Saturday, September 26, 2015

Richard Rodriguez - Aria: Quote Analysis

In Aria,, Richard Rodriguez discusses the integration/assimilation of non-English speaking children within schools. As a child, it was difficult for him to understand that he had the right to speak English, which he believed to be a "public" language; essentially, he didn't think that he had a public presents or voice. With time, he was able to understand that he did, however it was at the cost of his family's closeness and interactions.

The odd truth is that my first-grade classmates could have become bilingual, in the conventional sense of that word, more easily than I. Had they been taught (as uppermiddle-class children are often taught early) a second language like Spanish or French, they could have regarded it simply as that: another public language. (Rodriguez 1)

Rodriguez points out here that if any of his English-speaking classmates had been taught another language, it wouldn't have been given another thought. Perhaps it is because they speak English at home and wouldn't have to worry about integrating it with their families, essentially turning it into a "private" language. They are part of a society that already speaks English, so there is no communication barrier; they can always revert back to English while talking to their peers if they are having difficulties. Meanwhile, someone like Rodriguez whose first language isn't English can't turn to Spanish if he has trouble expressing himself during many conversations, because the person he is talking to may not understand Spanish since it is not the country's first language.

…as we children learned more and more English, we shared fewer and fewer words with our parents. Sentences needed to be spoken slowly when a child addressed his mother or father. (Often the parent wouldn't understand.) The child would need to repeat himself. (Still the parent misunderstood.) The young voice, frustrated, would end up saying, Never mind'-the subject was closed. (Rodriguez 2)

This marks the time when Rodriguez and his siblings have lost a powerful connection with their parents because of a language barrier. Although Spanish is their first language, they found it increasingly difficult to communicate with them causing their bonds to weaken. This article explains why dropping one's native tongue completely is a dangerous mistake-culturally- that many Spanish-speaking families are making. Rodriguez's family is one example of how it could go wrong; the family bond and the culture is greatly weakened, if not gone altogether.

while one suffers a diminished sense of private individuality by becoming assimilated into public society, such assimilation makes possible the achievement of public individuality. (Rodriguez 3)

This quote brings Rodriguez's piece to a close. He concludes that although assimilation will cause a person's "private individuality" to "suffer", it is worth it; you will gain a great public voice. He is essentially saying that someone's communication with their family or loved ones who do not speak Spanish will sadly be lost, however it's ok because they will gain the ability to communicate with the rest of society.

I cannot agree with this last quote. Although it definitely is important to learn the dominant language in order to communicate within society, it's equally important, if not more so,, to keep in contact with your culture and family. Your family will be-should be-the one who is there for you at the end of the day when you have no one left to talk to.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kozol: Amazing Grace - Reflection

My first reaction upon reading this piece is anger. My second reaction, following close behind, was dismay, sadness, heartbreak--disbelief. I have been aware throughout my whole life that poverty exists. It's unavoidable. There are people with no homes, no food and no warmth sitting in the doorways and street corners every Christmas, hoping for a sign of human kindness or compassion. There are millions of families who live in single-room apartments, or homeless shelters. However it's very different when you read a piece like Kozol's "Amazing Grace". It really opens your eyes to the deplorable conditions that fellow humans have to live through when you see words like:

In humid summer weather, roaches crawl on virtually every surface of the houses in which many of the children live. Rats emerge from holes in bedroom walls, terrorizing infants in their cribs. …In dangerously cold weather, the city sometimes distributes electric blankets and space heaters to its tenants. In emergency conditions, if space heaters can't be used…the city's practice, according to Newsday, is to pass out sleeping bags. (Kozol 1)

At this point in the piece, I have already reached anger--some, if not most, of the houses in this city must have children, if not babies or infants. Being in the middle of winter with little more than sleeping bags, a hat and a few sweaters can only lead to hypothermia, pneumonia or something even worse.

Additionally, the air quality in South Bronx was enough to cause Asthma to be the most common children's illness at the time that this was written. Fortunately, the city's population has been fighting to improve their air quality.

A large reason for my anger while reading this piece was at the fact that just because the people in this city are poor and at some points below poverty level, they are treated as less than humans; as if just because they are addicted to drugs, just because some are prostitutes, do not have jobs, cannot go to school--they do not deserve the same quality of life as those in cities that are better off. The children's health is compromised. The population is subjected to trash being dumped in their neighborhood;

The waste products of some of these hospitals…were initially going to be burned at an incinerator scheduled to be built along the East Side of Manhattan, but the siting of a burner there had been successfully resisted by the parents of the area because of fear of cancer risks to children. (Kozol 2)

Why is the risk of cancer not a fear when it comes to children in South Bronx? Did they somehow magically develop some kind of immunity? It is not their fault that this is the neighborhood they live in; like Kristof said in his article, where you end up in life is a result of how you are brought up. It is not the children's fault that they were born into that neighborhood; they and their health is being punished for a choice that was never theirs.

Yet throughout all of this, I am amazed and happy to see that children can find happiness and kindness even with the trouble that surrounds them. In Cozol's piece, we see Cliffie's generosity-although he doesn't have much-when he offers Cozol a cookie multiple times. He tells a story of a starving homeless man, who he shared his pizza with-"three slices, one for my mom, one for my dad, and one for me". (Cozol 3) He talks like someone much older than he really is, however there is still an element of cheerfulness and energy to his countenance that gives me hope that the people who have to live in these conditions will grow passed the hard lifestyle they are forced to endure.

Even though this is such a morbid piece, I absolutely love it for opening my eyes. I love it for its honesty.

Below is a video that depicts the type of conditions that Cozol writes about, with first-hand accounts from residents.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Nicholas Kristof: USA Land of Limitations?

In Nicholas Kristof's article "U.S.A. Land Of Limitations", he argues that children who are born into lower-class families, or who are disadvantaged in one way or another, do not have the same opportunities that other people have to succeed. although people claim that making the right choices in life and working hard will be enough to rise above poverty and the lower-class status, Kristof stands by the conviction that
Success is not a sign of virtue. It’s mostly a sign that your grandparents did well. … your outcome is largely determined by your beginning.

By this, he is saying that if a child is born into poverty, s/he will have a significantly hard time to escape it, even as an adult. Alternatively, a person who is successful throughout their life, according to Kristof, is prosperous because of the status of their parents or grandparents. They have to do less work than those below them to rise to the top. They have more opportunities to do well in life because of their wealth or healthy upbringing.

Kristof brings up good points that I am able to relate to. In elementary, middle and high school, we are encouraged to make good, healthy choices and to work hard. This, they told us, would be enough to bring us to the top of the social ladder, or at the very least would make us successful. What they failed to consider is the myriad of different upbringings that each of us have, and weather we have the opportunities to do what we want. We have the power to make good choices, but weather or not we have the resources to carry them out will determine how successful those choices are.

About Me

Hi! My name is Mary Abby.

So here's a little bit about me before we get to all the good stuff. I'm a sophomore here at RIC, majoring in elementary education with a concentration in English. I was born in the Philippines and came to the US a year and a half later with my mom. My dad and older sister came soon after, and now I also have a little brother. I have a pretty big family-most of them are still back in the Philippines but a good chunk of them are here in the US.

I love to read, and occasionally I'll write a bit of fiction. I also love music (although I don't think I could play my way out of a paper bag. :P). I also really like to travel. This summer I attended the International Conference on Disability and Diversity awareness in Hawaii, and my guide dog Kylie came along for the ride! :)

We had tons of fun and hope to visit again soon!

That's all I have to say for now; I hope you enjoy the rest of my blog and have a great rest of the school year! :)