Posts Tagged Children
RACISM HAS GRADUALLY BEEN DESTROYING AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS, AND BETSY DeVOS MIGHT BE MORE CAUSE THAN SOLUTION!
On May 17, 1954, Thurgood Marshall, Chief Counsel for the NAACP, successfully argued the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, before the U. S. Supreme Court. In it’s ruling, SCOTUS overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which established the “Separate, but Equal” status in America’s Public Schools. The divided school systems, however, were anything, but “Equal”. Institutionalized-racism might a be better term! In 1967, Mr. Marshal was sworn-in, as an Associate Justice, on the U. S. Supreme Court.
Racism remains ever-present within our Public Schools today. Some is institutionalized, and some is political. Consider several of the more appalling varieties:
1. Since real estate taxes are a primary funding source of public schools, the “White Flight” of higher-income families to the wealthier suburbs, generally in separate counties and school systems, results in better-funded suburban schools, as compared to those in the Inner Cities (i. e. Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia).
2. Some states allow smaller “independent School Districts” to be formed in wealthier areas. Higher income families seek larger, more-luxurious housing, which leads to higher property taxes and, thus, to better-funded public schools. (Similar to #1 above.)
3. Politicians often create the atmosphere where newer, and better, schools are located in wealthier areas, with some minority students bused-in. Accordingly, these schools have better teachers, and newer equipment and facilities, as compared to public school schools in poorer parts of town.
4. Charter schools may be established separately from the public school system; however, they receive funding from it—thus reducing the local system’s financial resources. Charters are generally able to be more selective in the students they admit, but there is often little correlation between selectivity and performance. Prerequisites for the corporate organizers of Charters, as well as the administrators and teachers are often dubious, depending upon the particular state.
5. Vouchers transfer a portion of the per-student amount,received by the school system, from the state and local government, to private schools that accept them. Since private school tuition and fees are usually much more expensive than the voucher provides, poor families generally cannot afford the differential for their children to attend, especially if they hame several children in school. But, wealthy families get a freebie!
It is difficult to expect that Donald J. Trump, who has vowed throughout his campaign that he will use Charter Schools and Vouchers to “improve our Educational System”, will not nominate an Education Secretary who will not advocate for “School Choice”, as well as other forms of institutionalized racism. If Mr. Trump really did want to improve the American Educational System, he would nominate someone with actual education experience—rather than someone who ereportedly contributed $11 million to his campaign!
Betsy DeVos, who is Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, is a member of the super-wealthy DeVos Family of Amway Fame. Mrs. DeVos is active in the National GOP, advocates for School Choice, and was one of the architects of the Detroit Charter Schools Program, which apparently has performed on a par with the City’s overall failed and underfunded Public School System.
Betsy DeVos is hardly a realistic solution for America’s Educational System!
In a prior blog post, I had compared the two most popular vehicles for establishing Educational Funds for Minors—the Uniform Transfers (also called Gifts) to Minors Account and the 529 Plan—linked, as follows: https://thetruthoncommonsense.com/2013/08/05/ugma-vs-529-plan/#comments. I prefer the UTMA, since: investments may include all types of securities, and there is more flexibility as to using the money. The investment process might also be educationally valuable to the child(ren), as well!
There was an interesting book, “Age Wave”, written by psychologist Ken Dychtwald, back in the late ‘80s. In it, he traced the economic impact of the Baby Boomer Generation, as they passed through life’s stages: infants; toddlers; young children, pre-teens; teenagers; to young adults. Think about it: Gerber’s; Mattel; Disney; cosmetics; Nike; autos, etc. I believe that the investment process, behind funding an education, can be a learning process for the child, and a relationship-building opportunity for the parent or grandparent.
My Wife and I started an UTMA Account for our Grandson, Henry, when he was six months old. Anyone can make annual additions to such an account up to $14,000 ($28,000 for a couple), and to each child, which would be exempt from the Federal Gift-Tax. Personally, we believe that lifetime gifting is much more satisfying than just leaving a legacy through your Estate.
Henry will be four years old in six weeks; so, he is still too young to participate in the investment process. But, I have been laying the long-term groundwork by investing in companies, as I see fit. Once he’s approximately seven or eight, however, we’ll let him know that we have established such a fund, and point-out older cousins or family friends who have been to college—to build an interest. But, great careers can certainly be made from vocational school and apprenticeships, as well!
Once Henry decides whether, or not, to become involved, he can initially suggest products that he likes; and over time, we can do computer searches to see if the sales have grown—as more of his age group wanted those products or services. As he sees his account grow, he might find interest in tracking it on a spread sheet and, at some point, begin to see the advantages of products that he doesn’t use from an investment standpoint, and that the products he does like might not be economically feasible as an investment. Any detailed analysis would only be at his suggestion. Seriously!
The important goal here is to establish an account to fund higher education, if you can; but, it should not be used to force a child to go to college. Likewise, allow the child to be as involved as they wish to be in the investment process, or prefer not to be. Likewise, permit them to engage at times of their choosing! Besides preparing early for education, the other important goal should be to have things that parents and/or grandparents might do with the children and young adults.
This Presidential Election Year, perhaps more than prior ones, the political demagogues have been out in full-force, attacking undocumented immigrants—both current and ones that arrived even decades ago. Rather than consider the actual situation and trying to develop some sort of coherent solution, they are using Immigrants as the target at which to spew their hatred and racism. Perhaps they even wish to maintain the status quo for the future election cycles!
Starting from the idea of deporting 11 million people—if they could actually round them all up— would take many, many years and cost trillions of dollars. It reminds me of the story about a small child, digging a hole at the edge of the shore, and then taking bucket after bucket of sea water, trying to put the ocean into their small hole. Starting with impossible goals just never works!
The people who come to any developed country are seeking a better life for them and their families. Just like you or I, they would want a job that pays a decent wage, a home, good health care, and an education that will prepare their children for the future world, which they will encounter. We have numerous shuttered military bases at which questionable immigrants can be segregated, vetted, and they could perform most of the labor around the camps.
There are two linked articles, which I hope you will read. One is about 14 year-old Elena (no last name given) who, along with her family, had been stopped at the southern border of Mexico, and they are waiting to learn whether they will be deported back home, or not. The second article, about 19 year-old Larissa Martinez, is a much happier one where, during her high school Valedictory Speech, she revealed that she is an undocumented immigrant.
Back to the first vignette: In the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the drug gangs cannot be controlled by the police. Young children are forced to be lookouts, young girls have no choice but to become gang member’s “girl friends,” which means a life of being a courier and a mistress. Refusal can mean death—both for them and their family. Nicolas Kristof’s column, from the NY Times, is linked as follows:
Her mother brought Larissa Martinez, along with her younger sister, from Mexico, across the Rio Grande when she was 13 years old. They were seeking refuge with family members, who were legal immigrants, in Texas. Her mother applied several times to be placed on the waiting list for legal status; however, that takes 15 years. Also, Larissa arrived too late to have qualified for the “DREAMer Program,” which enables qualified students to avoid deportation. She worked hard in school, however, and graduated Number One in her high school class. Larissa will leave for New Haven, Connecticut—Yale University—with a full scholarship, in August. Her story, from Kera News, is linked as follows:
These two stories show the younger sides of what some immigrants have gone through; however, I believe that it is evident that these parents love their children and were willing to face perilous journeys, perhaps after weighing them against what their children’s lives would be back home. No matter where you were born in the so-called developed world, you can realize that its was only a happenstance that we were born into a life of safety and a worthwhile future. These children were not. Would you trade?
Generally, decision-making is best left to the adults—especially the tough choices. But in some cases, you have to bend the rules a little. This is one of those times, when a family was confronted by a choice that absolutely had to be made, while looking through the tears. It included life, death, terrible pain and discomfort…and a beautiful little girl, named Julianna Yuri Snow. The article was wonderfully written by Travis M. Andrews, for the Washington Post.
Julianna had an awful disease, which worsened progressively, and her agony increased along with her illness. There was no viable solution, but for a five-year old, her quality of life would only get worse. She would not enjoy a normal childhood. Her parents, Michelle Moon, a neurologist, and Steve Snow, surely suffered along with her—emotionally—but there was little that they could do for for Julianna.
There are many mutations of the disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease; however, in Julianna’s case, it was one of the worst. She was gradually losing each of her bodily functions. Eventually, her physician, Dr. Sarah Green met with Michelle and Steve, and advised them that, the next time Julianna got sick, she would probably die. The question that Dr. Green posed was for them to decide whether to bring Julianna back to the hospital, knowing how much she hated the treatment, or just allow her to die at home—and in peace?
The linked story from “WaPo” is as follows: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/15/i-dont-like-dying-5-year-old-who-chose-to-forgo-treatment-sparking-debate-has-died/?postshare=8021466006109700&tid=ss_mail. After you read the WaPo story, be sure to click onto Michelle’s blog, which is dedicated to Julianna.
Can you imagine discussing where to die with a four year-old (at the time)? Julianna responded that she did not wish to return to the hospital, and that “heaven is good”. Besides this story, from the Post, there are three blog posts, listed below, as well. The blog links are as follows:
“The Mighty” (heaven over hospital): http://themighty.com/2015/05/my-daughter-wants-to-choose-heaven-over-the-hospital/.
“The Mighty” (daughter with disease faces dying): http://themighty.com/2015/06/daughter-with-charcot-marie-tooth-disease-embraces-dying/.
As usual, there have been comments made by various people, stating pro and con opinions, about whether or not Julianna should have been consulted. They came from: parents, lawyers, and medical ethicists and with opposing viewpoints. But, in the long-run, the opinions that really mattered were: the doctor; the nurses caring for Julianna; Michelle and Steve and, of course Julianna? Michelle and Steve seem happy that they, along with Julianna, made the right decision!
NOTE: On the Julianna Yuri (Snow) blog post, be sure to “Raise a Cup.”
We do not have any young children ourselves, say around ten years old, and our grandson, Henry, is only two and a half. So, we do not have to consider this aspect of terrorism too seriously. Obviously, this is surely like the “Birds and the Bees”, but on steroids. The linked column, by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, however, does reveal another person’s coming to grips with the problem, and he lives in the Washington, D. C. Area, which might be considered to be a potential target. The link is as follows: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-the-islamic-state/2015/11/19/9d0a852e-8f01-11e5-acff-673ae92ddd2b_story.html.
Several points that Mr. Milbank makes are as follows: talking with your son or daughter might also calm your own fears; be careful in deciding whether or not to suggest that violent people are everywhere; don’t avoid their questions, and be honest with them. If you avoid addressing their concerns, they might just build their fears up in their minds until they grow even worse then they actually are. Perhaps emotional harm could arise.
If your child is in that pre-teen or early teen age range, someone does need to calm their fears, otherwise, they and their friends will blow everything completely out of proportion. Speak to the Principal and Guidance Counselor at their school for guidance. Talk to other parents. Perhaps the school could have a meeting for parents, and invite a child psychologist, either from the school system or the local area, which might provide some help in explaining everything in proper proportion. Personally, I believe that the proper soothing dialogue would work best if the “answers”, as such, come from one, or both, parents.
NOTE: If you come across any good ideas in discussing this subject with your child(ren), please past them on as Comments. I’m sure that other readers might benefit from your input.
Given the sheer volume of Syrian refugees, and those from other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, who are seeking refuge and to establish a peaceful life for their families, we cannot wait for political solutions. Many of our own forebears had come to our shores, similarly seeking refuge from: religious intolerance; the potato famine; civil war in their homelands; invasions by regional dictators; and the list goes on and on. So, why are the refugees from the MENA Region different?
Many in the Republican Camp have been castigating President Barack Obama about literally everything under the sun, including his Middle East policy. They disavow any recollection of his predecessor, George W. Bush, invading the Region, and even agreeing to initiate the draw-down, beginning in 2011. But, as usual, they cast Obama as the bad guy, and as being incompetent. When they are asked to outline their plans to do things differently, however, all they can do is provide diatribes against the President; but, they all avoid offering anything specifically that they would do to handle things differently.
So now. they are making the refugees the pawns in their political agenda. Remember, by the way, that this is taking place during the build-up to a 2016 Presidential Election Year. I wonder if this is part of their plan—replacing the targeted attacks against Mexican Immigrants with heartless ones against refugees from the MENA Region. The Republican hate-filled attacks would certainly bring a smile, however, to the face of long-gone Commie-hunter, Senator Joe McCarthy. He attacked every political enemy as being a Communist infiltrator.
Back to the refugees, who are streaming into Europe as I write this, through harsh land routes and even more treacherous seas. Surely, we’ve all seen the photos of families huddled in the rain, being beaten by guards and photographers, and the three-year old boy’s body washed up along the shore. This is not a time, however, for pity. This is a time for open arms, feeding and sheltering these “tired and huddled masses”, just like someone once welcomed our ancestors.
No one is suggesting that we bus this newest generation of refugees to our shores by bussing them to Times Square, Harvard Yard or South Beach! Over the past decade, or so, the U. S. has carried-out the BRAC (base closure and realignment commission) Program, which closed or combined military bases, leaving the excess of redundant or unnecessary facilities vacant.
We should selectively re-open some of those bases, which could provide all of the necessary facilities to house the refugees, and with all due security. Dining, health care, training, recreational facilities can easily be re-opened, and even a small section of a Post Exchange, to provide basic necessities. Much of the on-going labor could be provided by the refugees themselves: basic labor around the camp; kitchen and dining room chores and establish a day care center. Training could provide basic English language and job skills, such as: carpentry; plumbing; cooking; doctor’s/nurse’s helper and midwife; etc. Such skills could enable the refugees to assist in providing their own necessities of life, as well as the ability to function, if and when they are released.
The use of these bases would solve two problems: provide shelter for some of the refugees showing-up on the shores of Southern Europe and the mountainous borders of Northern Europe, while providing the necessary security to segregate the refugees from the basic populace until they are sufficiently vetted for release. Now is the time for rational creativity, rather than polemic and political ideology. Timing is urgent as the refugee population continues to grow day-by-day!
Over the past several GOP Presidential Debates, we have been hearing about American Exceptionalism and that we must be the World Leaders. So, how exceptional would it be for America to remove Lady Liberty from her home in New York Harbor, douse the flame that she has proudly held high for more than one hundred years, and send her back to France? Is that what America is all about? Really?
MIGHT “COMMON CORE” ACTUALLY HELP IMPROVE THE AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM? WELL, MAYBE…AND MAYBE NOT!
Common core represents the latest attempt to improve the educational system in American schools nationwide. According to its web site: “The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.” So far, 42 states, and the District of Columbia, have pledged to adopt it. Many teachers and parents, however, have voiced concerns about common core, and this topic has also crept onto the political stage–at the second GOP Presidential Primary Debate last month.
Educators and parents seem anxious that common core might just be one more “Great New Thing”. Perhaps it is merely change for change’s sake, following previous attempts such as: modern math; team teaching; computerized learning; etc. Those programs were often just dumped on schools and teachers without prior planning, training and forethought. No one ever seemed to understand the new modern math, team teaching was used by some schools as an excuse to double class sizes, and computers should have been introduced–say 20-25 years ago–as a new subject unto itself, and not as an unfamiliar tool for teaching existing subject content.
There are a number of annual rankings of same-grade student achievement of national school systems, around the developed world. In most cases, the U. S. ranks just above the mid-point, but it used to consistently rank near the top. Studies have found that the top-ranked educational systems operate differently; so, there is no one or two magic bullets. But there are some commonalities.
Top-performing national school systems have a long-term commitment toward improving student achievement. Educators are respected as the professionals that they are, and compensated accordingly. Resources are divided equally among advantaged and disadvantaged schools. Schools are afforded a great deal of autonomy in accomplishing their very important mission–preparing the next generation for life.
Those trends seem to follow the pattern of many successful organizations: attract good people; train them well; give them the necessary tools; establish clear, achievable goals and allow the educators the autonomy to do the job that they are there for. On the other hand, top-down micromanagement, political interference, irrelevant budgetary constraints and constantly changing goals will only breed confusion and mediocre performance. Unfortunately, many U. S. schools have been managed following that second path.
Eduction is at the center of a country’s future. It is an investment in our future–preparing today’s youth with the necessary skills to become tomorrow’s workers, as well as to be the leaders, parents and citizens of the future. Along these lines, the common core basic elements–critical thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills–can be excellent additions to the educational process, if implemented properly. Teachers are just like the workers who make incremental contributions at every stage of a new car’s journey along the assembly line. They must know, however, what the final product should look like. But, does Common Core have that long-term view, as well?