Thursday, June 30, 2011
In the past few years, one of the demons I try to tame the most is the one who needs more and more outside affirmation. I used to carry around a beautiful piece reminding me that I am enough. I think sometimes that I have gotten over to the other side, but that demon is always waiting for a weak moment.
When affirmation comes, for me, it is important to really recognize and appreciate it.
So, I share this story in gratitude for the universe's gifts.
Several weeks ago now, I was in the dining hall at one of the residential colleges at Ptn ... it happened to be the college I lived in as a senior, but the dining hall has been redone, so it was virtually unrecognizable to me. It was the last day of the conference I had been attending. I had gotten somewhat comfortable crossing campus and spending time in its halls after a bit of a shaky start.
I wouldn't say that I was walking around like I owned the place, but as an alum, technically I do.
I had just had a crazy conversation with a young man about the value of protesting. Crazy because although I had challenged his assumptions, it had not been my intention to deride his efforts. I just wanted to know what he felt were the tangible results of such protests. I worked my way back into his good graces by the end of the conversation, but it was not easy.
I took my dirty dishes to the super bossy conveyor belt (non-food here, food here, utensils here, dishes here), and was returning to say good bye to my conversation companion and others who were getting ready to take their leave of the university.
I passed by a young man whose face looked like an older version of a former student, K. I shook it off thinking it would be too odd of a coincidence. But I wasn't sure, so I turned around ... at that moment he turned around, too. "Ms. C, is that you?" he said to me.
We met in the middle for a huge hug. K was one of the middle schoolers (at the charter school) who worked me back in the 90s. I have the utmost respect and admiration for middle school teachers because my two years with those kids were the most challenging. I can't do it... it's just not where I was meant to be teaching. In any case, I loved those students. I was closer to some of them than others because they were my advisees, but it was such a small school that we were all actually pretty close.
K was a handful. He loved to challenge authority. He did not know what to do with his fear and anxiety. Mr. bad ass could "boycott" my class and roll up looking like he was about to take over the world, but make him take a state mandated test and it was all over. That morning, as his teachers, we learned more about K than in many months of one-on-one talking, teaching. Rather than take the test, or tell us that he had anxiety about it, he hauled off and hit another student. He just wanted out of the test, and this was the only way he could do it.
We had a lovely two years together... as you can imagine. He pushed, and I pushed back. I like to describe my teacher persona as the drill sergeant. And my students will attest to it. I was serious about my rules and structure, but, it was out of love if not a scientifically proven way to transfer knowledge.
That afternoon in the dining hall, he told me about working there, as a short order cook, about trying to go back to college, about his new baby (he whipped out the phone to show me). And then he looked at me and said, "Ms. C, you know, I just want you to know how much I appreciate how you..." As he searched for words that would accurately describe without being hurtful, I supplied, "was a hard ass with you?" He smiled and said yes... he went on to tell me that in retrospect he recognized how much I (and the other teachers) cared for them and their progress.
He said he had left the school in the 10th grade (I left the school a year before that) to go to the local public high school. There, he met many teachers who could really care less what the students did in class much less what they learned. He wished he could have gone back to P Academy, but it wasn't in the cards. [The school didn't actually make it to the students' graduation.] He remembered that in 12th grade he was reading books our literature teacher had given them to read in the 9th grade.
Teaching is that career where you have to just believe that what you are doing makes an impact. For as close and personal as it is, you send your students off into the wide world, and you don't know how they are or if your lessons were useful or just annoying. It is the rare occasion when one of them catches up with you and has the ability to articulate how you as a teacher touched their lives.
I couldn't have asked for a more lovely affirmation than to see K and get his thanks and that big hug. In the midst of trying to figure out if this Phd thing is really for me, it was just what I needed in this summer of decision. I still need to debrief about the time with the nuns, but this gift needed to be acknowledged.
Blessings come in unexpected packages.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
La vida será carnaval para algunos pero en este momento para mi es una montaña rusa.
Intento ser fuerte y confiada pero las dudas me persiguen.
También reconozco que hay que tratar mi alma con ternura no dureza.
Mañana será otro día y hay que enfrentarlo con fuerza de voluntad.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
they are germinating, slowly.
I do wish I were in California with my kayak to join in on this one.
Sorry to offer up a downer of a story ... but this one broke my heart in a million pieces. I wish this girl and her sister the best. I hope she finds a safety net in New York. I am tempted to try to introduce her to all the cool people I know in NYC.
This is explains some of why I had so many train adventures last week.
Hmmm....given all my time with the nuns in the past few weeks, I couldn't walk away from reading this story, but it is not super fascinating, just interesting.
Monday, June 27, 2011
All of this would lead me to say something about Rep Weiner's last day (yeah, I started this post a while ago), but seriously, I don't know if I have the energy. I will just say, I would bring Kinsey back to life, if I could, and watch him have a field day with how people are willing to say anything on the internet as if it were private and be confused when they are then held accountable. Yeah, that's it. Fascinating beings we are ... as J would say, people are complex. No doubt.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Interesting... the budget wars begin or continue. If only there were more restrictions on spending taxpayer money on athletics, we might not have to pay for another stadium!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
When I got to the junction and heard that the trains were temporarily suspended I was salty that not only did I not get those minutes but now I would get unwanted quality time at a train station in the middle of no where.
It could have ruined my day.
But I was going to have breakfast at the wawa waiting for the archives to open.
So I bought myself an unhealthy Bfast and made some calls, read a bit and daydreamed.
The only real issue was no bathroom.
By the time I got to my final station, and found a bathroom, I decided to be grateful.
I had breakfast.
I did not explode.
It did not rain while I walked.
Life is good.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
These are mostly from my long weekend in NYC:
I was at the intersection of Duane and Reade streets, but there was no Duane Reade there... disappointing.
No matter how much you watch a phone, or check an email, the message or call doesn't always show up when you want it to...
I always feel underdressed when I walk around NYC. Thank goodness for the tourists, they keep it real.
My feel are tired... three miles (at least) every day is killing my feet. I hope it is helping other parts of the body.
Sitting out in the sun near the water, listening not very attentively to the chatter around me and writing love letters. I wish I had worn shorts.
The Daily Om torments, fascinates and knows me all too well.
There are just too many from the Sade concert. Let's just say when she starts to sing, I feel like my best friend is talking to me.
Oh, and it's a good thing I never met Stuart Mathewman in real life because I would like to have his babies (10 or so) and baby-having has never been part of my life plan.
When he plays the saxophone I feel like I am being pried open.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
My initial reaction was do I really have to read six pages of this blowhard say the same things over and over? But, as I read, I realized two important reasons to keep reading and to respond: 1) this is actually a book review in the guise of a position piece, and 2) people who make decisions about funding for financial aid might be reading this and giving it weight.
Professor X thinks that most of the students he teaches are not qualified to attend college. He also thinks that, as far as writing and literature are concerned, they are unteachable. But the system keeps pushing them through the human-capital processor. They attend either because the degree is a job requirement or because they’ve been seduced by the siren song “college for everyone.” X considers the situation analogous to the real-estate bubble: Americans are being urged to invest in something they can’t afford and don’t need. Why should you have to pass a college-level literature class if you want to be a state trooper? To show that you can tough it out with Henry James? As Professor X sees it, this is a case of over-selection.
It’s also socially inefficient. The X-Man notes that half of all Americans who enter college never finish, that almost sixty per cent of students who enroll in two-year colleges need developmental (that is, remedial) courses, and that less than thirty per cent of faculty in American colleges are tenure-track. That last figure was supplied by the American Federation of Teachers, and it may be a little low, but it is undeniable that more than half the teaching in American colleges is done by contingent faculty (that is, adjuncts) like Professor X. [emphasis and color ADDED by ME]
Read the whole article here.
Despite the obvious issues that are being ignored (race, class), perhaps the most salient in light of this excerpt and the assertions that follow, is that neither the author or the reviewer consider how K-12 education fits into higher education attainment, preparation or achievement. More on that later.
[As a sort of aside, the comments that follow the above quote regard the feminization of the college teaching ranks -- one thing we can know for sure about Professor X, he's a man. We can guess he is a white man who went to one (or two) of those expensive private liberal arts colleges, and he didn't get financial aid in the forms of grants, but loans].
Menaud allows that Prof X has a few unpublished novels gathering dust, but this sour grapes recrimination of the state of affairs at college is as a result of allowing anyone to go to college got published, not him not being in the position he thinks he should be in. Hmmm...
It pains me to have to engage this kind of review of this kind of book because it is devoid of all the important debates that we might engage in as a result of the state of higher education [or K-12 education]. Instead, it is a replay of an all too familiar social Darwinism discussion about "qualified" and "teachable." Subsumed in the theoretically empirically argued assertions are the sexism, racism and class-ism that pervades the very foundations of these assertions.
If only there were not so many women teaching college [or getting college educations for that matter] we would not be in this predicament. Don't forget that he puts his theory about the decline into mediocrity in the lap of "postmodernism" -- like all good "majority" people assailed by reality, you can just blame societal changes of which you don't approve on postmodernism. I didn't realize it still functioned as such a reliable boogieman.
Oh, and in case you missed all the flag waving of the battered white man, see how Prof X and Menaud so casually compare the "college problem" with the mortgage/foreclosure crisis. In case you haven't noticed, that problem focused on infantilizing the working class while simultaneously chastising them for reaching for the so-called American Dream of home ownership. Oh...and praising the educated upper middle class that walked away from their homes and mortgages (mortgage -- agreement to pay) if their houses were underwater. You see, if you are in the right class and educated in the acceptable and approved ways, you will make the right financial decisions. Said financial decisions made my poor or underclass or working class people can bring down the entire financial establishment. I went to an elite college, and even I don't see the fiscal logic in that, but I sure do see the bias.
So, yeah, it pains me to have to engage this line of reasoning. It would appear if you don't mention race then it doesn't matter. Or perhaps Prof X has just learned from our society at large that race is no longer in play. Post racial, and all that, you know.
Page 5 and the reviewer tips his and Prof X's hand:
[Professor X is] on a mini-crusade to stem the flood of high-school graduates into colleges that require them to master a liberal-arts curriculum. He believes that students who aren’t ready for that kind of education should have the option of flat-out vocational training instead.
Menaud allows that this is tracking. Describes the pitfall of thinking that some people don't "need" education and someone must decide who these are as early as middle school. He doesn't elaborate on how that might not be educationally sound let alone all the other parts of it that are troubling (who gets to decide, upon which criteria will it be decided, what if the appointed decider makes a mistake? is biased? etc. etc. etc).
Menaud makes a point to say that we don't track like that anymore, but they still do in Britain, France and Germany. If only he could say that they do it in China! Oh, but I am pained to burst that bubble (not really that pained): actually we do track! We always have.
In fact, I have been arguing (I think pretty effectively) that public education was created for the express purpose of sifting and sorting, also known as TRACKING. Whether or not that tracking serves us as a society any longer is open for debate. And debate we must. Unless we make strides in talking frankly about education, our problems in education will be much worse than the state Prof. X laments in his book.
Instead of considering the validity or existence of tracking, Menaud follows the assertions, as he sees them, to a kind of conclusion:
it may be because the system has become too big and too heterogeneous to work equally well for all who are in it. The system appears to be drawing in large numbers of people who have no firm career goals but failing to help them acquire focus.
So, back in the good old days, everyone went to college knowing everything ... right? Um, wasn't the theory that Prof X was so hot to protect was that we went to college for the love of knowledge itself? To get a liberal arts education is to dabble, learn critical thinking skills that are tested over a range of content area and then using those skills in a professional type job?
To lament that people who want marketable skills are not well served by higher education is to forget that, in fact, there are already various levels of college education available. There are precious few vocational education experiences available that are not for profit in great measure because the public does not want to fund them. But there are wonderful programs across the country in community colleges that fill the vocational and technical training fairly well. The issue is that those students who are not well prepared by their K-12 educational experience will have a difficult time getting past remedial academic courses in community college as well.
Again we come back to the state of K-12 education ... and if we picked up that rock and looked underneath, we would see that disproportionately, there are black and brown and poor kids who are not getting the training they need for anything in K-12. Yes, we have mitigated tracking in schools, but we still have tracking BY school. And sifting and sorting has turned into dumping. We don't care if they get a good education and when they don't succeed against all the odds, we call them unteachable. Back to the article...
Menaud falls back on the idea that motivation is the crucial element that is missing and difficult to inject back into the student. The issue is not that there are not options for different kinds of learners or occupations, etc. It is not so simple a problem that we could fix one piece and all else would fall in line. If only that were true, I would wave my magic wand.
At the end of page 5, he draws a little picture (with words, of course) of the history of college education since WWII (every one's favorite sign post):
If there is a decline in motivation, it may mean that an exceptional phase in the history of American higher education is coming to an end. That phase began after the Second World War and lasted for fifty years. Large new populations kept entering the system. First, there were the veterans who attended on the G.I. Bill—2.2 million of them between 1944 and 1956. Then came the great expansion of the nineteen-sixties, when the baby boomers entered and enrollments doubled. Then came co-education, when virtually every all-male college, apart from the military academies, began accepting women. Finally, in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, there was a period of remarkable racial and ethnic diversification. [emphasis and color added]
I include this quote here not because I tire of writing my own words, but rather to show the simple cursory way he acknowledges race (and when it finally makes an appearance in the scene, in his mind). He continues:
These students did not regard college as a finishing school or a ticket punch. There was much more at stake for them than there had been for the Groton grads of an earlier day. (How many hours do you think they put in doing homework?) College was a gate through which, once, only the favored could pass. Suddenly, the door was open: to vets; to children of Depression-era parents who could not afford college; to women, who had been excluded from many of the top schools; to nonwhites, who had been segregated or under-represented; to the children of people who came to the United States precisely so that their children could go to college. For these groups, college was central to the experience of making it—not only financially but socially and personally. They were finally getting a bite at the apple. College was supposed to be hard. Its difficulty was a token of its transformational powers. [emphasis original]
He self identifies himself as Theory 2 loyal... that is of the three theories of who college is for... this is the "democratic" one that thinks people go to college to learn for success rather than for acquiring knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
Where to start with what is wrong with this review and with this book? It is easy to point out how devoid of actual context both the book and its review are. But, far more salient to the actual assertions made, is how devoid of educational context these are.
Has no one here heard of NCLB? Has no one followed the debate about school failures?
Clearly not... or they have only heard the pieces that say teachers are stupid and lazy. I don't expect anyone else to have developed my theory of how American public education is about creating sheep and culling from the herd the "best and brightest" for college. It makes it all the more important that I get that paper right, to be sure.
However, are we all really living inside of paper bags? Aren't some of those college educated people able to construct a line between K-12 education and college achievement??
According to those college profs and their study, K-12 students are not required or expected to learn anything because all they need to know they will master in three semesters of college?? And if they don't they are dopes who shouldn't be in college, they should be learning how to cut hair or lay carpet?
Yeah, it makes my head hurt and my soul ache... and it makes me want to scream.
I need to activate my Jon Stewart plan and get people talking about this crap ... not congratulating themselves for figuring out what's wrong with education and fixing it by trying to exclude large swathes of people.
I am perfectly willing and able to agree with the notion that not all people need college. I am even willing to agree that different people need different kinds of secondary and higher education experiences.
My quarrel with this and so many other arguments assailing our current state of college education is that of who decides and who chooses which experiences will be available to whom.
Yeah, everyone should have the right to decide where he/she wants to be. It might not be efficient in a social Darwinism way. But given the opportunity to choose a path that that feels comfortable might turn out to be pretty darned efficient in a democratic society.
Say you took K-12 and rounded out the academic experiences with technical and hands-on applications for ALL students, not just those someone finds deserving. You might have students who would find their place in a constellation of choices fairly easily. Some of those students' ideas about where they wanted to be might not coincide with their parents' ideas. Some of those people would be the wrong color for the powers that be... or the wrong class, or the wrong gender.
This is the conversation we need to have, NOW. We need to start talking about what it is really like in the so-called post-racial, economically distressed society for poor and black and brown and immigrant children.
We need to talk about it in terms of where we would like to see our society go ... in realistic terms, because we are not going to the back of the bus quietly. We will not be kept in jobs you don't think your kids should do.
We need to do it before there are a lot of people in the street screaming about it ...
I could go on, but I won't ... gotta save something for the paper after all.
I am seriously going to just offer this without comment: L.A. Unified: A report card. Do with it what you will. It may or may not be more interesting reading than the chocolate milk debate. Oh, darn, I was unable to pull off the "without comment" thing. Sorry.
This story could be viewed as another kind of report card on LA Unified, say from an individual and longitudinal perspective.
Another story I will attempt to post without commentary: From grunts to undergradu
Another entry in the to promote or not to promote debate, sort of... it is also another entry in the debate about how to include faculty in decision making, or not, as the case may be.
Among Stanford's roughly 7,000 undergraduates, 10 are former members of the military, seven of them Marines. The veterans can 'elevate and inform classroom discussions,' says professor Condoleezza Rice.
I am not very good at just posting articles without commentary... it should just be acknowledged.
I am all about acknowledging right now, I wonder how long that will last?!
Finally, [I hope, since I am not planning to come back to the library to post more of these links, and I don't know when I will get my computer back] another story about dual immersion school success in California. I am a little scared that posting these articles will accelerate someone figuring out that these are good schools and try to shut them down. Note the way the article is introduced, by the headline: Soria School Students Celebrate Diversity.
To honor the fact that June is my Princeton month, I am sharing this obit of a retired professor. I never knew him, but he sounds like the kind of professor I would have enjoyed. I am sorry I didn't know his story two years ago, I would have nominated him for the Purpose Prize!
Read this story carefully... you will see that this is all politics and no logic.
Monday, June 20, 2011
So, here it is.
It is a heart breaking and heart warming (all at the same time) story about a Korean man who takes in those babies who would be otherwise left to die.
It tells us more about how important nurturing and loving is to child rearing than any thing I can imagine reading in a science magazine.
I guess this just turned June into Father's Month... who knows what else I will find.
Treasure those fathers who take their jobs so seriously!
[yes, I can post from the iPod, but I can't hyperlink without typing it all out...finger tip by finger tip...not happening]
I loved this story about the engineer who has been building individual gaming control devices for cost for quadriplegics. It is sad that they didn't get around to telling this story until he was ready to retire. Ten years ago, he might have designed an intern program for others to learn from his expertise. Hopefully, he will figure out how to pass on his knowledge to others. This is a kind of inclusion lots of folks don't talk about ... but needs to be addressed, like many others, before we go congratulating ourselves about how good we are about differently abled folks.
Super interesting story promoting Oscar Hijuelos' memoir... perhaps more super interesting for me than for you since I just spent several days with the brightest folks listening to them talk about race, class, culture, literature, etc. etc. etc... but you might enjoy it, too.
It's summer...officially either today or tomorrow, so it's a good time to talk about sunscreen and the new rules that should help us choose effective cancer blocking lotions... good luck!
For giggles and retching, all at once, here is a piece on attack ads, it should be about how we will be getting so many more of these in the near future [thank you, Supreme Court].
Seems as though I am not the only one that questions the existence of hell... I bet it was an interesting debate!
For the I LOVE LA file, here is a place where the LA Times checks into what is recyclable. I don't have all the facts, but it looks like you can recycle so much more in LA than you can most places!! Another great reason to love LA!
Sunday, June 19, 2011
This story begs to be shared widely.
There are several lessons to take from this piece:
-we need to be ready to help our friends
-everyone has much more potential than we imagine
-when we see greatness, we need to acknowledge and encourage it
-we all need a little more compassion in our lives for ourselves and others
Those were my take-aways, what were yours?
Happy Father's Day ... to all the people filling fathers' roles!
Friday, June 17, 2011
Well, we apparently have not learned anything about the financial motives for these laws. And the state will now spend a lot of money on fighting on both sides of this. How is it that in the allegedly desperate financial situation all states find themselves in, that embarking on this kind of legal battle really makes sense? One cannot but determine that this is meant to be a money maker for those privatized prison mongers. That is plays right into the baser parts of our vulnerability and xenophobia is a sad statement on our society's character.
This is another for that file on crazy financial situations ... you don't believe in big govt, but you wait to fight it until big govt has spent over a million bucks...seriously get these folks a life so that hey can stop messing with situations that will affect so many others.
This piece makes me want to get the organic box and cook ...oh and to have the time to cook!
I sure hope the executives at Vons have not been supporting the effort to repeal Health Care Reform. This story is really appalling and a sign of the times all at the same time.
So, aside from the previously compiled articles, you get this excerpt from a comment I made on another's blog this morning.
I hope to get my computer back today or tomorrow. I have many stories to share.
I wrote this at Jen Lemen's blogpost today (http://jenlemen.com/blog)
I used to boldly share umbrellas (I used to live where it rains a lot and I don't believe in carrying umbrellas)... and I am visiting that place now. I stood waiting for the rain to break the other day, afraid or too tired to muster the energy to insist my way under an umbrella. I remembered the boldness with which I used to live my life.
It made me sad and angry in the minute, but it has also got me processing and contemplating what parts of that boldness remain and how to get the whimsical to more a part of every day.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
They (I think the actual postings) have the ability to read your thoughts, fears, wishes and emotions.
Frequently I open a missive and find just what I needed even if it is not the day it was sent.
Sometimes not so much...but every thing in the universe gets the chance to get it wrong.
Here is what I opened the other day as I pondered the chance meeting on the train yesterday.
[no hyperlinks today, writing on the iPod - hope this paste works]
June 9, 2011
Allowing Your Soul to Shine
When we hide and try to be invisible and unseen by all we are only really hiding from ourselves.
At times, we’ve all wanted to crawl under a rock and hide away from the world. We may have preferred to be invisible rather than let other people see us or notice that we exist. This desire not to be seen often happens when we are feeling very hurt, angry, or simply weary of the world. And while we may console ourselves with the defense that we are shy, an introvert, or a loner, we may actually be hiding.
When we hide and make believe that we are invisible, we can think that we no one sees us even though, truthfully, we are only really hiding from ourselves. And while we may try to live life as inconspicuously as possible, we only succeed in becoming more conspicuous because people can’t help but notice that we are trying to hide our light. None of us are meant to hide; each one of us radiates a unique brilliance that is meant to illuminate the world. When we try to dim our light, we diminish the natural radiance of the Universe, and we deprive the people around us of the unique gifts and talents that we are here to share.
Stepping out of the wings and letting your light shine is actually a way to serve the planet. We each have a responsibility to contribute to our community, and we do this when we let ourselves be seen. It doesn’t do anyone any good when we try to hide. We are all beings of light and we are here to light the way for each other. When we let ourselves shine, we become a bright mirror that others can see their own reflected brilliance through, and they can’t help but want to shine also. Shine your light out into the world, bless those around you by sharing your gifts, and watch the universe glow
For more information visit dailyom.com
This article is printed from DailyOM - Inspirational thoughts for a happy, healthy and fulfilling day.
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In it, I ran into my ex-h and had a conversation with him.
This should not have been a traumatic event, but in the dream it was.
I didn't want to talk to him; I didn't want to hear about his life; and I certainly didn't want him to know about mine. I just didn't.
I felt a little as I had during the divorce when I had "played nice" in order to get him to be cooperative.
In the end, I had bit my tongue, not expressed my feelings, all in an effort at an easy divorce (something I recognize now as an oxymoron). Instead I had gotten little to no cooperation, bigger headaches and bills and swallowed more than my pride.
So, no, I don't want to see him or be civil or anything of the like.
Why is this a problem? There are still boxes of my things (irreplaceable items like my photo albums) at the house. Boxes he promised to ship to me YEARS ago..as in almost 10 years ago.
Since I have been settled in NM. I have thought about asking him to send them but I didn't want to have the nice conversation with him.
My friends have been offering to go get them on my behalf. And I had been considering how to make it happen without interaction on my part.
Monday, the universe intervened as she is wont to do.
No, I did not run into my ex, I ran into his sister. On the same train I have been on four times in the past week. Yeah, not just the morning train but the afternoon one, too.
This is the ex sister in law who has acted as though I ceased to exist after I told him I wanted a divorce.
This morning she was sweet as pie and wanted to know all about what I was doing and tell me all about her ideas for education reform.
She didn't mention him, but you can bet the sighting will be reported perhaps through the mom grapevine or directly. And all the info I divulged will make the rounds. Why couldn't I just ask the questions??
To be as generous as possible, I will say the universe was prodding me to live openly and without fear.
I am choosing to believe that us what the sheriff dream means as well.
Blessings and love to the universe and y'all, too.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Maybe I should say, they are not the people I have an affinity with in the short or the long run.
I start and end my days with checks of the headlines and read articles when I am unable to sleep or frustrated with too much other work.
In my circle, conversations will turn around stories we have read in the paper, online or heard on NPR or CNN (well not me but you know).
We all have our trusted outlets and compare coverage and stories and details.
We extrapolate from these stories to build meaning about our wider world.
Some of us are more interested in politics, others in pop culture, others in world affairs. We each have our own special interests but all have a love of quirky stories (however that manifests for each of us).
So when I meet someone with no knowledge of current events - almost as though they lived so remotely in an unconnected time that they can't get news - I have to work to be patient and not incredulous (I regularly fail at that).
This week though I also started to think about the other side of that coin. As in what is the internal and conversational life of that kind of person.
To what common topics do they turn in a lull in conversation? How do they build meaning about the world? What are their building blocks?
I shuffled through in my mind all the people I regularly engage in conversation and they are all news regulars if not junkies like me.
Clearly this is not by accident. But how deliberate is this selection process!? Does it just happen?
Just the random thoughts that fly through my brain while I am not reading or writing what I should. Or when I am trying to not obsess about the fact that my computer seems to have developed a bad case of sleeping beauty.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Here are a few from the week...
The U. S. Supreme court rejected a challenge to AB540 in California. I didn't bother to read the nasty comments...dreamers in California are sighing a little right now, but we need to get more serious about a permanent solution to the problem. I have to admit I got an email from Dick Durbin last week about putting it back on the docket nationally. I am sad to report that he's the only one who sent me an email about it ... where is everyone else on the issue?
I love this story about the throngs of former students who came to say farewell to a beloved kindergarten teacher ... at his retirement. I especially enjoyed the description of his classes. Here's a kinder teacher who really understands what it means to excite students into learning. I would love to sit down with him and talk about the way NCLB has affected his school.
I wish there were a real story to go with this gallery of photos ... and maybe something from the person who went back to junior high. And, maybe they could have sent this guy to a more representative class or set of classes...
If only journalists could work up this kind of energy for regular public schools... they way this article disregards the lack of fiscal management that has put these schools in the position they are in is dismaying. What about all the public schools that are pinching every penny but still can't make ends meet but don't have any prestigious people to hide behind...
I share this because it is representative of the backlash that reformers fear...and of the issues that are looming in our future. We have to figure out how to talk about our budget problems more realistically and try to abstain from blaming public school for all of our ills.
Here's another really grand idea (you would note the sarcasm if you were here)... privatizing public schools... these folks are right up there with the institutionalized revolutionary party. Can someone get them a dictionary?
Friday, June 10, 2011
Here are a few things to share...
This story about methane under the house is scary and fascinating at the same time. I found a follow up article about what the gas company plans to do as well. With the explosion in San Mateo, I hope all the pipes are being checked thoroughly...
Happy to report Styrofoam containers may be a thing of the past in California soon.
This story about a transgender man competing in the Escape from Alcatraz race was an unexpected gem. I am not always fond of SF Chronicle pieces, but this one was very well researched and reported!
Here's a follow up to Hector Tobar's real Angeleno piece with feedback from readers. He asked for it, and he got it.
I read this with my fingers partially covering my eyes. I am worried that this (along with her book) just becomes a way to objectify and victimize her further. There is a tremendous amount of hurt here. But she deserves to have her story told if that is what she wishes. I am tired of giving so much space and time to the perpetrators and not the survivors. So, for better or worse, here it is.
Looks like I was hording a good amount of articles... that's enough for one go around.
Thursday, June 09, 2011
As I walk to and from buses and trains, I note some businesses have saying they combat racism every day. That is certainly new. I keep meaning to drop in one of those stores to see where the campaign originated.
Some changes are not necessarily for the better -- more chain retail than ever before. And how can anyone really need more than Thomas Sweets?? I think I walked by at least two frozen yogurt shops...
Some things haven't changed:
-traffic in and out of town is awful.
-the dinky breaks down throwing a wrench in the best laid plans.
-pretentious guy in mirrored sunglasses in the coffee shop reading More Money than God. I am thinking it is wishful thinking on his part, or his idea of training.
-price gouging at the local chain pharmacy.
-I still have a U-store account...updated my address and got a new card yesteday!
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
I searched high and low for good mother's day quotes, and I came up with a couple of winners. This one didn't make it to the cards, but is very worthy of sharing
Women opened the windows of my eyes and the doors of my spirit. Had it not been for the woman-mother, the woman-sister, and the woman-friend, I would have been sleeping among those who seek the tranquility of the world with their snoring.
Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
I walked past a fridge today at the shrine (see this blog for why I am here), and caught a glimpse of a sign.
It said something like Friday is fridge cleanup. Anything without a date and name gets thrown out.
It brought to mind every office I have ever worked, but it also conjured in my mind all the bathroom signs I have seen over the years.
I understand the need to tell lots of strangers about the particularities of one bathroom or another: septic don't flush anything; hold handle down 20 seconds; turn off lights when finished. Or even state mandated wash your hands.
But I am recalling the ones that remind you that your mother does not clean up here or that smelly incidents need spray.
These are mired in that passive aggressive behavior that does not confront the person in question (and, yes, everyone on those signs is written with one or two people in mind), rather it accuses all of bad behavior.
Of course, the right to do so is conferred by the righteous indignation from whence "my shit doesn't stink" was born.
Back at the refrigerator, someone (or a whole group) can't just throw out old things -- he/she/they have to create a rule that may or may not solve the purported problem... no space or foul smelling items...
yeah, I don't know why that was what I cared about today either...
Monday, June 06, 2011
Every other time I have been back, it has been for such a limited time. I was always able to contain the anxiety.
But I got off the dinky and felt just fine. I enjoyed the walk through town, cataloging new and old and altered.
It really didn't cross my mind to change the ticket to come for reunions. It would have been great to check it off the list so as to conserve dollars for Italy. It isn't the university that causes the anxiety anymore.
I bought and paid for my share of the orange and black years ago.
No, now it is the divorce and its aftermath that produces the anxious and nervous dreams. But I am sure that monster under the bed would shrink down to normal size if I actually met any of them on the street.
Truth be told, it is my own inner critic who conjures the scrutiny. She needs to get a better hobby.
Friday, June 03, 2011
We'll start on a happier note, with this article trumpeting the work of a retiring teacher. We definitely need more like this one who is willing to push and care about his students!
So, there are these articles about Thiel and his "award" to not go to college rolling around out there. I will link to two of them here. But then, I saw this other article about clamping down on for-profit colleges. I will share it here from AP in its entirety as I am not sure how long the link will last. I think these articles should be read together because it puts into better perspective the issue that Thiel is trying to make with his "award." I wish the media outlets were taking a more nuanced look at Thiel's portrayal of the uselessness of college for "some" students.
Big student debt could limit schools' aid access
TALI ARBEL/Published: June 1, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) - The government is moving forward with its crackdown on the country's for-profit schools, aiming to protect students from taking on too much debt to attend schools that do nothing for their job prospects.
The Department of Education has finalized its "gainful employment" rule, which will ban for-profit schools like DeVry University or Apollo Group Inc.'s University of Phoenix from accessing federal financial aid dollars if too many of their graduates are unable to find jobs that pay enough to allow them to afford their student loan payments. If graduates owe too much relative to their income, or too few former students are paying back their tuition loans on time, schools stand to lose access to Pell grants and federal student aid. Such a loss would seriously crimp schools' ability to attract students.
"These new regulations will help ensure that students at these schools are getting what they pay for: Solid preparation for a good job," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Thursday. "We're giving career colleges every opportunity to reform themselves but we're not letting them off the hook, because too many vulnerable students are being hurt."
Most students at career colleges and vocational schools pay tuition with federal financial aid dollars - as much as 90 percent of a school's revenue can come from government aid. But that leaves taxpayers on the hook if students can't find good jobs and default on their loans.
And they are defaulting in large numbers.
Students at for-profit institutions such as technical programs and culinary schools represent just 12 percent of all higher education students but 46 percent of all student loan dollars in default. The average student earning an associate degree at a for-profit school carries $14,000 in federal loan debt versus the $0 debt burden of most community college students.
Government scrutiny of the industry grew as the Great Recession exacerbated students' debt burdens. The DOE last fall created rules to rein in deceptive advertising and barred schools from paying enrollment counselors based on how many students they signed up, among other measures. The agency drew up the "gainful employment" rule in 2010, but delayed putting it into effect as it faced heavy lobbying from schools and politicians.
Under final terms of the law, announced Thursday, schools will only be able to receive federal-paid tuition if at least 35 percent of its former students are repaying their loans. Or, the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate must not be bigger than 30 percent of his or her discretionary income, or 12 percent of his or her total earnings.
"We're asking companies that get up to 90 percent of their profits from taxpayer dollars to be at least 35 percent effective," Duncan said. "This is a perfectly reasonable bar and one that every for-profit program should be able to reach."
Many maintain that the rule will protect students from toxic programs.
"The Department of Education's gainful employment rule is a modest and important first step to protect students and taxpayers from subprime academic programs that have a demonstrated track record of failure," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who's chaired a series of hearings critical of the for-profit sector.
"The only programs that would lose funding would be programs that are consistently failing to provide students with gainful employment, and are providing them with insurmountable debt," adds Pauline Abernathy of the Institute for College Access & Success, an education advocacy group that favors more industry regulation.
Others, including the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Leadership Fund, have said the new federal rule could hurt minority and low-income students by eliminating important funding options and therefore reducing the number of schools they can afford to attend. Congressman John Kline, R-Minn., filed an amendment in February to try to cut DOE funding in order to stop the rule from being enacted. Harris Miller, the president of Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, an industry group, has said the rule has "fundamental legal flaws" because the DOE is "engaging in a form of price fixing," which it doesn't have the authority to do.
To a point, the lobbying worked. Under the rule's original terms, programs that failed to meet the criteria would have lost federal loan eligibility immediately and enrollment would have been frozen at any school in danger of failing. The finalized rule gives schools multiple chances over a four-year period to improve their stats. After "three strikes," a school would lose eligibility for three years.
"We're focusing on improving (for-profit programs) rather than closing them. Students would be better off if their programs were stronger rather than closed down," said James Kvaal, a DOE official, during a conference call with reporters.
The DOE said it expects 18 percent of for-profit schools' programs to fail its tests at some point, and 5 percent of programs to lose eligibility under the new law.
There's a lot at stake for the schools and their investors, who have benefitted from the surge in for-profit programs hitting the market in the last decade. The country's largest chain, Apollo Group, has seen revenue and net income grow about eightfold since 2000. And despite the hit that the sector has taken from increased regulatory scrutiny, Apollo's stock has more than quadrupled in that time.
But BMO Capital Markets analyst Jeff Silber sees profits declining or stagnating at most for-profit schools over the next few years. New enrollments are dropping sharply after years of double-digit growth as the schools adjust their businesses to accommodate the government's stricter oversight.
Some schools have been trying to get out in front of the new laws and adapt their business models to the new reality. Apollo's University of Phoenix, for example, now offers a free, three-week orientation that helps weed out unprepared students without charging them. The Washington Post Co.'s Kaplan education division has also put in place a free trial period so students can see if they really want to commit to school. Career Education Corp. is making new online undergraduate students pass a college prep course if they haven't attended college before - if they can't do the work, they can drop out without paying tuition.
University of Phoenix spokesman Rick Castellano said Thursday that he had no comment on the new regulations since he had not yet seen them.© 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
An interesting tactic to using discounts through websites ala groupon. I hope this spreads to other cities.
Steve Lopez doing more truth-telling about Prop 13 (and more on financial irrationality)... if only people would hear it. I am all for getting real on our budgets, but that requires us to, um, get REAL. That means no more crying about issues that don't actually drain our budget like the undocumented and teacher pensions. Ok, stepping off the soap box now, I will let Steve and his new economist friend tell you all about it.
On another note, though, I love how Steve reads comments left by readers and interacts with them proactively, like making this new economist friend and then turning that into a column. That is forward thinking in journalism, in my opinion, and another reason why I LOVE THE LA TIMES!
Another nod towards rationality comes up in this article about underage drinking. It is followed by the opposite opinion, in case you were worried about balance.
Pre-weekend (it is the summer after all) note:
If you have not tried out your local first Friday, what are you waiting for? Even though our ABQ art scene is not on fire, there are still great shows to take in. Here's an article about the Natural History Museum in LA taking it on.... would love to be in town for one of these!