Model Texts by Student Authors
Maggie as the Focal Point69
Shanna Greene Benjamin attempts to resolve Toni Morrison's emphasis on Maggie in her short story "Recitatif". While many previous scholars focus on racial codes, and "the black-and-white" story that establishes the racial binary, Benjamin goes ten steps further to show "the brilliance of Morrison's experiment" (Benjamin 90). Benjamin argues that Maggie's story which is described through Twyla's and Roberta's memories is the focal point of "Recitatif" where the two protagonists have a chance to rewrite "their conflicting versions of history" (Benjamin 91). More so, Maggie is the interstitial space where blacks and whites can engage, confront America's racialized past, rewrite history, and move forward.
Benjamin highlights that Maggie's story is first introduced by Twyla, labeling her recollections as the "master narrative" (Benjamin 94). Although Maggie's story is rebutted with Roberta's memories, Twyla's version "represent[s] the residual, radicalized perspectives" stemming from America's past (Benjamin 89). Since Maggie is a person with a disability her story inevitably becomes marginalized, and utilized by both Twyla and Roberta for their own self-fulfilling needs, "instead of mining a path toward the truth" (Benjamin 97). Maggie is the interstitial narrative, which Benjamin describes as a space where Twyla and Roberta, "who represent opposite ends of a racial binary", can come together to heal (Benjamin 101). Benjamin also points out how Twyla remembers Maggie's legs looking "like parentheses" and relates the shape of parentheses, (), to self-reflection (Morrison 141). Parentheses represent that inward gaze into oneself, and a space that needs to be filled with self-reflection in order for one to heal and grow. Twyla and Roberta create new narratives of Maggie throughout the story in order to make themselves feel better about their troubled past. According to Benjamin, Maggie's "parenthetical body" is symbolically the interstitial space that "prompts self-reflection require to ignite healing" (Benjamin 102). Benjamin concludes that Morrison tries to get the readers to engage in America's past by eliminating and taking up the space between the racial binary that Maggie represents.
Not only do I agree with Benjamin's stance on "Recitatif", but I also disapprove of my own critical analysis of "Recitatif." I made the same mistakes that other scholars have made regarding Morrison's story; we focused on racial codes and the racial binary, while completely missing the interstitial space which Maggie represents. Although I did realize Maggie was of some importance, I was unsure why so I decided to not focus on Maggie at all. Therefore, I missed the most crucial message from "Recitatif" that Benjamin hones in on.
Maggie is brought up in every encounter between Twyla and Roberta, so of course it makes sense that Maggie is the focal point in "Reticatif." Twyla and Roberta project themselves onto Maggie, which is why the two women have a hard time figuring out "What the hell happened to Maggie" (Morrision 155). Maggie also has the effect of bringing the two women close together, yet at times causing them to be become more distant. For example, when Twyla and Roberta encounter one another at the grocery store, Twyla brings up the time Maggie fell and the "gar girls laughed at her", while Roberta reminds her that Maggie was in fact pushed down (Morrison 148). Twyla has created a new, "self-serving narrative" as to what happened to Maggie instead of accepting what has actually happened, which impedes Twyla's ability to self-reflect and heal (Benjamin 102). If the two women would have taken up the space between them to confront the truths of their past, Twyla and Roberta could have created a "cooperative narrative" in order to mend.
Maggie represents the interstitial space that lies between white and black Americans. I believe that is an ideal space to discuss America's racialized past, learn from one another, and in turn, understand why America is divided as such. If white and black America jumped into the space that Maggie defines, maybe we could move foreward as a country and help one another succeed. When I say "succeed", I am not referring to the "American dream" because that is a false dream created by white America. "Recitatif" is not merely what characteristics define which race, it is much more than. Plus, who cares about race! I want America to be able to benefit and give comfort to every citizen whatever their "race" may be. This is time where we need black and white America to come together and fight the greater evil, which is the corruption within America's government.
Benjamin, Shanna Green. "The Space that Race Creates: An Interstitial Analysis of Toni Morrison's 'Recitatif.'" Studies in American Fiction , vol. 40, no. 1, 2013, pp. 87-106. Project Muse, doi:10.1353/saf.2013.0004
Morrison, Toni. "Recitatif." The Norton Introduction to Literature, Portable 12 edition, edited by Kelly J. Mays, W. W. Norton & Company, 2017, pp. 138-155
Pronouns & Bathrooms70
The article "Pronouns and Bathrooms: Supporting Transgender Students," featured on Edutopia, was written to give educators a few key points when enacting the role of a truly (gender) inclusive educator. It is written specifically to high-school level educators, but I feel that almost all of the rules that should apply to a person who is transgender or gender-expansive at any age or grade level. The information is compiled by several interviews done with past and present high school students who identify with a trans-identity. The key points of advice stated are supported by personal statements made by past or present students that identify with a trans-identity.
The first point of advice is to use the student's preferred name and/or pronoun. These are fundamental to the formation of identity and demand respect. The personal interview used in correlation with the advice details how the person ended up dropping out of high school after transferring twice due to teachers refusing to use their preferred name and pronoun. This is an all-too-common occurrence. The trans community recommend that schools and administrators acquire updated gender-inclusive documentation and update documentation at the request of the student to avoid misrepresentation and mislabeling. When you use the student's preferred name and pronoun in and out of the classroom you are showing the student you sincerely care for their well-being and the respect of their identity.
The second and other most common recommendation is to make "trans-safe" (single-use, unisex, or trans-inclusive) bathrooms widely available to students. Often these facilities either do not exist at all or are few-and-far-between, usually inconveniently located, and may not even meet ADA standards. This is crucial to insuring safety for trans-identified students.
Other recommendations are that schools engage in continual professional development training to insure that teachers are the best advocates for their students. Defend and protect students from physical and verbal abuse. Create a visibly welcoming and supportive environment for trans-identified students by creating support groups, cirriculum and being vocal about your ally status.
The last piece of the article tells us a person who is trans simply wants to be viewed as human- a fully actualized human. I agree wholeheartedly. I believe that everyone has this desire. I agree with the recommendations of the participants that these exhibitions of advocacy are indeed intrinsic to the role of gender-expansive ally-ship,
While they may not be the most salient of actions of advocacy, they are the most foundational parts. These actions are the tip of the iceberg, but they must be respected. Being a true ally to the gender-expansive and transgender communities means continually expanding your awareness of trans issues. I am thankful these conversations are being had and am excited for the future of humanity.
Wiggs, Blake. "Pronouns and Bathrooms: Supporting Transgender Students." Edutopia 28 September 2015, https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pronouns-bathrooms-supporting-transgender-students-blake-wiggs
Education Methods: Banking vs. Problem-Posing71
Almost every student has had an unpleasant experience with an educator. Many times this happens due to the irrelevant problems posed by educators and arbitrary assignments required of the student. In his chapter from Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire centers his argument on the oppressive and unsuccessful banking education method in order to show the necessity of a problem-posing method of education.
Freire begins his argument by intervening into the conversation regarding teaching methods and styles of education, specifically responding to opposition to the banking education method, a method that "mirrors the oppressive society as a whole" (73). He describes the banking method as a system of narration and depositing of information into students like "containers" or "receptacles" (72). He constructs his argument by citing examples of domination and mechanical instruction as aspects that create an assumption of dichotomy, stating that "a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others" (75). Freire draws on the reader's experiences with this method by providing a list of banking attitudes and practices including "the teacher chooses and enforces his choices, and the students comply" (73), thus allowing the reader to connect the subject with their lived experiences.
In response to the banking method, Freire then advocates for a problem-posing method of education comprised of an educator constantly reforming her reflections in the reflection of the students. He theorizes that education involves a constant unveiling of reality, noting that "they come to see world not as a static reality but as a reality in process, in transformation" (83). Thus, the problem-posing method draws on discussion and collaborative communication between students and educator. As they work together, they are able to learn from one another and impact the world by looking at applicable problems and assignments, which is in direct opposition of the banking method.
While it appears that Freire's problem-posing method is more beneficial to both the student and the educator, he fails to take into account the varying learning styles of the students, as well as the teaching abilities of the educators. He states that through the banking method, "the student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance" (71). While this may be true for many students, some have an easier time absorbing information when it is given to them in a more mechanical fashion. The same theory applies to educators as well. Some educators may have a more difficult time communicating through the problem-posing method. Other educators may not be as willing to be a part of a more collaborative education method.
I find it difficult to agree with a universal method of education, due to the fact that a broad method doesn't take into consideration the varying learning and communication styles of both educator and student. However, I do agree with Freire on the basis that learning and education should be a continuous process that involves the dedication of both student and educator. Students are their own champions and it takes a real effort to be an active participant in one's own life and education. It's too easy to sit back and do the bare minimum, or be an "automaton" (74). To constantly be open to learning and new ideas, to be a part of your own education, is harder, but extremely valuable.
As a student pursing higher education, I find this text extremely reassuring. This current state of the world and education can seem grim at times, but after reading this I feel more confident that there are still people who feel that the current systems set in place are not creating students who can critically think and contribute to the world. Despite being written forty years ago, Freire's radical approach to education seems to be a more humanistic style, one where students are thinking authentically, for "authentic thinking is concerned with reality" (77). Problem-posing education is one that is concerned with liberation, opposed to oppression. The banking method doesn't allow for liberation, for "liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it" (79). Educational methods should prepare students to be liberators and transformers of the world, not containers to receive and store information.
Freire, Paulo. "Chapter 2." Pedagogy of the Oppressed, translated by Myra Bergman Ramos, 30th Anniversary Edition, Continuum, 2009, pp. 71-86
You Snooze, You Peruse72
This article was an interesting read about finding a solution to the problem that 62% of high school students are facing- chronic sleep deprivation (less than 8 hours on school nights). While some schools have implemented later start times, this article argues for a more unique approach. Several high schools in Las Cruces, New Mexico have installed sleeping pods for students to use when needed. They "include a reclined chair with a domed sensory-reduction bubble that closes around one's head and torso" and "feature a one-touch start button that activates a relaxing sequence of music and soothing lights" (Conklin). Students rest for 20 minutes and then go back to class. Some of the teachers were concerned about the amount of valuable class time students would miss while napping, while other teachers argued that if the students are that tired, they won't be able to focus in class anyway. Students who used the napping pods reported they were effective in restoring energy levels and reducing stress. While that is great, there is concern from Melissa Moore, a pediatric sleep specialist, that napping during the day would cause students to sleep less during that "all-important nighttime sleep."
Sleep deprivation is a serious issue in high school students. I know there are a lot of high school students that are very involved in extra-curricular activities like I was. I was on student council and played sports yea-round, which meant most night I got home late, had hours of homework, and almost never got enough sleep. I was exhausted all the time, especially during junior and senior year. I definitely agree that there is no point in students sitting in class if they're so tired they can barely stay awake. However, I don't know if sleeping pods are the best solution. Sure, after a 20-minute nap students feel a little more energetic, but I don't think this is solving the chronic issue of sleep deprivation. A 20-minute nap isn't solving the problem that most students aren't getting 8 hours of sleep, which means they aren't getting enough deep sleep (which usually occurs between hours 6-8). Everyone needs these critical hours of sleep, especially those that are still growing and whose brains are still developing. I think it would be much more effective to implement later start times. High school students aren't going to go to bed earlier, that's just the way it is. But having later start times gives them the opportunity to get up to an extra hour of sleep, which can make a huge difference in the overall well-being of students, as well as their level of concentration and focus in the classroom.
Conklin, Richard, "You Snooze, You Peruse: Some Schools Turn to Nap Time to Recharge Students." Education World, 2017, www.educationworld.com/a_news/you-snooze-you-peruse-some-schools-turn-naptime-recharge-students-33819787.
Bloom, Benjamin S., et al. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. D. McKay Co., 1969.
Also of note are recent emphasis to use Bloom's work as a conceptual model, not a hard-and-fast, infallible rule for cognition. Importantly, we rarely engage only one kind of thinking, and models liek this should not be used to make momentous decisions; rather, they should contribute to a broader, nuanced understanding of human cognition and development. In consideration of revised versions Bloom's Taxonomy and the previous note, it can be mentioned that this process necessarily involves judgment/evaluation; using the process of interpretation, my analysis and synthesis require my intellectual discretion.
Mays, Kelly J. "The Literature Essay." The Norton Introduction to Literature, Portable 12th edition, Norton, 2017, pp. 1255-1278.
“Developing a Thesis.” Purdue OWL, Purdue University, 2014, https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/616/02/. [Original link has expired. See Purdue OWL’s updated version: Developing a Thesis]
Read more advice from the Purdue OWL relevant to close reading at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/4/17/ .
One particularly useful additional resource is the text “Annoying Ways People Use Sources,” externally linked in the Additional Recommended Resources appendix of this book.
Essay by an anonymous student author, 2014. Reproduced with permission from the student author.
This essay is a synthesis of two students’ work. One of those students is Ross Reaume, Portland State University, 2014, and the other student wishes to remain anonymous. Reproduced with permission from the student authors.
Essay by Marina, who has requested her last name not be included. Portland Community College, 2018. Reproduced with permission from the student author.