Tag Archives: education

S(Monday) Scraps 106


1. WEIGHT: How not to be a dick to your fat friends. Spot on advice from Marianne at XOJane.

2. HOLLYWOOD: This clip is old, but man is it good. Watch Dustin Hoffman have a few on-camera epiphanies while talking about dressing like a woman in Tootsie.

3. RACE: Kiese Laymon on multicultural writing, what it means to be a “real black writer,” and the state of modern publishing. For Guernica.

4. ABORTION: My second favorite dude comedian, Rob Delaney, writes for the Guardian about why he’s pro-choice.

5. SEX ED: The always excellent Marianne Cassidy on the sex education she wish she’d had (but never got, because she grew up in uber-Catholic Ireland).

6. WRITERS: Roxane Gay at The Rumpus applies the Vida test to race and publishing. Guess what percentage of NYT book reviews were of non-white writers?

Related Post: Sunday 105: Bodies that matter, old cities, tiny islands, literacy tests

Related Post: Sunday 104: Bookish pie charts, bro Venn diagrams, the Girlfriend Zone, etc.


Filed under Body Image, Books, Education, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex

Sunday Scraps 96


1. ART: This Colossal photo series of art by Takahiro Iwasaki is called called Topographical Maps Carved from Electrical Tape. I think that about covers it.

2. DATING: Jory John’s take on Nate Silver’s take on the statistical realities of your relationship (from McSweeney’s). 

3. FAMILY: If you don’t cry, you have a heart of stone. Twelve years ago, a young gay couple found a baby on a subway platform.

4. GENDER: The always excellent Amanda Marcotte for Slate writes about Philip Roth’s relationship with women. Wanting to fuck them is not the same thing as respecting them.

5. PLAYBOY: Fun little personal essay from Lynn Levin on meeting her father at the original Chicago Playboy mansion in the early 70s.

6. EDUCATION: Part 2 of This American Life’s series on Chicago’s Harper High School.

Related Post: Sunday 95: Seth McFarlane, missed connections, Leslie Knope’s wedding dress

Related Post: Sunday 94: Connie Britton, Queen Bey, Jane Austen


Filed under Art, Books, Chicago, Education, Family, Gender, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

Monday Scraps 95


1. DATING: Where do “missed connections” happen? In Illinois, on the train (duh), in Indiana, at home. Wait, what?

2. AUTHORS: Ugh. Ender’s Game was kind of my favorite thing for so so long. It still is, but I hate when the authors you love turn out to be raging homophobes. Dammit.

3. EDUCATION: This amazing investigative piece by WBEZ on the South Side’s Harper High School is incredible in basically every way journalism can be incredible.

4. KNOPE: NYMag has the inside scoop behind Amy Poehler/Leslie Knope’s amazing wedding dress.

5. SPORTS: For the very first time, a woman is participating in the NFL regional tryouts. Kicker Lauren Silberman will probably not play in the NFL, but that’s still pretty f’ing cool.

6. OSCARS: I would write about Seth McFarlane’s horribly sexist jokes, but Margaret Lyons at NYMag  nailed it so hard I’d just be paraphrasing. 

Related Post: Sunday Scraps 94: Bey, Connie Britton, Jane Austen and more.

Related Post: Sunday Scraps: 93: Guns, visiting Chicago, Margaret Atwood


Filed under Books, Chicago, Education, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Sports

Monday Scraps 89


1. SNOW: This epic John Branch story is a freaking commitment (took me about an hour to read, I think), but one that’s well worth it. With amazing graphics and video, he recounts the avalanche at Tunnel Creek.

2. THIEVERY: Super fun profile of “supernatural” pickpocket Apollo Robbins by Adam Green for the New Yorker.

3. FASHION: Girls is coming back! Yippee! Get excited by reading about how Jessa, Marnie, Shoshanna and Hannah are dressed and styled.

4. MONSTERS: As part of a promotional campaign for the new Monsters Inc. prequel, check out the parody website “Monsters University.”

5. MATT + BEN: Who doesn’t love a good oral history of a much beloved cultural landmark? (Side note: The Friends oral history in Vanity Fair was excellent.) For Boston magazine, Ben, Matt, Stellan, Robin and more recount how Good Will Hunting got made.

6. EDUCATION: I dare you to not get weepy at this NYT video of a very special physics teacher.

Related Post: Sunday 88: Boobs, doubt, the Rockaways, Moloch

Related Post: Sunday 87: Deb Perelman, Amy Hempel, Pinterest for cops


Filed under Advertising, Education, Hollywood, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sports

Monday Scraps 83

1. GIFTS: After Romney’s post-election definition-of-a-sore-loser quotes about the “gifts” the President gave young people and minorities (Did you know you can buy a 24-year-old’s vote for a couple of months of contraception. TRUE FACT), Jon Stewart shared a few other “gifts.”

2. MORMON: Super excellent piece by McKay Coppins for BuzzFeed on being the sole Mormon reporter on the Romney press bus.

3. MEXICO: What happens to journalism when bribery, threats, and frequent spates of violence directed specifically at the press plague your country? Just ask reporters covering Mexico’s drug wars (NYT Book Review).

4. LANGUAGE: Which words does the NYT use too often? A new internal tool lets the paper (and curious spectators) explore the patterns of language perpetuated and created.

5. HILLARY: Gail Collins + Hillary Clinton = excellent reading. What will Hillary do next? Sleep, aparently, and exercise.

6. DENVER: This is from 2007, but I’m kind of obsessed with Katherine Boo this week, so I’m sharing it anyway. For the New Yorker, she covers the story of Denver’s superintendent and the journey of one turnaround school that couldn’t quite turnaround.

Related Post: Sunday 82: Kevin Durant and the OKC, Rachel Maddow nails it, cute MD photos

Related Post: Sunday 81: Callie Khouri, Anita Sarkeesian, sex surrogacy


Filed under Education, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

So What Do You Do Exactly? Presidential Library Edition

For the second time ever, the featured interviewee of my jobs series So What Do You Do Exactly? is a dude! Yay for diversity! This is Kevin. Kevin works at the JFK Library Foundation in Boston live-tweeting things, writing things, planning things, and trying to understand why people are so fascinated by JFK eating an ice cream cone.

What’s your actual title? Communications Associate at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation

What would your title be if it actually described what you do all day? Something like Communications/Development/Events/Research/ Administrative Assistant. We have a ton of things going on as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the JFK Administration, so we have a lot of cross-departmental cooperation

Describe a sample day: My days can vary greatly depending on the type of project we’re working on at the time. Last week I got to work at 6:45 so I could shoot photos and video of Freedom 7, the space capsule that carried the First American into space, as it arrived at the Library. In general, I usually kick off my day by doing a quick email check, creating some content for our social media pages if we don’t have any saved, and getting administrative tasks — writing thank-you letters to donors or filing meetings notes, for example — out of the way as quickly as possible.

Beyond those everyday tasks, it’s hard to say what each day will hold. In the past few weeks I have spent afternoons building invite lists and coordinating RSVPs for our event at the DNC, writing press releases for the Library’s upcoming programs, editing our monthly newsletter, and live-tweeting a Q&A we held via satellite with two astronauts currently living on the International Space Station. In short, I’m either preparing for major events, or handling the events as they happen; but the events are so varied, I’m always finding new ways to be engaged in my work. I might interview the son of a former Soviet Premier next week, (hint: last name sounds like “crew shave”) so I spent my afternoon today writing some interview questions — and may or may not have stolen a few of yours.
What is the purpose of a Presidential Library? What role does it play in society? Seems like a relic…Though other Presidential Libraries have fallen by the wayside, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum has thrived not only as a collection of artifacts from the president’s life, but as a cultural institution devoted to carrying on the Kennedy legacy of civic engagement and social consciousness to future generations. (OK, that sounded pretty PR, but it’s true.)
Other presidential libraries have stayed small and local, which suits them just fine. But JFK Library has the benefit of being located in a thriving cultural hub like Boston, and can therefore plan programming for a large audience. We had an event in Charlotte this week featuring Deval Patrick, David Gregory, Chris Hughes (Facebook co-founder), and contributors from the New York Times and CNN. We house an incredible collection of Kennedy memorabilia, as well as the largest collection of Ernest Hemingway’s works in the world (donated by his wife Mary shortly after his death). The MFA, ICA, Museum of Science, Gardener Museum, and nearly every museum in Boston reach new audiences by celebrating the past while embracing the present. That’s what the JFK Museum is all about.
How has social media/technology changed museum culture? Has JFK embraced this stuff or shied away from it? Technology has only enhanced the Library’s ability to bring exhibits to the masses. We recently began a digital archival project, preserving nearly every piece of Kennedy media we own. We’ve used film restoration companies to restore audio and video of Kennedy speeches from unusable to crystal-clear quality.

As for social media, I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know our audience, and what kind of material appeals to them. It seems that posting archival material from the 1960s has been more successful than our present-day stuff. People just love looking at photos of the Kennedys or reading inspirational quotes from JFK’s speeches — we even have a Twitter account devoted solely to re-living the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Administration day by day, and people love it. I spent last week trying to get our social media audience excited about our International Space Station event, but they were more interested in a photo of JFK eating ice cream. A photo of JFK and Jackie in Hyannis Port would trump a forum with Obama, Elvis, and the ghost of Henry Clay.
In a tough economy like this, why should people donate to a museum given all the other deserving non-profits out there? The mission of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation was first articulated by Jacqueline Kennedy, who, when describing the yet-to-be-built library, envisioned it as “a vital center of education and exchange and thought, which will grow and change with the times.” There will be ups and downs in the economy, but cultural institutions are crucial for a society’s growth. It’s hard to argue that the Library is more deserving than any particular charity, but given the drastic cuts in education funding and marginalization of teachers striking for a fair wage, I think any institution continuing to make an impact educationally and culturally should be celebrated and supported.
Which is the best Presidential Library? Having been to none of the other ones, I can say unequivocally that ours is the best. I’ll give the Reagan Library second place because my Uncle works security there. And I’ll give the Coolidge Library third, because whoever works there is going to be really excited when they get their first Google alert in 3 months. (Kidding, of course. They don’t have internet at the Coolidge Museum.)
Kevin would also like you to know that, “like a drunken sparrow, he tweets and tumbls. He also co-runs a TV blog he’s hoping to update before this interview gets published so he doesn’t look bad.”
Related Post: SWDYDE: Ambika is a social strategist

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Filed under Education, Politics


I left the movie theater Wednesday night exhausted and a little weepy. I wasn’t sure exactly how I felt about the movie we’d just seen, Beasts of the Southern Wild, but I knew I felt something. All I was certain of was that the star 6-year-old actress, Quevenzhane Wallis, is the most photogenic child on the planet.

The plot, if you are unfamiliar, is simple. Beasts follows a girl named Hushpuppy who lives with her father in an off-the-grid Louisiana community called the Bathtub. Sparse of dialogue, lush of scenery, the plot follows Hushpuppy and her father through a few short days surrounding a Katrina-like storm.

I think it’s a movie that grows on you, a movie that digs into the little pockets of your brain and takes root. Images from it keep springing up, unbidden, like Hushpuppy hiding under a cardboard box after setting her house on fire to spite her father. She draws with charcoal, marking her story for future excavators like the cave people she has just learned about. Another scene, in a hospital after the flood, shows the girl stripped of her usual dirty undershirt and shorts and forced into a pretty blue dress, her hair combed into braids.

At Salon (via LA Times), Kelly Candaele argues that Beasts presents this community of misfits with a sort of irresponsible glee, as if their poverty and disconnection facilitates joy and spontaneity that the rest of couldn’t achieve:

Viewers are asked to interpret a lack of work discipline, schooling, or steady institution building of any kind — the primary building blocks of any civilization — as the height of liberation. “Choice,” even the choice to live in squalor, is raised to the level of a categorical imperative. There is no inkling of the economic and social history of the region that had limited these “choices.” We are left with a libertarian sandbox, with a rights-based life philosophy gone rancid.

The film does open up a whole bunch of cans of worms, none of which have I been able to re-close since I’ve been mulling it over. Lots of big questions about community building, about the right to live as you see fit, about parenting, about infrastructure, about nature, about education. There are big questions about the obligations of the state and how far it should go to “assist” marginalized populations. Should they evacuate people who don’t want to be evacuated? Should they force medical care on people who don’t want it? Is there something fundamentally wrong with the upbringing Hushpuppy has, so wrong that the state needs to intervene?

Education, for me, is the hinge on which all of these other questions are resting. Hushpuppy is precocious, inquisitive, imaginative and self-sufficient. She’s everything that most teachers would want in a student, but how much of her curiosity and creativity is fueled by the neglect she experienced and her subsequent self-sufficiency? With formal education and support, she could be anything, but the film portrays formalized assistance as stifling and intrusive. Surely there’s a middle ground, somewhere between turning her into the blue-dressed doll and letting her explore her surrounding for days on end, unsupervised and uncared for.

This is a self-indulgent post, so mad props to you if you’ve stuck with me. I didn’t know what to make of it in the immediate aftermath, but the next morning I chatted my movie buddy and said, “I think I liked that movie” and she said, “I think I did too.” And then we talked about it for a while, so that’s something. If you’ve seen it and can parse out this mess ‘o thoughts into more articulate questions or arguments, I’d love to hear your take.

Related Post: The last movie I loved, The Queen of Versailles.

Related Post: Why I think “higher order thinking skills” are important.


Filed under Art, Education, Hollywood

An Ounce of Prevention….

Via Chicagoist

Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city would be receiving federal assistance in violence reduction efforts. Chicago’s murder rate is up 31% this year and in an 8 day period last month, 82 people were killed or injured by gun violence. Here’s his quote about incorporating federal agencies into the city’s strategy to reduce these appalling numbers:

“These agencies have been incredible partners, and this decision shows their continued commitment to help expand successful crime reduction strategies here. These new efforts will help us make a larger impact in our work to keep gangs, guns and drugs off the streets.”

I know that this is a sound byte, and I know that due to our dwindling attention spans, statements like this are all we really expect from our politicians, but I want more. The language here bugs me, when I really parse it out:

“…our work to keep gangs, guns and drugs off the streets”

First, this phrasing gives no thought to the origins of said gangs, guns and drugs. It treats them as autonomous objects, sprung fully formed from the South and West Sides, instead of products of historic (and contemporary, in some cases) discrimination and systemic failure. Gangs do not spring up arbitrarily, they exist in communities and areas where there’s a vacuum of other community structures and standards. In most of these neighborhoods, the unemployment rate hovers between 40 and 50%.

Second, “keeping them off the streets” implies that making our issues less visible, less accessible, is progress. If you remove them from “the streets,” will be deposited elsewhere? If our problems are less visible on the “streets” are they less problematic? If you sweep dirt under a rug, is your house any cleaner?

Third, and my overarching issue here, is that this strategy addresses symptoms instead of root causes (poverty, inequality, lack of access to health care, education, safety). To be clear, the violence is an immediate problem that needs to be addressed now, for damn sure. But, the fact that we’ve reached a point when we have to invite federal agencies to stop the bleeding means we have failed, for decades now, to adequately address the causes of violence. We should be embarrassed. Call in the feds for a few weeks, police the streets, arrest some people, confiscate guns, impose a curfew, do what you will to make next month’s murder numbers look better than this month’s. But then what? Short term improvement on our violence statistics does nothing when you haven’t addressed why shit got bad in the first place.

I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, Rahm knows all this, he’s a pretty smart guy. You’re saying, it’s just a sound byte, it’s his “ten-word answer” (for you West Wing fans). You’d be right, but I don’t want a ten-word answer and I don’t want “Keep the gangs, guns and drugs off our streets” to substitute for a comprehensive, comprehensive set of initiatives aimed at the fundamental inequalities that leave people stranded with few resources and no reason to hope for more. I know, I know, I want too much. Ten words is all most of us will read anyway.

Related Post: There goes the neighborhood

Related Post: Chicago Maptastic


Filed under Chicago, Politics

So What Do You Do Exactly? Model UN Edition

Kelly and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice

This is Kelly. She works for the United Nations Foundation coordinating Model United Nations (MUN) conferences for thousands of middle and high schoolers, many from low-income schools, around the country and world. Watch this tear-jerking video about what kids take away from the experience. She is the subject of today’s edition of my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly? 

What’s your actual job title? Senior Associate, Education Programs at the United Nations Foundation

What would your job title be if it actually described what you did? MUN Guru and All-Around Make-It-Work Badass

How many events do you run a year? I personally run six full-on MUN conferences a year, ranging from 200 to 2500 students each, plus a few smaller workshops here and there. I manage a couple hundred volunteers, mostly university students, and I’m in regular communication with another couple hundred teachers. I’m expected to know the names and faces of all our teachers and volunteers and be able to discuss details of their schools, interests, and previous experience with the program at any time (note: this is expected of me by them, not by my boss, but I do it anyway).

People think MUN is a bunch of over-achieving teenagers banging gavels and such. Does it actually serve a higher purpose? Ouch. To be fair, that’s what MUN used to be. Our program was founded 13 years ago with the goal of diversifying the MUN community, and we’re succeeding. We now work primarily with Title 1 urban schools (see below). Our conferences are a testament to that; we see kids from the Bronx hanging out with kids from Phillips Exeter and becoming fast friends.

It’s also a great tool for engaging students in a more interactive way. Aside from the obvious social studies content, students are learning research and writing skills, making inferences and thinking critically. They practice understanding and representing someone else’s views, working in a team to build consensus and compromise, and engaging in debate that’s constructive instead of cruel. These are amazing tools for conflict resolution, especially for kids, like the ones we work with in Chicago, who face violence every day.

What’s a Title 1 urban school, and how does that type of school impact your job? A Title 1 school receives federal funding because 40% or more of its students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Everything we do is tailored to teachers in these settings and making our program a benefit to them, not a burden. When we implement new ideas, we’re always looking at how they fit into the work teachers are already doing, using the resources they already have or providing new ones at no cost. For example, we try to focus our global topics in each city to things that are actually relevant to those kids. In New York we had “Sustainable development of Megacities” and “HIV and Young People”. In Miami, we had “Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean” and “Partnerships to Address the World Drug Problem.”

If you could make one change to our national education system (regarding the teaching of a global curriculum or otherwise) what would it be? This is an incredibly hard question. We keep talking about testing as a measure of teacher effectiveness but forcing teachers to a set curriculum makes them so much less effective. Students develop broader cognitive skills and a greater curiosity and investment in learning when they’re engaged in genuine content that they have the time to explore as fully as they need to. Teachers who have the freedom to develop interactive, smart, and multifaceted lesson plans, and who can take the time to get students interested in the real questions they’re exploring, are so much more successful. For you education buffs out there, we need time to hit the DOK 4* mark in a few crucial areas, rather than trying to float by at the DOK 1/2 level in everything. This will only happen if classrooms are integrated across subjects, teachers are supported, and schools have the freedom to do what works for their students.

What do you think actual diplomats could learn from MUN? MUNers, especially the middle schoolers, are so optimisitic and creative! Students are so hopeful and willing to try new things before they get bogged down in what is and isn’t “possible.” Also, when you’re not overly steeped in historical precedent, you’re much more willing to trust and be less offended by perceived slights. When the delegate from Syria tells the delegate from Uganda that his idea is flawed, Uganda is not going to take it as an insult to his entire country.

How does your job and your office related to the actual UN?  The United Nations Foundation (UNF) was founded when Ted Turner wanted to give a billion dollars to the UN. At the time, there was no way to donate directly to the UN and its work, unless you were a government, so instead he set up a foundation to support its initiatives. Originally the foundation just funneled donations directly into UN programs, but now we support UN intitiatives in a more partnership-based way. For example, UNF spearheads the Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child Initiative.

Kelly (center), while Ban Ki-Moon observes

Who are the coolest people you have met on the job? Obviously famous people are pretty cool (Ban Ki Moon, Susan Rice, Monique Coleman, Michele Bachelet, Ted Turner…) but it’s usually the people who are really good at what they do but aren’t so high up yet that are most interesting. They’re fully engaged in one specific thing and just kicking ass at it. People like Jimmy Kolker (Chief of the UNICEF Aids Dept) and Special Agent In Charge John Gilbride of the DEA.

*DOK = Depth of Knowledge, a metric for rigor and complexity

Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly?  Soft Diplomacy Edition

Related Post: How not to teach the history of slavery


Filed under Education, Guest Posts, Politics

Dear Texas GOP

If you, like me, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to understand the social and moral gulfs that separate the poles of our political discourse these days, I think I have an answer for you.

Read the Texas Republican Party’s platform and all will be clear. It’s not the abstinence-only provisions that surprise me, or the gay-bashing, or the aversion to pre-school (Pre-school? Really?), it’s this that blows me away:

“Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Read it again. They don’t like education that challenges fixed beliefs and undermines parental authority. If you asked me to write out the purpose of education, I might come up with exactly that.

This attitude is borne out of fear and insecurity that the world is moving on without us. If we let all the minorities catch up to our kids with high-quality Pre-K education, they might compete with our kids for jobs some day! Yes! Yes they will! And won’t that be grand?

If our kids learn to challenge fixed beliefs, they may come to us someday and disagree. They might ask questions we don’t have easy answers to (about faith, and God, and family, and justice, and equality), and we might be forced to admit our bigotry, or at least our ignorance. How terrifying for us, but how necessary!

I hope with all my heart my kids are smarter than me. I will know I am succeeding as a parent when they are asking hard questions, and challenging the things they hear, and putting forth their own ideas about the world. The world will only get more complicated and I want my kids to be equipped to navigate it. That navigation is contingent on the question-asking, problem-solving, creative-thinking, challenging of assumptions that you learn from higher-order thinking skills. Who is going to help me navigate the brave new world if not my children? God knows I have enough trouble with today’s technology as it is!

So, to Texan Republicans, I say… buck up! Your children will be smarter than you, and they will ask you hard questions, and they will teach you new things about the ways of the world as it evolves. You should face them and their questions with respect, because, hey… they’re the future!

Related Post: Oh for the love of education, and student loans!

Related Post: Alfie Kohn on the value of “higher order thinking”


Filed under Education, Family, Politics