Culture & Nurturance: The Aesthetic Life of School Children

The students within the “Critical Pedagogy Through the Arts” course at Lesley University summarized and presented on Dr. Aziza Braithwaite Bey’s book, Culture and Nuturance: The Aesthetic Life of School Children Pre K-12th Grade. Dr. Bey’s book is divided into four sections: Kemet (Ancient Egypt); West Africans, with a focus on the Dogon; Mayan; and Tsagali (Cherokee). Each chapter focuses on the role of women through their dress and adornment, food, and leaders in their culture. In addition, each chapter also discusses the oral and written history that is currently documented within each culture such as their myths, symbolism, and the written word. Lastly, at the end of each chapter a project is outlined that can be incorporated within the classroom setting, which will broaden the student’s thinking and understanding of each culture.

Below are the summaries presented by the student in Dr. Bey’s Critical Pedagogy class this fall 2013.

Kemet (Ancient Egpyt)

The original settlers of KMT (Kemet) were Black Egyptians and native Sudanese are one of the original pigmented Arabs in that particular region (

Skeletons and the skulls of these ancient Egyptians reflect that these people have the similar features of modern Black Nubians and other people of the Upper Nile and East Africa.  A Eurocentric view of history has Europeanized our historic memory of Egyptians so that most people think of white skin when they think of Egyptians.  This robs the historic richness of the Black Egyptians and fails to give them credit for the many, many contributions that they made to science, medicine, language, and philosophy.

The Egyptian Afterlife and The Feather of Truth

Is it possible to have a heart that is lighter than a feather? To the ancient Egyptians it was not only possible but highly desirable.

The after-life of the ancient Egyptians was known as the Field of Reeds and was a land very much like one’s life on earth save that there was no sickness, no disappointment and, of course, no death. One lived eternally by the streams and beneath the trees which one had loved so well in one’s life on earth. An Egyptian tomb inscription from 1400 BCE, regarding one’s afterlife, reads, “May I walk every day unceasing on the banks of my water, may my soul rest on the branches of the trees which I have planted, may I refresh myself in the shadow of my sycamore.” To reach the eternal paradise of the Field of Reeds, however, one had to pass through the trial by Osiris, the judge of the dead, in the hall of truth.

The Hall of Truth

In The Egyptian Book of the Dead it is recorded that the soul would be led before the god Osiris and would recite the forty-two negative confessions beginning with the prayer, “I have not learnt the things which are not” meaning that the soul strove in life to devote itself to matters of lasting importance rather than the trivial matters of everyday life. The forty-two negative declarations which followed the opening prayer went to assure Osiris of the soul’s purity and ended, in fact, with the statement, “I am pure” repeated a number of times. It was not the soul’s claim to purity which would win over Osiris, however, but, instead, the weight of the soul’s heart.

The Judgment of Osiris

The `heart’ of the soul was handed over to Osiris who placed it on a great golden scale balanced against the white feather of Ma’at, the feather of truth, of harmony, on the other side. If the soul’s heart was lighter than the feather then the soul was freely admitted into the bliss of the Field of Reeds. Should the heart prove heavier, however, it was thrown to the floor of the Hall of Truth where it was devoured by Amenti (a god with the face of a crocodile, front of a leopard and the back of a rhinoceros) and the individual soul then ceased to exist. There was no `hell’ for the ancient Egyptians; their `fate worse than death’ was non-existence.

The Field Of Reeds and Egyptian Love of Life

It is a popular misconception that the ancient Egyptians were obsessed with death when, in reality, they were in love with life and so, naturally, wished it to continue on after bodily death. The Egyptians enjoyed singing, dancing, boating, hunting, fishing, and family gatherings just as people enjoy them today. The elaborate funerary rites, mummification, the placement of Shabti dolls (dolls made of clay or wood, which would do one’s work for one in the afterlife) were not meant as tributes to the finality of life but to its continuance and the hope that the soul would win admittance to the Field of Reeds when the time came to stand before the scales of Osiris. Even so, not all the prayers, nor all the hopes, nor the most elaborate rites could help that soul whose heart was heavier than the white feather of Truth.

Brief History of Hapshetsut

Hapshetsut is unique in that she is one of the only known women to have ruled as Pharoah of ancient Egypt.  Hapshetsut became Queen at the age of 12 when she married her half brother, a practice that was common at that time to ensure the purity of royal bloodlines.  As was also typical, when he died she became co-regent, ruling in the stead of her infant stepson, Thutmose III.  The uniqueness of the situation played out when Hapshetsut declared herself sole ruler and Pharoah.  To establish herself in this position, despite opposition, Hapshetsut had herself painted in the traditional portrayal of a pharaoh, wearing a beard and with a man’s body.

In another political maneuvering, she sent the army off on an expedition to search for rare goods in the land of Punt.  This served to get the heir for pharaoh, her stepson, out of the way.  It also had the added advantage of keeping him out of harm’s way.  Sending him to war, she feared, would be viewed as a deliberate effort to eliminate him.

Hapshetsut undertook many building project during her reign, the most noteworthy was the Deir el-Bahri.  After her death, she was succeeded by her step-son, who took great effort to erase her memory and from the collective history of ancient Egypt.


“Hatshepsut” (n.d),

“Egypt’s Gold Empire, New Kingdom, Hatshepsut” March, 2006,

“Hatshepsut.” (n.d.).

Stewart, M. “The Black Egyptians–Original Settlers of Kemet.” November, 2013,

The Dogon People of West Africa

The Dogon people live in one the most remarkable mountain areas in Africa. These peasant warriors were one of the last known people to lose their independence and come under French rule. After researchers traveled and studied with this humble tribe for 15 years they have come to the conclusion that they are the best known tribe in all of western Sudan. The perception of these African people was based on fear due to their complicated but orderly ritual systems. They have more than shown the primary importance of a person, his relations with society, and with the universe, all with care. First recorded in 3000 BCE – 1000 BCE migrating from Egypt, they settled in what was then called northern Ghana, which is in the eastern part of present- day Mali.  They began to seek refuge in the cliffs around 500 hundred years ago as they sought to escape pressure from Christians and Muslim in the north to leave their ancestral religion and traditions to convert.  The Dogon spoke and wrote one of the oldest written languages, Mende which found its way to the Americas during the Pre-Columbia era.

Mythology and Astrological Genius

“Myths are stories, the product of fertile imagination, sometimes simple, often containing profound truths. Most myths tell how something came to exist: man, the world, certain animals, and social affairs. The myths make a sacred history of the people”(Parrinder, 1967). Some common themes of traditional West African myths are: The Creator, God leaves the word, The first men, The mystery of birth, The origins of Death, Gods and Spirits, Witches and Monsters, and Animal Fables.

One of the most fantastic mythologies is the Dogon’s myths and traditions surrounding the stars Sirius A and B. “According to their traditions, the star Sirius has a companion star which is invisible to the human eye. This companion star has a 50-year elliptical orbit around the visible Sirius and is extremely heavy. It also rotates on its axis” (MUNM, 2013). The Dogon recognize these stars as myths about their people’s creation and scientists have been baffled as to how people with no telescopes were able to discover this Sirius B. There are celebrations each time the two star’s paths cross, approximately every 50 years.

Living Arts & Craft

The Dogon culture, such as many other ancient civilizations, used myths and storytelling as a method of preserving their culture and explaining the unknown. The difficulty that arises when studying African mythology is that the stories were not written down due to the fact that the art of writing was not familiar or common to many African tribes. Instead, they used art and sculptures as a means of expression. Since African art is the only form of un-translated documentation, it is used to interpret the life and culture of the Dogon people. “African art provides a sacred literature, giving beauty and solemnity to the face of man. Art shows man in the stages of his existence, birth, life and death” (Parrinder, 1967).

Bogolan (Mudcloth)

A Bologan, or a mudcloth, is a handmade Malian fabric woven by the men and carefully dyed by the women. The women soak the woven fabric in a dye bath composed of mashed and boiled leaves of the n’gallama tree, which dyes the cloth yellow. Next, the women paint the garment using mud that has been collected from the riverbeds and allowed to ferment in a clay jar for up to a year. Women wear Bologan as a rite of passage, showing their development from adolescence into adulthood; it is also worn immediately after giving birth. Men wear Bolgon as a form of camouflage during rituals and as a symbol of status.


Sculpture is an extremely important art form found predominantly in West Africa. The tribal people of West Africa are settled agriculturalist and do not roam the land like nomadic cultures. Having one set land to call home is conducive to creating such large and permanent forms of art. Sculptures are created out of rocks, wood, and metal. They are used during religious ceremonies, as well as used to tell stories, and to illustrate the values and morals of the tribe. Popular wooden sculptures are: masks, heads, dolls, head-rests, stools, pipes, bowls, pots, drums, divining trays, screens, and doors. Each piece is hand carved and tells a unique story. The seemingly ubiquitous seated couple sculpture represents the symmetrical responsibilities of both men and women in Dogon life.


Masks are used most importantly during a ceremony of the dead. But the Dogons believe that a man’s soul often leaves him long before his death. Therefore, great quantities of food and drink are provided and masks are made. The number of masks made is determined by the number of relatives the man who died had. A masked dance is then performed on the flat roof of the dead man’s house. The whole series of masks represents the world of animals and men. Social function, crafts, and neighboring people draw the soul of the dead man into a pattern of its action and leads it away beyond the domain of earth.


The jewelry made by the Dogon people is deeply rooted in mythology, ritual and tradition. “Their creations are not merely symbolic of their beliefs but are part of them, as the objects themselves are often believed to be inhabited by spirits” (Fisher 1983, 108). The python represents the celestial twins that gave life to the Dogon people and is especially important. Fetishes made from clay or iron beads may be worn or are also frequently hung outside granary buildings to keep the grain safe and healthful.

Community & Tradition

When weaving fabrics together women will weave stripes six to seven inches in width and sometimes eight. Mineral and vegetable pigments are also applied to create patterns. In rural areas this technique is passed down from mother to daughter through observation and apprenticeship to the elders. (Rovine, 2001; Griaule, 1965). Religion is an important key to the African people’s culture. The repository of its past and future spiritual technologies (Olomo, 2002), throughout rituals and ceremonies religion is the unifying factor that maintains the peace within the group (Bey 2010). In African tradition the extended family is the foundation of the family and community life. During the rites of passage term, which is selected by their elders, these candidates are lavished in style. They are able to drink beer and chicken while in a camp for 2-4 weeks. During this time they are taught the treasures and secrets of their community (Bey 2010).

Ritual Dances

The origin of the ritual dance goes back to the first days of the world, when the incest of the earth changed into an ant and gave the jackal possession of the fibre skirt. “Clothed in a skirt,” said Ogotemmeli “the jackal went up on the rooftop to mourn the death of his son” (Griaule, 1970). This was the essential story of why men wear animal masks during burials and funerals. They are symbolizing the jackal during his mourning, which is why they also perform the dance upon the roof tops. In various rituals, dancing, with or without masks, was often the central liturgical action. They were mostly performed in the funeral and burial ceremonies but not uncommonly seen at the ending of the period of mourning. This is overall an extremely significant gesture.

Architecture & Village Design

A traditional Dogon village consists of a collection of houses and granaries all crowded together—flat roofs of clay with cone shaped roofs of straw. Between the houses and granaries were rectangular columns. While everything is mottled by various weather conditions, mixed all together by rain, mud, and then melted by the heat of the sun. You might see fowls, dogs and sometimes great tortoises within the courtyard under the floors of the granaries.

Roles of Women

Spinning is considered women’s work and is done with a spindle, which consists of a thin rod with one end inserted in a thick lump of dried earth. “A woman spinning,” said Ogotemmeli, “is the seventh Nummo. The ginning iron, like the smith’s hammer is a symbol of the celestial granary and this is associated with seeds” (Griaule, 1970). Women were known to be great potters. “The mat,” said Ogotemmeli, “on which the woman works is symbol of the first human couple. In molding the clay the woman is imitating the work of God when he molded the earth and the first couple” (Griaule, 1970). Women taught men how to weave the cloth but later divided the work (Griaule, 1965). They have taken on the role of cleaning, carding, and spinning the cotton, while men perform the weaving (Bey 2010).

Mayan Culture


The Mayans were a diverse group of indigenous people who lived in what is now modern day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.  They can be credited for one of the most sophisticated and complex civilizations of the ancient Western Hemisphere.


The Mayans can be credited for their achievements in farming, building without modern- day machinery, development of the first written language, and most importantly, astronomy.

  • Astronomy and Calendars of the Mayan Culture

○      The Mayans strongly believed in and incorporated the cosmos in their daily lives.  They used astrological cycles to plan when they would plant and harvest their crops.

○      Two calendars were developed by the Mayans: Calendar Round and Long Count

■     The Calendar Round – two over-lapping annual cycles, a 260-day sacred year and a 365-day secular year.  Each day was assigned four pieces: a day number and a day name in the sacred year as well as a day name and day number in the secular year.  This system looped for 52 years (a single interval).  Due to its length, it was difficult to fix events, which led to the development of the Long Count.

■     Long Count Calendar – counts days from a mythological starting point. The date is comprised of five components that combine a multiplier times 144,000 days – Bak’tun, 7,200 days – K’atun, 360 days – Tun, 20 days – Winal, and 1 day – K’in separated, in standard notation, by dots.

  • Pyramid at Chichen Itza – in Mexico is placed in such a way in relation to the sun for the spring and fall equinoxes.  On these two days, at sunset, the pyramid casts a shadow on the head of a carving of the Mayan serpent god.  The shadow forms the serpent’s body and as the sun proceeds to set it seems as though the serpent is slithering into the earth.
  • Technology

○      Created looms for weaving.

○      Paints derived from mica, a mineral still used today

○      Can be credited with the invention of vulcanization – combining rubber with other materials to make it durable.  It is believed this happened by accident during a religious ritual.  However, when the Mayans realized how strong the material became they continued to add the rubber-tree to materials.

Similarities Between Cultures

 The Mayan and the Dogon

Both the Mayans and the Dogon had complex civilizations that were considered the apex of knowledge and wealth. The Mayans had schools, libraries and judicial courts.  The Dogon had the University of Sankore located in Timbuktu.  The Mayan had groups of writers known as u tzib and they held high positions in their society. What is most impressive about both cultures is that they have close relationships with nature and their environment and transferred their knowledge to modern-day cultures. They both studied astrology; the information obtained by the Dogon is very impressive since they were able to discover the Sirius a and Sirius b.  The Mayan also followed astrology closely; they followed the Mayan calendar, which is more accurate than more modern calendars.  They used the equinoxes to know when to start planting their corn. They followed the weather patterns, and followed the star Sirius to know when the rains would fall.  They built using all natural materials, yet their architectural techniques are considered amazing achievements even to this day.  There are many similarities in the creation stories between the Mayas and the Dogon. They both mention the birth of twins, the first rainfall or flood, and use animal symbolisms to describe the battle between good order and disorder.

The Mayan and the Kemetian

The Mayans and Kemetians have several striking similarities. Both the ancient Mayan and Kemetian cultures used Hieroglyphics, a form of writing using picture symbols. In fact, when Mayan “hieroglyphs” were discovered by Europeans they were named such because of their resemblance to what had been seen in Kemet.

Another obvious similarity between the two civilizations is the presence of pyramids. While these pyramids bear an undeniable architectural resemblance, their function/purpose of construction is different. Mayan pyramids were built in the center of their cities, and were used as temples and in ceremonies. Kemetian pyramids essentially functioned as tombs, meant to house important deceased and their belongings for eternity.

An additional commonality becomes apparent when exploring the roles of women in both cultures. Both the Kemetians and the Mayans believed that men and women were equals. Women held positions of power, as queens or rulers in both societies. The Kemetians and Mayans both had female deities, including Isis in Kemet and Tlazolteotl in Maya (again showing that females could be viewed in a position of power). Women were also responsible for teaching tradition/oral history and were often the creators of “art” and utilitarian objects.

The Mayan and the Tsalagi

There were many areas of comparison between the Maya and the Tsalagi. The political system of the Maya and the Tsalagi shared a similar structure – both consisted of a loose set of states or clans united by trade and kinship. Mayan men wore loincloths with an apron in the front in the same manner as Tsalgi, Kemet, and Dogon men. The cloth produced by the women in ancient Mayan culture was woven on a Backstrap loom very similar to that used by Tsalagi and other ancient North American Cultures.

Tsalagi temple mounds such as Monks Mound, and their mythological stories of Ukdena show their connection to the Mayan Snake culture which featured similar architecture and the protective powers of the feathered or plumbed serpent. Games played with balls were also socially and politically important in both cultures; the Tsalagi version was referred to as ‘the little war’ and provided an opportunity for warriors to prove themselves.

However, they differed somewhat in their systems of justice. The ancient Tsalagi system of justice relied on the blood–revenge principal. The eldest son of a person injured or killed by another person took revenge on the offender or a member of the offender’s clan. In Mayan culture, the justice system involved similar retribution methods, however, there was a distinction placed on accidental versus intentional wrong-doing. In cases of murder, rape, incest, treachery, arson, and acts that offended the gods, the perpetrator was put to death, unless the infraction was accidental. In accidental cases, monetary retribution, the surrendering of slaves, or the enslavement of the perpetrator or a member of their family replaced the death sentence.


Today the Mayans are fighting to keep their traditions alive.  The Mayans of today have many hurdles to overcome, such as poverty, racism, and displacement.  In the U.S.A there are several large Mayan communities in California and Georgia.  They have immigrated here from Guatemala during the Civil Rights War. These several wars were used to take lands away from the Mayas and perform genocide on Mayan communities throughout Mesoamerica. Many of them speak very limited Spanish and no English. Their language is Mayan, which is difficult for them because it is hard to find translators when it comes to asking for or receiving services.  They are also afraid or ashamed to admit that they do not speak Spanish because throughout history, the Spaniards and other non-indigenous groups would humiliate them and treat them as ignorant people for speaking their native Mayan language. There are about 6 million Mayan speakers in the world. There are about 30 different Mayan languages. Most speakers come from the sub-family group Nahuatl, spoken in general Aztec.  The other major areas that Mayan is spoken is in Guatemala with 5 sub-family language groups; the Ch’ol-Tzotzil subfamily, Huastecan subfamily, Yucatecan subfamily, Chujean-Kanjobal subfamily, and Quichean-Mamean subfamily. Although the languages are different, certain words that are the essence of Mayan culture can be understood in all the languages. These words are corn, sky, sun, time, mother, and house. They convey the love of family and the constellations. Farmers continue to follow their knowledge of the sun to farm. Many continue to use their calendars, and traditions of weaving, keeping time, and rituals to this day. Although, many young Mayan men have to leave their communities to find work because they are responsible for the family. When they send money back to their country it helps to support their whole family and their communities. Mayans are realizing that they are stronger as one and have joined forces with each other to keep their traditions going and their population is growing. They continue to fight tourism of their ceremonial sites and the exploitation of their lands.


“2012 the Mayan Word” February, 2012,

The Tsalagi (Cherokee)

The Seven Clans

The Cherokee seven clans had their own symbol that represented the strengths and rights allowed to members of that tribe.  Clan affiliation was inherited through the mother’s line and membership was determined at birth.  The clan provided child care for orphans, hospitality for visiting clan members from other towns and the avenging of wrongs committed against the clan members.

Wolf Clan

The Wolf Clan (AniWahya) is the largest clan.  They were known for a tendency to act as protector and so were chosen to be War Chief. They act in cooperation with the Peace Chief.  The Clan color of the Ani Wahya is Red.

Blue Clan

The Blue or Panther Clan (Ani Sahoni) was a clan of medicine-people or healers.  The members were known for their ability with herbs and medicinal plants.  They were also known as the Wildcat Clan.  The Clan color for the Ani Sahoni is Blue.

The Long Hair Clan

The Long Hair Clan are also known as Twister Clan, Hair Hanging Down Clan or Wind Clan (AniGilohi).  They were the peacekeepers and it was from this tribe that Peace Chiefs were chosen.  The AniGilohi Clan color is Yellow.

Bird Clan

The Bird Clan (AniTsisqua) are the Keepers of the birds and they are the messengers.  They were the Cherokee people that were allowed to hunt Eagles and Owls for their feathers or wings.  The Clan color for the AniTsisqua is Purple.

Paint Clan

The Paint Clan (AniWodi) was a clan of sorcerers and medicine men.  Its members were responsible for painting the skin with medicine colors during different stages of life and also preparing special paints for ceremonial use. The Paint Clan made red paint. The Clan color for the AniWodi is White.

Deer Clan

The Deer Clan (AniKawi) are the Keepers and the hunters of the Deer, and are known as fast runners.  The Clan color for the AniKawi is Brown.

Wild Potato Clan

The Wild Potato Clan are also known as the Bear clan, Raccoon Clan or Blind Savannah Clan (Anigatogewi).  They were known to gather the wild potato plants.  They were the gatherers of food and often were referred to as keepers of the land.  The Clan color for the Anigatogewi is Green.


“Native Americans in Olden Times” (n.d),

“Cherokee Seven Clans” (n.d.)

“Cherokee History Timeline” (n.d.),

 Dream Catcher Summary

Cherokee believe that the night air is filled with dreams both good and bad. The dream catcher when hung over or near your bed swinging freely in the air, catches the dreams as they flow by. The good dreams know how to pass through the dream catcher, slipping through the outer holes and slide down the soft feathers so gently that many times the sleeper does not know that he/she is dreaming. The bad dreams not knowing the way get tangled in the dream catcher and perish with the first light of the new day.

 History of the Dream Catcher

 Long ago when the word was sound, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language. As he spoke, Iktomi the spider picked up the elder’s willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads and offerings on it, and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life, how we begin our lives as infants, move on through childhood and on to adulthood. Finally we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle.

But, Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, in each time of life there are many forces, some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But, if you listen to the bad forces, they’ll steer you in the wrong direction and may hurt you. So these forces can help, or can interfere with the harmony of Nature. While the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web.

When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the elder the web and said, “The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. Use the web to help your people reach their goals, making good use of their ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe in the great spirit, the web will filter your good ideas and the bad ones will be trapped and will not pass.”


Socia, P. “Welcome to My Tsa-la-gi (Cherokee) Page” 2003-2007,

“Understanding the Dream Catcher” (n.d.),


Tsalagi Writing

The Tsalagi syllabic writing system was created by Sequoyah in 1815, and was finished in 1821. This writing system is in a chart format and contains 84 characters, each representing a syllable that ends in a vowel. The vowels consist of a, e, i , o, u and v, a nasal sound like ‘huh.’ Sequoyah was initially tried for witchcraft when he began teaching his daughter the writing system. Once the tribe leaders were convinced that his writing represented spoken word, literacy quickly spread throughout the people. The syllabary was very easy to learn and soon the Tsalagi people were more literate than the white settlers. The Cherokee Phoenix, or Tsalagi Tsulehisanvhi, was published in Cherokee and English in February of 1828, it was the first newspaper published by a Native Tribe in a Native language. Sequoyah, the man who single-handedly created this system of power for his people perished on a voyage to Mexico in 1843. Today, it is unclear exactly how many Cherokee people still speak the language; however the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program, The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Western Carolina University are working to teach the young members of the community the language.


The Tsalagi people used beadwork to decorate and tell stories with their clothing for centuries before the arrival of the white settlers. Elements and central characters of their myths appear in their beadwork like the spider and turtle. Before trade began with Europeans in the 1600s, the Tsalagi tribe used nuts, shells, quills, copper, turquoise and other gemstones for their beautiful beadwork. After the 1600’s they began incorporating glass beads, silver, iron and steel into their work. Their beaded work became prized possessions for European traders throughout the 1700’s, and especially from 1800-1840. The devastating Trail of Tears during the 1840’s marked a low point in the art form and it took several years for the people to begin making beaded work again because of the horrific events, death, and starvation they had endured to arrive in a barren foreign land. The hardships of the journey did inspire the rose design and corn teardrop that began appearing in Tsalagi beadwork after their removal.

Symbolism is an essential part of Cherokee culture. Animals, colors, symbols, and numbers all hold importance. Nature holds special significance in Cherokee culture and the presence or appearance of certain animals in one’s life brings certain omens or signs. Each animal is characterized by particular qualities and meanings. Animal symbolism is an important part of daily life. An “animal totem” may play a role over someone’s lifetime and when a different animal shows up with a message it is called “animal medicine.” Each animal may carry a message or lesson for a Cherokee person and for this reason they are paid close attention to.

The Medicine Wheel symbolizes for the Circle of Life, the year and all times throughout creation. It embodies the 7 directions (4 cardinal directions and 3 sacred directions). Each of the directions has a related color and meaning. The cardinal directions also have a respective season as well. North is winter and is represented by the color blue; East is spring and represented by red (where the sun comes up); South is summer and represented by white; and West is autumn and represented by black (where the sun goes down). The 3 sacred directions are Up Above (Yellow), Down Below (Brown) and Here in the Center (Green).

The numbers 3, 4, 5, and 7 are considered symbolic because many plants with multiple leaves and petals have them in groups of those numbers. 7 is considered the most sacred because it was the highest level of organization in nature. In Cherokee culture the number 7 is found in the levels of spiritual growth, the number of clans, and the number of sides of their council buildings. The numbers 5 and 7 are also present in the Legend of the Cherokee Rose.

The Cherokee were driven from their homelands in North Carolina and Georgia when gold was discovered in their land. The journey was known as the “Trail of Tears.” It was a terrible time for The People – many died from the hardships and the mothers wept. The old men knew the mothers must be strong to help the children survive so they called upon the Great One to help their people and to give the mothers strength.

The Great One caused a plant to spring up everywhere a mother’s tears had fallen upon the ground on the journey. He told the old men that the plant would grow quickly, then fall back to the ground and another would grow. The plant would have white blossoms, a rose with five petals and gold in the center for the gold the white man wanted. The leaves would have seven green leaflets, one for each Cherokee clan. The plant would be strong and grow quickly throughout the land along the Trail of Tears. The thorns on the stem would protect it from those who try to move it, and it would spread and reclaim the Cherokee’s homeland.

The next morning, the women saw the beautiful white blossoms back on the trail. When they heard what the Great One had said they felt their strength return and knew they would survive and their children would grow and create a strong Cherokee Nation (Cherokee Symbols, n.d.).


“The Cherokee Language” September 2008,

“Cherokee Language/ Syllabary with Sound” April 2010,

”Cherokee Symbols” (n.d.),

“Translating Cherokee Names” 19998-2013,

Comparative Analysis of the Four Cultures

Kemet (Ancient Egypt) and Tsalagi (Cherokee):

These cultures are similar in that women have a large role in the community and are allowed power and property.  Both cultures also invented alphabets and were interested in keeping written records.

Mayan and Tsalagi (Cherokee):

Art is a big area where these cultures are similar.  Weaving and jewelry were special to these people.  Again, females could be seen in a position of power.  In the Tsalagi culture the clan of a child was determined by the mother’s clan.  They also shared a system of justice or revenge for wrongs done to someone in their clan.

Dogon and Tsalagi (Cherokee):

These cultures shared a deep appreciation of nature and symbolism.  They were very interested in knowledge and were very interested in studying the world around them.  The Tsalagi found relevance in everything from numbers to animals to colors and took their strength and individuality from what they found in nature.

Published in: on January 28, 2014 at 10:23 am  Leave a Comment  

What is Critical Pedagogy?

Lesley University’s Creative Arts in Learning division in the Graduate School of Education offers a course “Critical Pedagogy through the Arts,” which is taught by Professor Aziza Braithwaite Bey.  Dr. Aziza chaired the Critical Pedagogy and the Arts Committee 2007 – 2011 and is the creator of this blog at Lesley University.

For this course, Dr. Bey has compiled excerpts from recent articles, books, and chapters that depict the current work and beliefs in the field, and organized these excerpts into chapters summarizing various perspectives within the field, such as on race, class, gender, education, etc. During this semester, students in her Critical Pedagogy class are required to present on various topics throughout the semester depicting the multiple facets Critical Pedagogy addresses. A summary of each presentation has been compiled as follows:

Below is the first summary of the semester, which reflects the students’ theories and answer to the question…What is Critical Pedagogy?

Discuss the philosophies and theories of several thinkers who were key in developing the current concept of Critical Pedagogy, with a major focus on John Dewey and Paulo Freire.

Together, Dewey’s and Freire’s ideas have shaped the current day concept of Critical Pedagogy. Critical Pedagogy not only compares the relationship between learning and teaching, but moves beyond this comparison to state that the relationship between teaching and learning takes on a life of its own.

This dynamic of teaching and learning, as expressed within the context of Critical Pedagogy, is greatly shaped by our culture’s dynamics of power; whether or not we recognize it. The true Critical Pedagogue will continually wrestle with this dynamic and question the influence of power structures as they shape our ideas about not only how we teach, but what we teach.  Furthermore, Dewey and Freire collectively assert that teaching and learning occur between both teacher and student.  In addition, Freire emphasizes that true Critical Pedagogy, the true way of learning, extends into a practical involvement in the community.  It is never only just about the intellect but also involves praxis.


Freire, P. (2012). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Race, Class, and Gender in Critical Pedagogy

Below are key points discussed by the students in regards to the theories they found most important to race, class, and gender within Critical Pedagogy:

Sex Versus Gender

-Sex is biological while gender is a part of a socially constructed meaning that is associated with different sexes.

-Sex role stereotypes – What is “natural” behavior?

-In reality women do much physical labor. In poor countries it is the women who complete the backbreaking work. This is a huge contrast to the dainty role a woman is expected to play, in more affluent Western countries.

-“Gender is a socially imposed division of the sexes.”

-Boys and girls are put under stress to conform to sex-role stereotypes.


-Race is socially constructed as well.

-Ethnicity vs. Race?

-Race is more a political categorization than a biological or scientific category.

** What does the term race mean? What does the term ethnicity mean? How have we, as a society changed these terms to mean what is socially acceptable behaviors of certain groups??

-Race is a social concept.

-The term “black” has come to mean anyone who is not white. How does one act “black” or white or Latino? (Racial etiquette).

-The terms lower class, working class, and upper class as a way to socially categorize people.

 Creating White Privilege

-“Teach whites the value of whiteness in order to divide and rule the labor force,” (Rothenberg, 2001, 32).

– To keep the racial categories separate, a 1661 law increased the punishment of European women who marry African or Indian men; towards the end of the late 1600 a white woman could be enslaved for marrying a black.

-Laws were created that made it illegal for slaves to learn to read.

-Laws were created that made being white better than being black. Even if you were a white slave, you had more rights than a black slave. This was done to control the people and keep blacks in a class of their own.

-Thomas Jefferson advocated the establishment of a solid white Anglo-Saxon yeomen class of small farmers, who, as property owners, would uphold law and order in return for property.

-Media, such as newspapers and forums, created a “psychological wage”, which helped make even poor whites look down on blacks. This feeling of superiority helped keep the races separate, even though there were not huge financial differences.

 Social Construction of Gender

-Gender is something that comes naturally to most people. We don’t even realize we do it, but it happens from the minute we are born and our parents put on the pink or blue outfits.

-Gender is a major way in which humans organize their lives. It is important to remember that gender and sex are not the same!

-Transsexuals and transvestites are cross over genders, but they are not considered a third gender.

-One must be taught gender. Children learn to walk, talk, and gesture the way their social group says a boy or girl should act.

-Gender norms are inscribed in the way people move. Schools, parents, peers, and the media guide young people into gender roles. The gendered practices of everyday life reproduce a society’s view of how men and women should act.

***“Gendered social arrangements are justified by religion and cultural productions and backed by law, but the most powerful means of sustaining the moral hegemony of the dominant gender ideology is that the process is made invisible; any possible alternatives are virtually unthinkable”  (Goodman, 2010, 24).

-In society gender means difference. If men and women are doing the same tasks, they are given different tasks.

-Women recruits in the U.S. Marine Corps. are required to wear makeup. This feminization is part of a deliberate policy to make them clearly distinguishable from male Marines.

-Gender stereotypes rank men above women in status.

The Social Construction of Sexuality

-Much of the Western thinking about sexuality is based on the Christian definition of sexuality, and Christian beliefs.

-As adults and parents, we teach children that sex is only for making babies. Once they reach adolescence they are flooded with hormones and peer pressure and many do not have the proper information on the topic of sex.


-A patriarchal society is one that is male-dominated, male-centered, male-identified, and oppresses women.

-Women who have high-powered jobs are looked upon as the exception to the rule.

-Women are historically praised for their beauty and ability to produce and raise children, not for their intellectual aptitude.

-Historically women have been excluded from the church, state, universities and high-powered professions.

 Going Beyond Black and White, Hispanics in Census Pick ‘Other’

-“There’s a Latino identity that’s neither white nor black, and it’s a positive identity,” (Navarro, 2003).

-“Some other race” Hispanics do not constitute a separate race, and can be any of the five standard, government-defined racial categories.

-Asian American is a huge umbrella term used to lump together Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Pakistanis, and many other people. They have extremely different languages, ethnicities, and traditions.

-Violence towards Asian immigrants began when Asian immigrants were given labor jobs because they were willing to work for low wages. Americans viewed them as stealing their jobs.

-1982, Chinese American Vincent Chin was beaten to beaten with a baseball bat by unemployed auto workers who thought he was Japanese.


Goodman, J. (2010). Global perspectives on gender and work: Readings and interpretations.Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Navarro, M. “Going Beyond Black and White, Hispanics in Census Pick ‘Other’.” November 9, 2003,

Rothenberg, P. (2007). Race, class, and gender in the united states. New York: Worth Publishers.

Gender, Feminism, Class, and Critical Pedagogy

To discuss the role of gender, feminism, class and critical pedagogy, students used a video to visually portray the life of a peasant and the beliefs they most likely held. In addition, the students offered ample amount of opportunities to discuss these perspectives as a class. Furthermore, the group strategically created a game that illustrated the “system of profit” in our society today. Lastly, the students found a poem by Rudyard Kipling to illuminate bullying within the school system. Below is a brief summary outlining the video presented, the open discussions that were debated, the game that was created, and the poem that was shared:

1. Constitutional Peasants

2. Open Discussion: If you had to choose one factor that determines social class, what would it be and why?

3. The Unfair Game: while playing this game please imagine you are a public-school student.

Before the game: Teacher prepares small slips of paper of different colors labeled in the following monetary denominations: 5$, $10, $50, $100, and $500.  The $500 bills should be on plain white paper.

Each slip should be folded so the printed denominations are not visible until it is unfolded.

Teachers(s) divides class into groups of four to five students each and asks them if they would like to play a game called The Unfair Game.  Naturally, being students, they will want to play, even though the teacher cautions them that, no matter who wins, the result will almost certainly be unfair.

Teacher instructs students to draw four folded slips from a bowl.  Students are not to unfold the slips until told, or they will forfeit their reward for waiting (usually a piece of candy).

Teacher instructs students to unfold the paper slips and count their “money.”  Teacher then asks each group who has the most money, the second-most money, and so forth, recording this data on board.

Round 1: Teacher instructs students that they have one minute to trade papers within their groups only.  At the end of the minute, students count their money and teacher records new tally on the board.

Round 2: Teacher instructs students that they have one minute to trade papers amongst members of other groups only.  At the end of the minute, students count their money and teacher records new tally on the board.

Final round: Teacher calls the “richest” member of each group to the head of the class.  In the event of a tie, teacher will call both/all the richest.  Teacher may opt to include the second richest member of the group if that person is richer than any of the richest of the other groups.

Teacher tells this elite group of students that they have one minute to make up the rules for the final round or else they will lose all of their money.  Almost invariably, this results in them assuming most or all of the wealth of the other students.

Tendencies to notice:

  • In each round, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
  • Some poor lose interest in the game, participating only superficially, resigning themselves to being at the bottom.  These essentially resemble ghettoes, economically depressed areas of widespread hopelessness.
  • Some students sometimes express resentment.  This is acceptable as long as the student remains in control. Remind them that the game is called The Unfair Game, and that they were informed at the beginning that the result would probably be unfair.  These students are like those who protest against unfairness in society.
  • Sometimes there is widespread dissatisfaction among those who were forced to give up their money in the final round.  In effect, this illustrates that, if those in power push things too far, they could wind up with a revolution on their hands.

MA Learning Standards: History and Social Science USI.12 Explain and provide examples of different forms of government, including democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, theocracy, and autocracy.

Further discussion:

  • How is economic power related to feminism and gender?
  • Is the USA an oligarchy?
  • Thoughts on the Gloria Steinem quote, “Women need men like fish need bicycles.”
  • Do you think it is necessary for women to give up their jobs in order to have babies?
  • “Critical thinking” does not appear in any of the learning standards in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for History and Social Science, English Languages Arts and Literacy, or Science and Technology/Engineering. What are your thoughts on this?

4. “We and They” by Rudyard Kipling

Father and Mother, and Me,

Sister and Auntie say

All the people like us are We,

And every one else is They.

And They live over the sea,

While We live over the way,

But-would you believe it? –They look upon We

As only a sort of They!

We eat pork and beef

With cow-horn-handled knives.

They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,

Are horrified out of Their lives;

While they who live up a tree,

And feast on grubs and clay,

(Isn’t it scandalous? ) look upon We

As a simply disgusting They!

We shoot birds with a gun.

They stick lions with spears.

Their full-dress is un-.

We dress up to Our ears.

They like Their friends for tea.

We like Our friends to stay;

And, after all that, They look upon We

As an utterly ignorant They!

We eat kitcheny food.

We have doors that latch.

They drink milk or blood,

Under an open thatch.

We have Doctors to fee.

They have Wizards to pay.

And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We

As a quite impossible They!

All good people agree,

And all good people say,

All nice people, like Us, are We

And every one else is They:

But if you cross over the sea,

Instead of over the way,

You may end by (think of it!) looking on We

As only a sort of They!

Further Discussion:

  • Focus on the problem of bullying in our school…
  • How does it reflect and strength this problem of our society?
  • What does it say about the phenomena of “the haves and have nots,” “us vs. them,” and a general fear of difference?


Kipling, Rudyard “We and They.” (n.d.),

Critical Pedagogy in the Classroom

In response to focusing on critical pedagogy in the classroom, student’s within Dr. Bey’s class created a variety of interventions to use within the classroom based on critical pedagogy principles. Through the use of music, open discussion, and response to current trauma in our society the group proposed a wealth of opportunities to incorporate critical pedagogy in the classroom. Their ideas, interventions, and discussion are as follows:

A Model for Teaching Social Justice through Music

“Our children’s natural desire to make sense of their world can be enhanced through the appreciation and application of popular media as a pedagogical tool.” (White, 2005,

“Popular media embodies a language of both critique and possibility; a language that allows students to locate themselves in history, find their own voices, and establish convictions and compassion necessary for democratic civic courage.” (Freire and Giroux, 1989 as quoted in White& Walker, 2008, 82).

“Through its history, pop music like all forms of music has not only served as a reflection of the times, but it also has been a catalyst for critical social efficacy and societal change.” (White & Walker, 2008, 10)


1. Pass out lyrics to any song that deals with social issues such as:

Where is the Love by The Blackeyed Peas

2. Play the song, play other examples of songs that deal with social issues.

3. Ask the following:

What is the song about?

What issues and ideas are presented?

Why does the song begin and end when it does?

4. Place students in groups of approximately 4.

5. Tell students that they are going to write their own lyrics on an agreed upon social issue.

6. Have students individually brainstorm current social issues.

7. Have group members share.

8. Create a group stanza.

9. Pass out transparency and have groups write new stanza.

10. Each group will share/sing new stanza.

11. Following the sharing have groups discuss rationale for events/issues included.


Individuals in groups brainstorm themes, social issues and examples of music for integration.

Brainstorm application ideas. Share.


Have examples of music for groups to investigate. Examples can include songs from Public Enemy, System of a Down, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Ani DeFranco, Woody Guthrie, etc. Furthermore, discuss the examples and choose specific examples of music for classroom integration. Then, groups should brainstorm integration ideas.


Freire, P and H. Giroux (1989). Pedagogy, popular media, and public life. Ib Popular Media: Schooling and Everyday Life, ed. Giroux, H. and R. Simon. Granby, MA: Bergin and Garvey Publishers.

White, C, & Walker, T. (2008). Tooning in: Essays in popular culture and education.Maryland:

Rowman &Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

White, C. (2005). “Integrating Music in History Education.” Academic Exchange Quarterly,


Creating Classroom Rules through Discussion Questions

1. How can we involve students in the creation of classroom rules/agreements to promote equity and social justice in the classroom?

2. What are the benefits of including students in this process? How could it ultimately impact the classroom environment?

3. Do you feel students will take ownership/ be more committed to these rules if they are the ones creating them?

4. What are some rules that you would hope that your students would choose?

By allowing students to take part in the creation of classroom rules the rules become more meaningful to them. They are not just something hanging up on the wall that they are told to do. They will take ownership of these rules and be more inclined to follow them. By directing this activity we can ideally have them create rules that promote equity and social justice in the classroom. These rules can help create a more positive and tolerant classroom environment that values acceptance, and reduces the occurrence of bullying and negative behaviors.

Please refer to the following link for more information regarding the creation of classroom rules:

Crisis Response and Intervention — Response to Tragedy

1. Have counselors on hand at the schools to speak to the children. They may not react immediately; some may be in shock at first.

2. The community response is very important to children. Churches in particular as well as other community centers usually have prayer vigils or some kind of gathering after a tragedy. If the child has been exposed in some way, it may be a good idea to attend one of the vigils.

3. If it is a very young child and they are not aware of the tragedy, don’t bring it up. Wait for questions and just answer the one’s they ask. Don’t offer lots of information to a very young child.

4. The arts can be very therapeutic: songs, poetry, and visual arts are all frequently a part of a memorial in times of tragedy.

5. Many times people from other states will try to reach out and help the survivors, or just let them know they are being thought of.

An example of this support can be found at the following link:

6. There is no right answer to handling a tragedy.  Always take advantage of the resources available through the schools and the community.

7. If the students want to be involved in the memorial, don’t discourage them.  Let them attend services (but don’t make them go) and make art, write poems, or just talk about what happened.

Example of a poem as a response to Sandy Hook:

“We see each young person as a distinct individual with her or his own hopes and fears and goals.

We help young people to be their best and most honest selves.

We organize and advocate for young people and for the kind of school communities that allow young people to share their own stories and to move toward the kind of stories that they want to tell about themselves.

We show our love through our focus on our students as people who will grow, rather than only focusing on them as a series of ‘achievements.’”

The above poem is referenced from the following link:

Fredriksen, J. (2012). Educators’ voices: some responses to sandy hook.

Retrieved from

Celebrating Language Diversity in the Classroom

“If we saw how natural Kenya sounded and her audience is Black students, why shouldn’t she be allowed to speak Black English? Now she sees [her usage] listed as needing improvement. The idea is that’s something that she should change. And that’s a problem.”
Seemingly prodded by this query, the class discussion spiraled out from there. We engaged a variety of issues, among them the nature of the relationship between language and the mainstream power structure, what acceptance of mainstream codes meant for speakers whose language and culture differed from that of the mainstream, the roles of English teachers and students of language, and what it means to study the mainstream codes while celebrating the home codes. In our excitement, ideas were tumbling out one upon the other and we all were competing to hold the floor in order to make our collective points–so much so that when the bell rang signaling the end of the school day, nearly half the class remained at their own choosing to continue the conversation.”


Fecho, B. (2000). Critical inquiries into language in an urban classroom. Research in the Teaching of English, 34 (3): 368. Retrieved from

Revolutionary Pedagogy

Students provided a journal review of Peter McLaren’s article on Revolutionary Pedagogy. The students shared their interpretation of the article and what they found helpful as training educators in today’s society.

Revolutionary Pedagogy in Post-Revolutionary Times: ReThinking the Political Economy of Critical Education by McLaren (2005) provided real life examples. His critique of what critical pedagogy has evolved into was insightful, and left us as future teachers aware of how much work and scrutiny really goes into true critical pedagogy.

As stated by McLaren,

The conceptual net known as critical pedagogy has been cast so wide and at times so cavalierly that it has come to be associated with anything dragged up out of the troubled and infested waters of educational practice, from classroom furniture organized in a “dialogue friendly” circle to “feel-good” curricula designed to increase students’ self-image. Its multicultural education equivalent can be linked to a politics of diversity that includes “respecting differences” through the celebration of “ethnic” holidays and themes such as “Black history month” and “Cinco de Mayo.” If the term “critical pedagogy” is refracted onto the stage of current educational debates, we have to judge it as having been largely domesticated in a manner that many of its early exponents, such as Brazil’s Paulo Freire, so strongly feared. (234)

This was shocking to read because we have been diligently studying how critical pedagogy is far removed from this approach to education. Yet it is visible how old patterns can easily “creep back in” if we are not aware and constantly seeking to improve our educational practice.

Therefore, the group chose to focus on wealth inequality in America in our capitalist society, how it affects classrooms and students today, and additionally, what we (as future teachers) can do about it. This problem has all forms of discrimination and biases tied to it, such as classism, racism, sexism, etc. which are impacted by the vastly unequal wealth distribution in America. Thus addressing this issue is a good bridge into addressing other prejudices, or it can be used as a culminating discussion in a classroom.

McLauren (2005) call for pedagogy based on Marxism and Marxist Humanism, both terms that need to be further investigated. Different political ideologies could also be an excellent way to examine societies and utopias. We have learned through this research that Marxist Humanism is based on Karl Marx’s Theory of Alienation, which states:

Theory of Alienation (Entfremdung) is the systemic result of living in a socially stratified society, because being a mechanistic part of a social class alienates a person from his and her humanity (, Retrieved October 29, 2013).

After completing this research it can be concluded that understanding the authors’ purpose and ideology is a key component to the true meaning of Revolutionary Pedagogy, which calls for an eradication of capitalism and revised democracy and socialism.


McLaren, Peter. “Revolutionary Pedagogy in Post-Revolutionary Times: Rethinking the Political

Economy of Critical Education.” January 25, 2005,

Published in: on December 2, 2013 at 9:53 am  Comments (1)  

Endless U.S. Drug War Debate: A Big Business

To present their findings on the “Endless Drug War Debate,” the students within Dr. Bey’s class were asked to research, from six perspectives, which societal beliefs have an influence on the U.S. war on drugs: the consumers’, street dealers’, peasant farmers’, money launderers’, the U.S. government’s, and the profit system’s.

After completing their research, each group was “summoned to court” within the classroom. The students were challenged to present a debate as to why they weren’t the reason for the drug war as they represented the six various groups of influencers.

Each group was confronted with their responsibility for the war on drugs and were asked how they would plead. The following are the testimonies for each perspective listed.


Consumer Advocate – Social Worker – Script

I am a member of the National Association of Social Workers. I have spent many years of my life working with individuals with drug addiction. I feel that “given the general acceptance of drug abuse as a diagnosable and treatable condition, it is not unreasonable to advocate for a public health response to illicit drug use”(NASW, 2013) According to records from the Federal Bureau of Investigation more than 853,000 people were arrested for just marijuana-related violations in 2010, most of which were for possession, not intent to sell. I strongly feel that this is a public health issue. The arrest and subsequent incarceration of these individuals is not the right method. It is not the way to solve the issue of drug use in this country. These individuals need treatment, not criminal records. Research has shown that states with higher drug treatment admission rates, have on average 100 fewer people per 100,000 in prison than states with lower than national average drug treatment admissions. I believe that drug treatment programs not only improve life outcomes for individuals suffering from substance abuse by decreasing the likelihood that a drug-involved person will be admitted to the criminal justice system but they also aid in increasing public safety as a whole. (Can discuss vicious cycle, harder to find employment more likely to keep using drugs, or sell drugs to make money) “[S]cientists and physicians overwhelmingly agree that while use and even abuse of drugs such as alcohol and cocaine is a behavior over which the individual exerts control, addiction to these substances is something different” (Moyers, 1998). Therefore we must treat addicts and offenders not incarcerate them.

Other stats that support this view:

According to the 2011 FBI Uniform Crime Report, two-thirds of those arrested for drug violations in that period were white and 33 percent were black, although blacks made up 12.8 percent of the population. Also, most of the arrests were for possession of drugs, rather than for their sale or distribution. Furthermore, 32.2 percent of African American boys born in 2001 will serve at least one year in prison during their lives (Uniform Crime Data of 2011; see

 Consumer – User & Victim – Script

Hi. My name is Jeanny and I am here to tell my story and explain why users of illicit drugs are not fully responsible for all the crimes and deaths attributed to the illegal drug trade. First let us get a couple things straight, “there has never been a recorded death from marijuana.” Also, a person is 1,000 times more likely to die from tobacco or alcohol abuse than from using cocaine or heroin (Livingston, 1996, 251).

• Former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Alan Leshner stated, “One of the major predictors of becoming addicted is the level of stress a person is trying to cope with” (Moyers, 1998).

• The majority of illegal drug users are white, (Livingston, 1996).  I am also a white middle-class teen, living in a rural neighborhood, dealing with more than her share of home-life stress.

• My parents never really got along.

• Even though I had a little sister, neither of my parents was home a lot.

• By the time I was in my junior year of HS, my parents had divorced. My father was never there for me, and because in fact he continually mocked how large my breasts had become, I left home and moved in with my 26-year-old drug-dealing boyfriend. That’s when I first tried marijuana.

• My mother tried to rescue me from the abusive relationship I was in by sending me to live with my grandmother in North Carolina to finish my high school degree. While there I was gang raped by five male students.

• Regardless, I got my high school diploma and went on to get my hairdressers license.

• I then travelled around the country on the back of various men’s motorcycles while competing in wet T-shirt contests and other female competitions. Along these long trips, I tried cocaine, habitually used marijuana and became dependent on alcohol to ease my nerves. I never feel safe.

• I finally found myself in Oregon. I’ve always had a job, never stolen anything, and my only crime was using drugs to take away emotional pain. Although I never became addicted to cocaine, I would use it on and off for 15 years.

•I could never sleep alone or without a noise machine. My boyfriends were usually older and helped me feel safe. During and after Katrina I helped my last boyfriend protect his auto shop from looting. Then he dumped me. I felt out of control, I once again turned to cocaine to numb the pain. The dealer I met was constantly pressuring me for sex, I always said no, and I guess he had waited long enough because one night he gave me heroin and coke. He waited in my apartment for me to snort it and then I overdosed. He then proceeded to rape my lifeless body. He never called 911. I was found days later by a neighbor. I was only 37.

• Dealers are the ones to blame for the crime and deaths related to illegal drug trade; users need therapy, love, compassion and help (Jeanny, 2009).


Boesler, M. & Lutz, A. (2012). 32 reasons why we need to end the war on drugs. Business

Insider. Retrieved from

Moyers, B. (1998). Close to Home: Moyers on Addiction. Retrieved from

Jeanny. (2009). Personal Communication.

Livingston, M. (1996). Endless U.S. drug war: A big business. Connection to the Americas 13, 2.

National Association of Social Workers. (2013). A Social work perspective on drug policy reform: Public health approach. Retrieved from

 Street Dealers

We blame the drug users, the U.S government, and our society in general for playing a larger role on the drug war.  It is our belief that people make a conscious decision to use drugs and continue to do so even though they know it is wrong.  If people stopped using, we would be out of a job.

On a larger scale, the government has a lot of work to do in helping those that have been caught up in drug use—specifically, helping those that have been incarcerated for drug abuse.  There needs to be a change to the vicious cycle of drug abuse. People caught for drug abuse are put in jail and then offered no rehab or help getting back on their feet once they are released back in the real world.  Why then would we be surprised when they turn back to the only thing they know and are used to, drugs.

The government also needs to do a more thorough job educating our youth on the serious repercussions of doing/dealing or even being around drugs.  Students are often told not to do it because “it is bad and can harm you,” but they could benefit from seeing real effects of family loss, overdose, and homelessness that often results from involvement with drugs.

In the grand scheme of things, we (small time drug dealers) are not to blame, nor are we truly supporting or enabling the entire industry.  Most dealers are simply trying to make enough money to cover the expense of our lives.  The only way we are going to make a difference in the drug war is to start looking at the bigger organizations (cartel, money laundering, and the U.S. government).


“How to Sell Drugs.” June 22, 2012,

Winkler, Jeff. “Drug Dealer Explains Economics of Seeling Part-Time.” August 14, 2012,

Bailey, Ronald. “Former Drug Dealer Explains Black Market Pricing to NPR.”  May 5, 2011,

Bulmberg, Alex. “A Former Crack Kingpin On The Economics of Illegal Drugs.” May 4, 2011,

Holmes, Linda. “Documentary Explains ‘How to Make Money Selling Drugs’.” September 9, 2012,

 Peasant Farmers

We the peasant farmers plead innocent; the international drug rings are the ones who profit from opium production. We the farmers may make enough to get by, but we live in fear and are branded as criminals. Furthermore, we are innocent for the following reasons:

  •  Peasant farmers are at the bottom of the drug industry in Latin America.  They can make more money growing coca than other crops.  They are not profiting by making a lot of money but they are making enough to survive.
  • The demand for cocaine in the United States and other countries has changed the economic and social relations in countries such as Bolivia and Colombia, making the growing of the coca leaf much more profitable than other crops that can be grown in those climates.
  • Problems of inflation and unemployment in Latin American countries make the growing and harvesting of coca crops much more attractive to the peasant farmers.
  • Poverty leads us (peasant farmers) to grow the crops with the highest revenue; coca and poppies result in higher profits than coffee, bananas, or wheat (opium is $4,500 per hectare versus $266 for wheat).
  • Drugs are easy to transport, fruit and vegetables rot quickly which leads to higher transportation costs.
  • Start up for coca and poppy plants are relatively cheap, whereas fruit trees require significant investment money that may not be seen in profits.
  • Many farmers are forced into growing coca and poppy plants by oppressive governments. They have been forced off their fertile land onto land that cannot grow many crops besides these drugs
  • Many farmers have moral qualms about growing drugs; it its against the Quran to use drugs. However as farmers we are not using these drugs and only trying to provide for our families. In many situations refusing to grow these crops could result in being killed or starvation.
  • Oppressive governments leave citizens fearful and in poverty. Farmers are not to blame for striving to provide for their families and refusing to abide by orders.
  • According to the UN, opium production in Afghanistan increased by 1400% between 1972 and 1998 – mainly during the Soviet occupation. It was grown as a cash crop to fund anti-Soviet forces. Prior to 1972 poppies were grown, to a small extent, for medicinal and seasoning purposes. In the 1970s Afghanistan had a thriving agricultural economy based on fruit exports; with support, this could be developed again.
  • Between the 2001 coalition invasion and 2007, production increased 300%. With the deposing of the Taliban regime their current role as insurgents has driven the resurgence of opium production.
  • The Taliban receives nearly 70 percent of its income from opium sales and the protection money it rakes in from drug lords and traffickers. They also levy taxes on the farmers.
  • Efforts to eradicate opium crops by the UN and other agencies often add recruits to the Taliban insurgents. Removing a farmer’s livelihood and threatening their family’s welfare often drives them to insurgency.
  • Peasant farmers often mortgage or borrow from drug traffickers against future harvests. While this guarantees food for their families, it makes it even more difficult for them to grow an alternate crop.
  • In countries such as Afghanistan the poppy crops used for heroin have also taken on the same type of economic power for the poor farmers. In these countries, the drug trade is also being used to help support terrorist activities and groups making it an attractive crop even though they have strong feelings against drug use in these countries.
  • Coca grows well on poor soil and has fewer problems with pests and blight also making it an attractive crop for the peasant farmers.
  • Peasant farmers can become enmeshed with the drug traffickers through mortgages and loans and end up in a cycle of providing crops to them in order to survive financially and also to avoid possible violence against their families.
  • Another problem for the peasant farmers who become coca growers is a growing independence on purchased foods that become more expensive because of the relative shortage of these crops.
  • The ecosystem in these countries is suffering from the dumping of chemicals used in the production of coca paste. This negatively affects the livestock and other agriculture as well as the water supply for the peasants themselves.
  • The peasants use their feet to stomp the coca leaves creating health problems for the farmers.
  • Other illegal activities that go along with the drug trade are becoming more common among the peasant farmers including prostitution. There are more guns to protect the drugs, which leads to more violence against innocent farmers. Local government officials can become caught up in the drug trade so corruption has increased in the government of these countries also.

Alternative Crops:

  • There has been some effort to help the peasant farmers with alternate crops that they can profit from including plantains, yucca and papaya.
  • Other crops instead of poppies include asparagus and coffee.
  • Saffron, cumin, and other spices provide a high value for a low volume, but require investment in infrastructure.
  • Alternative crops require the implementation of a new economic basis in the areas affected. Marketing, storage, irrigation, roads, and many other factors need to be developed in order to support the new economy.


Synovitz, R. “Afghanistan: Saffron Could Help Wean Farmers Off Opium Poppies.” June 2, 2006,

Hays, J. “Cocaine, Coca Cultivation, Trade and Anti-drug Efforts.” March 2011,

“If We Destroy Opium Poppy Fields, Farmers Will Join the Taliban.” December 9, 2010,

Kraul, C. (2013). “Coca farming in Colombia dropped 25% last year, U.N. says.”  Los Angeles Times – California, National and World News Retrieved from,0,2354772.story

LaCouture, Michael. Narco-terrorism in Afghanistan: Counternarcotics and counterinsurgency International Affairs Review (n.d.). Retrieved from

Siddique, Abubakar  and Salih Muhammad Salih. Afghanistan: Poor Helmand farmers find themselves in eye of drug storm (n.d.). Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Retrieved  from

Smith, P. (n.d.), book review of Drugs in Afghanistan: Opium, Outlaws, and Scorpion Tales by David Macdonald.” | raising awareness of the consequences of prohibition. Retrieved  from

UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem. (n.d.). Welcome to the United Nations: It’s Your World. Retrieved  from

UNODC UN Office on Drugs and Crime.  Colombia: From illicit drugs to sustainable livelihoods. (n.d.).  Retrieved from

Wikipedia. Opium production in Afghanistan (n.d.).  Retrieved  from

 Money Launderers

In the case of the Money Launderers we thought it would be best to show how some are threatened by drug cartels to begin working with them.  All money launderers involved with drug cartels know what they are getting into—that it is a crime.  There still is a percentage of them that make the choice to be involved to protect their family.

A person commits money laundering when a financial transaction is performed, knowing that the money or property involved came from an illegal act.  Many blame the government for the continuing drug problem because if an individual is charged and found guilty of laundering money, the penalties are not harsh.  Some pay fines up to the monetary values involved and then complete probation. Others could spend up to twenty years in prison.  Most do not because they are released on good behavior.  Most money launderers are not criminals or violent, although they are associated with violent criminals.

However we saw that many launderers become greedy.  They begin to involve innocent people’s investments leading to fraud on top of laundering money for the drug cartels.  Greed takes hold of them and they cannot seem to get out – it is almost as if the money becomes their addiction.

It was difficult to defend a group who know very well what they are doing is illegal.  They are supporting illegal acts and in turn making lots of money themselves.


Andelman, D. A. (1994). The drug money maze. Foreign Affairs, 23, 94-108.

Dokopupil, T. (2009).  My father the dope dealer.  Newsweek, 154, 30-37

Thornbourgh, R. (1990)Money laundering. Vital Speeches of the Day 56: 578-182.

Western, B. (2010). Decriminalizing poverty. Nation 291: 12-14.

The U.S. Government

We, the U.S. Government, do not take responsibility for the current war on drugs. Our testimony is as follows:

  • Legalizing or decriminalizing illegal recreational drugs sends the wrong message to children.  How can we tell our children that it’s wrong to use drugs if we turn around and legitimize them through law?
  • Also, it’s true that people still use these drugs, but it is possible that even more people would use them if they were legalized or decriminalized. Look at what happened to alcohol and cigarettes by viewing the following article:
  • The war on drugs is not confined to American borders. Part of the effort in the American War on Drugs extends into other countries, where organized crime, financed by American drug users and by drug lords, has wreaked havoc.  It is therefore an American responsibility to aid our neighbors in this effort.  Those criminals should not be allowed to run rampant, terrorizing innocent people, and influencing governments by intimidation. Other countries have asked America for help on this. America should not turn a deaf ear to these pleas from its neighbors.
  • For example, as many have read…

In September 2006, gunmen opened the doors of the Sol y Sombra discotheque in Uruapan, in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, and threw five human heads onto the dance floor. As frightened partygoers looked on, the gang left a scrawled message at the scene, announcing the arrival of a new, breakaway drug cartel called La Familia Michoacana, and walked out as coolly as they had entered. For many, it represented a shocking new degree of brutality by the country’s drug traffickers. It made headlines around the world (Grant 2012).

(To further outline the “deepening drug-war” in Mexico please refer to Ken Ellingwood, “Why Mexico is not the new Colombia when it comes to drug cartels.” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 25, 2010, 2010/sep/25/world/la-fg- mexico-colombia-20100926)


  • The war on drugs is expensive and difficult.  However, just because an effort is costly and difficult does not mean it should not be made.  Are we supposed to limit ourselves only to goals that are easily attainable?  If we were to operate with such unambitious limitations, humans would still be living in caves, and the war on drugs would be fought with rocks and wooden clubs.

Furthermore, as stated by Sterling (1999) “the cost of engaging in a “drug war” is, in dollars and cents, a tremendous economic burden and, as a tool of public policy, of doubtful effect. That does not mean that because a government effort directed at solving a social evil is both costly and of little effect that it should be abandoned, but it does (or should) force us to conduct a very critical cost-benefit analysis as part of our decision-making process.” (Sterling, 1999)


Grant, Will. Mexico Violence: Fear and Intimidation. BBC News: Latin America and Caribbean (14 May 2011), uk/news/world-latin-america- 18063328

Sterling, J.A. “America’s War on Drugs.” 1999, drugwar.htm

Hawkins, J. “In Defense of the Drug War.” January 25, 2007,

Ellingwood, K. “Why Mexico is not the new Colombia when it comes to drug cartels.” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 25, 2010, 2010/sep/25/world/la-fg- mexico-colombia-20100926

The System of Profit

The following plea represents the system profit’s stance toward the U.S. drug war. The students have taken on the multiple perspectives the system profit holds. From the prison sector, the importance of drug testing, and the role of rehabilitation centers in the United States:

We plead not guilty for the charges brought against us. It is not our fault that the U.S. government has a hidden agenda in the War on Drugs to control the wealth of other countries, such as Colombia, Ecuador, Afghanistan, and Iran. The U.S wants to control the natural resources like gold, silver, copper, and oil. The control of these areas and its politicians with the presumed “war on drugs” is merely a business strategy. We the system of profit also blame the government for failing to put money towards drug use prevention; only 5% of government money is spent on the war on drugs.

The system of profit includes the privatization of American prisons, the drug testing industry, and addiction recovery industry centers. The two largest private prison companies in the U.S are the GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut or Premier) and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). These two privatized private prison management corporations hold 75% of the American prison population. The CCA alone houses 92,000 immigrant and drug offenders.

We offer the availability to house offenders and minimize overcrowding in public prisons giving relief to the state budget. The privatization of prisons has aided in the reduction of costs, and helped build new state of the art prisons quickly. The prisons also create jobs. There are entire communities that live off the prison system.

These jobs fall under the following categories (but are not limited to) security, prison construction, uniform makers, health care, and food preparation. In some states, such as California, a prison guard can have a larger annual income than a doctor. Local farmers benefit from the prisons because they can take seasonal work, or stay if their crops don’t grow.

Private prisons also have the budget and means to provide services to prisoners, and we help them acquire labor skills, which in turn can help them when they have completed their sentences. We aid in the removal of drug dealers off the streets by supporting strict sentences on repeat offenders. We are helping bring down the use and sale of illegal drugs by setting a precedent: if you commit the crime we have the means to punish you.

A lot of scrutiny comes down on the system of profit for creating a society that values property and money over the lives of people. We however stand by the claim that America is founded on the concept of individualism. We are each responsible for ourselves, and our minor children, to make moral choices. This puts the blame on the users, dealers, and money launderers who choose to be part of the problem.

The drug testing industry helps encourage drug-free workplace programs, which benefit the labor force, employers, families, and their communities. We save the federal, state, and local government money by testing welfare recipients and parolees. Mandatory drug testing may keep some potential users from buying and taking drugs because of fear of being passed over for jobs, fired, denied financial assistance, or sent back to prison. We help to keep state funding out of the wrong hands and do our part to end the war on drugs.

Partnerships between prisons, drug testing companies, and the addiction recovery industry, such as rehabilitation centers, often help to keep people out of jail by focusing on sobriety and healthy life choices. The goal of these partnerships is to get those who are addicted off the streets and turn them into productive citizens who can contribute to the economy and culture of our nation.

Every dollar spent on drug treatment in the community returns an estimated $18.50 in benefits to society. We, the rehab centers, help to decrease the number of deaths caused by accidental overdose, approximately 30,000 per year, by helping those who are addicted to drugs become sober. Rehabilitation centers help users realize that their addiction is a disease to be taken seriously and must be treated to offer a successful recovery. It is our hope that patients don’t return to using drugs; however, we continue to treat repeat patients in our facilities. While addiction recovery centers are scrutinized for making a profit off of insurance companies, and wealthier addicts, we insist that our main objective is helping the people of our communities get off drugs.


Riggs, Mike. “4 Industries Getting Rich Off the Drug War.” Aprill 22, 2012,   

McVay, Douglas. “Get The Facts.” (n.d.),

Garcis-Barrio, Constance. “U.S. War On Drugs In Columbia Ravaging Farmers and Land.” (n.d.),

Vasquez, Ian. “Cato Handbook for Congress.” (2003),

Alexander, Michelle. “The New Jim Crow: How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent

American Undercaste.” March 8, 2010,

Palast, Gregory. “US: Wackenhut’s Free Market in Human Misery.” September 26, 1999,

Miller, David. “The Drain of Publich Prison Systems and the Role of Privatization: A Case Study of

State Correctional Systems.” February, 2010,

Livergod, Norman. “Privatized Prisons and the Capitalist Drug Syndicate.” (n.d.),

Hodai, Beau. “Corrections Corporation of America Used in Drug Sweeps of Public School Students.”

November 27, 2012,

Diaz, Von. “A Unique Alternative to a Prison Economy.” September 23, 2013,


In summary, Dr. Aziza Bey’s class discovered through research, exploration, and discussion that no “one” perspective was totally responsible for the war on drugs. Although, after much deliberation the class did agree that the system of profit had the largest share of influence on the endless drug war within the U.S. In the end, the student’s voiced their change in perspective towards each group presented within the debate and found this experience to be extremely eye opening.

Published in: on December 2, 2013 at 9:40 am  Comments (2)  

Raising Consciousness of Violence Against Women in Society

On Tuesday, April 2, 2013, Lesley University Graduate School of Education focused on faculty member Dr. Aziza Braithwaite Bey. Dr. Bey presented her most recent research on violence against women in society. She began with a short video depicting the flash mob she participated in at the Prudential Center in Boston, MA to support One Billion Rising. One Billon Rising is a program that dramatizes and supports the societal issues around violence against women (

Furthermore, Dr. Aziza presented an overview of the historical development and evolution of matriarchal and patriarchal systems of power. In addition, she demonstrated how a Lesley University student in Savannah Georgia was able to approach similar social issues within her classroom setting, resulting in greater awareness and empathy.

Lastly, Dr. Aziza provided the audience with an opportunity to develop their responses to her presentation. They were challenged to cultivate ideas that allowed educators to incorporate social issues within the classroom in regards to critical pedagogy. The audience responded using various mediums such as found poetry, music, and reader’s theater.

Below is Dr. Bey’s synopsis of her presentation:

The relationship of indigenous women from the Iroquois Confederacy to the family is examined with particular focus on how the erosion of the traditional matrilineal family structure has created an unnatural balance between the masculine and the feminine principles.  The intersection between ethnohistory and ethnography reveals the contradictions involved in what power means in the context of the feminine principle and why as humans we must seek to integrate both masculine and feminine principles to achieve an egalitarian harmonious relationship with nature and each other. I am interested in how the shift from gathering/hunting societies to agricultural/industrial societies influenced the family structure, and imposed male dominance and oppression on women.  I propose that the feminine principle and its connection to the land is vital to restoring balance and harmony in indigenous societies.

Published in: on May 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Critical Pedagogy and the Arts Committee Recognizes Women’s Month

On March 21, 2013 Lesley University held its second Critical Pedagogy and the Arts Committee presentation this spring to honor Women’s Month. Dr. Aziza Braithwaite Bey, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education, presented on one of the many “unsung heroes” during the 1800s.

Dr. Bey explored the life of Jarena Lee, the first black woman preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.). Below is the abstract of Dr. Bey’s presentation:

Jarena Lee was the first woman preacher to officially preach for the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1819. Jarena Lee, wife and mother, inspired by spirit and guided by her unfaltering faith, preached the word to call congregations of many denominations— Methodist, Episcopalian and Baptist alike.  She preached to slaves and slaves owners, to blacks, whites, and to Native Americans from Canada. She went from New York , New Jersey,  and Pennsylvania  to Ohio, Maryland to Virginia and beyond, spreading God’s word. She even preached in slave states, risking her personal safety.  At times she traveled with her young son while often being so strapped for money she didn’t even have enough to get back home.  I will explore Preacher Lee’s journey to uncover her unique gifts as she raises the spirits of the sick and unfaithful to a place of joy, love, and mercy.  Why haven’t we heard her story?  She is among the many unsung heroes who toiled without recognition, in the popular culture of the time.

Dr. Bey concluded her presentation by offering an opportunity to examine how the faculty in attendance would discuss courageous women in history within the classroom, in response to critical pedagogy. Unanimously the discussion proposed the theory of resilience that was demonstrated by Jarena Lee, which was evident during Dr. Aziza’s presentation. Overall the discussion concluded that Jarena Lee’s resilience characterizes her title as an “unsung hero” and as a pioneer for females within the church.

Published in: on May 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Review 2013

Echoes from Freire for a Critically Engaged Pedagogy

By Peter Mayo (2012)


Echoes from Freire for a Critically Engaged Pedagogy by Peter Mayocommemorates the fortieth anniversary of the publication of the classical text Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a classic in the fields of education, political mobilization, and community development that influenced practitioners of critical pedagogy to develop a more holistic view.

Mayo sought to revisit a number of pieces he has written over the years that strongly echoes Freire. Therefore, the chapters of Echoes from Freire for a Critically Engaged Pedagogyoutline some of the basic concepts in Freire’s philosophy and pedagogical approaches. Mayo discusses Freire’s ideas concerning the role of critical intellectuals and public life. Key issues regarding education and social activism are also debated through a Freirean perspective. Mayo then directs his writing to a Freirean perspective on research, specifically transformative research and program planning (with a focus on adult education).

Lastly, the two final sections include Mayo’s focus on “personages” by comparing others’ formulations and ideas to Freire’s concepts. Mayo concludes the book by highlighting the title and exposing the ideas of three people who draw inspiration from Freire: Antonia Darder, Henry Giroux, and the late Paula Allman.

Book Review by Breanna Steinberg, Graduate Assistant to Dr. Aziza Braithwaite Bey – Blog Coordinator


Published in: on March 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Review 2013

Cultivating Social Justice: How Teachers Educators Have Helped Students Overcome Cognitive Bottlenecks and Learn Critical Social Justice Concepts

By P. G. Gorski, N. Osei-Kofi, J. Sapp, K. Zenkov, and D.O. Stovall (2012)


Cultivating Social Justice educates readers about the “bottleneck” of education. The book defines a “learning bottleneck” as a sort of collective comprehension backup that occurs when educators struggle to facilitate effective learning around a foundational concept or competency.  When this bottleneck occurs in education, the learning process becomes cluttered. As a result, progression towards bigger learning goals and understanding may stall. Cultivating Social Justice focuses on the bottlenecks that creep up in social justice and multicultural teacher education contexts.

The editors of Cultivating Social Justice questioned what might help teachers as educators do a better job teaching social justice threshold concepts while avoiding common social justice learning bottlenecks. Cultivating Social Justice advocates the importance of these threshold concepts. It states that these threshold concepts are critical to social justice teacher educators because if the students are unable to grasp them in depth then they have little chance of developing a further understanding of a whole network of other social justice-related concepts.

Contributors to Cultivating Social Justice identified the learning bottlenecks they have encountered in their profession as an educator and agreed to tell how they came to find strategies for facilitating through them. Each chapter describes practical strategies that can be adapted as part of your own teacher education practice.

Book Review by Breanna Steinberg, Graduate Assistant to Dr. Aziza Braithwaite Bey – Blog Coordinator

Published in: on March 5, 2013 at 4:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Education in Cuba, as Witnessed by Dr. Abraham A. Abadi

Throughout my presentation I presented some pictures and experiences of my trip to Cuba in 2010.  These pictures included schools and I offered multiple examples of curriculum guides from Cube for each grade from 2nd to 6th.  These guides were tailored to the psychological and developmental academic needs of the children being taught. They made it clear that education was a revolutionary act which prepares students for “growing into a pioneer,” one of the mainstays of Cuban education.

The education system in Cuba is very clear about its ideological orientation.  Cuba knows that it is educating to indoctrinate students into a Marxist perspective.  Personally, I see nothing wrong with this. The goals are clear, not hidden as in other systems.  Teachers work very hard. At the schools I observed, they began working early in the morning. They serve breakfast, clear the tables, and then teach all day.  For this hard work, they get $20 a month.  Many of us visiting from Lesley left pieces of our clothing there for the teachers, such as T-shirts, polo shirts, socks, and/or jeans.

In many of the classes, the instruction is based upon a teacher directed approach. That is, the teacher presents a concept, issue or theory, explains it, gives various illustrations of its uses and then has the students work on problems based on the lesson.

I was able to observe this approach during a fifth grade math class. I mentioned to the teacher that in the U.S. we find that students learn mathematical algorithms, but do poorly on conceptual understanding of mathematical ideas.  As an example, I told her that many of my 8th graders could not answer the following question, is 2/9 closer to one half, zero, or one whole?  However, in comparison, most of my students could successfully solve, 1/2+1/3=.  Thus indicating that they had internalized a process but had no idea what a fraction was.

The teacher was very secure in her response by answering that we (the Cuban education system) focus a great deal of energy on concepts. She said that I was free to ask any student a question based on the lesson they were studying, ratios and proportions.  So, I asked for a volunteer and most students willingly raised their hands. I chose one child from the back and asked, “What is the ratio of boys to girls in the class?” She answered with the question, “boys to girls or girls to boys?” I said “boys to girls.” She then asked, “Should I include you and ‘la maestra’ (the teacher)?” I said “No, just students.”

This clearly demonstrated that this child understood the difference between 11 to 9 and 9 to 11. Furthermore, she understood the fact that those numbers change if the teacher, who was female, and I were added into the mix.

From this experience, I came away feeling convinced that these children thoroughly understood the concept of ratio and could use it successfully and confidently. Nevertheless, this is done without fancy technology…just hard working teachers who have their 20 students for 8 hours a day.

Dr. Abraham A. Abadi, Assistant Professor, Lesley University, Graduate School of Education

Presentation to the Critical Pedagogy & the Arts Committee on January 31, 2013

Published in: on March 1, 2013 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Critical Pedagogy through the Arts: EARED 6090

Lesley University’s Creative Arts in Learning division in the Graduate School of Education offers a course “Critical Pedagogy through the Arts,”  which is taught by Professor Aziza Braithwaite Bey.  Dr. Aziza chaired the Critical Pedagogy and the Arts Committee 2007 – 2011 and is the creator of the  blog at Lesley University.

During Fall 2012, students in her Critical Pedagogy class summarized the current research that is offered in the Critical Pedagogy field.   Dr. Bey compiled excerpts from recent articles, books, and chapters that depict the current work and beliefs in the field, and organized these excerpts into chapters summarizing various perspectives within the field, such as on race, class, gender, education, etc.  Students were asked to summarize and present multiple chapters from this collaboration created by Dr. Bey.  Their summaries, thoughts, and reflections were as follows:

 Chapter 1: Critical Pedagogy – What is it?

Students presented the theory of  “power for social change” that critical pedagogy holds.  After sharing a personal experience of witnessed oppression the group outlined a helpful vocabulary sheet. The vocabulary discussed was defined according to Dr. Jason J. Campbell’s writings on the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” For more information about Campell’s writings please refer to the  following link:

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

The class as a whole unanimously voted that the terms shared by the group were extremely helpful in their understanding of what critical pedagogy of the oppressed means.  Definitions provided within the vocabulary list are as follows:

False Charity: Seek to increase the viability of charity by reinforcing     the dehumanization of those seeking charity.

Oppressor: A person of authority who subjects others to undue pressures.

Dehumanization: Characterized in terms of injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence, those robbed of their humanity, those who have robbed others of their humanity.   For example:  a person who creates/perpetuates hegemony (to maintain the status quo and power over others).

Privilege: Oppressors fail to recognize their privilege in having and fail to recognize that privilege as dehumanizing the oppressed. One’s having is at the expense of another person’s having. (Eventually) having/owning/ possessing is an inalienable right, i.e., the right to have more.

OTR (Objective Transformation of Reality): The process of changing the oppressor-oppressed contradiction.  For example, bringing both the oppressed and the oppressor to an understanding of what is going on in the situations of oppression and how to “fix” it, versus perpetuate it.

Convert: One who attempts to “join” and fight with us “for” the oppressed. Despite good intentions, they typically retain their biases and attempt to think for the oppressed. They want to bring about the OTR, but they cannot because this is the responsibility of the oppressed.

In summary, the group concluded that Chapter 1 supports the theory that “one of the first steps to overcoming oppression is the oppressed acknowledging and naming their oppression.”

Chapter 2: Race, Class, and Gender

This group presented their summary on the first part of Chapter 2 and discussed some of the theories that critical pedagogues embrace as it pertains to race, class, and gender. The group shared two excerpts from Chapter 2, which are as follows:

  1. “To identify ‘female’ as an oppressed status under patriarchy doesn’t mean that every woman suffers its consequences to an equal degree just as living in a racist society doesn’t mean that every person of color suffers equally or that every white person shares equally in the benefits of race privilege. Living under a patriarchal society does mean, however, that every woman must come to grips with an inferior gender position and that whatever she achieves will be in spite of that position. With the exception of child care and other domestic work and a few paid occupations related to it, women in almost every field of adult endeavors must labor under the presumption that they are inferior to men, that they are interlopers from the margins of society who must justify their participation” (Johonson, 2005, p. 23).
  2. “Oppression is a social phenomenon that happens between different groups in a society; it is a system of social inequality through which one group is positioned to dominate and benefit from exploitation and subordination of another. This means not only that a group cannot oppress itself, but also that it cannot be oppressed by society. Oppression is a relation that exists between groups, not between groups and society as a whole” (Rothenberg, 2007, p. 165).

The following excerpts are referenced from:

Johnson, A. (2005). The gender knot: Unraveling out patriarchal legacy. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Rothenberg, P. (2007). Race, class, and gender in the united states (7th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

After presenting these excerpts from Chapter 2, the group proposed multiple questions to the class regarding race, class, and gender.   In addition to the values discussed, students were asked to share their identities, struggles, and their relationship to those identities.

The group examined the discomfort that may be associated with identity. They labeled identity as your heritage/ ethnicity, and asked what other groups you may identity yourself with. If there is a discomfort in these identities, why do you think this is?   Additionally, what struggles have you experienced due to your identities, outside or within the United States? Was this recent or long ago? If you share multiple identities, are there multiple struggles? Lastly, the group noted the experience of schooling in relationship to one’s identity. How was their identity represented?

The third group presented part 2 of Chapter 2 and highlighted the main points of the readings within the chapter. Below are some of the important quotes noted by this group:

  • Race vs. Ethnicity: The Question, the Answer with Chart

– “Race refers to a person’s physical appearance, such as skin color, eye color, hair color, bone/jaw structure, etc. Ethnicity, on the other hand, relates to cultural factors such as nationality, culture, ancestry, language and beliefs.”

This quote was referenced from the following link:

  • Racism: National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

–“In U.S. society, racism functions to maintain structural inequalities that are to the disadvantage of people of color.” (

  • Killing Rage: Ending Racism

–“Rage can be consuming. It must be tempered by an engagement with a full range of emotional responses to black struggle for self-determination.”

–“Their rages surface (upper class black people) because they make these changes believing that doing so will mean they will be accepted as equals. When they are not treated as equals by whites they have admired and subordinated their integrity to, they are shocked.”

The quotes were referenced from the following text:

Hooks, Bell. (1995). Killing rage. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

  • Impact of Racism at School: Rights, Responsibilities, and  Racism, the New 3Rs

–“As far as schools are concerned, one impact of racism will be on children’s self-esteem which will also likely have an effect on their success at school. There is likely to be more conflict and bullying, in turn affecting school attendance and the participation of students from certain ethnic groups. School/community relations are likely to be more antagonistic with a lower participation rate by parents.”

–“There needs to be a democratic classroom and school ethos, where children learn the skills of participation through actively taking part in decision making.”

These quotes were referenced from

Chapter 3: Effects of Racism on Children And Adults

         This group presented a worksheet titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. This worksheet proposes the idea of the daily effects of white privilege. McIntosh decided to work on identifying the daily effect of white privilege in her life. She chose the conditions that she thought attach more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location. There is obviously a possibility that these factors are intricately intertwined. McIntosh noted within these factors (some listed below) that her African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances are precluded from most of these conditions.

  1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
  2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
  3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area I can afford and in which I would want to live.
  4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me,
  5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
  6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
  7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
  8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
  10.  I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

The 10 conditions listed above are just the beginning of McIntosh’s examination of the daily effects of white privilege. The worksheet continues to list 50 conditions that comprised what she identified as white privilege in daily life. Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege worksheet can be found at

The group presenting this chapter followed up this exercise with important bullet points from the chapter, some of which were:

  • Awareness That Racism Affects How Children Do Socially and Academically

–“Most children actively notice and think about race. A new study has found that children develop awareness about racial stereotypes early, and that those biases are damaging.” Further information can be found at

  • The Impact of Homophobia, Poverty, and Racism on the Mental Health of Gay and Bisexual Latino Men: Findings from 3 US Cities 

–“As predicted, social discrimination has a negative impact on levels of social support and self-esteem and, not surprisingly, psychological symptoms of distress are more prevalent among those who both are socially isolated and have a low sense of self-worth.”

This quote was referenced from the following article: Diaz, D., Ayala, E. Bein, J. Henne, and B. Marin(2001). The impact of homophobia, poverty, and racism on the mental health of gay and bisexual Latino men: Findings from 3 US cities. American journal of public health 91 (6): 927-932.

Chapter 4: Gender, Feminist, Class and Cultural Pedagogy

          During this presentation on gender, feminist, class, and cultural pedagogy multiple key terms were presented.  Here are a few that provide brief synopses of the main points focused on in this chapter:

  • Classism: A biased or discriminatory attitude based distinctions made between social or economic classes.   A systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups.
  • Feminist Pedagogy: A theory about the teaching/learning process that uses evaluation criteria for specific educational strategies and techniques to guide a classroom practice. The main criterion is the extent to which those in an educational community are empowered to act responsibly toward one another, and toward the curriculum, and to apply new learning to social action.
  • Postfeminism: Most often defined as a reaction against perceived deficits and contradictions in second-wave feminism and/or a belief that feminism has succeeded in its goal of eliminating sexism and is thus no longer relevant.
  • Postmodernism: Any of a number trends or movements in the arts and literature developing in the 1970s in reaction to or rejection of the practices, principles, or dogma of established modernism.
  • Problem-posing: Based on the philosophies of Paulo Freire, problem-posing attempts to be the opposite of traditional, banking-based education by promoting critical thinking, dialogue, and action in a community of learners (both teachers and students together). One important goal of this teaching approach is to use knowledge as a tool to promote liberation and social change.

Additionally, the group shared quotes regarding the main focus of the    chapter: gender, feminist, class, and cultural pedagogy.

  • Class: Power, Privilege, and Influence in the United States

“Class affects people not only on an economic level, but also on an emotional level. ‘Classist’ attitudes have caused great pain by dividing subordinated group members from one another and suppressing individual means for personal fulfillment or survival.”

This quote was provided from the following link:

Chapter 5:  Critical Pedagogy in the Classroom

        The first group to present this chapter examined the work of Paulo Freire. They offered many of his theories and referenced many of his sources.  To begin their discussion the group focused on Freire’s list of virtues for a teacher:

  1. Teaching requires respect for the student’s knowledge.
  2. Teaching requires aesthetics and ethics.
  3. Teaching requires setting an example.
  4. Teaching requires respect for the autonomy of the student.
  5. Teaching requires good judgment.
  6. Teaching requires curiosity.
  7. Teaching requires self-confidence, professional competence, and generosity.
  8. Teaching requires freedom and authority.
  9. Teaching requires knowing how to listen.
  10. Teaching requires loving the students.

The theories above were referenced from the following text:

Torres, C. A. (1998). Democracy, education, and multiculturalism: Dilemmas of citizenship in a global world. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

As previously mentioned, the group additionally provided quotes that encouraged the use of critical pedagogy within the classroom, based on Paulo Freire’s theories.  A few of the quotes examined by the group are as follows:

  • Democracy, Education, and Multiculturalism: Dilemmas of Citizenship in a Global World

– “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.

– “Freire postulates that there is no educational revolution without political revolution.”

– “Knowledge itself needs to be democratized, in a broader reconstruction of what knowledge is valuable, who knowledge counts, and how knowledge, skills, dexterities, and learning relate to power, wealth, and prestige.”

– “The central question of education today is what role, if any, educational institutions and practices should play in the constitution of the social pact that articulates democracy.”

Please refer to C.A. Torres, Democracy, Education, and Multiculturalism: Dilemmas of Citizenship in a Global World, referenced above.

  • The Challenge of Classroom Discipline

The next group presented on the second part of this chapter and focused on three topics within the theories of Critical Pedagogy in the classroom:  1) the challenge of classroom discipline, 2) youth facing terror and threat, and  3) language diversity and learning.

“One of the most challenging tasks in any classroom is to build a community where students respect one another and value learning.”

To build this community the group examined multiple approaches:

  1. Involve students in decision making – students choose what they write, read, study – nature of their collaborative projects, help establish classroom rules and curriculum.
  2. Inform students that it’s okay to make mistakes.
  3. Model working independently and in groups.
  4. Create heterogeneous work groups that rotate and change throughout the year.
  5. Teach social justice.
  6. Teach questions about bias in ideas and materials – children’s books, school textbooks, news reports, song lyrics, etc.
  7. Help children see that they have their own values and perspectives that are independent from what they may hear, see or read.
  8. Give them the tools necessary to practice making informed decisions – discuss current problems and possible solutions, role play, have social activists visit classroom.

This summary was referenced from the following text:

Peterson, B. (1994). Rethinking our classroom. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd.

  • Youth Facing Terror and Threat: Community Based Acute Posttraumatic Stress Management

“Much of today’s psychological trauma that affects communities can be identified as resulting from sudden and seemingly random events…events that involve the violent loss of human life.”

This group outlined programs that have been developed to assist today’s youth when facing terror and threat.

  • Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) – structured group intervention, provided within 72 hours of exposure to critical incident, lasts 1.5-2 hours, prompting question for each of its 7 phases.
  • Community members get together to help support those affected by a recent traumatic experience. The natural “gatekeepers of their neighborhoods.”
  • Community Service Program (CSP) – focuses on short term immediate interventions to help stabilize people in need and to prevent them from developing longer-term psychological problems.
  • Key features of the CSP: responsiveness, the visibility of the staff/network people, and their responsiveness to ethnic differences.

For further information please refer to the following article:

Marcy, R., & L. Behar, R. Paulson, J. Delman, L. Schmid, S. Smith (2004). Community-based, acute posttraumatic stress management: A description and evaluation of psychosocial-intervention continuum. Harvard Review of Psychiatry 12 (4), 217-228. doi: 10.1080|10673220490509589

  • Language Diversity and Learning

“All we can do is provide students with the exposure to an alternative form, and allow them the opportunity to practice that form in contexts that are nonthreatening, have a real purpose, and are intrinsically enjoyable.”

“Diversity of thought, language, and worldview in our classrooms cannot only provide an exciting education setting, but also prepare our children for the richness of living in an increasingly diverse national community.”

For additional information please refer to the text: Delpit, L. 2006. Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press. 48-53.

Published in: on December 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

English Language Learners

           This past May 2012 we had the privilege to hear about one of our member’s most current works with English language learners in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sam Smiley shared her experience in Guadalajara through pictures of the areas she stayed in and worked in. She provided a brief history of Mexico, denoting the stereotypes that many Americans hold true towards Mexico. She displayed a map of the vast land Mexico contains and offered much cultural, social, and economic history of the land.

            During this meeting Professor Smiley shared her main experience through the ITTO TEFL Class offered in Guadalajara, Mexico. The mains points discussed within the meeting were the themes of critical pedagogy she was challenged with during her time abroad. She was asked not to use her student’s primary language as a way to educating them towards the English language. Professor Smiley shared how she was able to use her brief understanding of the Spanish language to live in Mexico for a month. However, she was frowned upon or even scolded when she used it within the classroom.

            The question examined within this meeting was whether the use of L1 (the student’s primary language) should be used within the classroom when the student is learning a second language (L2). Professor Smiley’s viewpoint was discovered during her experience as a teacher. The students she was teaching were learning English to gain employment, an education, or to travel. The basic communication of the English Language was necessary but an understanding of the linguistics was not. The students needed to be able to function in everyday life, such as Professor Smiley did during her month away. Therefore, Professor Smiley found it appropriate to use L1 as a last resort.

            The students were provided multiple tools, visuals, videos, etc., to help them further their understanding of the English language. However, using L1 was the last resort. Professor Smiley also shared her experience of incorporating the arts into her classroom. She discussed her integration of American pop music within the classroom.

            Lastly, the meeting ended with an anonymous vote that any teacher who teaches a second language should be required, and provided a grant, to do an immersion for at least a week in the country that hosts the language they will be teaching. Therefore, the teacher can apply what they have learned from their host country. The culture and empathy developed during their time aboard can go further in the classroom and in their teaching styles.

            Below is the website for the program Sam Smiley attended. Please take the opportunity to look at its benefits and share our new knowledge within our community.

Published in: on November 9, 2012 at 10:57 am  Comments (30)