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Hope

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posted on May, 2 2012 @ 08:57 AM
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In my own efforts to Deny Ignorance, I have long been hard on the state of education in America, particularly hard on public schools and the educators employed by them. I have long insisted that what passes for education in public schools, and even many of the private schools, is nothing more than government sanctioned indoctrination. I believe this to be true. However, I have also long been a fierce fighter in defense of individualism and the individual. In my efforts to hold educators accountable for the state of education in America today, I have been guilty of running roughshod over individual teachers who take personally my criticisms of educators. In response to their offense, I often come off as pithy and unrepentant for any offense they may have taken.

Then there is the matter of America's modern day youth. I am amazed at how many intelligent and thoughtful members are all to willing to attack the youth of today in the very same way I attack educators. There are an incredible amount of people who castigate today's youth as if they were all gansta thugs, carrying pistols they aim sideways while terrorizing the geriatric set, of whom....let's face it...are the vast sea of baby boomers getting much older and far too crankier.

Finally, there is media. Many members in this site, myself included, are incredibly hard on the so called "main stream media", comfortably enjoying our own status here and elsewhere as guerrilla journalists serving as a necessary balance to "fair and balanced" media. We tend to smugly rest on our own laurels, confident we are the new digital warriors and some of us have had no problem in viewing the future through our digital rose colored glasses and prognosticate the death of print media. Print is dead they say. It is too expensive and cannot compete with the disruptive technology. Print, however, has always been an expensive prospect from the very beginning with good ol' Gutenberg and his own disruptive technology of that day, the printing press. Somehow print has managed to survive and I would like to think it will continue to do so.

What do these three disparate topics have to do with this thread and hope? Every once a while a story comes along that reminds us, or at the very least reminds me, that no matter how bad the state of education may be, there are still heroic individuals valiantly fighting the good fight, who have a profound understanding of their role in the future of today's youth who are, after all, our dreams, our wishes our hope. Yesterday I was privileged to read such a story:


As they do on many Saturday afternoons, the teenagers from across Los Angeles county descended on the nondescript Fairfax district office building. It was time for the weekly editorial meeting at L.A. Youth the newspaper by teens for teens. The latest issue had just hit the hallways of L.A. schools, and the deadline for the next one was fast approaching.


What makes this story so special?


That’s the formula for producing the newspaper centered around first-person accounts of young people on their community, culture and the challenges they face, allowing for more depth than the typical high school newspaper. Over the years, they’ve tackled such subjects as life as an undocumented immigrant, drug abuse, teen pregnancy and how budget cuts have hurt their schools.

In the most recent issue, Locke High School student Maceo Bradley wrote an account of his mission to take on the city’s (now-altered) policy for ticketing tardy students. There were also stories about life in the juvenile justice system, an Indian girl coming to appreciate her culture by learning Bollywood-style dancing, and one young man’s dispatch on learning to drive with a mom scared to ride with him.


But wait...there's more!


“It’s just a really important outlet for a lot of teenagers,” said Oscar Rodriguez, now a 28-year-old graphic designer, who did illustrations for L.A. Youth as a Lynwood High School student. “Usually you’re in your own little world, but when you get letters from random people” — other teens who read the paper — “it opens your eyes. You realize there’s a world out there, and people are feeling the same way I did.”

L.A. Youth, he said, “definitely played a part in what I went on to do in life.”


Why does this matter so much to me?


But as the newspaper approaches a quarter-century, it is struggling to hang on. The foundations whose grants have long been the primary source of funding have pulled out, and board members who once brought in corporate donations have been laid off, said Donna Myrow, L.A. Youth’s executive director.

The paper, which operates on a $500,000 budget, has two full-time editors, Riddle and Mike Fricano, who guide the young scribes through the writing process. L.A. Youth is printed six times a year, with a circulation of about 70,000 and an estimated readership of 400,000, Myrow said. (The Times donates the printing of the newspaper.)

Myrow said the newspaper needs to raise $500,000 by mid-may or it will run out of money. Unlike other newspapers, which have seen scores of readers migrate to the Internet, Myrow said that’s not an option. Even with this high-tech generation, she said not as many students would read it online, mostly because of a lack of computer access.


Who is Donna Myrow?


I made my decision to publish a newspaper for teenagers in Los Angeles on the morning of January 13, 1988, the day when the United States Supreme Court struck down student press rights in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeir. That decision gave school officials broad powers to censor student newspapers. That afternoon a dozen teenagers sat around my kitchen table talking about issues that affected their lives. Together we wondered how we would publish our own newspaper with no money. We didn’t even have a computer.

But we found some resources in the community—grants from The James Irvine Foundation and Bank of America Foundation, a few old typewriters from the Los Angeles Times, and a meeting place in a senior citizen center. These were enough to launch the first issue. Starting small with 2,500 copies published twice a year for two years, then growing year by year, we now publish six times each year, with 105,000 copies each issue. L.A. Youth has a readership of more than 300,000 in Los Angeles County. Our newspaper is read by students in public and private schools, by those who attend nearly 400 community-based youth programs, and can be found at most libraries. Every issue is posted on our Web site (www.l.a.youth.com), and a Teacher’s Guide is mailed to 1,200 teachers who use L.A. Youth in their classrooms.


As a Glendale middle school teacher, Jolie Augustine put it:


Their parents don’t talk about these issues with them. It’s certainly not in textbooks. These are real issues that L.A. teens are talking about.


What is my hope? That this thread might reach one, or two, three or more people who find it within both their hearts, and their pockets to help L.A. Youth survive another quarter of a century.


edit on 2-5-2012 by Jean Paul Zodeaux because: (no reason given)




posted on May, 2 2012 @ 10:08 AM
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Hello Again,

I'm one of those awful public school teachers who do their best to indocrinate our children. I believe we've run into each other a time or two.

Your criticisms of public education are valid. There are a plethora of things wrong with public schools. However, your contention that the main problem is the teachers isn't quite right. Now, there are certainly some folks teaching classes who should never be allowed in a school system, no argument there. But the vast majority of public education teachers are competent, intelligent, and caring people who work hard to educate our children.

We come early to school and stay late, providing free tutoring for struggling students. We plan lessons with Bloom's taxonomy in mind (the hierarchy of thinking skills). We make sure to include multi-sensory lessons that reach the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners. We attend continuing education courses every year, and reapply for our teaching licensce on a regular basis. We work with any child that comes to us; including children from abusive or neglectful homes; homeless children (I have a couple now who live in their car); children who speak little to no English, children with learning disabilities....basically, children from every strata of society.

So if we educators are such stand-up folks, why is the US education system in the state that it is today? Well, that's a complex question requiring a complex answer. But consider the following:

Standardized test scores (which are how we rank students nationally and internationally) are NOT the best indicator of a child's ability. Just like many IQ tests, standardized tests are biased, do not measure a student's understanding of the subject matter, etc. How could we change this for the better? Shorten the standardized tests (currently each test is approx. four hours long), include a heavier-weighted portfolio component, and a project component. Let the child apply the learning in a meaningful way....not just bubble in answers on a test.

Social promotion is, in my opinion, the biggest problem facing public education today. Here's what happens. Michael is finishing kindergarten. He cannot identify the letters of the alphabet or their phonetic sounds. He cannot count to one hundred, recognize basic sight words (like colors), or even sit still for at least five minutes. Michael's teacher knows he is not ready to go to first grade....but Michael's parents are horrified at the thought of holding Michael back. They raise a fuss, and Michael is "placed" in first grade. The next year, Michael continues to fall further behind. He is not reading on grade level, solving math problems on grade level, etc.
Once again the teacher recommends retention....once again, Michael is "placed" in the next grade. So it continues....and by the time Michael is in middle school he is so hopelessly behind that he never can catch up.

Now lets talk about teacher pay. I believe the last time I broached this topic with you, you were less than....understanding about the subject. But think of it this way. The best teachers don't stay teachers for long. Why? Because they can make more money in different fields...and they do so. These teachers may transition to teaching on the college level, work on developing curriculum, or simply drop out of the education field altogether. Who's left? Not the cream of the crop.

For the amount of work the average teacher does, the pay is incredibly....lousy. In addition, schools often don't provide the basic necessities for students...and neither do the parents. Who ends up buying paper and pencils and glue? I'm sure you can guess. When schools aren't provided with basics, its impossible to get the "bonus" items that our students really enjoy; technology. In my school we average one working computer per thirty students...and that computer is over ten years old. See the problem?

Now lets talk about the parents. As both a teacher and a parent, I understand how difficult it can be to have a child in public education. It's hard to find time in the daily grind for homework, enrichment activities, etc. Perhaps the parent is single and struggling to raise five kids on her own. Perhaps he works two jobs just to provide a little food for the table, and simply can't be there to do homework. Or perhaps the parents genuinely don't care about education and see no need for it....after all, they are living just fine on the welfare system and they never graduated from high school. So what's the big deal?

Now I am fully aware that I've grossly generalized teachers and parents....and I want to acknowledge that the majority of parents do care about their child's education, but simply don't know how to help their child. The reason I posted this rather lengthy post is to remind everyone of the cracks in the education system.

Public education in the US is not in good shape. We must acknoweldge the weaknesses, develop and implement a plan to address these weaknesses, and make education a priority once again.
edit on 2-5-2012 by smyleegrl because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 2 2012 @ 10:18 AM
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reply to post by smyleegrl
 


My dearest smyleegrl, I was just getting ready to search for your profile to invite you into this thread when I saw you had all ready found it and posted. Thank you. Not just for keeping the hope of this thread alive a little longer, but for your own efforts as an educator. I have indeed been hard on you, and I am pleased to see you are willing to accept my own sanctimonious rhetoric for what it is. The system is deeply flawed, but that is a system. Within that system are many heroic warrior poets doing the best they can to prepare the kids today for the world at large. As L.A. Youth exemplifies, many teachers are compelled, for whatever reasons, to work outside the system to do their job as educators and teach our children well.



posted on May, 2 2012 @ 10:57 AM
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JP,

First of all, thank you for the invite. I have many things to comment on, so I'll start at the beginning.

I remember my first confrontation with you regarding the state of affairs of our education system in the US. I was one of those that was on the end of the proverbial "beat down stick" regarding my own role in this system. I have been all too guilty of defending a broken system with nothing more than my own personal experiences. I have completed a long 18-month stretch of intense soul searching on the subject, and I have realized that I can no longer fight against those who do not wish to change. I have opted to become employed with an alternative education system for at-risk youth, youth that have severe mental and emotional problems, and for those that have no family to fall back on. I start my position in two weeks, and I could not be more excited. Outside of the constraints of a broken system, I feel that I can truly spread my wings and make a difference.

I certainly concur with your statements regarding how the older generation views our teenagers and young adults. I have met some of the most brilliant kids through my work in the public school system, and have no reason to believe that they are all miscreants, delinquents, and hoodlums.

Which brings me to my next point:

The main stream media. As we all have postulated, and probably know at some levels as truth, the MSM is underhandedly controlled by our government (and is hopelessly polarized as such). Reports about the "corruption of our minors" will make front page news before stories about "Youth rebuild garden for home for elderly people." Bad news makes good news in this day and age. Bad news sells copy, and at the bottom line of all that is money. People don't want good news. People want bad news to reaffirm their own position in life. They use it as an excuse to repeat the status quo because, "at least they don't have it as bad as those people." It's a poor excuse, but what else is there?

MSM has been used very effectively throughout the country to push educational legislation, demonize an entire profession for the misdeeds of a few, and make the divide even greater between parents, students, teachers, and administrators. It's no wonder that we are in one of the greatest "teacher droughts" in modern history.

This leads me to my comments on the topic at hand.

I, for one, am saddened at the thought of this teen newspaper disappearing from print forever. This type of activity promotes free thinking, critical thinking, and teamwork. It exposes countless numbers of teens around the country to the issues that affect them the most. It gives teens a voice that they would otherwise not have (thank-you-very-much to the baby boomers), and most importantly, it gives them a sense of worth. The sense of self-worth is, in my opinion, the one thing that many teens in this era are lacking. I notice it when I walk the halls of the various schools I work for. The kids are hungry for knowledge, they are hungry for intelligent debate, and they are hungry to be heard. These hungers are not being satisfied by the "cater to the lowest common denominator" public school system that is currently in place, and they are certainly not being satisfied by standardized testing and those educators that just don't give a damn anymore.

Those of us who have been vocal about fighting against the current system are being silenced. The louder we yell, the harder they come down on us. The Buffalo City School District is a perfect example of this. In a recent showing by the teacher's collective in Buffalo, a New York State ruling has taken over six million dollars away from the district in badly needed funds. They were vocal about standing against a new teacher evaluation requirement that would directly tie student success with the accountability of educators. It goes deeper, however. The Buffalo CSD tried to make a bargain with the state where the state would take into consideration, the attendance rate among those inner-city youth (students in the BCSD have an 86% attendance rate, and that 14 percent is a large number of students). The state took less than three days to decide on the provision. They told Buffalo to get bent, in not so many words, and held them hostage for state funds. The teacher's collective voted to reject the state's proposal out of a showing of solidarity. Not once was there a mention from the state about how parents can have an effect on student turnout and success. Not once was there a "we're willing to work with you attitude."

The moral is: what is this teaching our youth? Is the government teaching them that if you speak out, you will be punished? Is it teaching them that if you submit, you will be thrown a few scraps?

This is the reason why L.A. Youth is so important. It shows the students that their voices DO matter.

I really hope they get the funds.



-TS



posted on May, 2 2012 @ 11:21 AM
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reply to post by truthseeker1984
 


Thank you my friend for joining this thread. It was, of course, that very first confrontation between you and I that compelled me to ask you to join this thread.

I am so pleased to hear your good news, and am excited for you. I have no doubt you are going where you are needed most, and that this is a win-win for all of us.

It is this sense of worth you speak of that struck me so profoundly from this story of L.A. Youth. I have no doubt the example of this story is just one among many more across this nation where genuine educators are doing their level best to ensure our children understand the utmost importance of their own self worth.



posted on May, 2 2012 @ 09:56 PM
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Regardless of one's view on the state of education -- or what may be passed as such -- I see some hope, just as my friend JP has seen in what was a previously unknown to me. This paper required no degree, no mandate, no law or political outcry to start up and begin a wonderful journey. A journey it seems, that has benefited many "teens" as they begin to feel their place in this world.

My hope is that more see this and not just take away from JPZs views on education, but take away a little bit of hope that such a paper gets much needed attention and not just monetarily.



posted on May, 2 2012 @ 10:00 PM
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Originally posted by ownbestenemy
Regardless of one's view on the state of education -- or what may be passed as such -- I see some hope, just as my friend JP has seen in what was a previously unknown to me. This paper required no degree, no mandate, no law or political outcry to start up and begin a wonderful journey. A journey it seems, that has benefited many "teens" as they begin to feel their place in this world.

My hope is that more see this and not just take away from JPZs views on education, but take away a little bit of hope that such a paper gets much needed attention and not just monetarily.


Indeed! Given this remarkable story, how could this thread ever possibly be about anything other than them, these brilliant youth, our future?



posted on May, 3 2012 @ 03:33 AM
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This is just human ingenuity at its finest. A need was filled. An outlet created and in such, should be nurtured. It shows that no matter the state of "education", Man will seek out knowledge regardless of its means.

These teens seek out the world as they see it. Sure we all lament, especially as we grow older and "wiser" about how teens tend to view the world -- but is such a view all that bad? Do you remember the day when a cloud was a lion, a bouquet of balloons, a turtle -- then we grow up and gain....wisdom. But is it truly wisdom?

As we grow older, we begin to see the world for what it is; good and bad. But in youth, we rarely see the bad and see the good it can be, what it should be. These teens that write and connect with this paper may see bad, but they also find an outlet to express and start to put out feelers for their rapidly expanding world. A world that once was a home and is now a city....soon to be the world.

The education system that most grow up through is rigid and teaches almost a static view of the past and rarely (with few exceptions -- exceptions that should be noted) challenges these young and optimistic minds. As small as this paper may seem, it shows that if allowed, an Individual will grow.

Bravo my friend for finding this truly diamond in the rough that we call life.




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