Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

>I am embarrassed

September 8, 2009

>I am embarrassed for our country.

The fact that school administrators are not allowing their pupils to hear an inspiring, non-partisan message about the importance of education is bewildering. Oh, I’ve heard the right wingers saying he’s trying to deliver a subliminal message to indoctrinate our kids and all, sure – that’s to be expected from those folks. But I would think administrators in schools would have better judgement than to be swayed by the birther/deather/pro-dropouters.

By “pro-dropouters” I mean…well, wouldn’t it be ironic if the president’s speech did influence kids to stay in school, so that as the years go by, the number of kids who heard the president and stayed in school and went on to have productive lives is higher, and of the kids who did not hear the president a greater number drop out and become a burden on society?

Is it so bad that the kids might hear this? (from the President’s prepared remarks):

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

That’s what it’s all about. Promoting education, promoting a learning attitude, to create a desire to better oneself through education.

Here is more from the prepared remarks the president will give.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

I decided to see what the area schools were doing so I made some phone calls this morning. This is what I heard from the person in the office of each school who answered the phone. The answers may or may not be official policy.

In Bessemer I called the superintendent’s office, but could get no further than answering machines. So I called each school.

At Jess Lanier, all students will watch the president.

Davis Middle School – They don’t have access in all the rooms, but some will watch and some will not. The administrator I spoke with then said “I don’t know anything about it.” (3 hours before the speech)

Abrams Elementary School – They are recording the speech to show later. They are going on with their regular instructional program during the day.

Hard Elementary – The person who answered the phone hung up on me.

Greenwood Elementary – They have not decided (3 hours before the speech). Referred me to the central office (where I had already tried but got a recording, I will try again.)

Jonesboro Elementary – I was referred to the librarian who said a decision had not been made, and when I asked when it might be since the speech was in 2-1/2 hours, she said goodbye and hung up on me.

Westhills Elementary – Will be set up so that teachers can show it if they choose to.

McAdory Elementary – No, and when I asked why, I was told “Because the principal said so.”

McAdory Middle School – It’s up to the teachers. They can show it but they cannot make any assignments about it.

McAdory High School – It’s the teacher’s option, and also the student’s option.

Bessemer Academy – Not showing. Then hesitatingly said that only the government class might show it, then said if other teachers want to show it they can.

Let me just add right here that the Bessemer school system needs to have some mandatory telephone skills and etiquette training for their employees, especially at Jonesboro elementary and Hard elementary.

On Fox News yesterday Newt Gingrich and others agreed that the speech is a good thing and that students should be allowed to watch it and then discuss it.

I have read the speech. There is nothing controversial, no policy promotion or anything like that. But even if there was, is it not good for students to hear different views on subjects and then discuss their viewpoints? Is that not what school and education is about?

Then there is this (don’t take it seriously).

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>Western Tribune column September 2, 2009; Candidates and Education

September 3, 2009

>This is my Western Tribune column from this week’s paper.

I might be stepping on some toes here, but with elections in Bessemer coming up next year, and the very entertaining Birmingham elections just past, it’s time for people to begin considering running for mayor, city council, and school board.

No one would dream of a school board member being elected who does not have a college education, but in Birmingham a candidate lied about both his college degree and his high school education, believing that these embellishments to his resume would increase his standing with voters.

I spoke with that candidate by phone and communicated via Facebook because I was in charge of arranging for a candidate screening for endorsement s by the Alabama Stonewall Democrats. I had no idea at the time that he was a liar.

Then when the candidate profiles for all of the Birmingham races were printed on Sunday before the election I thought looking at the educational qualifications of each candidate would be interesting.

It seems to me that that a college educated candidate would be better prepared to deal with issues facing a city or a school system than one who had less education. That’s not to say that other life experiences are not important or that good ideas can’t come from everyone.

All the school board candidates, other than the liar, had degrees of varying sorts.

But city council candidates were a different story. Based on their candidate profiles, thirteen out of 43 candidates did not have a college degree, including some incumbents and some in runoffs.
Many jobs require a certain degree of education as qualification before one should even apply.

No one would deny that serving as an elected official is an important job. Running a city involves budgeting skills and decision making and working together; qualities that most graduates will say they developed while a student in college. Especially, I might add, if a master’s level is achieved.

I have no idea of the educational level of any Bessemer elected official. I don’t know if any incumbents will be running or who the challengers might be, so I am not picking on anyone when I say that we need candidates who have completed a college education.

And when the various political groups begin to endorse candidates, let’s hope that they also realize the value that a college education adds to a candidate’s qualifications.

We can do better than Birmingham.

>Diversity Education for Kids

July 6, 2009

>An article in Sunday’s Birmingham News described a new video that will be used in Birmingham Schools. The video was produced by Leadership Birmingham and features kids from area schools including Epic School and Alabama School of Fine Arts and Shades Valley High School.

The video will be used in a character education program to help teach values and morals.

Diversity is about more than just race, according to these children, who included sexual orientation and social standing and language differences as some of the issues that should be included when considering diversity.

“Diversity, I think, is too often confined to the limits of race and class,” said Anna Turkett, a student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and member of Birmingham’s Youth Leadership Forum. “Racial differences these days don’t mean as much anymore.”

“We wanted a tool for teachers to have classroom conversation about diversity,” said Howard Bayless, a member of the leadership team who is corporate director of development for Bradford Health Services as well as a member of the Birmingham Board of Education. “Children typically listen to other children before they listen to adults.”

Diversity video to be used in character ed project for schools

http://tribeca.vidavee.com/advance/vidavee/playerv3/vFlasher_debug.swf?p19=movie1246883821905&p2=off&p3=off&p4=50&p5=off&p7=on&p8=off&p31=on&p22=http%3A%2F%2Fanalytics.tribeca.vidavee.com%2Fvanalytics%2Fgateway%2F&p13=no&p16=v3AdvInt_al.swf&p17=http%3A%2F%2Ftribeca.vidavee.com%2Fadvance%2Fvidavee%2Fplayerv3%2Fskins%2F&p11=0&p15=http%3A%2F%2Ftribeca.vidavee.com%2Fadvance%2FvClientXML.view%3FAF_renderParam_contentType%3Dtext%2Fxml%26showEndCard%3Doff%26link%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideos.al.com%2Fbirmingham-news%2F2009%2F07%2Fdiversity_video_to_be_used_in.html%26vtagView%3Don%26skin%3Dv3AdvInt_al.swf%26autoplay%3Doff%26loadStream%3Doff%26width%3D470%26height%3D352%26vtag%3Dyes%26startVolume%3D50%26hidecontrolbar%3Dno%26textureStrip%3Dyes%26displayTime%3Dyes%26volumeLock%3Doff%26watermark%3Dyes%26dockey%3DD46D624B160257A1097DE201BE6E3C1B&p21=http%3A%2F%2Ftribeca.vidavee.com%2Fadvance%2Fvidavee%2Fplayerv3%2Fjs%2FFlashProxyLoader.js&p18=timeDisplay%3Dyes%3Bwatermark%3Dyes%3BshareWidgets%3Don%3BtextureStripe%3Dyes%3BvtagDisplay%3Dyes%3BshowEndCard%3Doff%3Blink%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideos.al.com%2Fbirmingham-news%2F2009%2F07%2Fdiversity_video_to_be_used_in.html

The group donated enough copies of the video for every school in Birmingham and plans to distribute copies to all surrounding school systems in Jefferson County.

“We hope they will choose to use it in their character education program as well,” Bayless said. “It can be the start of a great classroom conversation.”

Let’s hope that Bessemer uses the video in their school system, where it seems from anecdotal reports that homophobia is common among the students. Well actually, the student’s parents, but everybody could use some education and diversity training it seems.

>Western Tribune Column December 10, 2008

December 9, 2008

>Education

There is little doubt that our country will move forward over the next few years, and I certainly hope that Bessemer does as well. One area that must continue to improve is education.

Education is the key to personal advancement in our society. Unfortunately, disparity in education in our state is commonplace, and educators in less advantaged situations have to be creative in their attempts to level the field.

U. S. News and World Report recently released their list of America’s best leaders, and topping the list was Freeman Hrabowski III, an African American from Birmingham who took part in the Children’s Crusade march for civil rights in 1963.

He was arrested, he was spat on by Bull Conner, he spent five nights in jail, but he learned from the experience that “the more we expect of children, the more they can do.”

Hrabowski went on to receive a Ph.D. in education and is now the president of the University of Maryland – Baltimore County.

One of the first issues he tackled was against the subculture in which those who make good grades in school are “selling out” or “acting white.” I have learned from school personnel in Bessemer that this attitude is present among some in their classes. They learn this in their homes, I am told.

Fortunately, not all young people are being influenced in this way. They realize that good grades are not “selling out”, rather they are “investing in” one’s future. Rather than “acting white” they are “acting smart,” because good grades get you into college, and a college education gets you a good job. And a good job gets you health insurance and secures your future.

Hrabrowski has turned UMBC in to a math and science pipeline by drawing on minority and low-income students who might otherwise be left behind. And he did this while holding those students to the same high standards as others. His students met and exceeded those standards.

In Bessemer we will have a new superintendent along with a new high school.

Our superintendent, and the educators in our system, should increase their efforts in inspiring young people, just as Hrabowski has done.

Bessemer education has made great strides over the last few years.

If you expect more, you get more, Hrabowski learned, so from our educators, we will expect more.

>Bessemer Data and Christmas Prep

December 9, 2008

>Data released by the U. S. Census Bureau reveals several things in Bessemer that need to change. Story from Birmingham News.

Percent of families with children that are headed by female with no husband. Bessemer 57%, highest in the county (Birmingham is 53%, next is Homewood with 22%). I think the research shows that children do better with 2 parents (regardless of gender). However, I think there are plenty of children from one parent households that are doing fine. It has to do more with the parenting skills than the number of parents involved.

Inadequate parenting may reflect in the next stat. Percent of those 25 or older with less than high school education. Again, Bessemer is the worst in the county, at 21.1%. (Birmingham 19.1, Alabaster 9.8) And percent with Bachelor’s degree or greater, Bessemer 10.3% , again, lowest in the county.

Education in Bessemer is improving, although the school board might not believe that. After all they fired a successful Superintendent recently.

Anyway, tomorrow’s column in The Western Tribune is about education in Bessemer, but you will have to wait to read it.

In the meantime, here is what is keeping me busy.

This is a Sugar and Spice Cake, and once it is frosted no one will notice that one of the layers is uneven. Lemon-Coconut Cake, Best Carrot Cake and Red Velvet Pound Cake are some of the others I am making this week.

Spending so much time in the kitchen, I had to put a Christmas tree in there.

Is this red and green enough?

Blue eyed Black Santa is watching over some of the Salt and Pepper shakers in our collection.

Education Should Be A Hot Topic

November 12, 2007

The Birmingham News will win a Pulitzer Prize for its series “At A Crossroads” which continued in Sunday’s paper (A Learning Divide). This was the 7th in a series exploring the challenges facing our metropolitan area. Sunday’s installment looked at education.

Saturday evening after those awful football games four of us had a conversation about education, and came up with parental involvement (or lack thereof) and disparities in funding as the major contributors to differences in education around here. Seems we were right.

Things like expectations and goals relate to those two factors. It’s easy to see how funding plays a role, as the figures are out there for all to see. So when a school can not afford computers, the kids learn (or assume) that computers must not be important in their education. You have kids like Elicia Person, a 4th grader at Gate City, who said about computers “It’s not a subject, so it’s not important.” Compare this with Will Royer, a 4th grader at Crestline, where each child uses their own laptop, who says “Everyone needs to learn how to use a computer in order to get a good job.”

Which attitude will land the child a better job, with insurance and information about health care and a healthier life?

The more one examines education and the effects it has on society, the more challenging it seems to be. The problems seem insurmountable, given the partisanship and cronyism and unethical practices and racism that we see everyday in local and state government (and boards of education).

I think the Birmingham News article did not focus on parental involvement enough. One short article that did not really examine why parents might not be involved or why their involvement is important. Many children in poorer school systems, including Bessemer, are being raised by their grandmother, or people other than their parents. These substitute parents may not have the emotional involvement to be as involved, and in the case of grandparents, may not have the energy…or may not be educated themselves, so they might not sit with the children to do math problems or read to them from the time they are born. In additon, those who are being raised by a single parent may have a parent who is working two jobs, or works an evening shift, so is not there to participate in their child’s education on a regular basis. Difficult situtations to address, and I do not have the answers.

This is shameful, but I have heard from teachers that they are teaching African American kids whose parents actually discourage them from learning, telling the children it’s white people’s education and they don’t need to learn things that will only help them work in the white world for white people. In my opinion, those parents have no business raising kids and it is just as shameful as seeing white kids at Klan rallies in little white sheets with pointed hats on their heads.

So…Max Micheal, the Dean of the UAB School of Public Health, and Huw F. Thomas, Dean of the UAB School of Dentistry, wrote a paper titled “The Roots of Health” in which they explored health behaviors and health outcomes and causes. They make a statement, “If at the dawn of the next century the health gains of the twenty-first century are to be comparable to those of the twentieth century, we as a nation need to undertake a more aggressively active role in addressing the health of all the different communities and neighborhoods that make up our larger community.”

Education is one of the keys to addressing the health of communities, along with income inequality (directly tied to education) and social capital (which declines as income declines and can be tied to social mistrust)…See the Birmingham News installment in this series called Can We Trust One Another published on April 29, and mentioned in Bessemer Opinions Archive from April in part because the article included comments from Bessemer resident and Hoover teacher Erica Young.

“Every year of education children receive reduces by eight percent their eventual mortality.” A person who is educated competes for higher paying jobs, with more access to health information and most likely, insurance.

“It is hard to imagine what seeds for morbidity and mortality we are planting by allowing an environment where our urban schools are graduating less than forty percent of the students.”
Dr. Michael, at a forum on campus on the subject, led a discussion on healthcare focusing on the current political debate about national health care programs and insurance. He surmissed that putting the amount of money being talked about for a national health plan ($75 to $100 billion) toward education would have a greater impact on the health of America than would insuring everyone. He may be right, as insuring everyone gets them (in theory) treated when they are sick, while educating everyone (in theory) teaches them life skills and allows them to earn an income that will help keep them from getting sick.

I say “in theory” because there is little evidence to me that those of us who are educated are using that education to keep us from getting sick (or obese, for example, one huge contributor to illness). Education does not make us exercise or for the most part, eat less red meat and more brocolli. At least not yet. Seeing our reflection in the mirror or huffing and puffing when we walk up the stairs are the greater motivators to getting in shape.

But these issues, and the links between education and social capital and health are complex, and one quick fix attempt like national health care or reforms in education will not solve the problems. Multi faceted problems require multi faceted solutions.

Solution starter? Let’s find $200 billion, so we can institute national health care and at the same time reform education so that all our kids recieve education that will change their lives.

(Oh, and…do away with racism… corruption …racism… cronyism… racism… partisanship … etc.)

>Education Should Be A Hot Topic

November 12, 2007

>The Birmingham News will win a Pulitzer Prize for its series “At A Crossroads” which continued in Sunday’s paper (A Learning Divide). This was the 7th in a series exploring the challenges facing our metropolitan area. Sunday’s installment looked at education.

Saturday evening after those awful football games four of us had a conversation about education, and came up with parental involvement (or lack thereof) and disparities in funding as the major contributors to differences in education around here. Seems we were right.

Things like expectations and goals relate to those two factors. It’s easy to see how funding plays a role, as the figures are out there for all to see. So when a school can not afford computers, the kids learn (or assume) that computers must not be important in their education. You have kids like Elicia Person, a 4th grader at Gate City, who said about computers “It’s not a subject, so it’s not important.” Compare this with Will Royer, a 4th grader at Crestline, where each child uses their own laptop, who says “Everyone needs to learn how to use a computer in order to get a good job.”

Which attitude will land the child a better job, with insurance and information about health care and a healthier life?

The more one examines education and the effects it has on society, the more challenging it seems to be. The problems seem insurmountable, given the partisanship and cronyism and unethical practices and racism that we see everyday in local and state government (and boards of education).

I think the Birmingham News article did not focus on parental involvement enough. One short article that did not really examine why parents might not be involved or why their involvement is important. Many children in poorer school systems, including Bessemer, are being raised by their grandmother, or people other than their parents. These substitute parents may not have the emotional involvement to be as involved, and in the case of grandparents, may not have the energy…or may not be educated themselves, so they might not sit with the children to do math problems or read to them from the time they are born. In additon, those who are being raised by a single parent may have a parent who is working two jobs, or works an evening shift, so is not there to participate in their child’s education on a regular basis. Difficult situtations to address, and I do not have the answers.

This is shameful, but I have heard from teachers that they are teaching African American kids whose parents actually discourage them from learning, telling the children it’s white people’s education and they don’t need to learn things that will only help them work in the white world for white people. In my opinion, those parents have no business raising kids and it is just as shameful as seeing white kids at Klan rallies in little white sheets with pointed hats on their heads.

So…Max Micheal, the Dean of the UAB School of Public Health, and Huw F. Thomas, Dean of the UAB School of Dentistry, wrote a paper titled “The Roots of Health” in which they explored health behaviors and health outcomes and causes. They make a statement, “If at the dawn of the next century the health gains of the twenty-first century are to be comparable to those of the twentieth century, we as a nation need to undertake a more aggressively active role in addressing the health of all the different communities and neighborhoods that make up our larger community.”

Education is one of the keys to addressing the health of communities, along with income inequality (directly tied to education) and social capital (which declines as income declines and can be tied to social mistrust)…See the Birmingham News installment in this series called Can We Trust One Another published on April 29, and mentioned in Bessemer Opinions Archive from April in part because the article included comments from Bessemer resident and Hoover teacher Erica Young.

“Every year of education children receive reduces by eight percent their eventual mortality.” A person who is educated competes for higher paying jobs, with more access to health information and most likely, insurance.

“It is hard to imagine what seeds for morbidity and mortality we are planting by allowing an environment where our urban schools are graduating less than forty percent of the students.”
Dr. Michael, at a forum on campus on the subject, led a discussion on healthcare focusing on the current political debate about national health care programs and insurance. He surmissed that putting the amount of money being talked about for a national health plan ($75 to $100 billion) toward education would have a greater impact on the health of America than would insuring everyone. He may be right, as insuring everyone gets them (in theory) treated when they are sick, while educating everyone (in theory) teaches them life skills and allows them to earn an income that will help keep them from getting sick.

I say “in theory” because there is little evidence to me that those of us who are educated are using that education to keep us from getting sick (or obese, for example, one huge contributor to illness). Education does not make us exercise or for the most part, eat less red meat and more brocolli. At least not yet. Seeing our reflection in the mirror or huffing and puffing when we walk up the stairs are the greater motivators to getting in shape.

But these issues, and the links between education and social capital and health are complex, and one quick fix attempt like national health care or reforms in education will not solve the problems. Multi faceted problems require multi faceted solutions.

Solution starter? Let’s find $200 billion, so we can institute national health care and at the same time reform education so that all our kids recieve education that will change their lives.

(Oh, and…do away with racism… corruption …racism… cronyism… racism… partisanship … etc.)