Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Because I am a nerd, I will post the Top 25 rankings from FBS Division-1 college football if they corresponded with Center for University World Ranking's 2013 top universities in the world:

1) Stanford
2) California
4) Wisconsin
5) Illinois
6) Duke
7) Northwestern
8) Texas
9) Washington
10) Michigan
11) North Carolina
12) Purdue
13) USC
14) Colorado
15) Utah
16) Rutgers
17) Minnesota
18) Penn State
19) Ohio State
20) Florida
21) Maryland
22) Vanderbilt
23) Washington
24) Pittsburgh
25) Virginia

If only, if only ...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


A school district in Michigan has fired all of its teachers and closed every school, due to budget shortfalls.  Just a reminder that yes, this could be the endgame.  Chris Hayes has more.

Online charter schools spend millions of taxpayer dollars every year to advertise their schools on things such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.  The largest of these educational management organizations, K12 Inc. (which is publicly traded on the NYSE) is currently being sued for making "misleading statements about the academic successes of its schools."

And, speaking of lawsuits, the Chicago Teachers Union is planning to file two federal lawsuits today to stop the Board of Education from closing 53 Chicago elementary schools.  The way in which these closings adversely affect African Americans should, I hope, be seen as a violation of their civil rights under, maybe the 14th Amendment?

"...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."  I would consider taking away a child's education as depriving them of property without due process of law, but that's just me.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Chicago Way, Part One

One issue that I think is very important right now is Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plans to close down 54 Chicago public schools this year.  If successful, this would be by far the largest year of school closings in any American city, ever.

Here is a graph that was put up by the Washington Post last month:

As you can see, the vast majority of school closings in Chicago will be affecting Black students.  From the Chicagoist, here is a map depicting the locations of the schools to be closed:

Go back to that demographic map of Chicago from my last post, and you'll see how the school closings almost perfectly match-up with the African American neighborhoods in the city.

Emanuel was elected mayor in 2011, when he won with 59 percent of the city's Black vote.  Since then, he has systematically moved to gut the city of all of its services, such as closing half of the city's mental health clinics (predominately on the South Side),  or raising public transportation fares, which again hits hits working class and minority families.

Of course, Emanuel is acting within a longstanding policy of making life in Chicago less comfortable for African Americans in the hope that they will leave.  From 2000-2010, Chicago shrank by about 200,000 people - and 180,000 of those people were African American.  Without access to housing, jobs, health care, transportation, and, now, education, Black people really don't have much incentive to stay in Chicago.  Which is a good thing for Rahm.

Now, Rahm hopes to attract more business to the city by calling on taxpayers to foot $100 million for a new basketball stadium for DePaul University - at the same time that he is citing a (dubious) $1 billion shortfall as justification for shutting down 54 public schools on the South and West side.  In addition, plans are in the pipes to call for public funding of two new "mega" hotels near downtown "in the hopes of aggressively growing convention and meeting business in Chicago."

And this is the pattern that has been ongoing for decades: Slash funding for public services needed by the poor and minorities in the hope that they'll just "go away," and then use public money to fund private enterprises where the public never gets their money back.

And we haven't even mentioned the UNO Charter Schools, and the massive profits that come from running a charter school in Chicago!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Maps of Segregated Cities

Business Insider (from Australia) has an interesting series of maps depicting the high degree of racial segregation in many major U.S. cities.  They have 21 over there, but I just wanted to highlight a few in particular.  First up: Chicago. 

Chicago has a 75.9 "black-white dissimilarity score," and anything higher than a 60 is considered highly segregated.  The blue dots on this map are where the black people live, and the red are white people, and the orange is hispanic people.  Green is Asian.  When my wife, Robyn, and I first moved to Chicago in 2007, we lived in Hyde Park, where the University of Chicago is.  Hyde Park is that red blob surrounded by the blue on the South Side.  So this was one of the major steps in my development of beginning to think about race.  Later, we moved to Roscoe Village, which is on the North Side, kind of right where the red blurs in with the orange, where Mexican and Puerto Rican neighborhoods are being gentrified by White folks.  Like us.

This link takes you to a map of the United States.  See if you can find Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland on the map.  It's not hard.

Here's New York City, which has a black-white dissimilarity score of 79.1, higher than Chicago:

I'm surprised that New York is actually more segregated than Chicago.  You can easily see the parts of Brooklyn and The Bronx where the black people live, and that Manhattan is pretty much White-only these days.  And Harlem keeps getting moved further and further uptown.  

Here's Detroit, #1 in segregation at 79.6:

I have never been to Detroit.  But there is very clearly a literal dividing line between the White neighborhoods (the suburbs) and the Black, the city of Detroit: Eight Mile Road.  

So, my question is: Why do we pay for schools using local property taxes?

Other cities:

Damn.  I was hoping to find my town of Champaign, IL.  Seriously, they have Portsmouth and Boise, ID but not Champaign??  

Here's some of the relevant info that I wanted: The Champaign-Urbana metro area as of 2010 was 74.3% White, 10.6% Black, and 4.8% Hispanic.  But the Champaign school district student population as of 2012 is 41.2% White, 34.9% Black, and 8.8% Hispanic.  Why is that??? 

Why do we pay for schools with local property taxes? 

Post-Script: I found it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Summer Reading List

Well, it's Summer Time now.  All of a sudden, I have a lot of time on my hands, and plan to fill it up with a hodgepodge of odd jobs - doing research for professors, tutoring, maybe doing some data entry jobs, nothing too strenuous, y'know - and then doing a whole lot of reading and writing.  Of course, I'll also be working on my profession, trying to snag up those last two evasive credits to finally finish my Master's of Education degree, and sending out my resume and hitting the rubber to the road looking for teaching openings in the area.*

One thing that I have been planning has been my Summer reading list.  For years - roughly from college to the three or four years after college - I had an annual tradition of reading at least one Dostoyevsky novel every Summer.  If you ask me Crime and Punishment is the ultimate Summer novel - the heat, the sweatiness, the claustrophobia of living day-in and day-out in your stuffy city apartment with the rats and the rags - but both The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov  are not far behind.  I know that I probably love Dostoyevsky more than he merits (mostly on account of his descriptions of hallucinations) but the length and content of his novels just made perfect Summer reading fare for me.  After I had read almost all of them - I never finished Demons, which is something I may have to rectify - I tried transitioning into reading his short stories, or reading other Russian authors (Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita being one of my favorites!) but it never really stuck.**

So, this Summer, I am starting to craft my reading around a new theme.  Some of these books I have started reading, some I have read and then put down, and others I haven't even started:

The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson:  I was recommended this book from Ta-Nehisi Coates' excellent blog series on The Ghetto Is Public Policy.  I'm only on page 28, and so far, so good.  Additionally, Coates' blog has got me thinking about the ways in which education in America is being re-structured so that it functions as a transfer of wealth from African Americans - as tax payers - to White business owners via the use of school vouchers and the charter school movement.  But this remains a thought half-thought.

I have read several chapters out of Foucault and the Government of Disability, edited by Shelley Tremain, so far, and it has got me thinking about the uses of power in terms of disability and impairment.  I don't understand why Foucault is not placed front and center in any teacher training program, whether that program is general education or special education.  As far as I can tell, Foucault is concerned with three structures: The prison, the hospital, and the school.  Disability is that point of focus where all three of these structures coincide. Teachers need to be concerned with all three.

God dammit, I have been reading this book for months, and just now got poor LBJ to Washington D.C.  He's heading up a New Deal program getting young folks in Texas to work, digging ditches and renewing parks.  I may have to skip a few chapters - or, um, volumes - in Robert Caro's Pulitzer-winning five-volume planned biography, but I am fascinated by one question: What motivated Johnson to pass Civil Rights legislation?  Caro has painted him as a real sonuvabitch, a political opportunist who is willing to push the progressive program at the same time that he bemoans FDR's socialist agenda (all depending on the audience!)  So what was behind his decision to hand over the South to Republicans for generations?  Caro knows that it is all about power - but how is that power wielded?

The Ugly Laws, by Susan Schweik: My wife bought this book for me a while ago, and I have yet to crack it open.  However, it claims to be a history of disability.  I TA'd this Spring for a course on the culture of disability, and I was struck by how alienated so many of the freshman undergraduates were when regarding what it means to be disabled in America.*** And so, if there were a theme to this Summer syllabus that I am building for myself, it's that power structures in the United States are not accidental.  At some point, for some reason, someone decides that one group of people will be advantaged by a set of laws or policies, and another group will be disadvantaged, and that these power discrepancies are then concealed by other structures, so that it seems that discrimination is something accidental, not purposeful.

*This weekend, I have been doing a lot of hobknobbing, going to art shows and bars and farmer's markets, running into local teachers, reminding them that, yes, I will be graduating this Summer, and yes, if you happen to know of a job opening at your school, please let me know, and please keep me in mind for this opportunity, and so on and so forth.

** Just a thought: My perfect reading calendar might be: Summer: Russian Lit, Fall: English Lit (Henry James, Virginia Woolf), Winter: Sci-Fi, Spring: History and Biography.  The exception to this would be Moby-Dick, which is something that is meant to be read over the Summer.

*** Not what it means to have a disability.