J. Edgar

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The weeks between one school semester and the next have been a stream of watching (or often re-watching) easy television shows but now I’m trying to final chip away at the long, long list of movies I’ve accumulated in my Instant queue.

Not sure why I started with “J. Edgar” (2011). Maybe it was recently added so I recently added it and it’s the first thing that popped up on the list? Those streaming lists can be tricky.

Turned out not to be a a great starting point. I think it was attempting to be insightful, and certainly a departure from when Edgar shows up in other movies and a deranged monster. But this movie was…dull? From the coloring to the way all of the actors talked and moved, it just didn’t have any light in it. I think it was going for a dusky time-piece with the stealth of the inner workings of a massive, secretive government agency, but as a screen piece it was spiritless with a great cast going miserably to waste.

And the voice-over. Please, please, please people, stop with the voice over narration. It’s painful and lazy and painful. I’d rather be confused than have to listen to that incessant nonsense.

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Another Resource

Gary Rubinstein’s education blog was recommended by the NPT documentary and has already proved helpful to my greater understanding of the problems we’re experiencing. I look forward to hearing more and sharing the information with my colleagues so that when we are fully in the field we can have some idea of the big picture and the part we can play in improving our schools.

The Burden of Choice

Yesterday I was able to go to a fantastic conference called GradNation Summit. It was full of heart wrenching stories, new resources, and some inspiration. One of the sponsors for the even was Nashville Public Television which was generous enough to hand out DVDs that will be an important piece of my ever-growing toolkit.

The first documentary I watched was “Choice or Chance,” talking about the pros and cons of school choice in Metro Nashville Public Schools. I’ve never been a fan of this process, and am now even less so. A quote from a local parent that particularly hit me:

I want my kids to go to neighborhood schools because we are part of the neighborhood. If we don’t support the community, who will?

(Sorry if I flipped a couple words around, I was trying to write very fast.)

I don’t like the current system for the burden it places on families that can’t do the research, can’t get their kids to non-zone schools, and can’t understand the process. I don’t like the system because it pours money into other schools instead of pouring resources into struggling schools. And I REALLY don’t like that this is all based on an economic model with the idea that bad schools will just go out of business and that will somehow fix things.

The one piece of hope for me: there are people out there who are researching these skewed numbers, raising their voices to say this doesn’t work, and acknowledging that this reeks of the badly handled desegregation process in our not-so-distant past.

Students are human beings, not statistics. Teachers are educators, not standardized generators. There is more to a school than the building. Kudos to those who advocate for their communities and children’s right to an equitable education no matter where they live.

Some Ready to Be Counted

With a quasi-break in classes I’m exploring an area of education that more aligns with my personal interests: social emotional learning, especially for youths transitioning from elementary to middle school. I’ve recently read Transforming Education’s 2015 paper “Ready to Be Counted: The Research Case for Education Policy Action on Non-Cognitive Skills” and had a few concerns.

  1. There’s a difference between “self-control” and addiction. While poor self-control can lead to excessive drug or alcohol use, it is not the same as having a pre-existing mental illness that cannot be simply “controlled” by will or a good kindergarten program.
  2. While single-motherhood is an easy indicator of poor life outcomes, single mothers are not the sole participants in “low self-control.” Aside from the fact that it takes two to make a baby, we also need to take into account power dynamics, rape, and sexual education. These should be explicitly worked into the non-cognitive education platform.
  3. Antisocial, criminal, aggressive behavior, and other things that are predictors¬†of poor outcomes may be a result of mental illness, not just development of non-cognitive skills. Improved instruction in these skills will be helpful, and obviously one paper can’t take care of all potential aspects of human beings in a classroom, but it’s irresponsible to not at least acknowledge this exceptionality.
  4. Don’t list marijuana as one of the vices that can be engaged in because of poor non-cognitive skills. Seriously.

Also want to say that college attendance and white collar work are not the only indicators of success. Can’t really blame the paper for this because it’s a wider, oppressive problem caused by our social-capitalist operation, but I want to mention it when it comes up. Not everyone is meant to go to college or sit at a desk. It is VITAL for our health as a society to respect the people who take a different path and provide important services that keep our lives rolling along.

This ain’t no

Two years ago my husband took me to upper Michigan (they call it “up-north,” I call it “up-up-north”) for his family’s annual summer trip. We had our own cute cabin, some water, and our dog stayed somewhat in control (which, for a 6-month old lab is pretty good, right?). But that water…

My family and I have been to several patches of water in our travels, but we only had one beach concept: Gulf Shores. I even call other sections along that water “Gulf Shores” regardless of what the town is actually called. Soft sand, brilliant, blue, sparkling water. The epitome of water reaching land and my weary legs lain down. My ignorant self did not take into account that a Great Lake is not the same as a Great Gulf.

Rocks everywhere. Chilly in July. And the water had. no. salt. Simply understanding of geography and a weather app could have told me that these things were true but it didn’t process until I was ankle deep and whisper “what the %*^&T? Those folks love their big lakes, and good on them, and we’ll surely join them again when our lives smooth out a tad. But semantics is valuable thing — there’s a difference between a beach and where water hits land.

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