Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

LUCiD, An Original Game Concept by a Bunch of Crackheads

In Education, video games on September 17, 2014 at 7:45 am

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 11.22.14 PM

It was the year 2003, I think, and a few buddies of mine — Shawn Johnson and Jesus “Chuy” Quintero — were working as Resident Advisors for the USF Upward Bound Summer Program. For six weeks, we lived in a college dorm with a bunch of high school/aspiring college students taking classes at the university, but that’s not the important part. We had a weekend off so, we decided to create an activity around a newly discovered guilty pleasure: video games. We rented a bunch of games from Blockbuster Video (remember them), brought our game systems to the dorms, hooked them up to a bunch of televisions in one room and PLAYED ALL DAY.

At the time, we were still single and chasing women. We wanted to keep the video game thing a secret so we came up with a nickname. We called them Crack. Yes, sounding like we were discussing an illegal drug was somehow better than saying video game, but there it is. We used the name Crack because we thought a good video game was one that you couldn’t put down. A good video game was addictive like an awesome book. Thus, a good video game was like Crack, and our little event, which soon became a tradition, was our “Crack Session” where we “Cracked Out.”

We did our little events for only two more years but we stayed friends. Chuy bought his first console, got married and drove his wife crazy with his brand new hobby. Shawn worked for a year as a tester and hated it. A few years later, I did a stint as a video game journalist. To this day we still use the same words to describe video games. Actually, over the years we came up with a completely new lexicon because A) we were admittedly nuts and B) we absolutely hated how nearly everyone that wrote about games was white, male and geek. I was a Black dude from poor, working class San Francisco. Shawn was a brotha from Oakland. Chuy was a Mexican-American who grew up picking peaches in rural Yuba City, California. The way people talked about games on IGN or Kotaku just didn’t vibe with us.

A few months ago, I started teaching a class on principles of video game design with a small group of youth. I’ve learned a few things since the summer of 2003. During the first lecture, I talked to them about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, his Theory of Flow and it’s influence on video games. His theory, as I explained to my class, is the reason why a good game is like crack.  I explained it. They totally got it. I had come full circle. 

A few weeks later that small group of young people created a concept for a video game, called LUCiD, a game about dealing with grief. They used Little Big Planet 2 to create a concept demo and Weebly to create a website around it with character profiles, concept art and a YouTube video. And, they call themselves The Crackheads. On Moday, they submitted their game to the ESA LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship. No word on the results just yet, but I couldn’t be more proud of this small band of Black, Yemini and Latino youth.

Ain’t it funny how ideas develop?


Ethiopian children teach themselves how to use laptop computers

In Education, Technology, Uncategorized on December 20, 2012 at 2:40 am

The last few months I have written a lot about technology and the lack of diversity in the academic and professional world. I was irked by Rap Genius. I was saddened by the visual poetry of Alan Spearman and inspired to cut up a short video about electronic music and urban dance. As an artist, a designer and an educator I’ve been desperate for examples of cultural expressions of technology or technology culture and one that is great enough to rise above a niche-like feeling.

You can imagine then how excited I was when I read that within five months a group of first grade Ethiopian students who had never seen a computer before taught themselves how to make modifications to Android. This discovery was a part of MIT’s Media Lab program called One Laptop Per Child.

As Negroponte said (via FastCompany) at MIT Technology Review‘s EmTech conference this year, here’s how it went down:

“We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.”

This is what I call awesome! At best, it says a lot about how technology can be used to educate people all over the world (for the record I am an advocate for using technology as a tool and not a replacement). At worst, it could be a sign of how brilliant young Ethiopian kids are when you put them in front of a computer. What kinds of technological advancements do you think these little guys can make over the next 25 years? Now, there’s an exciting thought.

Check out the link to the article for more details. This program/experiment is something worth keeping an eye on.

The Facts About Won’t Back Down

In Education on October 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm

I was really worried about the movie Won’t Back Down when I first read that it was in production. I’ve done extensive reading on the charter school movement and almost everything I’ve learned leans on the idea that it is an absolute hustle for privatized education. What is most dangerous is that we understand how it works just the same as we understand the machinations of Wall Street and how it affected our most recent financial crisis. We’re not business executives or educators — with a business degree — so most of us struggle with understanding the tug of war between charter school supporters and teachers unions. That’s why I was worried that the release of this movie would convince people of the broad declarations made by the move: teachers unions are corrupt and charter schools are the answer to low performing schools so just support them and poverty will erase almost over night.

Today, however, I’m feeling a little better after reading last weekends box office report and the reviews for the spiritual sequel to documentary Waiting for Superman. Not only has Rotten Tomatoes given it a fat juicy 34% but it made a paltry 2.7 million dollars over the weekend. That is what we call a box office flop.

Seriously folks, The future of education is a very real and important conversation that we all need to have but we need to do this without conservative billionaires like Phillip Anschutz )who’s Walden Media funded Won’t Back Down) trying to confuse us. Below is a nice little fact sheet about the movie for those who are curious.

Enjoy it, read it, send it out to your friends and get educated damn it!

1. Parent Trigger laws have nothing to do with parent empowerment and everything to do with privatization.

The fictional Parent Trigger law in Won’t Back Down is based on very real legislation being pushed in states across the country, which, in turn, is based on model legislationfrom the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The entire debate surrounding these bills is focused on parents turning a public school into a privately managed charter school.
(Notice how parents taking over a charterschool and making it a public school is never presented as an option. Privatization is a one-way street for ALEC.)

2. No one has actually completed a Parent Trigger to turn a public school into a charter.

Parents in two school districts, both in CA, have tried and failed. In the Compton Unified School District, courts threw out a parent petition to turn one school into a charter. The group who facilitated the signature collection, Parent Revolution, is funded by a charter school operator. (We’re sure it’s a coincidence.) In the Adelanto School District, a similar petition has become mired in a lawsuit over the rescinded signatures of parents who say they were misled about the nature of the petition they signed. Given the Parent Trigger’s track record so far, Won’t Back Down is fictional in more ways than one.

3. Charters aren’t a cure all, but they’re presented as such.

Won’t Back Down and proponents of Parent Trigger laws want you to believe that privately-run charter schools are the shining future of America’s education system. In truth, charters only educate roughly 4% of American students, and studies have shown that most charter schools don’t perform any better than their public school counterparts. Moreover, they’re less accountable and use selective enrollment practices or school policies that push struggling students out of the classroom. Charters, on the whole, don’t represent the systemic change we need to ensure all students have an opportunity to learn, not just a tiny fraction.

4. Unions have a track record of working with communities to improve schools.

As Won’t Back Down would have it, failing schools are the result of lazy teachers, bureaucracy and teachers unions. But as the recent teachers strike in Chicago shows, unions are fighting alongside students, parents and community members for the resources they need to teach and for their students to learn. The unconscionable teacher and union bashing in the film will weaken, not strengthen our schools, and is a distraction from solving the real problems of inequitable resources in our education system.

5. Films like Won’t Back Downand Waiting for Superman are the work of corporations with privatization agendas.

Walden Media is owned by conservative billionaire investor Philip Anschutz, who funds ALEC and some of its members on the Education Task Force. Here’s a longer analysis of the film’s corporate backers, including the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox, which has ties to, you guessed it, big money with an interest in education privatization.

For more analysis of the facts and myths about Won’t Back Down

  • Analysis from the Center for Media and Democracy
  • Fact Sheet from Parents Across America
  • A blistering film review from The Nation‘s Dana Goldstein
  • An equally scathing review from The Star Tribune

Note: in the interest of full clarity this fact sheet was provided by The National Opportunity to Learn Campaign via the Education for Liberation list serv. Feel free to research those groups as well and form your own opinion. 

Letters from Tucson, AZ – Part 2

In Education on February 26, 2012 at 7:55 am

Here is another letter from Tuscon High School teacher, Curtis Acosta detailing the fallout of the Tuscon Unified School District’s declaration that their Ethnic Studies program is illegal.

Dearest colleagues and supporters,

Forgive the lack of communication as of late, but the new situation that we have been handed since the dismantling of our Mexican American Studies program has been overwhelming. In fact, I am fairly certain the reason why my family and I have been sick so much recently is in direct connection to the stress of this situation.I want to thank all of you who have pledged your support through the No History is Illegal campaign or the other petitions that have circulated. Your testimonials have been inspiring amidst the chaos in Tucson and our students were thrilled to see so many dots on the globe. It is another act that has helped them feel that people care since our district administration has shown little sensitivity to their pain. They did find the time to visit some of our classes to give a thinly veiled threat that students will be punished if they continued to actively protest during school time. One student leader, Nico Dominguez, was threatened with suspension after a respectful, yet critical, statement to the four members of the school board who voted to eliminate our classes. Fortunately, we were able to advocate for him and make sure that there was some accountability for the administration to follow due process and magically the threats disappeared.

As far as in the classroom, I have been exposed to a word that I have never heard before in any of our Mexican American Studies classes, and that word is “hate.” On three different occassions I have heard my students comment that they hate something that we were doing in class. First, it happened as I wheeled in the district adopted textbooks into our room over a month ago. I heard two girls say, “Ewww” and another student say, “I hate reading out of those books.” I have never taught out of textbooks in my 16 years of teaching so I was struck by the rawness and veracity of the comment. This happened again yesterday in class when a young woman refused to write an essay citing that she feels dumb when she reads out of the textbook and hates it. Finally, a young man in my senior class was taking a quiz at the end of the first Act of Macbeth and said he hated these types of tests. Of course, these are all district approved instructional materials that I was encouraged to adopt in my classes in order to avoid discipline and possible termination. The students know this, but they still yield visceral reactions that break my heart.

In a similar note, you’ll be happy to know that upon the first monitoring session of my class last week, I was found to be in compliance. Of course, when I asked for written criteria or an evaluation instrument that was used to make such an assessment, none was provided and no answer was given. For over a month we have tried to get written expectations and have been ignored. Thus, we now have monitors entering our rooms with an invisible checklist for compliance. This will only get more dangerous for us in the coming weeks since the State is now getting involved. Since my last message, the Arizona Department of Education has informed our district that we will be undergoing unannounced observations for our compliance by specialists. This is without the criteria for our safety being defined, and our district still isn’t sure who these specialists will be, nor their qualifications or experience in public education. We were also forced to box up more materials for the state including PowerPoints, texts, and even copies of a vocabulary list I use with my students.

We are in uncharted waters in terms of vagueness and our district remains consistent. Their meager defense of our program during the appeal process is closely related to the open door policy they have given to the state department of education. They have continually played Pontius Pilate in this struggle and we are convinced this will be why justice will prevail. As many of you may know, the Arizona legislature continues to target teachers with outlandish legislation about teacher language and partisan instruction. We have told our colleagues for years that our situation is precursor to the types of government intrusion that could happen to us all. During this spring, I fear we will see such a statement become prophecy.

In the meantime, thank you all for keeping us in your thoughts and actions. Our students and community refuse to embrace this awful reality as permanent and are hopeful that our classes will return.

In Lak Ech,

Curtis Acosta

Letters from Tuscon, AZ – Part 1

In Education, Politics on February 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

For those who haven’t had enough of Arizona after the recent incident with President Obama and the Governor of our 16th most populated state, here is letter from Tuscon High School teacher, Curtis Acosta detailing the fallout of the Tuscon Unified School District’s declaration that their Ethnic Studies program is illegal.

Another dark day in Tucson education history for my students and myself. Despite claims by our Deputy Superintendent that MAS teachers willl be given time and the resources needed to completely rewrite our curriculum, the reality is totally different. Here is the link to the Deputy Superintendent’s interview.


As the weeks move forward the district and site administrators are becoming far more dismissive to our plight and the antagonism is clearly taking root toward our questions and concerns for our students. We are a mere inconvience to the business of running the district. But what is curious is the question of who are they running the district for if it’s not our students? Take my experiences today for example.

I asked my local site administrator for a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the semester, including time to read novels that I may have not read in fifteen years, or in some cases, ever. It takes time to develop an authentic unit with a novel, and it takes time to read a novel. Not to mention, we are being asked to create a brand new syllabus or curriculum map to prove our compliance to the new policy and law. My request for the days I needed to accomplish these tasks were rebuffed immediately. I even suggested that I spread the days throughout the semester, or be granted comp time during the weekends, so it would be a less disruptive to my students. However, I was told from my site administrator that I would get only three days to familiarize myself with the textbooks and create my new units. I reiterated that this meant that I would not be able to teach any novels this semester to my juniors and seniors, and the administrator shrugged as if this was not his problem, and told me that the time given was adequate.

What this will mean is that my students will go from a college preparatory curriculum to one that is remedial at best. My desire was to work within this horrible climate and shameful situation in way that did not damage the students any further and was confident that I could create this. It is painfully obvious that the district does not care about the quality of education that our students receive regardless of their press releases and interviews. Can you imagine such attitudes and low expectations being shared with the AP teacher at our school, the students, or their parents? Can you imagine them being satisfied with internet lesson plans and textbooks instead of novels? Can you imagine the AP teacher being rebuffed after begging for a few more days to prepare a new curriculum for his students, after ten years of lesson plans, units, and curriculum were scrapped? At the grassroots level, we know better. We know that the elitist, dismissive attitudes of these administrators are nothing new, and that communities of color have had to endure such indignities for generations. There is a serious lack of honor and respect being displayed by these actions.

Things are becoming toxic with administrators in our district and the working environment is becoming increasingly hostile. I would not be surprised if one of my colleagues is dismissed within the next few weeks. Already there are district supervisors monitoring our classrooms for violations, including a 45 minute visit to one of my colleagues today. What is even more frustrating is how many of our questions have been ignored or dismissed that would help specify how we can protect ourselves from termination while we continue to help our students prepare for college. I know that this will only increase as the days unfold and the normalcy sets in that Mexican American Studies and heritage are banned. That is why it is so important to have the support of our friends throughout the nation. We are humbled and honored to have so many people care enough about our students and our plight. Thank you to all who have been working on the February 1st MAS solidarity action, No History is Illegal. Without all of these efforts and attention then we would soon be a memory. Thank you for keeping us alive in your minds, hearts, and actions.

In Lak Ech (Tu eres mi otro yo / you are my other me),


Tuscon High School Ban’s Ethnic Studies Books

In Education, Politics on January 20, 2012 at 2:08 am

It has been awhile since I’ve written about the ongoing legal battle between the state of Arizona and the teachers of Tucson High School. Unfortunately, things are not well. Earlier this month I received an email from Curtis Acosta, one of the ethnic studies teachers whom I interviewed in 2010. Here’s what he had to say:

Last night the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board voted 4-1 to immediately eliminate the Mexican American Studies program. All other ethnic studies programs are unaffected and I will know more today how this will impact our students and content of our classes. Many rumors are swirling around that the composition of the classes may change which would drastically affect our students through mass schedule changes.

This optimism cannot be shared in regard to the content of our classes which we believe will be completely eliminated or altered beyond recognition. Assignment changes are expected for all of our colleagues, including the Director of Mexican American Studies Sean Arce.

And, it gets worse as news has come out that school officials confiscated books during the middle of class including Paulo Freire’s A Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America, and Elizabeth Martinez’s 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures and Rethinking Schools’ Rethinking Columbus. As you can imagine students described their books being boxed up as “heartbreaking.”

I’ve written quite a bit about this but at this moment I’m at a loss of words. Pedagogy of the Oppressed is perhaps one of the most important books written in the last fifty years, and how can one decide not to rethink Christopher Columbus in this day and age? Is it not a forgone conclusion that the man didn’t discover a part of the world that was already inhabited by people; people who are still here?

Like the students of Tuscon High School I was fortunate enough to have a history teacher that taught me a side of history that was more personal and honest. It was this type of honesty that inspired me to study harder, and to have pride in myself and others. I can speak from personal experience, as a student and educator, that this type of education is important to us all.

The true history of this country (in all of its glory and messiness) is something to be far more proud of than the cookie cutter, surface level history that we are taught the day we enter public education. As we have been forced to say again and again over the last few years…shame on Arizona.

For more information on the debate I implore you to read Jeff Biggers’ Salon.com article, “Who’s Afraid of the Tempest?

“The only other time a book of mine was banned was in 1986, when the apartheid government in South Africa banned ‘Strangers in Their Own Country,’ a curriculum I’d written that included a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela,” said [Bill]Bigelow, who serves as curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and co-directs the online Zinn Education Project ”We know what the South African regime was afraid of. What is the Tucson school district afraid of?”

Debbie Reese’s, “Teaching Critical Thinking in Arizona: NOT ALLOWED.”

I’m pretty sure that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House of the Prairie is not on the list. Towards the end of that story, Pa learns that the federal government wants squatters (he doesn’t use that word) to get off of Indian land. They load the wagon and as they drive away, they look back and see that that “their little log house and the little stable sat lonely in the stillness.” Pa says that it is a great country, “but there will be wild Indians and wolves here for many a long day.” Books like Little House teach readers to resent a race or class of people, too, but I doubt it is being removed from classrooms in Tucson.

Biggers’ Huffington Post interview with Tucson teacher Curtis Acosta.

We have quantitative academic results and brilliant graduates who are outstanding young people dedicated to their community. That is why the lack of support from our own district has been so frustrating and tragic. We have worked tirelessly for the students and families in the district for decades and the same cannot be said by the politicians and officials that ended our program on January 10th.

And, if you want to hear the argument from the state, watch the debate between John Huppenthal, Arizona superintendent of public instruction and Richard Martinez, the attorney representing teachers and students in Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program.


Save Our Schools March will Help Clear those Cobwebs

In Education on August 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm

A year ago I went to the New Parrish in Oakland to see Dave Chappelle. Contrary to popular belief Chappelle is an unorthodox, unpredictable and very intelligent comedian. He has this incredible ability to move seamlessly between a comedy routine and a real and well articulated explanation of serious world issues. OK, let me fast forward to my point, as this isn’t a post about Dave Chappelle. During his performance he said something that has always stayed with me. While discussing politics he said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “that a person has to be extremely firm in their beliefs and understanding of the world because we live in the age of spin.”

I remember this quote every time I speak to my close friends about education. Most of them are intelligent, educated, and professional. Seriously, I am amazed at how many close personal friends I have who are ballers. I’m also amazed at how confused they are over our current education system. Like many Americans they read the Times article about Michele Rhee and got inspired by her willingness to fire a bunch of supposedly bad teachers. This move by Rhee was later deemed illegal. Most of them watched Waiting for Superman where they learned three things that were buried into the heads of the audience: charter schools are great, teacher unions are modern day mafias, and do everything just like Geoffrey Canada.

Trying to burn away the cobwebs for folks is tiring. Generally, you have anywhere between 5-10 minutes to say something that is more attractive than the messages they have received from CNN, Fox, President Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and the aforementioned Rhee, Canada and Davis Guggenheim’s documentary. But, I stumbled on some excellent videos from the Save Our Schools March, videos of folks who are much more articulate and charismatic than I am. I’ll post a few this week starting with two videos of actor — and son of a public school teacher — Matt Damon who gave a great speech and hilarious interview this last weekend.

Matt Damon’s speech at the Save Our Schools March in Washington DC

Matt Damon makes me feel like I need to work a little better on my elevator speech.

The Free Minds, Free People 2011 conference was a HUGE success

In Education on July 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I have been spending the last two years organizing the third bi-annual Free Minds, Free People conference, and I’m happy to announce that it is not only over, but better yet, a tremendous success.

“Free Minds, Free People is a national conference presented by the Education for Liberation Network, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, the Chicago Freedom School and Youth in Action that brings together teachers, high school and college students, researchers, parents and community based activists/educators from across the country to build a movement to develop and promote education as a tool for liberation.”

Youth, educators, activists, cultural workers and community changemakers from around the country did in fact fly, bus, bike and walk to Providence for this historic event. And, yes it was an exciting time to be a part of a movement for democracy, diversity and justice.

I’m quoting our site because I’m presently at a loss for words, but I hope you’re catching the sincerity. It really was a great conference. But, don’t take my word for it. Check out the FMFP blog for tons of content that includes:

Write ups on workshops:

  • “Working Around the System: Social Justice Education in the Time of Standards”
  • “Teach Palestine!”
  • “Does it Matter if I’m White: The Role of White People in Racial Justice Activism,” co-organized by Harvard professor Mark R. Warren
  • The panel discussion “Asian American Youth Rising”
  • Written reports of the conference from FMFP committee member Biba Fullon and Executive Director of New Urban Arts, Jason Yoon.

Videos interviews of:

  • MC Chachi Carvalho.
  • Boston University Professor Leigh Patel Stevens discussing the plenary session “Charter Schools & Public Schools: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
  • Brandon Frame from The Black Man Can explaining the workshop “Free-mixing Education and Entrepreneurship: The Transformative Power of Hip Hop.”
  • Ziad Abbas of Middle East Children Alliance (MECA) and panelist for the “Teach Palestine” workshop talks to interviewee Tamar Sharabi.
  • Morna McDermott, Associate Professor of Education at Towson talks about the Out of the Box Doll-Making Activity and its use for the July 30th Save Ours Schools March in Washington.
  • A video of the conversation between Dr. Vincent Harding and undocumented-student activist Antonio Albizures-Lopez
  • A video footage of the aforementioned workshop “Does it Matter if I’m White: The Role of White People in Racial Justice Activism”

Video performances by:

There’s even downloadable material. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform provided us with a pdf of their annual magazine, Voices in Urban Education, and panelist Michele Renee let us upload her Powerpoint from one of the workshops mentioned above (Working around the system: Social Justice Education in the Time of Standards).

And, this is the part where I say…and more.

It really ‘IS’ this bad

In Education on May 3, 2011 at 7:09 am

This letter was really too good for me to edit and provide my usual commentary. I’d suggest you just read it. I think it speaks for itself.

Dear President Obama:
I mean this with all respect. I’m on my knees here, and there’s a knife in my back, and the prints on it kinda match yours. I think you don’t get it.
Your Race to the Top is killing the wrong guys. You’re hitting the good guys with friendly fire. I’m teaching in a barrio in California. I had 32 kids in my class last year. I love them to tears. They’re 5th graders. That means they’re 10 years old, mostly. Six of them were 11 because they were retained. Five more were in special education, and two more should have been. I stopped using the word “parents” with my kids because so many of them don’t have them. Amanda’s mom died in October. She lives with her 30-year-old brother. (A thousand blessings on him.) Seven kids live with their “Grams,” six with their dads. A few rotate between parents. So “parents” is out as a descriptor.
Here’s the kicker: Fifty percent of my students have set foot in a jail or prison to visit a family member.
Do you and your secretary of education, Arne Duncan, understand the significance of that? I’m afraid not. It’s not bad teaching that got things to the current state of affairs. It’s pure, raw poverty. We don’t teach in failing schools. We teach in failing communities. It’s called the ZIP Code Quandary. If the kids live in a wealthy ZIP code, they have high scores; if they live in a ZIP code that’s entombed with poverty, guess how they do?
We also have massive teacher turnover at my school. Now, we have no money. We haven’t had an art or music teacher in 10 years. We have a nurse twice a week. And because of the No Child Left Behind Act, struggling public schools like mine are held to impossible standards and punished brutally when they don’t meet them. Did you know that 100 percent of our students have to be on grade level, or else we could face oversight by an outside agency? That’s like saying you have to achieve 100 percent of your policy objectives every year.
It’s not bad teaching that got things to the current state of affairs. It’s pure, raw poverty.
You lived in Indonesia, so you know what conditions are like in the rest of the world. President Obama, I swear that conditions in my school are akin to those in the third world. We had a test when I taught in the Peace Corps. We had to describe a glass filled to the middle. (We were supposed to say it was half full.) Too many of my kids don’t even have the glass!
Next, gangs. Gangs eat my kids, their parents, and the neighborhood. One of my former students stuffed an AK47 down his pants at a local bank and was shot dead by the police. Another one of my favorites has been incarcerated since he was 13. He’ll be 27 in November. I’ve been writing to him for 10 years and visiting him in the maximum-security section of Salinas Valley State Prison.
Do you get that it’s tough here? Charter schools and voucher schools aren’t the solution. They are an excuse not to fix the real issues. You promised us so much. And you want to give us merit pay? Anyway, I think we really need to talk. Oh, and can you pull the knife out while you’re standing behind me? It really hurts.
Sincerely yours,

Paul Karrer
Fifth grade teacher at Castroville Elementary School
North Monterey County, CA

“Sometimes it Pays to Speak Out – Loudly”

In Education on April 21, 2011 at 2:21 am

Hot on the heels of a massive protest of USF staff, students and high school youth, on April 11th, the university has agreed to remain a fiscal sponsor of the 45 year old program. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the good news on Tuesday. It doesn’t come without its caveats, however. Read the article to see what I mean, and know that the Chronicle isn’t reporting everything.

Needless to say, this is great news. Congratulations and a big warm thank you for everyone that wrote letters and/or participated in the protest. This is a powerful lesson for the 200 hundred high school students of the Upward Bound program. There are benefits to organized, peaceful, and passionate protest.