An “Unaccompanied” Immigrant’s Story in Video

This video, from the Los Angeles Times and featured on Facebook, is a very touching example of what many immigrant/refugee and unaccompanied youth face….day after day, they work, try to get an education, and stay off the radar. It’s all about the American Dream for them…will they actually ever attain what is rapidly becoming almost unattainable: Respect, a decent living, an education, and a safe place to call home.

Watch and share your thoughts, if you would.

I apologize for the lack of a visual or subtitles (some Spanish dialogue)…the embed didn’t work like it was supposed to. I will repost later with any corrections I am able to make. In the meantime, still quite viewable, nonetheless.

 

The first lesson of summer

I am posting this in my second blog, to point out that water and compassion are both necessities in any culture!

You Don't Know Me, But You Will...

It was the first full day of summer vacation. I was taking my daughter to a friend’s house: as the temps were already pitching toward 98 degrees at around noon, I didn’t want her walking. We stopped at a busy convenience store, and as I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the emergency vehicle. I knew that summer was already taking its toll on the first of many in our dry desert city.

The store was packed with customers, all stocking up on snacks and drinks. People were filling up giant cups of soda and paying overblown prices for beer and bottled water. As I waited in line with two Thirst Busters, I saw to my left, near the back of the store, a man on the floor. He was propped up against a counter, with a monitor clipped to his finger. EMTs stood to either side of him, eyeing…

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Why We Should Honor the Dream, Not Just the Day

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The national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. was hard-won in the state of Arizona. In the late 80s, we had an ultra-conservative governor, and a complacent  legislature (as sadly, we do again), who refused to join the majority of the country, and honor this great American figure for freedom. Despite the public outcry, and the eventual impeachment of then-governor Evan Mecham, it took about 5 years for the holiday to become law in this state. A short timeline:

1983, Congress passes, President Reagan signs, legislation creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

1986, Federal MLK holiday goes into effect

In 1987, Arizona governor Evan Mecham rescinds MLK Day as his first act in office, setting off a boycott of the state. 

In 1992, Arizona citizens vote to enact MLK Day.

1993, For the first time, MLK Day is held in some form—sometimes under a different name, and not always as a paid state holiday—in all fifty states.

So today, I am off of work from school. It is a day of reflection for me, and hopefully for many other citizens in this state, as it should be in states across the nation. I started the day watching a special on PBS World, on the filming of Eyes on the Prize, a massive documentary released in 1987. (click on photo below for more information)

Eyes on the Prize

It has also been a day to reflect on how far we’ve come, as well as how far we’ve stepped back—and how what was once a fight for equality and social justice, now encompasses much more. Poverty, economic inequality, and continued violence continues nearly unabated in our country. It continues to be perpetuated against those of color, those of other national origins, different religions, and sexual orientations. Our only weapon against it spiraling completely out of control is the power of social media, and a new breed of activists who are not afraid to stand up.

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So today, I am grateful for MLK’s legacy, and for his message of The Dream. It is a day for reflection and service to others. For some others, this time may be more about having an extra day off to go buy discounted products, and binge-watch their favorite TV shows. I think it is profoundly sad when our society uses a holiday such as this one, a day that should be about giving back and standing up for what is right, to sell products and cash in on it.

Although it is admirable to grow our economy at the grassroots level, and to encourage people to work and earn a living, using this day as an impetus to get out and buy stuff is a bit insulting, especially as there are still so many in this society that cannot partake in our economic freedom, because poverty and inequality is still so prevalent, especially among non-white races.

Martin Luther King Day Sales: All The Best Deals From Target, Walmart ...

Refugees, immigrants, and disadvantaged citizens of this country will not benefit from any “deals” on this day. More likely, they will be on the other end: Working long hours, making little money to show for it, and having no real voice in our society–and thus, no real rights. What kind of “deal” is that?

MLK Day Parade

 

So, if one is inclined to go out and buy things in the name of MLK Day, remember that our freedom, which was (and is still) so costly, is the reason that we can do so today.  That we can have a day off from work and service, that we can shop anywhere we wish, that we can eat in any restaurant, that we can ride on public transportation, and most importantly: That we can stand up publicly and speak out against what is wrong in our government and society–these are the reasons for a holiday. We still have a long way to go in gaining the full impact of MLK’s dream, but there is still hope that we will, if people of all ages, orientations, religions and races, here and  in the world over, keep their eyes on the prize.

 

 

 

Poverty and The State of Education–It’s All About Societal Attitudes

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I have recently been reading some articles on the effects of poverty on education, and I just had to comment—on one in particular from the Tucson Weekly, titled Which Has a Greater Effect On Student Achievement: Inequality/Poverty or Teachers/Schooling?

The outlook is pretty grim from the perspective of the distinguished author, David Berliner, of the scholarly article “Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth” who was extensively quoted in the Tucson Weekly’s post. In his article, he asserts that there is not one single factor from education that has produced more successful students, and that society and the general attitude of the public and policy-makers toward poverty is what keeps education from making any headway. He states,

“America’s dirty little secret is that a large majority of poor kids attending schools that serve the poor are not going to have successful lives. Reality is not nearly as comforting as myth. Reality does not make us feel good. But the facts are clear. Most children born into the lower social classes will not make it out of that class, even when exposed to heroic educators. A simple statistic illustrates this point: In an age where college degrees are important for determining success in life, only 9% of low-income children will obtain those degrees (Bailey & Dynarski, 2011). And that discouraging figure is based on data from before the recent recession that has hurt family income and resulted in large increases in college tuition. Thus, the current rate of college completion by low-income students is probably lower than suggested by those data. Powerful social forces exist to constrain the lives led by the poor, and our nation pays an enormous price for not trying harder to ameliorate these conditions.” ~David Berliner

Then, we read the work of another thinker in the world of education, Ruby Payne, PhD., a self-proclaimed “authority on poverty in education”. Her theories and models have been used in some schools since around the mid-2000’s. Whatever one might glean from her article, or whether her work is based on solid scientific research, is not specifically in question here. It is merely provided as an example on the mindset of those researching and speaking about impoverished populations, and the effects poverty has had on education. One of Payne’s assertions, among many, is that students in poverty need a role-model, someone at a higher “status” than themselves, in order the overcome their situation. She states:

“Individuals who made it out of poverty usually cite an individual who made a significant difference for them.” and, if you believe it, “The hidden rules of the middle class must be taught so students can choose to follow them if they wish”. ~Ruby Payne, PhD.

For those of us who have been working in the public schools for some time, and have studied the effects of poverty from “researchers” such as Ruby Payne, PhD., the fact that poverty is a great inhibitor is a “no-brainer”. And, although the quotes above may be true for those who do in fact make it out of poverty, the problem remains that so many more children and their families, do not. Payne’s work seems to suggest that many choose this way of life, which I categorically disagree with.

Take those of us who grew up in the Recession of the 1970’s: Long before the influx of refugee and immigrant populations (though they were still here, albeit not in as great a number as today), we were struggling in an education system that was still mired in outdated methodologies AND experiencing poverty on many levels. The line between the “haves” and “have nots” in society, and in terms of educational accessibility, were pretty clearly defined. As one of those “have nots” from that era, I can say honestly that, yes, although several individuals encouraged me to keep going academically, it was a lack of money and resources that kept me from doing so at a practical pace. I am certain that I am not the only one of my generation that had to work full time, while attending junior college, or perhaps even during high school. And if we did “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”, it was because our parents, and those from the previous generation, believed in a good work ethic and in the “American Dream” or something similarly iconic. Those of us (working poor) who did manage to make it to undergraduate and graduate programs, did so through years of blood, sweat and tears.

I did not make more than minimum wage until I began teaching, at the advanced age of 41 yrs. I had to take out huge loans, and counted on scant scholarships to pick up part of the tab, in addition to working part-time (at the very least). Poverty was always looming (and still does, to a lesser degree) in my life. But I see MANY more parents, who live in abject poverty today…they barely believe in the “American Dream” anymore. They try to instill good work ethics or hope into their children; they live day to day, moment to moment, just staying above water; many more seem to have drug and mental problems, then pass these on to their kids, who by no means choose such a lifestyle, but may be born into it. And no amount of masterful teaching, mandated curriculum, or standardized testing is fixing the problem. The problem is oppression, and misunderstanding of the poorest students.  Students today do not have a realistic frame of reference for the importance of education being equal to future success, because it seems unattainable.

So, even with studies such as those conducted by Ruby Payne, PhD. and Professor Emeritus David Berliner being shared with the public, the problem persists, while so few heed the pleas of educators and other authorities on the subject, to make any real changes at a societal level. Instead, this negative type of rhetoric remains all too popular, in statements like: “Public schools are failing our kids”, and “Liberals and (insert typical racist remark) are destroying our country and Education!”. And now, it looks as if the Donald Trumps of our society will dictate who should have and have not, further dividing society, and widening the gap to a “nearly free” and equal education for all. Sad, sad times, indeed. We still have such a long, long way to go.

A Post from Upworthy Lays Some Truth Out On U.S. Education

There are so many myths that have been spread about how Education is failing in our country…but the only failure seems to be in the general misconceptions about what the real problems in education are. Our system is broken because it is based on punitive measures, standardized testing as a panacea, rampant poverty that affects student learning at every level, and the devaluing of teachers and their roles within the educational system and the community. If anything truly useful is to be done, we must break down these myths and look at what is going on world-wide, and apply what we learn that can work here at home, in order to begin to fix a truly embattled system.

Click on the photo link below to see a very effective, graphic representation of the true state of U.S. Education, as it compares to other countries, in order to begin to understand where the actual problems lie. Feel free to comment here, and start a dialogue with ideas about what solutions may exist…

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