Friday, May 25, 2012

Week 2

This week's topic, the financial crisis, was probably one of the most difficult concepts I've tried to learn about and understand. From what I've researched, it seems as though All the Devils are Here is one of the most concise and easy to follow books that explains and discusses the financial crisis. If I were to use this book in the classroom it would likely be merely to get background information for myself and to help me understand the issue and feel more confident about teaching and discussing the issue with my students. The part of the reading that I find most interesting is the explanation of the events leading up to the financial crisis and the authors' idea of the changing culture of America. We discussed the idea in class and one of the authors, Bethany McLean also mentions in her questions and answer session with C-SPAN. What McLean believes is that the concept of the American Dream has shifted. Many American's dream of owning a home. However, is it possible that the dream went from the belief that we must work hard to reach that goal to the belief that we are entitled to home ownership amongst other things. This idea presented in the book I believe would make a great discussion in a classroom.

Honestly, I had trouble trying to learn about All the Devils are Here and the financial crisis. I'm not sure I would ever feel comfortable teaching a classroom in depth about the issue and I'm not sure many students would be able to handle the concept in very much depth. I would most likely bring in an expert to help me with this topic if I were to teach it.

Discussion questions 7 states: 
"This book holds sacred the view that desire for increased home ownership spurred the growth of mortgage-backed-securities and subsequent other financial investments. It was with this mindset that banks and other financial institutions moved away from traditional 30-year mortgages and expanded into shady areas such as sub-prime mortgages and other predatory tactics such as hidden fees, fraudulent appraisals of homes, and robo-signing loan documents. Does the American Dream place too much emphasis on homeownership or to what extent should homeownership be encouraged on a national policy level?"

What I find most disturbing about this is not necessarily the emphasis on home ownership itself, but the way people go about achieving home ownership. In my opinion, there is an apparent culture of immediate satisfaction in America today. This leads to feelings of entitlement as Bethany McLean mentioned in her interview. While this may allow financial institutions to use predatory tactics, I think there needs to be a change in consumerism culture. Citizens should be aware of the decisions they are making and what long term effects those decisions will have. Encouraging home ownership when one does not have the means should not be practiced by any government or financial institution. Perhaps the government should promote awareness about the economy and finances so that American citizens have a better understanding of the financial decisions they are making. The media would also need to play a huge role in this shift. We cannot place blame on any one player.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Week 1

Of this weeks readings, I found Kelly's article to be most interesting. Kelly gave a clear argument for why a teacher should state his/her positions on controversial topics using the committed impartiality perspective. One of the factors of committed impartiality according to Kelly is mutuality. Kelly states, "Mutuality involves teachers' belief that students can make useful contributions to the learning process. Teachers show genuine respect for students' knowledge and interests, manifested in a nonimpositional, nonpatronizing style of interaction". This quote stood out to me because I believe this is one of the most important parts of teaching and the only way to have successful discussions about controversial topics in a classroom.
 I found myself agreeing with most of Kelly's reasoning throughout the article although I haven't yet been able to put the committed impartiality perspective into action in my own teaching. Kelly brings up research that says that students learn from a model, and that a teacher should be a model of how to discuss controversial topics openly, and build an educated opinion while still respected the opinion of others. It is important that students learn these skills to participate in many aspects of life and of citizenship. I also agree that by sharing their position as part of the discussion, and accepting criticism puts students at a more equal level with the teacher and makes them feel like their contribution is truly valuable. I would like to share my position with students but I always find myself feeling hesitant. I think being able to successfully take the committed impartiality perspective in the classroom is one of the major skills that I will focus on building throughout my career.