Thursday, December 21, 2006

Prioritizing Education from the Ground Up

In my quest to become an informed blogger in this new endeavor, I have been trying to read lots of blogs. Mostly a few articles from each and then move on... Except for the few blogs that inspired me to begin blogging myself (see Dave's, Wobblie's and DR's) I have found a few interesting posts, but nothing that really shook me. But then, I found the Education Policy Blog which looks fascinating.

These are people who believe that we should be "examining education from a social foundations perspective." It is really amazing. Among other posts on this blog are a five-part series titled Community Organizing and Urban Education and a summary of the AFT's report on the deteriorating conditions of schools in the United States (the summary can be found on the Education Policy Blog and also on teacher ken's DailyKos Diary. This looks like an amazing collection of people who are really commited to the endeavor of teaching from kindergarten through graduate degrees.

It brings up an interesting question for me as I have worked on various projects in the AFT-Michigan: how can we work together in this country to build an education system that is just and fair? It seems to me like it is always difficult to answer the working together part for me. For some reason higher education is often pitted against K-12 education ("More money for them is less money for you").

I think that the answer can come in focusing on the students. K-12 students become our students in higher education (not all, but many). I believe that any differences can be hammered out if we all agree to work from a common context and I believe that this frame gives us a common context that we can all commit to. It is obviously something that needs a lot more thought, and thinking through how to get groups to work together is more than a simple framing of the subject, but I believe that this can be a way to begin that conversation. If there is anyone out there interested in commenting on what they see as a way to possibly get this to work, please comment!

Fairfax Phobics with Archbishop Restaurant Monitor

This was too good not to pass along...

Change of Heart?

When Jim Webb was running, my pragmatic thought was: "Anybody is better than George Allen, I hope he wins." The idealist in me thought: "Anybody is better than George Allen, I can't believe he's the one that Dems picked."

I have to say that I think that my opinion has changed. Although I am sure that I do not agree with everything, there have been two things that have really solidified his stature in my eyes.

  1. His OpEd in the Wall Street Journal discussing the growing disparities of rich and poor in this country and how bad that is for the United States. It is one of the most thoughtful pieces of political commentary written by a politician in a long time.

  2. His ongoing fued with the President who refused to acknowledge that the Senator-elect's son was in Iraq and how that might be important to the Senator-elect. Then, speaking about the President, he was quoted in the Daily Press saying "I think that he's a failed president." (I originally found this article on Vivian J. Paige's blog)

Maybe the idealist side of me was a little quick to jump the gun...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mars, Bitches...

So, in Bush's never-ending quest to establish his legacy at all costs, it appears that he will be trying to establish a weapons system in space. I can't wait for the graphics to come out of the most recent Star Wars - I mean technology was nowhere when the Reagan Administration pubished their graphic simulation.

At least there aren't any insurgents in space...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Union Yes!

This week, The Nation's editors decided to highlight the Economic Free Choice Act, which would allow card-check recognition for unions. While I have my disagreements with The Nation, I also tend to be impressed when they write something regarding labor and the importance of Unions. In the editorial, Recognizing Labor (unfortunately, subscription only), note the following:

The legislation will not succeed even in the House without a massive push, not only by mobilizing the army of union stewards and activists from the AFL-CIO but also by all progressive organizations. This is not just a labor issue. It's first of all an issue of basic human rights and democracy, including freedom of association and speech. Strengthening workers' rights is also critical for creating a fairer, more just America. There is a direct link between the decline of union power over the past three decades and the rise of economic inequality and the shift of economic risk from employers and government to individuals. Members obviously gain most from unionization, but all workers--and society as a whole--benefit. Where unions are stronger, all wages are higher, pensions and healthcare plans are better, workplaces are safer and poverty rates are lower.

The one qualm that I have with the message around this legislation is that we have not adequately dealt with the issue that "elections" in the context of management are not "free-and-fair" elections, but tend to resemble Saddam-era elections. I think that it is important to publish (as The Nation's editors do), the issues that are often faced by members when they are trying to get an election.

My other fear comes from other "progressives" who think that unions were really important, but "have no place in our modern economy." I only hope that they will follow The Nation's lead and take this issue to heart.

Old Times...

Yesterday, I had memories of old times. Bad memories were dredged up. I had nostalgia over good memories. I actually sat on a design review at Lawrence Tech for my friend, Diaan. It was so much fun! I never knew how it would be so different sitting on the other side of the review (especially since I had so many disagreements with the reviewers that I had), but it was amazing how much about design I still remembered.

While my primary responsibility was to discuss the community aspects of the designs, I also ended up commenting on the designs of the buildings as well. I remembered how much I liked certain aspects of architecture and miss them now. Hopefully I will have a chance to do these kinds of reviews more often!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Grad School is Like...

I was talking to Jennifer today about our second prelims in sociology today. For those of you who don't know the second prelim is, as I have always understood it, some in-depth literature review or empirical paper that you write sometime after your first prelim test (oh yeah, you can also take another 7-8 hour exam...if you couldn't guess, I didn't pick that option). The cool thing is once one finishes, one is supposedly a candidate, which sounds so cool.

Unfortunately, there are no formal guidelines for this process beyond a cryptic paragraph in the graduate student guide we got our first year here. So, we get a form that has no information about the process or what we should include, attach, etc. Learing from the mistakes of previous poor souls, I learned that

  1. Don't try and write your proposal where it looks like there is space on the form to do it
  2. Although there is space for four names on the form, you only need three members of your committee
  3. Although this is not listed as a requirement listed anywhere, you should also know to include a reading list...

So, given this, Jennifer and I have decided that the second prelim process is like playing Zelda... You are forever lost in a wilderness with some vague hints of where to go, trying to vanquish opponents along the way (i.e. bureaucracy) trying to find this elusive "princess" that you are told exists but you are convinced really doesn't. And, the only way that you know how to find the Princess is having a friend who is either a) much better at games than you and s/he shows you how to beat the game, or b) your friend has a subscription to NINTENDO magazine that gives you all the codes to cheat and beat the game...

Friday, December 8, 2006

You do the Math

This article in the Washington Post describes how the public housing in New Orleans is going to be demolished despite protests with only "consultation meetings."

While this article doesn't say what is going to happen to the land (I would guess that it is going to go to a private developer...), it does quote numbers from a housing project demolished in 2002:

1,500 = Number of families St. Thomas project was designed to accomodate
296 = Number of apartments constructed after St. Thomas demolition
122 = Number of apartments that were for low-income families

If I am correct, that leaves a potential of 1,378 families displaced. Not by the hurricane; but by the government.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Something looks familiar...

So, walking into Espresso Royale today, I glance over a man's shoulder and see this image on the front page of the Business Section:

Now, two things struck me.

One: Damn, I felt like I've seen that map before. Low and behold, I check through the files on my computer and this is what I find:

Two: This must be something interesting and related to what I study. Sure enough, it is. Basically, the first map shows the areas that are most likely to have "subprime" mortgages -- or mortgages that have really bad terms. If you look at the second map, which is a map of the percent white in Chicago tracts, and then you look at the first map -- you will notice how the areas that have subprime loans are much more likely to be non-white than the areas without, just as the article, Subprime Loans Going From Boon to Housing Bane points out:

For instance, in Cook County, home to Chicago and nearby suburbs, nearly half of all first-lien home purchase loans made in 2005 were subprime in neighborhoods where minority groups make up 50 percent or more of the population, according to mortgage data collected by the federal government. By comparison, only 30 percent of all loans made countywide over the same period were subprime.

It's nice to see something about this get into the national media -- particularly after things like Proposal 2 pass in Michigan...