Self-Expression of Identity Research Proposal

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Self-Expression of Identity

Literature Review don't see the point in spending my time with people who are not going to be able to relate to me and I'm not going to be able to relate to them. We are from different worlds, so I think I've had enough of that in my life [...] I don't want to feel as if I have to pretend to be someone I'm not," (Bourdieu, 1997: 471). The concept of being different within the context of a classroom is an enormous fear for many students, such as those who are deaf or gay and lesbian. However, this fear goes much deeper than simple surface differences of hearing and sexuality -- it hinders the true development of individual identity. However, several theories have attempted to isolate these specific hindrances and understand the complexities of developing an identity in the shadow of normal classroom existence.

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The concept of identity is a slippery term, which refers to the understanding of oneself and one's situation within the external world. According to Stuart Hall in his 1996 work, the idea of identity if an ongoing process dealing with both "becoming" as well as "being;" it reflects both what an individual is slowly morphing into, as well as what that individual already identifies him or herself with, (Hall, 1996: 237). Not only are the common conceptions of who one already believe oneself to be heavily influential in the creation of each individual identity, but so are the dreams and aspirations one holds for a future self just as defining in terms of identity creation. This continues into the idea of identity as being formed from both whom or what someone wants to be, as well as who or what an individual does not want to be, or a specific role in which an individual "dis-identifies" his or herself, (Skeggs, 1997: 123). This concept is also highly important in the formation of individual identity, for it gives a person a clear limitation of what they wish their identity to be.

Research Proposal on Self-Expression of Identity Assignment

There are several educational theories which coincide with the formation of each individual's identity within the context of a classroom. Social Justice Education theories posit the concept that education should reflect the changes of the social movement which have liberated thousands of Americans within the past century. Students all face difficulties within a classroom setting based on their individual differences which may make living within a classroom environment harder, for example a student being either deaf or Homosexual. There are several facets of this conception of Social Justice, "it is viewed as simultaneously concerning the distribution of goods and resources on the one hand and the valorization of a range of social collectives and cultural identities on the other," (Cribb & Gerwitz, 2003: 15). This reflects a common equal treatment and fostering of a variety of different identities within the society at larger, whether those identities be racial, social, or of a physical handicapped nature. In many cases education programs fail at fulfilling the multiple definitions of the term; and in most cases many classrooms fail to acknowledge and support the various cultural identities within their walls, (Cribb & Gerwitz, 2003: 15).

Most identities formulated within a classroom tend to be based on social class differences such as rich and poor; yet there are other factors which help foster individual identity as well, (Epstein, Hewitt, Leonard, Mauthner, & Watkins, 2003: 120). These factors include physical handicaps which separate children's experiences from those of a normal existence, as well as issues of sexual orientation also responsible for children dis-identifying themselves from the normal conception of their classroom's projected identity. Social Justice Theories would posit the concept of protecting and fostering these unique types of identification, despite the heavy backlash against them.

Much of the backlash towards these identities comes in a sometimes violent homophobic reaction of other students. A study conducted in the UK in 1997 reveled an astonishing 82% of teachers within 600 schools had witnessed homophobic bullying first hand, (Epstein, Hewitt, Leonard, Mauthner, & Watkins, 2003: 123). For Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, and Transgender students, this constant reminder that they are not the norm is an important factor in the shaping of their identities. In the perfect implementation of Social Justice Theory, these classrooms would completely eradicate this homophobic atmosphere as a way to further allow such students to identify themselves with a student identity as well as Gay or Lesbian identity.

Whereas Social Justice Education attempts to change authoritative methods used in education in order to help foster different cultural identities, Critical Pedagogy is more from the student's point-of-view; this theory encourages students to question authority and achieve their own unique versions of critical consciousness, "[Critical] pedagogy... signals how questions of audience, voice, power, and evaluation actively work to construct particular relations between teachers and students, institutions and society, and classrooms and communities.... Pedagogy in the critical sense illuminates the relationship among knowledge, authority, and power," (Giroux, 1994: 30). This practice also originated with class as being the main component for diversion of cultural identities, but was also later adopted by queer and special education theories. The main proponent of early Critical Pedagogy, Paulo Freire, explained how this practice empowered students to look beyond their own individual situations and how those situations are held back by the society which governs them, (Friere, 2000: 76). According to Ira Shor in his work Empowering Education, the idea of Critical Pedagogy refers to the "Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional cliches, received wisdom, and mere opinions to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse," (Shor, 1992: 129). The very existence of Critical Pedagogy Theory aims at alleviating the pain and suffering caused by the oppression of those individuals whose identity does not fall within the normal guidelines of what it should be, (Kincheloe, 2008: 23).

This theory posits the concept that students who fall outside the norm are still entitled to create an individual identity based on the higher knowledge of their oppression in society. In its earlier stages this referred mainly to class differences, but has since been adopted by queer and special education studies to help empower such students to rise above the set wall of oppression against them. In the cases of the physically handicapped and queer students, this theory becomes an empowerment for them to individually rise up against the oppression found outside of the classroom, (Kincheloe, 2008: 156). Critical Pedagogy in a modern world requires the student to understand that there are multiple levels of oppression that goes far beyond simple class lines, (Vavrus, Walton, Kido, Diffendal, & King, 1999: 119). Deaf students can understand that there are other ways to establish their identity outside of the verbal and spoken world of most traditional classrooms. Although deemed special education students, this is in no way a limit to their own capacities. Once they can establish this confidence and consciousness, Critical Pedagogy has succeeded in allowing deaf students to create a unique, yet perfectly acceptable version of their own identity outside of the audible world, (Vavrus, Walton, Kido, Diffendal, & King, 1999: 119). The same goes with gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender students. Research has shown that Critical Pedagogy in practice allows students to empower themselves outside of the norm. Not only would this practice benefit the minds of queer students themselves, in the stronger creation on an accepted identity, but it would also lessen homophobic tensions in heterosexual students upon realization of the oppression involved with homophobia. Because it concerns all elements of the classroom, Critical Pedagogy proves most efficient in opening the minds of all students concerning the oppression and identity crisis faced by gay and lesbian students,

Critical pedagogy is primarily concerned with the kinds of educational theories and practices that encourage both students and teachers to develop an understanding of the interconnecting relationship among ideology, power, and culture... [that] challenges us to recognize, engage, and critique (so as to transform) any existing undemocratic social practices and institutional structures that produce and sustain inequalities and oppressive social identities and relations, (Leistyna & Woodrum, 1995: 2-3).

This then allows the entire classroom to become more accepting of such student's identities, which will only further foster the development of such queer identities.

One of the major theories which coincides with the formation of identity in different students is the concept of the Social Identity Theory. This ideology, is another conception of how we create individual identities for ourselves based on the theories of Henri Tajfel and John Turner. According to their early research, each and every social group has its own form of internal discrimination which labels each individual in the larger group, (Tajfel & Turner, 1979: 94). Within this discrimination, each group categorizes every individual into an easy label, for instance "Deaf" based… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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