Tag Archives: equity

This Story Isn’t Going Away

When I studied in Berlin in 2001, I spent the majority of my time in coffee shops and the Freie Universitat studying the issues surrounding Germany’s largest group of minorities: the Turks, who were invited to Germany by the German government during the post-WWII labor shortage.  

Today, while casually listening to NPR in the car, my ears perked up when I heard the abridged version of the story I learned rehashed on The World.

The story The World tells focuses on the controversy around integration: at first the Germans didn’t want the Turks to integrate, then the Turks wanted to integrate, then the Germans decided they wanted the Turks to immigrate, and once the Germans came around, generations had gone by and young and old Turks alike aren’t so sure anymore which road to choose.

A nation’s immigration policy is played out in heavy ways through language and education.  It’s especially extreme in a place like Germany, with its particularly nationalistic history (from Kant to Fichte to Hitler to post-WWII immigration policy) that contrasts with the global necessity of inexpensive labor (sound familiar?).  In Germany, these immigrant laborers are called gastarbeiter, or “guest workers.” 

The piece The World did is just the tip of the iceberg, but it serves as a magnifying glass.  Pay close attention around the 3:50 mark when one Turkish interviewee explains (in German) that his son has good enough grades at his elementary (!) school to get into the college track.  In spite of the good grades, the school is excluding the boy from the college track (implicitly on nationalistic grounds) and forcing him into a vocational track.  The father can’t understand the school’s decision in light of his son’s perfect German language skills (his son was born in Germany).  

This is just one example.  Almost all the interviewees from The World story (both German and Turkish) express great concern over the issue of language.  Language can serve as a means of protest, a mark of integration, or a ticket to social mobility.

If we are smart, we Americans have a chance to learn from the extremes that Germany presents.  Germany is a potential heuristic for our own immigration policy and attitudes towards educating the children of immigrants.  The challenges of globalization cannot be exaggerated.  It will take real work (not just hours, but personal-attitudinal work on the part of citizens and educators, policy, and academic research) to create equitable policies and practices appropriate to a new and ever-changing conceptualization of citizenship and nationhood.

Excerpt from The World March 25, 2009

The Federal Foreign Office of Germany: information on German citizenship

Freie Universitat (Berlin)

oranienstrasse

Oranienstrasse, Kreuzberg, Berlin

kottbuser-damm-kreuzberg

Kottbusser Dam, Kreuzberg, Berlin

kreuzberg

Kreuzberg

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go digging through the garage (I was actually taking pictures on film back then) for my personal photos from my time there, but I thought it appropriate to post some pictures of Kreuzberg, the notorious (and more recently hip) Turkish neighborhood in Berlin. 

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White House Council on Women and Girls

President Obama’s creation of the White House Council on Women and Girls is an extraordinary and symbolic move.

Similar to many other civil rights causes, our populace seems to think the Women’s Movement was a static period in history that came, saw, conquered and left to safely reside in history books.  People often cite the number of women who graduate from college to support their claims that nothing more needs to be done to address the issue of women’s rights.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Without economic equality and independence, suffrage and the right to go braless means little.  As even opponents of women’s rights will concede, women simply make less money.  But why?

An anecdote:

revroad

In a conversation with a friend last weekend about “Revolutionary Road,” the issue of the “Lady Macbeth effect” came up, and we agreed that the Shakespearean stereotype still haunts many a loving marriage (ironically Michelle Obama has been compared to Lady Macbeth recently too, both by her supporters and detractors).  Our conversation turned to the state of our respective marriages (from my perspective as a wife, and his as a husband) and those of our same-age friends.  The issues of economic inequality, or lack thereof, were impossible to ignore.  We could not pinpoint males and females who worked the same job and earned different pay, but we did notice many male and female peers in the same industry, in similar “level” positions, and wondered whether their pay was actually equal, or at least equitable, regardless of their gender.  Through a Google search, I found this interesting aggregation of various statistics and data, that might present a somewhat balanced view of the matter.  It also defines the different  and useful ways salary inequalities can be analyzed. 

Salary isn’t the only issue.  And with tabloid news swirling around Rihanna and Chris Brown, it is time more now than ever to ensure that our children are explicitly taught the importance of gender equality.  Might is not right. 

An executive order is not enough.  I like Sarah Granger’s perspective at the Huffington Post.  A council is a good start, but to make change we need an action plan.  What issues will the Council take on, and how will it take action on these issues? 

Here’s to a good start.

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Required Reading: Follow Up

The speech went over pretty well.  None of my students seemed overly enthused about taking home a copy of the Anyon piece, but who can blame them?  High school is hard and they have enough homework as it is.  But the results were evident in today’s class, which was probably one of the best we’ve had together.  For their exit task, I asked each student to write down one thing she or he did well as a student on the front of an index card, and then write down one thing one thing I did well as a teacher on the back.  Here are some responses: 

What students did well:

Today I supported my group members.

I focused on all my work.

I was supportive and cooperative.

I gave effort.

I participated a lot.

I focused and I tried my best.

I listened carefully.

What I did well in the students’ words [it’s important to recognize small victories, especially as a public school teacher]:

You were understanding.

You carefully listened to everyone.

As a teacher, it’s good that you push us.

You made a passionate argument.

You did a good job talking to us instead of just yelling like other teachers would have.

You connected to us.  Empathized in a way.

And in conclusion…an entirely different take on the stuff and substance of high school.

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Right Now I’m Googling:

How to fight Prop 8.

Click here to sign the pledge to fight Prop 8.

“We, the undersigned, are united in our refusal to accept a California where discrimination is enshrined in our state’s constitution.

We pledge to repeal Prop 8 and restore marriage equality to California. ” 

Click here to learn more about CREDO Mobile, history, and how it works.  

WHITE26B/C/24NOV99/DD/FILE

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Agenda for Today

Today I’m attending a conference about Special Education.  I’ll be presenting on a disability the law (IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) as Emotional Disturbance.  

Many terms are used to describe emotional, behavioral or mental disorders. Currently, students with such disorders are categorized as having a serious emotional disturbance, which is defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as follows:

“…a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects educational performance –

  1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;
  2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;
  3. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances;
  4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or
  5. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.” [Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, Section 300.7(b)(9)] 

While not as common as high profile disabilities such as Autism and ADHD, disabilities that fall under the umbrella of “serious emotional disturbance” are becoming more common.  While only 473,663 students ages 6-21 received services related to Emotional Disturbance in the 2000-2001 school year, experts consider Emotional Disturbance to be the most under-identified of all IDEA disability categories.  As is the case with some other common disabilities, statistics show that boys are more likely to experience serious emotional and behavioral disorders than girls by a 3 to 1 ratio.

We need a national commitment to educating all students.  Commitment in this sense is linked to dollars–dollars to employ specialists, to train general education teachers, and to provide necessary resources for students with disabilities and their families.  

The Senate will be reviewing the President Obama’s stimulus bill in detail in the coming days.  Please write, call, and email your representatives and tell them that you demand funding for the free, appropriate and equitable education of all students.  

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Let Us All Pay Homage

mlk-with-school-children

On this day I didn’t do exactly what my soon-to-be President told me to do, I didn’t paint any houses, or make meals for the poor; but I did spend some time rereading the words of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and consider what he might think of 2009 if he could come visit us here now.  

I studied in particular “A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations,” an address Delivered at St. Louis Freedom Rally (10 April 1957 St. Louis, Mo.).  The full text is available here. In many ways the Reverend Doctor’s address could be delivered today.  

To paraphrase his message I say: should we spend this day in depression that it is the children of people of color in this country who are systematically denied equitable educational opportunities, still, in 2009?  No.  Should we all rejoice in the election and inauguration of America’s first African American president?  Yes.  Should we let either of these emotional poles (depression, rejoicing) lead us to stagnation and fits of inaction?  Absolutely not.  

Yet, let us use this day to become activated to refuse to accept things as they are.  Let us remind ourselves that just as the Reverend Doctor was appalled by the disparity of salary between blacks and whites in “A Realistic Look” so to should we be appalled with our census bureau data from 2008, which reveals that while the “median usual weekly earnings of [White] full-time wage and salary workers” was $739, the “median usual weekly earnings of [Black or African American] full-time wage and salary workers” was $589.  See source here. 

In King’s time he admonished the audience to support the NAACP and told them that the fight for freedom and equality comes at a cost–one with a dollar sign attached.  So, today, why not give money to the NAACP?

King summoned the crowd to Washington to march to persuade the government to enforce civil rights laws.  So, this year, why not organize a march?

As King said, to do so is not to fight for African Americans alone, it is to fight for this nation. 

There is something about America that we like, but we are making it clear in the U.N. and in the other diplomatic circles around the world that beautiful words and extensive handouts cannot be substitutes for the basic simple responsibility of giving freedom and justice to our colored brothers all over the United States. [applause] That is what they are saying around the world. And I say to you my friends, because of our love for America we cannot slow up. (Yes, Yes)

 The final point the Reverend Doctor makes is our need for leaders, leaders who cry out “Love your enemy.  Bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.”

And we can’t solve the problem [of race relations] with misguided emotionalism. (No, no, no) This is a period for sane, sound, rational leadership. (Yes) We must be calm and yet positive at the same time. We must avoid the extremes of hot-headedness and Uncle-Tomism. (Yes, That’s right) Oh, this is a period for leaders. Leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity. (Yes sir) Leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice. (Yes) Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause. (Yes, yes, yes) Oh,

God give us leaders. (Yes) 
A time like this demands great leaders. (Yes sir) 
Leaders whom the lust of office does not kill; 
Leaders whom the spoils of life cannot buy (Yes); 
Leaders who possess opinions and will (Yes); 
Leaders who will not lie (Yes); 
Leaders who can stand before a demagogue and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking. (Yes) 
Tall leaders (Yes), sun-crowned, who live above the fog in public duty and in private thinking.

And this is the need, my friends, of the hour. This is the need all over the nation. In every community there is a dire need for leaders (Yes) who will lead the people, who stand today amid the wilderness toward the promised land of freedom and justice. God grant that ministers, and lay leaders, and civic leaders, and businessmen, and professional people all over the nation will rise up and use the talent and the finances that God has given them (Yes), and lead the people on toward the promised land of freedom with rational, calm, nonviolent means. This is the great challenge (Yes) of the hour. (Yes) 

[emphasis added]

 

As I sit in the wilderness poised between my depression and rejoicing I know one thing: we have a leader.

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