Tag Archives: politics

I’m Thinking About…

  • Education policy.  What is the connection between public high schools and two and four year colleges?  Whatever it is it isn’t enough.  So much of the education debate takes place around K-12 that we leave out any consideration of what our students go on to post-diploma.  The NY Times explores one side of this issue. (NY Times)
  • My students are doing incredible research on social justice issues.  One group is focusing on the enormous issue of prostitution, while another is looking at human trafficking.  My ears perked up when I heard this debate on NPR last night.  Also thrilled to have discovered Intelligence Squared U.S. (NPR)
  • More on prostitution: This is an incredible story taking place as we speak in the life of one woman, her lawyers, and a flawed justice system.  Read the story and send a letter.  (FreeDebbie)
  • Pop-Up Stores…ever since Refinery29 started talking about their pop-up Save Fashion I’ve been intrigued.  All of a sudden I’m having crazy ideas about Rockridge and Pop-Up stores…more on Pop-Ups and Save Fashion: (Refinery29) (Save Fashion) (Business Week)
  • More, more, and more gardening.  I’m working on the landscape, a vegetable garden, and a cutting garden for my flower arranging.  Had a great morning at Longs on 51st the other day (sounds crazy but this is a well-respected garden center for you skeptical non-East Bay-ers).  Here’s one of my favorite purchases:

aquilegia

aquilegia2

Aquilegia ‘Origami Blue and White’

Prolific long-spurred blooms are a favorite of hummingbirds.  Beautifully rounded plant habit, airy silver-gray foliage.  Good choice for cutting, naturalizing.  Plant in sun or partial shade 12″ apart.  Grows to 16″ tall.

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Watching and Listening to Your Leader

I was listening to the news around the G20 on the radio yesterday and I thought, as I have several times in the last month, about how I have an urge for news these days–not just news–but the voice of our President.  I thought about my parents’ stories of their parents sitting by the radio listening to FDR, and them sitting by the radio as teenagers listening to JFK, and I couldn’t believe that I was finally experiencing something akin to that–the urge to hear a leader’s voice, just because of who he is. 

It doesn’t matter to me that the news media and citizens are already critical of him, his appointments, or his policies on foreign diplomacy.  BHO has leap frogged all that because of what he symbolizes to me and so many others.  

I love this video.  Not sure why–the absence of sound?  (here’s the link–I can’t get it to embed arg!) 

I know Clinton is known as the charismatic one, but frankly his voice always sounds a little lecherous.  

Looking forward to eight years sitting by the fire and the radio listening intently.

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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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Separate and Unequal: Berkeley High

I’ve long had reservations about Berkeley High and the way its small schools function to divide students academically, which unintentionally tends to lead to further divisions along social and racial lines.  Earlier today I was talking to another teacher about how I’m working to address the achievement gap in my classroom, and happened to bring up my criticisms of Berkeley High.  After our talk I ran out to grab a coffee and what was the first thing I saw on the table at the coffee shop?  This week’s East Bay Express with the glaring headline on the cover:

Separate and Unequal at Berkeley’s Small Schools

Berkeley High embraced the small schools movement to close its staggering racial achievement gap. But evidence suggests that these schools are exacerbating the very problem they were supposed to solve.

Click here to read the full text of the article.  

At first I was excited to read the article–finally an indictment of the segregation at Berkeley High!  But, like so many in Berkeley, and I’m afraid so many powerful white teachers and parents, author Rachel Swan got the story all wrong.

Swan’s initial skepticism of the small schools movement is not unfounded.  Small schools, like their larger counterparts, are not without fallible teachers and administrators, or moments of pedagogy that miss the mark.  But Swan appears to view the issue similarly to the teachers at BHS who rail against the small schools.  

I’ve selected some of Swan’s own reporting to articulate what I see at Berkeley High, as a teacher, scholar, observer of BHS classrooms, opposer of segregation, holder of almost unattainably high expectations of all students, local resident, relative of a BHS student, and friend of many BHS alumni. 

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Sending My Prayers

Hearings began today in California’s Supreme Court over the constitutionality of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage.  

No on 8! No on hate!

prop-8-in-courtProtesters outside the Supreme Court in San Francisco, image via NY Times

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Required Reading

I’ve read this article about three times now.  The Marxist ideal of transformation doesn’t obsess me as much as my conclusion that the differences in “school knowledge” that Anyon describes, as dictated by social class, are true, and have become more deeply entrenched each year since she wrote this piece (in 1981).

Tomorrow my students get an earful.  They have the (un?)fortunate fate of a teacher insistent on being honest with them about the state of the world and one who refuses to let them get away with any less thinking than the “Executive Elite Class” does, regardless of their situation of birth.  I can’t dictate the outcome of students’ lives, but I can insist on providing them with options.

Click here to read Jean Anyon’s “Social Class and School Knowledge.”

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