wondering about the quiet kids, or the ones who are willing to perform quiet for the sake of getting by. How does desire for something other than belonging intersect with race, gender, and class? Ferguson does not examine in any great depth what academic skills and knowledge are being taught and learned in the classroom. If anything. How do girls and non-expressive boys feel and learn in a class full of masculine performance?

From the blog Feminist Teacher ( ), Ileana Jimenez writes:

Begin Quote—

In the past three years, I have taught a high school course on feminism titled Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Writers, Artists, and Activists. Each year, girls and boys sign up for the class and each year, these young men are awakened not only to injustices regarding race, class, and gender in national and global contexts but also to injustices regarding how they have been socialized as boys…

…I’ll never forget one boy’s reaction to these stories. Ian was so moved by his peers’ experiences that he submitted a post to May’s Hollaback! blog. In it he wrote:

It was during the session with Hollaback! that my eyes truly opened. The girls in my class started speaking about their past experiences with street harassment and the stories just didn’t stop . . . I was shocked at the kinds of things that were happening to my classmates and I was more shocked as to how clueless I was during all of this . . . If these women have gone through traumatic experiences from which they had lasting memories, then most definitely women I know even more personally have gone through this type of harassment as well. It is scary to think that all of these things are going on without ever being called out. It’s scary to think that a man can completely get away with making a woman feel uncomfortable or unsafe on the street or subway.

End Quote—–

There is a lot of talk these days on the necessity of teaching about privilege. Here is a list, there are many others, of the invisible masculine knapsack.

I am not convinced of the pedagogical effectiveness of using privilege to talk about racism and sexism. There are a lot of people with which it simply does not work. It is like global climate change, most people are cognizant that we are headed for environmental and social disaster, but those benefitting from hegemony do not want to change their lifestyles so they deny the obvious and grasp at straws to justify their lack of sincerity.

When I have brought up privilege to call someone out on what they said or wrote, the common rejoinders include:  pointing to some instance of when they saw themselves as victims of underprivileging, talking about when marginalized peoples benefit from “tokenism”, trivializing particular examples of privilege/underprivilege, or to just repeating the mantra: Things are getting better and all we need is more time. I think these defensive actions ( ) make it nearly impossible for many people to listen to privileging arguments.

What are the alternatives? Blogger Emily posted on the blog Anthro Doula

Begin Quote—

As far as teaching teenage boys feminism, I think a good place to start would be to relate it to them, personally, and to stress how the system hurts us all.

How does the patriarchy limit their own expression as boys and men? How does it hold them back?

Men are often pressured to fit into a “Act like a Man” or “Man up” world where men can’t be sensitive, or have certain interests. It damages men’s emotional literacy. It limits them. They are pressured to always appear strong and not ask for help. It encourages promiscuity. It encourages aggression and violence. It perpetuates one-dimensional stereotypes that not all men identify with.

End Quote—

We can’t talk about a feminist education of boys and men without also talking about toxic masculinity. It is a lens which I think could add a lot to Ferguson’s work.


The misogynistic notion of sexual entitlement that is nurtured by pornography and mainstream media ( ) is a problem demanding critical media k-12 literacy. Of course, the difference between political awareness and political consciousness is that the later includes a desire for advocacy, we can never make kids “critical” enough to keep afloat in a sea of negative messages, they must also do the work of dismantling structures of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Small activism projects might be a nice way to start, as well as reading and discussing the history of collective action, with materials such as the movie Selma which de-centers individualistic images of leadership to focus on the work of group activism.

More technology

This app is interesting. I am taken in by the optimism; trusting in belonging (collectivism) is positively anti-capitalist.

I am also happy about the choice of actor to be the face of the app.

That said, I can see a likely Foucault critique:

The app is just another patriarchal institution. Users are disciplined into surveillance for the purpose of cyber/pseudo-affective consumption. It just another treadmill of consumptive capitalism –creating desire which will never be satisfied.

There is a ton of really smart material on YouTube for teaching about gender and justice.  The video below is one example. Unfortunately, Googling something along the lines of ‘teaching boys about feminism’ will also reveal just how misogynistic and patriarchal the online environment can be. Part of our job as gender and justice teachers is to wade through this crap to find the wisdom which will be most appropriate for our students.  I think providing an online syllabus of links is the best route.

Here are some questions I adapted from ( ) I think it is worthwhile to discuss our role as teachers in doing feminism.

How do we teach boys and young men to…

…listen to women about how being underprivileged affects them

…stop being a bystander and start calling people out

…stop raping, catcalling, telling sexist jokes

…believe women when they say something is sexist

…believe in the capable leadership of women

…be responsible for contraception, housework, emotional work

…be aware of the amount of space they take up (physically and in conversations)

…identify as feminists?

And some more tasks we might want to consider:

What should boys and men have to do in your classroom (at any level of education) to make a more feminist environment?

If gender and justice were mainstreamed as part of pedagogy, what should be required of students? What should be required of teachers?

From censorship to gender quotas to prison sentences and fines, we must decide how to enforce gender and justice laws with businesses and public institutions. What would a realistic timeline look like? How does that reflect your goals and values?

Finally, a free lesson plan for high school and/or undergrads:

Here are seven myths ( ) that could be used for poster discussion stations.

Real men don’t feel pain

Real men are independent

Real men never back down

Real men live for competition

Real men play the field

Real men fuck like pros

Real men suffer

Students work in groups. They go from one poster to the next and fill in a chart that looks something like this:


Where do you think this myth comes from Who benefits from this myth Why this myth is untrue


Afterwards, one member of each group shares key points with the class.



Kalyn and Alison: Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity (p. 1-99)

looking at a similar scenario of the use of the word fag in schools

Both Bad Boys and the ethnographic novel Dude, You’re A Fag expressed racialized masculinities. The “fag discourse” spoken about in the novel is labeling others, in a joking relationships as a fag. Pascoe finds through his study that it seemed to cement the relationship among boys. They called their peers a fag for numerous reasons. There was an undertone that at any moment a boy who was not displaying attributes of being sufficiently masculine would/should be called a fag. In the school, the black students were less likely to engage in this discourse than the other students. Instead these students teased one another for acting white.

Though the book focused on masculinity, sexuality, and heteronormativity, racialized masculinities came forth throughout his time in the high school. He found excessive discipline from school teachers and administration. In this book, even dancing too provocatively would lead to expulsion. In comparison, the white boys were dancing equally as provocatively. In this example Pascoe felt that the teachers did not attribute sexuality to the white students.  In another scenario, the one case that involved punishment using the word “fag” was with an African American student.

“Pascoe observed that teachers routinely ignored homophobic and sexist comments made by students. In fact, with one exception, she never saw anyone punished for using words like “fag,” “gay,” or “dyke.” The one incident that did result in punishment involved an African-American student who yelled out to the all-white, all-male wrestling team, “Why are you wearing those faggot outfits?” This is interesting considering her observation that African-American boys in her study did not use the word “fag” as much as white boys.”


In a recent Huffington Post article, Black Students In The US Get Criminalized While White Students Get Treatment troubling behavior does not stop at simply splitting at racial lines. Like the text, Black students are more likely to get suspended, or otherwise disciplined while White students are more likely to receive medical or psychological treatment. White students are also pushed in the direction of special education services. The study was conducted by a Penn State Professor of Sociology and Criminology, David Ramey, who looked at suspensions, expulsions, and police referrals 59,000 schools across the country. According to the study the increase and importance of standardized test scores could lead schools to suspend or medicalize low achieving students (in order to boost their test scores).  prisonpipelinegraphic

The majority of Ramey’s work however, is done in reference to the phenomenon addressed in Bad Boys. “The bulk of my earlier research looked at how, for the same minor levels of misbehaviors — for example, classroom disruptions, talking back — white kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem, while black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn,” Ramey said in a press release.

In a related study, published in July of 2015, Ramey continues with this topic by stating that poorer schools have a higher rate of Black students. These schools have a lower enrollment rate in government programs designed to stop discrimination on students with disabilities. He further suggests that the way students are governed may affect the way students are disciplined (or not disciplined and instead told to see medical treatment).  Also mentioned in the article was that school districts with a higher rate of hispanic students were less likely to report criminal charges, but that they too, were less likely to seek medical treatment instead of discipline.

Similar scenario outside of the classroom

The criminalization of black children, as one would suspect, is not one that stays inside the school (or playground). In 2010, there were two instances of young boys stealing and driving a car. Both children were 7 years old, one was black and the other was white. Lisa Wade, PhD originally wrote this posted this piece on The Society Pages in 2010. It was republished in 2013 in relation to the verdict of the George Zimmerman case. After the act, Preston, the White boy was given an interview on the “Today’s Show.” In the conclusion of the show, they conclude that with any kid, you never know what they can do.  Preston is shown as an over-all good child. His answers, which were actually spoken by the interviewee, were largely innocent and childish. I drew a comparison to one of the teacher’s favorite boys in Bad Boys. “Teacher’s perceptions of students are grounded in their own location in social categories of race, gender, and class.”   The teacher spoke about the white boy’s misbehavior in a kind of endearing way. For the white boy, this fooling around balanced him. For the black students at Rosa Parks School, the same misbehavior is seen as an inappropriate act.

Similarly, looking back the the news story, the only available story shown of the Black child was shot on the street (instead of a TV studio). The chase scene in this clip was actually sped up making it look more intense.  Unfortunately, Latarian said all of the “wrong things.” He likes to do “bad things” and even mentions “hoodrat things with friends.”  Lisa Wade reminds us that both of these children committed the same act and perhaps Latarian has began to internalize the way society has been treating him. “Black children, especially boys, are stereotyped as pre-criminals; not adorably naughty, like white boys, but dangerously bad from the beginning. And studies with children have shown that they often internalize this idea, as in the famous doll experiment in which both black and white children were more likely than not to identify the black doll as bad.” – link to the video

Bringing in Critical Race Theory (CRT)

Critical Race Theory, something we discussed in the Theories of Identity class, expresses skepticism for the colorblindness and objectivity in education (in our case). In a generalized sense, whites see racism as being aware of color while blacks as system of power.

Being introduced to Critical Race Theory (CRT) led to a multitude of questions and critically reviewing the instruction I used in my classroom.  What I began to question was first if I had fallen into a trap of teaching toward a middle class cultural capital, a concept borrowed from Lisa Delpit (1988) in “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy of Educating Other People’s Children.”  The article brought to light ideas that were not a focus in my undergraduate studies. Teachers have the responsibility to acknowledge that students come into their classroom with different content knowledge, some based on cultural upbringing. Delpit (1988) argues that there isn’t one correct way to teach students and that every classroom should prepare for these variances. Instead, each classroom would need a variety of different teaching strategies that cater to the different learners present that year.  “Rather, I suggest that schools must provide these children the content that other families from a different cultural orientation provide at home” (Delpit 1988, p. 296).  I am not suggesting that explicit instruction is the way I should have taught in my classroom. Instead, I am advocating that pre-service teaching students should learn to be critical of teaching philosophies. Every classroom needs to accommodate its students based on these differences.

Delpit stated that Black families may want something different from an educator than how I seemed to be running the classroom. “They want to ensure that the school provides discourse patterns, interactional styles, and spoken and written language codes that will allow them success in the larger society” (Delpit 1988, p. 286). The largest cultural differences in my classroom were not amongst my students, but rather, myself in relation to my students.  When I step back to reflect on the year, I acknowledge that the cultural frames of my students were ignored when creating and implementing lessons throughout the year.

The Hidden Curriculum

Ferguson suggests that the crucial element for creating and reproducing social inequality includes such taken-for-granted components of instructions as differences in modes of social control and the regulation of relations of authority, and the valorization of certain forms of linguistic and cultural expression (p. 50).

“This hidden curriculum reflects the ‘cultural hegemony’ of the dominant class and works to reinforce and reproduce that dominance by exacerbating and multiplying– rather than diminishing or eliminating– the ‘inequalities’ children bring from home and neighborhood to school.”

Regarding reward and punishment models of schooling and curriculum implementation, Foucault (1979) asserts that normalizing judgements are the most powerful instruments of disciplinary power– its function is not to suppress unwanted behavior or reform it, but rather

refer individual actions to a whole that is at once a field of comparison, a space of differentiation. . . It measures in quantitative terms and hierarchizes in terms of value the abilities, the level, the “nature” of individuals. It introduces through this “value-giving” measure, the constraint  of a conformity that must be achieved. Lastly, it traces the limit that will define differences in relation to all other differences, the external frontier of the abnormal. . . [It] compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In short, it normalizes (p. 183).

These instruments of normalization thus act as the hidden curriculum of a school.


Ferguson, A. A. (2000). Bad boys: Public schools in the making of Black masculinity. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.

These Labels were Made Up to Divide us.

Roberto Lugo’s Emerging Artist Presentation at the 2015 NCECA Conference