So you wanna be a great hypocrite reading teacher? According to the NYT, you can follow the example of literacy experts who suggest that we a) offer kids more choices about what they read, and b) dictate what these choices will be. Does anyone else see a problem with this technique?

Nancy Atwell, a long time expert in our field, suggests the following:

Despite the student freedom, Ms. Atwell constantly fed suggestions to the children. She was strict about not letting them read what she considered junk: no “Gossip Girl” or novels based on video games. But she acknowledged that certain children needed to be nudged into books by allowing them to read popular titles like the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer.

Ahem. This is not freedom. In fact, it sounds more like an insidious form of control. It’s worse than the teacher who just tells you to read “those” books outside of school. This teacher encourages you to choose, then suggests that you could “make better choices.” It’s perfectly Foucauldian; it ensures that each individual child learns to regulate their own choices (choices that were once safely outside of the school domain) through a series of “freeing” exercises. Better yet, we can still measure success the same way, by watching to see if they are choosing “quality literature.”Another expert (one I generally respect on issues of adolescent reading), Elizabeth Moje, chimed in with a similar tune, adding that that teachers should guide students toward high-quality literature and that choices should be limited. Limited how? By the rules of which cannon?

At least Catherine Snow, and long time heavy hitter in the field of reading weighs in with some good sense:

“If what we’re trying to get to is, everybody has read ‘Ethan Frome’ and Henry James and Shakespeare, then the challenge for the teacher is how do you make that stuff accessible and interesting enough that kids will stick with it. But if the goal is, how do you make kids lifelong readers, then it seems to me that there’s a lot to be said for the choice approach. As adults, as good readers, we don’t all read the same thing, and we revel in our idiosyncrasies as adult readers, so kids should have some of the same freedom.”

But it also sounds like she takes the idea of choice more seriously. I don’t imagine her secret frustration at the group of boys who choose not to read the “more challenging fare.” So what, if anything, can an article entitled “The Future of Reading” tell us? For me, it’s a lot of the same old thing. Only now, instead of only watching kids read what we tell them to read, we are also watching to ensure that they make “good choices” at all times. Why can’t anybody stand up to this bullshit? Why can’t choice mean choice?


Hey, if anybody out there knows what the heck this guy is saying…

…my French didn’t get that much better from a week in Paris.

So if anyone finds a translated version, lemme know.

H/t: The Foucault Blog

This is a neat little post on Foucault’s work on parrhesia (clear speaking), that considers its application to our favorite candidate.

Rather than extend my fledgling jitters (which are mostly concerned with genre-appropriate introductions anyway), I’ve decided to post on a topic that has been on my mind for the last week or so…

The University of Iowa has recently published two studies that grate on Foucauldian beliefs. The first, providing (as the Mom-Me blogger writes), “Scientific proof that you are doing good for your child just by being at home!” demonstrates how stay-at-home moms have better behaved preschoolers. The study reinforces norms of which “behaviors” children need most when entering school–the one described in the DI (fetching specific requested object on command) might better suit the family dog than the family 5-year old. The following is a biblical-sounding excerpt from the report in Science Daily (I need to ask Mike how to link this stuff):

“When the children were 4 years and 4 months old, the researchers observed how the children responded when they were told not to do something by a parent when the parent then left the room. They also observed how the preschoolers did on tasks that called for self-regulation –patience, deliberation, restraint, and maturity of impulses–such as being asked to hold a small piece of candy in their mouths without eating it.”

The other study, posted just yesterday on the U of I website, also deals with mothering–albeit new mothers. It’s headline, “UI study: low-income women more likely to suffer from postpartum depression,” says it all…

It’s the use of terms like “depression” or “discipline” as static, clinical things that really irks me. Foucault placed “madness” in the socio-cultural, economic, and historical milieu of various times. This idea (which I would extend/relate to “depression”) is experienced and named for us by by the U of I’s studies. Emotions and understandings once integrated into the human experience, are now “scientifically” mental (and often moral) diseases.

The point of all of this, I suppose, is my irritation with (and of course, other) studies that construct non-critical accounts of life experiences (we understand how postpartum depression through hospital surveys? really?) without any useful critique of the discourses that women participate in that would guide their answers/feelings. I know, I know, we to create space for more social services–further, as a former teacher I know firsthand the security that helping hands can provide. I’m just irritated about the production of these subject positions…and imagining the possibilities for critique.

UPDATE: Links are fixed.

I think I should mention that the title of this blog is meant to carry some connotation of Foucault’s discussion of panopticism in Discipline and Punish (we’re big fans), and give some suggestion that, with regard to topics, we might look in any direction we like. It was not meant to reference either this or this.


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