Education Shorts for the Snowbound

December 10, 2013, 9:38 am


A dendrite snow crystal, which occurs when the temperature is between 27 and 30 degrees Fahrenhite (see? You have learned something already!) Photo Credit: Kenneth Librecht

I don’t know what it is doing where you are, but in the mid-Atlantic States and New England, we are getting snow and everyone is canceling stuff. In New York City, of course, you can get around pretty well in the snow because of all the underground transportation.

Nevertheless, if you are home anywhere in the country (or worse, grading), here are some education news items from around the web, full of commentary by Tenured Radical:

  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg is ending his term with a few career-buffing moves. The most recent is to rename a new school located at Brooklyn Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant The Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice. Now, if only educators and parents could borrow a few pages from the efforts ordinary people make to keep girls in school in South Africa. During my time there, numerous teen mothers told me that upon getting pregnant their families went into negotiations with the father’s family for financial support, primarily to pay for child care so that girls could finish their schooling. In other words, In South Africa, pregnancy and motherhood are not viewed as moral barriers to an education, an attempt to get on the dole, or a “bad choice” that then precludes other choices. The birth of a child is an opportunity for community to form around her, and around the mother. Oh — and if the father’s family doesn’t pay? Then they have no claim on the baby, and the child takes the mother’s last name. In other words, the baby is treated like a blessing and a gift rather than a burden.
  • In Mobile, Alabama a civil rights advocacy group called The Equal Justice Initiative adds historical markers that map the city as a hub for the slave trade. “If you don’t understand slavery, you can’t possibly understand the civil rights movement and you certainly can’t understand the Civil War,” says director Bryan Stevenson. Right on. The group would also like to begin marking places where lynchings occurred. This reminds me of Paris, where there are plaques marking the site of major deportations; each one cites the exact complicity of French officials and civilians. History starts with the facts, right? We could all start doing things like this in our own cities right now with digital mapping software, extending our projects to modern forms of labor trafficking and human rights abuses.
  • New York’s City Council becomes the latest local government to vote for a resolution calling for the end to high-stakes testing, according to a press release issued by the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE). Now here’s an interesting factoid: liberal New York City and the largely conservative state of Texas seem to be on the same page with rolling back these foolish practices. “In Texas alone more than 80% of the school boards endorsed a similar position,” the press release informs us. Is testing a coalition building opportunity or what? The only people who seem to approve of it are politicians, pundits and the testing companies.
  • The Nation reports that a group of NYU students are taking advantage of the season by going to Bobst Library, where mobs of students are prepping for finals, to carol on behalf of workers’ rights. NYU Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) is asking that the university stand up for textile and garment trade laborers in Bangladesh, where the university’s trademark violet gear is manufactured. One of the university’s main classroom buildings is the old Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where 146 workers died in a 1911 fire, making it one of the deadliest industrial accidents in United States history.
  • If you did not hear author Amanda Ripley’ interview on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show last week, go here. Ripley followed three American kids who studied for a year in Poland, Finland and South Korea, and used her research to compare the expectations of these school systems to American systems. Key findings? Americans protect their children from the consequences of failure rather than using failure as an opportunity to encourage kids to learn and work on what they don’t do well; United States schools gives tons of meaningless skill-and-drill homework, whereas these other schools give less homework that is more engaging; US parents and schools put the kind of effort and time into athletics that the Finns, Poles and South Koreans put into school. Favorite illustrative moment in the interview? Diane Rehm asks the kid who went to Poland whether he knew any Polish before he went. The student, now at Vassar, responds that he did Rosetta Stone for two weeks, but it “didn’t stick.” Because really, all you need to devote to a language is two weeks, and if you aren’t fluent, there is definitely something wrong with that language.
  • Beverly Daniels Tatum, President of Spelman College, did a terrific interview on The News Hour last night. It reminded me of how many unbelievably accomplished women I have known who are graduates of that fine institution, one of only two historically black colleges devoted exclusively to women. Tatum is one if this year’s recipients of the Carnegie Corporation’s annual Academic Leadership Award because of her leadership “in encouraging women to pursue careers in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math and for her decision to drop intercollegiate sports in favor of student health.” I bet that $1 million in budget savings may have kicked back into the project of teaching and learning too. One of my favorite moments in the interview comes at the end, where Tatum talks about why a young black woman would choose a women’s HBC: “Well, when people ask me why do students who have choices want to come to Spelman, one of the things I always say is that, for a young woman of African descent, a population that has historically been marginalized, to come to a school where she can say, this place was designed for me, was built for me from day one, where I’m going to be at the center of the educational experience, not marginalized in any way, is a very powerful magnet.” (emphasis is mine.)

Stay warm and off the roads if the snow is coming down fiercely, readers.

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