2011 - %3, April

Education Roundup: "Socialist" Kindergartners?

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 12:00 PM EDT
  • Ah, kindergarten, where you learn that sharing is "socialist" and cooperation is...also "socialist." Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy examines GOP presidential contender Tim Pawlenty's controversial education record, which includes selecting an education commissioner for Minnesota who...well, read the rest here.

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How to Get a Pot Card: The Music Video

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 7:20 AM EDT

Just in time for 4/20, here's a sassy number from the comic troubadours Garfunkel and Oates. It's as if Snoop Dogg and Feist had a lovechild (or two):

Given my professional interest in pot cards, I decided to see what Garfunkel (a.k.a Riki Lindhomeand Oates (a.ka. Kate Micucci) had to say about the issue:

The Top Media Policy Stories of the Week

| Mon Apr. 18, 2011 4:23 PM EDT

Editor's note: Every other week, The Media Consortium rounds up the latest media policy news in a blog called the The Wavelength, posted below.

Four months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supposedly settled the issue, the battle over Net Neutrality is still raging. If anything, it's just beginning to heat up. On April 8, the Republican-controlled Congress resolved to repeal the FCC's recent legislation surrounding Internet protections, and conservative activists are fighting tooth and nail to push back any apparent gains before they are realized. At the same time, media reform advocates say that the FCC's December ruling on broadband policy did not go far enough in establishing consumer-friendly regulatory guidelines across both Internet and mobile platforms.

Meanwhile, the impact of the announced merger between AT&T and T-Mobile is still up for debate, and federal officials are raising anti-trust concerns against Google.

Dap Queen Sharon Jones

| Mon Apr. 18, 2011 7:00 AM EDT

Sharon Jones, the 54-years-strong soul chanteuse of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, has defied so many odds you'd think the band's latest album, I Learned the Hard Way, was about her. Jones swears it's not, though. The Dap Kings write her funk-filled songs. "She Ain't a Child No More," for instance, is about parents coming home, getting drunk, and beating their children. "My parents never did do that to me," the Georgia native says. "But they beat and abused themselves—that's why my mother separated from my father. He used to beat her. Maybe that's one of the reasons I haven't gotten married. I don't even have any children."

Jones is pretty much the most honest person you could hope to interview. She's openly talked about making it in the music industry the hard way. Before the New York Times dubbed her a "timeless soul singer" and Stephen Colbert called her "fierce," the raspy-voiced diva dropped her first album with the Dap Kings when she was in her forties. She tried breaking through in the music industry two decades earlier, she says. "But I didn't have the looks. This Sony guy told me I was too black, too fat, too short, and too old. Told me to go and bleach my skin. Told me to step in the background and just stay back." After getting turned down, Jones worked as a Rikers Island corrections officer, a Wells Fargo security guard, a sanitation officer, in postal offices, and as a wedding singer. "I was still doing the Wells Fargo thing when I met the Dap Kings," she says. For all those years, she knew she could really sing. "I just thought, "One day. One day." And that day came when I met those guys."

All of that hard-luck history can be heard in Jones' untrained brassy vocals. She may not write the songs, but she's grown the soul to sing them, and some other people have noticed, as well. In 2007, she landed a cameo in Denzel Washington's film The Great Debaters and sang most of the soundtrack. More recently, Jones and crew opened for Prince at Madison Square Garden. "I would have loved to have did some of this in my youth," Jones muses. "But that's okay. Probably in my youth, I wouldn't have been able to handle it." Mother Jones spoke with the "Queen of Funk" about becoming famous at middle age, how she shocked Prince, and why Tyler Perry should really put her in one of his movies.

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week [11]

| Fri Apr. 15, 2011 9:12 PM EDT

Mother Jones guest blogger Mark Armstrong is the founder of Longreads, a site devoted to uncovering the best long-form nonfiction articles available online. And what better time to curl up with a great read than over the weekend? Below, a hand-picked bouquet of five interesting stories, including word count and approximate reading time. (Readers can also subscribe to The Top 5 Longreads of the Week by clicking here.)

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Grace Lee Boggs on Detroit, Gardens, and Revolution

| Fri Apr. 15, 2011 7:28 PM EDT

Grace Lee Boggs is a ninety-five-year-old veteran activist who is redefining what revolution means in the Motor City. Boggs' new book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century is both a memoir and a manifesto—a portrait of a young woman's journey through several major social movements, and the lessons she hopes to share with a new generation of activists. 

In the early 1940's the young Chinese-American woman finished her doctorate in philosophy and began looking for a professorship. She quickly found herself facing departments that unblinkingly told her, "We don't hire orientals." As if dealing with that racism wasn't enough, she bucked the prejudices of the Civil Rights era and married Black Power and labor activist, Jimmy Boggs, in the early 1950's. At the height of the McCarthy era, she was "radicalized" by hanging around Marxist leaders such as A. Phillip Randolph and C.L.R. James. Those influences stayed with her when she moved to Detroit, where she joined the race and labor movements during the city's most riotous years.

 

Long-Distance Love Dilemmas

| Fri Apr. 15, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

This week on The Hook Up: What should you do when you start feeling trapped in a long distance relationship?

I have been dating this girl for almost three years. We are in a long-distance relationship and, in a way, it's been going great. However, one thing has been bugging me. We make plans to see each other every couple of weeks but every time we start talking about when we will see each other next, I start feeling trapped. I ask myself why I feel this way and when this feeling started happening. When did making plans to see each other become a chore and done more out of obligation than because you really want to see the other person? Do you have any advice as to why this is happening and what I should do? —Vacay

Anna says: I would like to counter your question with a question, and ask, when you do actually see her, after all the fretting and feeling trapped and obligated, how do you feel? Are you still wildly in love with her? Do you smile like a fool and quote the Indigo Girls on your Facebook page? Or do you feel like you’ve just scheduled a 48-hour dentist appointment that you must grin and bear because having attractive incisors is important to your five-year plan? If it’s the latter, Vacay, then I’d be concerned. Also, since you said you’ve been reflecting on it, surely you must have a few ideas as to why you might be feeling stuck.

Here are a few guesses on my end: It could be because you like your freedom and independence when you’re away from her, one major perk of LDRs, and when you have to interrupt that independence for the sake of someone else, even someone you love, it can lead to resentment. It could also be that you feel your relationship has gotten routine or predictable, and you’re rebelling against that. Or, it could be that the relationship has run its course, and you’re searching for a way out.

It’s no secret that long-distance relationships are harder than most. You have to be more creative, more trusting, more patient, and cultivate closeness in ways that often seem less personal (I don’t care how many times I read about it in blogs, “Skype sex” is not a substitute for actual sex!).

Read the rest of my dating advice column at AfterEllen.

The #18DaysInEgypt Media Revolution

| Fri Apr. 15, 2011 3:01 AM EDT
Feb. 11, 2011, CAIRO—As doctors and nurses march peacefully on one side of Al Qasr Al Aini Street, onlookers shoot video from their mobile phones. Even early in the demonstrations, protesters had cameras ripped from their hands and smashed on the ground, and journalists had their equipment confiscated. So the revolution was captured from their mobile phones.

Earlier this year, as the world watched tens of thousands of protesters pour into the streets of Egypt, Jigar Mehta noticed something: Many of the people in the crowds were also holding cameras. "Holy crap, people have probably been recording something over the last few days," he told himself. Mehta, a former New York Times video journalist, saw an untapped wealth of raw footage from the protests. He wanted to collect them and turn them into something bigger.

Mehta hashtagged his project #18DaysInEgypt, and sent out a call to action on Twitter, Facebook, and various email listserves. He asked people in Egypt to tag their videos and photos from the protests, and to catalog and reflect on their experiences. "All the footage is important to someone," he told me later. "What I want to know is why they chose to film at that moment."

When I first interviewed him back in February, Mehta didn't know what the end product of his crowd-sourcing media experiment would look like, but he thought it would help pioneer a new kind of storytelling. I caught up with Mehta again last week in San Francisco, where he's a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. What he showed me looked like a marriage between YouTube, Wikipedia, and Google Maps, culminating into an interactive, curated learning experience.

Take, for example, footage like this:

Education Roundup: Mock Slave Auctions at School

| Thu Apr. 14, 2011 6:00 AM EDT
  •  This week marks the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War, and GOOD's Liz Dwyer explains how not to teach kids about slavery. Lesson one: Do not turn your classroom into a mock slave auction where white students purchase their black peers, a memo a teacher in Virginia and one in Ohio did not receive.
  • The results are in: Students are taking harder coursework and as a result are scoring higher on math and English achievement tests according to 2009's National Assessment of Educational Progress High School Transcript, Education Week reports. But that's only half the story. African-American and Latino students are still less likely to attend high schools that even offer high-level math courses like trigonometry and calculus. That "severely limits their ability to take the courses they’ll need to be successful," Education Trust's Kati Haycock reports. And sure, students of color who took higher level coursework earned higher math test scores and are more likely to get a bachelor's degree. But students of color are still only about half as likely as white graduates to complete higher level coursework.
  • Here's a newsflash: Breasts do more than "titillate." But last Breast Cancer Awareness Day (Oct. 28 FYI) two Philadelphia students got in trouble for wearing "I (heart) Boobies! (Keep A Breast)" awareness bracelets, GOOD reports. Fortunately, the ACLU stepped in and a federal judge ruled in favor of knowledge.
  • In a bid to protect students from their own unhealthy food choices, a Chicago public school banned home-packed lunches, The Huffington Post reports. Another reason for the homemade lunch ban: School districts get cash from the US Department of Agriculture for each meal they serve.
  • Los Angeles Unified, the second-largest school district in the country, released new school ratings that measure school success based on students' scores in standardized math and English tests, The Los Angeles Times reports. Thousands of teachers will also be evaluated using this value-added method that compares a student with his or her own prior test scores. This doesn't make sense, according to a study by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder:  It is "logically impossible that a student's future teacher would appear to have an effect on a student's test performance in the past."
  • But there's more: LA Times reports LA Unified quickly adopted the value-added approach because a Times series rated teachers using the  method. But according to the National Education Policy Center: "The research on which the Los Angeles Times relied for its August 2010 teacher effectiveness reporting was demonstrably inadequate to support the published rankings." Read the study here.
  • Will Arizona give parents public funds to send their children to private and parochial schools? Arizona Daily Star reports on the bill that could give that option to more than 1 million students in public schools—and it's sitting on Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
  • Another bill Arizona lawmakers love would allow parents to pull their kids out of classes and lessons they think are "harmful." Senate Minority Leader David Schapira isn't happy about this, Arizona Daily Star reports:

That could allow a parent to decide a child need not learn about world history and war in particular. The result, he said, is some children won't learn "the truth" of what happened in the past.