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Saturday, March 28, 2015

The problem with passing and failing

In order for a person to have power, he would need some powerless folks to lord over.  Let's look at the relationship between the Medieval Lord and Surf. The serfs worked the land in addition to doing extra work for the for the lords in exchange for food and protection. The land, the wealth, and the army belonged to the Lord. Meanwhile, the Noble Lord death with prayers, politics, and sometimes fighting.  There was often evening entertainment.  Without the work of the serf, the lord would not be able to maintain is more cushy, though often more stressful life.

Bring that to modern day for comparison, and we have the working poor and the filthy rich. Take Walmart for instance. Walmart workers are tied to low skill, low paying jobs, in order to scrape by to keep the family off the streets.  They barely make enough money to accomplish that.  Many Walmart workers are also on government assistance. Meanwhile, Walmart owners, are kabillionaires, making infathomable amounts of money, while refusing to raise the employees to livable wages, because they know there is always some unemployed person who will take the place of the barely making it workers if they complain.  But these Super rich owners, don't have the responsibilities of the Medieval serf.  Things are out of balance.  They longer feel responsibility to the worker, to make sure he is protected with house and supplies. They are only concerned with their own leisure.

And this imbalance starts young and is programmed into the mind of children.  Indulge me for a moment and look at the school grades model. Some kids get A's or Excellents, and some kids fail and get other bad marks.  What good is the perfect grade if there isn't something to compare it against!?
Once this framework is set, it often follows the children into adulthood and in life.  Some people do very well, quite effortlessly.  Others, try as they might, will always follow at the bottom, because they have been locked in a place of failure for far too long and can't shake it.

And this is the problem I have with school... in particular passing and failing.  Just like Lords were typically born into such a position, or near it, high achievers are also often born into such positions. And when parents are working their butts off just to pay the rent, how can they change the odds for their kids?

I contend that schools need to stop grading based on the group and start grading based on the individual.  A kid that is "poor" in math, is very likely to be a great reader and lover of literature.  Let him jump ahead to grade 5 reading materials, even if he is only on grade 2 math.  This is how we create a sense of success in kids that will help them shake the change of class later in life.

Likewise, that child who succeeds naturally won't feel held back in a class where others are creating drag... and he will also be able to excel in one subject that he may very well be genius at instead of being forced to be good at every single subject.  That kid likely has untapped potential too.  He might even have the capacity to look around and help those kids behind him instead of lording his successes over them.  I think it could work.

But alas, here we are stuck in a system where some kids are good at everything and those who are not are made to feel less successful, even though they may have the light of genius held back within them.  This is why I have a problem with passing and failing.

I am glad we were able to put these issues aside for the years we homeschooled, and am also sad that we later had to conform to them as we prepared for and as the kids got into college.  It created a great deal of undue stress and anxiety.  Fortunately, we have risen above these issues, and found the natural fit where both kids could step out of the box and excel.

This is something we have to strive for for all kids.  We no longer live in Medieval times. Theres is no reason we need to serve anyone born into wealth, and to stay poor and needy the rest of our lives.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Do Black Children Do Better with Black Teachers

New research confirms that black students excel when they are taught by black teachers. Interestingly enough, three years ago, a different study contended that the race of children doesn't matter. The way I see it, each of these statements is true... and also false.

I have observed through personal relationships, and/or just plain observation that a child will be who you set in their mind they will be.  If you tell a child he is stupid, he will act stupid. If you say a child is bad at math, she will continue to be bad at math. Children are very open to suggestion. This is just part of the problem.

I also know, just from dealing with my own kids and observing others, that children will meet the bar you set, and no more. So if you place the bar low, the child will meet it and then coast from that point.  If you keep raising the bar, children will work to meet the bar. Eventually, if you keep raising the bar, they will learn to keep excelling on their own... if you keep lowering the bar to meet them, they will become lazy and won't produce.

So this becomes a racial issue when children are exposed to instructors who know nothing, and don't care to know anything about that child's background, from a cultural or personal perspective, and instead makes assumptions based on their own experiences with a person of that race, and places that assumption on the child and what they can accomplish. In other words, Miss Sally Jones, a white women who is well educated, and had limited exposure to black kids, goes to teach in a black school. Her only exposure to black kids is a couple of people she met in college and did not find them especially bright  for whatever reason.  Likewise, she dismisses these kids as not very bright, and 'bless their hearts', she just humors the children and accepts work that is barely acceptable and calls it an A.

Miss Dora White, on the other hand, is a black woman who has taught in inner city schools for years, and knows a spark of genius when she sees it.  She also, being a black woman, knows very many black kids who are very bright, and so expects the most from her students, regardless of what color.  When a child brings her sub-par work, she grimaces and tells them to try again.  You can do better she says.  The child goes back to the drawing board and does better.

This is not to say that the same child won't also encounter Mr. Levine, a white male, who has grown up with and worked with black people all his life, and he has learned to not judge any child on first glance. Mr. Levine will engage, try different tactics that might even stimulate a child from a cultural perspective, having lived in and around that child's racial culture and having some insight. He could even do a better job than Ms. White, and he may have developed a passion and special interest in learning about that culture from a fresh perspective.  He may connect with children in a way that not only inspires them to raise the bar, but also excite them and make learning fun.

So,  my point is, black kids with black teachers, will most certainly do better than black students with white teachers... if the teachers are equally inexperienced and approaching the teaching of these children from within their own cultural framework. But take a teacher of any race who takes time to understand where a child might be coming from, who can excite children, and not make judgements, and it won't matter if that teacher is orange, and those kids are magenta. They will learn from them.

The problem is we just don't have enough Mr. Levines.  We have far too many Miss Sally Jones' who are new to teaching and don't have enough social experience to deal with a kid who is not like them. And then, the Ms. White's are spread too thin, mostly because their value is clear, but we have to few of them. Hopefully, over time, Ms. Jones' will turn into Mr. Levine types, but chances are many will leave the school system before getting there.

Oh, and I should probably add that black mothers who homeschool their black kids will have the best results probably because they already know their kids and expect them to succeed.  They will continually challenge and encourage them to meet the bar, and sometimes even lower a bar or two temporarily to give the child a sense of satisfaction.  There is a certain insight a homeschooling parent has with their own child (regardless of color) that even Mr. Levine will have trouble competing with.

In the end, we need to stop worrying about the race of each child and each teacher, and staff schools with a good mix of races, so children will look around and see themselves represented among other students, teachers, and administrators, and even if they don't have a black teacher for each class, or even each year, they will feel represented in the school.  Also, with a good mix of teachers, there will always be someone to whisper to the young Miss Jones' and remind her that a child who she isn't giving the benefit of the doubt can accomplish more than she thinks.  This is how she will transform into a future Mr. Levine.

I'm not saying race of teacher is not important to students, because it is, because understanding of the child is important to students, but that can be fixed with some cultural and sensitivity training (done regularly and often).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Almost done costuming another show

The Complete Works of Shakespeare ...  Abridged!  I made 2 and altered the rest.  A guy is playing the women's parts!

Gertrude (made with no pattern)

Lavina (also made with no pattern)



 I am still working on the nurse costume... and kilts for Macbeth!  So if you are wondering why I haven't produced any art work in a while... here's why.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"I just thought maybe I could do a better job myself"

This was the exact thought I had when I decided to homeschool my kids...and the sentiment is growing, especially among African Americans.
Black families have become one of the fastest-growing demographics in homeschooling, with black students making up an estimated 10 percent of the homeschooling population. (For comparison’s sake, they make up 16 percent of all public-school students nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.) And while white homeschooling families traditionally cite religious or moral disagreements with public schools in their decision to pull them out of traditional classroom settings, studies indicate black families are more likely to cite the culture of low expectations for African American students or dissatisfaction with how their children—especially boys—are treated in schools.  read more