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Saving “LA Youth”—The Nation’s Largest Youth Newspaper Needs Help ASAP

May 10th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

We want our kids to be informed, thinking, confident compassionate, educated people, such a goal is in everyone’s interest, for heaven’s sake, and yet increasingly, as the economy continues to wobble, the commitment to this obviously worthy goal on the part of those with resources seems to be faltering.

It doesn’t help that education has been slashed to a horrific degree. while, at the same time, nonprofits that serve kids and families at risk have watched their funding shrink down to nothing.

And now LA Youth, the Los Angeles based newspaper for and by kids— the largest of its kind in the nation, and an institution that always seemed safe—-is right at the edge of closing its doors at the end of this school year, one more possible casualty of the economic tsunami of 2008.

(Thanks again, Wall Street. Really. Your giant vampire squid-osity is a gift that keeps on giving.)

However, all is not lost. What LA Youth needs to rescue it from disaster is $500,000 in operating funds, and then it can make do with some of the other grants it will receive for specific programs.

They’ve already raised some of what they need, but it ain’t close to enough. They must hit that $500K mark by May 15.

I’ve been a friend and admirer of LA Youth for years now, and have spoken to kids and read essays by other kids, who explain in detail how their lives and sense of self would be far, far different had it not been for the mentoring they received as writers/editors/mentees for this stellar organization.

The video above is by a teacher at Locke High School, where LA Youth runs a weekly program. Just listen. She explains how writing for the newspaper allows kids—many of whom come out of risky personal circumstances—to discover that they count for something, that they have a voice, that what they think/feel/perceive/know can matter.

Put another way, a lot of kids who were struggling in school have now graduated from college, because of the intellectual/emotional lifeline this program tossed to them.

Okay, that’s the pitch. You can check out LA Youth here, and CLICK HERE to donate, if you are so moved. I am told that every little bit helps. (And if you happen to know a wildly wealthy philanthropist, feel free to drop a hint.)

Posted in academic freedom, American voices, journalism, media | No Comments »

The Inalienable Right to Call School Officials “Douchebags” & Other Must Reads

June 29th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon



SCOTUS REVIEW IS SOUGHT FOR 2 ONLINE FREE SPEECH CASES, ONE INVOLVING STUDENTS AND “DOUCHEBAGS”

(Yes, you’re right, my inner 9-year-old does think it’s funny each time I type the word “douchebag.”)

Ahem…

The Student Press Law Center reports that the lawyers for two cases that involve online communication by students, and First Amendment rights, hope that the US Supremes will agree to hear their cases. Both address similar issues and have the potential to set precedent. Here are the rundowns on the cases, as reported by SPLC:

CASE 1: The Right to Mock in MySpace

“J.S.” was a student at Blue Mountain Middle School in Pennsylvania in 2007 when she was suspended for 10 days after creating a MySpace profile mocking the school principal, James McGonigle. Her parents sued the school district on her behalf for violating her First Amendment rights and their due process rights to discipline their child as they wished.

Both the district court and a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit found in favor of the school district. However, when the full Third Circuit court reheard the case along with an extremely similar one, Layshock v. Hermitage School District, it found in favor of the students in both cases.

CASE 2: The…er….Douchebag Matter

On April 25, a panel of judges from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that Connecticut student Avery Doninger’s First Amendment rights were not violated when she was prevented from running for class office, and later prevented from accepting the office she was elected to by write-in ballot, after calling school administrators “douchebags” on her blog in 2007.

The Second Circuit determined that the district had been “objectively reasonable” in their decision to punish her for her blog post. It granted the district immunity from the lawsuit but did not address whether Doninger’s rights were violated.

Doninger attorney John Schoenhorn wrote in an email that he intends to ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal in this case as well because the conflict between the Second Circuit and Third Circuit’s decisions could create confusion.

Here’s a more detailed account of the Doninger case.

Let us hope that the Supremes take on or both cases as the arguments will be interesting.


LAUSD AND THE NEW HOMEWORK POLICY

The LA Times Howard Blume writes about the Los Angeles Unified School District’s new homework policy, and how it is not a simple wrong/right matter.

Here’s how it opens:

Vanessa Perez was a homework scofflaw. The Marshall High School senior didn’t finish all of it — largely because she worked 24 hours a week at a Subway sandwich shop.

Alvaro Ramirez, a junior at the Santee Education Complex, doesn’t have his own room and his mother baby-sits young children at night. “They’re always there and they’re always loud,” he said, explaining his challenges with homework.

The nation’s second-largest school system has decided to give students like these a break. A new policy decrees that homework can count for only 10% of a student’s grade.

Critics — mostly teachers — worry that the policy will encourage students to slack off assigned work and even reward those who already disregard assignments. And they say it could penalize hardworking students who receive higher marks for effort.

Some educators also object to a one-size-fits-all mandate they said could hamstring teaching or homogenize it. They say, too, that students who do their homework perform significantly better than those who don’t — a view supported by research.

But Los Angeles Unified is pressing forward.….


IS THE LOCKE TAKEOVER BY GREEN DOT WORKING? A REPORT CARD

It’s been three years since Green Dot Charter Schools fought for and won the right to take over and try to transform LAUSD’s desperately failing Locke High School. So how is the grand experiment doing?

An LA Times editorial says the progress is not exactly dramatic, yet it is slow, steady and in small increments.

That’s what I’ve heard too. In my experience, however, some miracles occur, not in a blinding flash of light, but in slow motion. Yet they are miracles nonetheless. Maybe the changes at Locke could be said to fall in that category.

Let us hope so.

The editorial is a good one. Here’s a clip. But read it all.

How did Green Dot do at stemming the tide of students who disappear from campus into lives usually plagued by high unemployment and low wages? Solidly better, but not the quick and extraordinary transformation everyone had hoped for. Not yet, anyway.

Charter schools are not the ultimate solution to bad public schools; rather, the solution lies in improving public schools so that they have adequate resources, good teachers and a stimulating curriculum. Like many charter operators, Green Dot has had financial help from outside foundations, help that isn’t available to most public schools.

Still, well-run charter schools have played a valuable role in pressuring public schools to improve, and they can be a lifeline to students who are sinking in crummy neighborhood schools or, in many cases, leaving school far too soon. In the case of Locke, the switch appears to be working, albeit more slowly and haltingly than Green Dot expected.

The charter operator deserves praise for its massive and earnest effort at Locke. It was the first charter school in Los Angeles to accept all of the students within its attendance boundaries, just as public schools do, rather than restricting enrollment and accepting students through a lottery. Students who choose their charter schools are motivated to follow the rules and achieve; public schools take all comers. The Locke takeover served as the model for L.A. Unified’s Public School Choice initiative, in which new schools and some failing schools were turned over to outside groups that filed the most promising applications. Some of those were groups of teachers, others were charter schools. All had to follow Green Dot’s example and admit all students within their enrollment boundaries.


BILL WANTS TO ABOLISHED THE DEATH PENALTY IN CALIFORNIA

Don Thompson of the AP has the story. Here’s how it opens:

A state lawmaker on Monday introduced a bill seeking a public vote on whether California should abolish capital punishment and convert death sentences to life in prison, citing a study that said most condemned inmates die of suicide or old age despite billions in taxpayer costs.

Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock, of Berkeley, said the state can no longer afford the cost of trying capital cases, defending them through a lengthy appeals process and housing inmates in the nation’s most populous death row.

She cited a study prepared by Judge Arthur L. Alarcon of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell that calls the capital punishment system “a multibillion-dollar fraud on California taxpayers.”

Their analysis, to be published next month, estimates California has spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. In that time, California has executed just 13 inmates, which works out to $308 million per execution.

“Capital punishment is an expensive failure and an example of the dysfunction of our prisons,” Hancock said in a statement. “California’s death row is the largest and most costly in the United States. It is not helping to protect our state; it is helping to bankrupt us.”

Yeah. What she said.

NBC San Diego also has a report on the bill.

Posted in academic freedom, California budget, Civil Liberties, Death Penalty, Education, Green Dot, Supreme Court | No Comments »

LAPPL Predictibly Opposes Measure L & OC DA Criminalizes Campus Protest

February 10th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon



TWO WRONG-HEADED DECISIONS THAT ASK FOR OUR ATTENTION

THE POLICE UNION Vs. THE LA PUBLIC LIBRARIES

I wish this was not grindingly predictable that the LAPD’s union, the LAPPL, would come out against Measure L, the item on the March 8 ballot that would set aside funding for the Los Angeles Public Library system.

In a statement put out Wednesday, union president Paul Weber made the usual dire predictions. Measure L will force cuts in police, fire and public safety, blah, blah, blah.

The LA Weekly detailed the deep and shameful cuts to the LA Public Library system last year in their excellent cover story by Patrick Range McDonald, City of Airheads, which showed that Los Angeles stood alone among big cities in failing to protect its libraries.

Many public library systems — the five biggies are Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles — have faced an ugly two years of recession-spawned budget cuts and trimmed hours. Yet political leaders who control the purse strings for the biggest cities fought and saved their libraries from severe harm.

The city that has not done that is Los Angeles.

Measure L was, in part, a response. Granted, it didn’t help the union’s attitude toward the ballot measure, that it was proposed by Councilman Bernard Parks who, one could plausibly argue, has never scene an opportunity to stick it to the Los Angeles Police Department he didn’t like.

As the LA Weekly points out in a Wednesday night blogpost, Measure L doesn’t raise new $$ but rather sets aside a certain portion of property tax dollars as sacrosanct for the city’s libraries. This kind of ballot box budgeting can be a dicey strategy in that it ties the hands of lawmakers to move all funds around as needed. But given the council’s unwillingness to protect LA’s library system, supporters feel it is necessary, in this instance, for the citizenry to step in.

As Councilman Park’s chief of staff (and son) Bernard Parks Jr. noted,” Public safety already accounts for 70 percent of the city’s general fund.” That 70 percent should be enough. Public safety is important. But it is also important to feed the minds of our children by protecting their libraries.

So to the LAPPL, please sit down. We got this one.


CRIMINALIZING CAMPUS PROTEST

I’ve been meaning to comment on the troubling decision of Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to bring criminal misdemeanor charges against 11 Muslim Student Union UC Irvine students who heckled and otherwise disrupted the on campus speech of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.

Salon Magazine has presented the issue well. Here’s a clip from their story.

The Orange County district attorney has brought highly unusual misdemeanor charges against 11 Muslim students for disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. at the University of California at Irvine last year, raising questions about the First Amendment and the criminalization of protest on campus.

The case has generated competing free speech claims, with both sides arguing they have the Constitution on their side. Supporters of the so-called Irvine 11, including progressive Jewish groups, have argued that the prosecution is politically motivated because of the explosive nature of the Israel-Palestine issue and because the students are Muslim.

Ambassador Michael Oren came to speak last February at U.C. Irvine, which has been the site of tensions over Israel-Palestine for several years. Members of the Muslim Student Union took turns interrupting the speech every few minutes, calling Oren, who is an Israeli Defense Forces veteran, “an accomplice to genocide” and a “mass murderer.” Each student briefly stood up, shouting a sentence or two, then walked to the aisle and was arrested by police and escorted out. After four interruptions, Oren took a 20-minute break, according to news reports at the time. He was then interrupted another six times before a group of protesters left the lecture hall. Oren then finished his speech.

In response to the incident, the U.C. Irvine administration revoked the charter of the Muslim Student Union for a year and disciplined the students involved. [Ed. note: Which should have been good enough.]

Now, after a year-long investigation that included issuing search warrants and convening a grand jury to interview witnesses, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has brought charges against 11 students for “conspiring and disrupting a lawful assembly.”

Let me repeat that: Rackauckas, in all seriousness, convened a grand jury and issued search warrants about a campus protest. Your tax dollars at work. How is this a bad precedent? Let me count the ways.

The Jewish Journal reports that a hundred UCI faculty members have called on the OC DA to drop the charges.


Photo by Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Posted in academic freedom, art and culture, LAPPL | 13 Comments »

Idiotic PC-ness versus Mark Twain, History, Literature and Intelligent Discourse

January 6th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


If I had to choose one novel above all others to represent the glories of American literature
it would be The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It’s not perfect. Many critics, myself included, believe that Twain stumbles slightly when he reintroduces Tom Sawyer in the last quarter of the book. But, like the flaws purposely woven into Navaho rugs so as not to displease the spirits, the fact that this masterpiece has one or two dangling threads only serves to humanize Twain’s incandescent genius.

This week, however, week, NewSouth Books, a publisher based in Montgomery, Alabama, decided it was going to improve on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by removing some of the icky words notably found in the text.

First among those words is, of course, the “N” word. Nigger. This appears 219 times in Huck Finn. NewSouth has decided to replace the offending word with “slave.”

The publisher has also replaced “injun”—as in Injun Joe”— with “Indian.”

As my friend Tod Goldberg put it on Facebook: “In other news, the latest edition of The Things They Carried will no longer contain mention of the Vietnam war.”

NewSouth’s editing gambit is exactly that mind-bendingly stupid.

Another pal, David Ulin, had this to say in the LA Times:

To give their project credibility, NewSouth teamed with Alan Gribben, chair of the English department at Alabama’s Auburn University, to do the clean-up job. According to Publishers Weekly, Gribben was motivated by his own deep discomfort over the novel’s language and by the reactions of younger readers. “After a number of talks,” he told PW, “I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person, they said we would love to teach … ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.”

I agree: The N-word is not acceptable -- although I’m not sure “slave” is much of an improvement, with its unthinking conflation of servitude and race. Like professor Gribben, I’ve discussed “Huckleberry Finn” in the classroom, and it is always difficult and awkward to work around that word. This, however, is precisely why it needs to remain part of our experience of “Huckleberry Finn.”

Literature, after all, is not there to reassure us; it’s supposed to reveal us, in all our contradictory complexity. The fact that it makes us uncomfortable is part of the point — like all great art, it demands that we confront our half-truths and self-deceptions, the justifications and evasions by which we measure out our daily lives.

Huck is a perfect case in point, a rebel who can’t reconcile his love for the escaped slave Jim with his cultural indoctrination, who goes back and forth about whether his companion is fully a human being.

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell,” he announces when he finally decides the matter. The choice of words is telling, since in choosing not to return Jim to slavery, Huck articulates the central moral argument of the book. This is the point Twain is making, that there is a difference between custom and conscience, between social convention and the ethics of the individual. At the heart of this is the issue of language, the words we use and how we use them, and what they tell us about the reality we construct.

The passage below from Huck Finn—that Ulin quotes in part— is one of the most important in American letters. To remove the “N word because of its obvious offensiveness is to willfully deny the central point that Twain was making about our nation’s horrifically injurious past in which a boy could, no kidding, believe that he would be condemned to hell for considering a black man a person.

Whitewashing that historically truthful moment in Twain’s book is what causes the real damage-–not the appropriate and contextual use of the wounding word in question.

So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter- and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather, right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

Miss Watson your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. HUCK FINN

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”- and tore it up.

Yes, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn draws blood.

It’s supposed to.


PS: Both the NY Times and the LA Times have editorials on the matter in their Thursday editions.


AND IN OTHER NEWS….DR. ATUL GWANDE ON SOLITARY CONFINEMENT AS TORTURE

Gawande’s 2009 New Yorker article on the topic, “Hellhole” is important and unforgettable. He recaps and expands on the issue on Democracy Now.


OHIO PRISONERS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE AFTER 17-YEARS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

And while we’re on the subject:

… Four prisoners at the supermax Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown have gone on a hunger strike to protest their solitary confinement. Their only demand: that they be moved to the state’s Death Row.

The prisoners—Bomani Shakur, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb
and Namir Abdul Mateen—were sentenced to death for their involvement in the 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville, Ohio, in which a guard and several inmates were killed. They have now been in 23-hour-a-day solitary for more than 17 years. Based on the nature of their crime, they are being denied the privileges given others on Death Row in Ohio, and condemned to permanent isolation.

The Youngstown Vindicator has the more complete story.

Posted in academic freedom, American artists, art and culture, arts, Freedom of Information | 36 Comments »

The ALA’s List of Top 10 Most Challenged Books (OMG!)

April 16th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

burning_book

For the past 20 years, the American Library Association has collected reports of book
challenges in the US.

A “challenge,” in ALA parlance means “a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed or restricted because of content or appropriateness.”

The ALA has just released its list of the Top 10 most challenged books for 2009. In past years Harry Potter books have often found themselves at number one. (The series does top the ALA list of most challenged books of the decade—2000-2009.) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Of Mice and Men are also perennial challenge favorites.

But this year the highest (if dubious) honor goes to ttyl, a best selling young adult series written entirely as IMs—instant messages.

Here’s the full 2009 list. (Every year, I find it sobering all over again—and not really in a good way.)

1. ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality

3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

6. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

8. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

10. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group


ON AN UNRELATED TOPIC– GOOD FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA FOR ORDERING NEW RULES GRANTING HOSPITAL VISITING RIGHTS FOR SAME SEX PARTNERS

Here’s a clip from the NY Times report on the order:

The White House announced the rule changes, which will also make it easier for gay men and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners, in a memorandum released Thursday night. In it, the president said the new rules would affect any hospital that participates in Medicare or Medicaid, the government programs to cover the elderly and the poor.

“Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides,” Mr. Obama said in the memorandum, adding that the rules could also help widows and widowers who rely on friends and members of religious orders who care for one another. But he says gay men and lesbians are “uniquely affected” because they are often barred from visiting partners with whom they have spent decades.

It will take time to draft, says the White House. But it’s progress nonetheless.

Posted in academic freedom, writers and writing | 2 Comments »

The UC Strike….and a Teachable Moment

September 24th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Naked-Walkout


Today, Thursday, September 24,
is the first day of classes for nearly all University of California students. (UC Berkeley for some reason started earlier.)

It is also the day of a system-wide strike in which a great many faculty, students and UC staff plan to walk out in order to protest a bunch of the policies and cuts of that have been instituted by the University of California President Mark Yudof and the UC Board of Regents in the wake of California’s ghastly budget cuts, which snipped 4 percent out of the the University of California’s budget. (To kick things off, UC Davis held a “naked” protest yesterday, pictured above.)

In order to balance the budget, 100,000 full-time UC employees got a 4-10 percent cut in pay, plus mandatory furloughs.

This has meant fewer classes offered to students and pared down educational services while at the same time students are being hit by a 9.3 percent increase in tuition—with more tuition hikes slated.

Plus there is the little matter of some upper echelon UC employees getting raises rather than cuts.

Bottom line: although everyone understands that cuts were necessary, students, staff and faculty are pretty unhappy at the way those cuts have been done.

The Bay Guardian and the SF Chron have additional details. (For the striker’s POV there this much forwarded open letter from UC Berkeley professor, Catherine Cole.)


I teach at one of the UCs. To be specific, I drive to UC Irvine to teach a journalism workshop that meets once a week for three hours. My first class of the Fall quarter is not until Friday so thankfully I am not faced with the unholy choice of either not supporting my striking colleagues (not good) or yanking away from my 20 students of one tenth of their ever-more-costly instructional time. (Really not good. Ten weeks isn’t long enough as it is.)

The novelist Susan Straight was not as fortunate with her schedule. Susan is a longtime faculty member at UC Riverside. Unlike me, her first class is September 24, the day of the strike. In Wednesday’s LA Times she wrote about how she intends to resolve the dilemma. And because Susan is wonderful Susan, she also wrote about writing and teaching in general and about life.

You’ll be missing out if you don’t read the whole thing, but here’s a clip from the middle of the essay:

….Over the years, some people have said to me that it’s frivolous to teach writing — compared with a practical skill like auto mechanics or biology or engineering. But I say that each of my students who learned to tell a story, who taught someone else how to tell a story, who read a story and thought about it and kept it inside until its meaning was clear, learned something vital. The world runs on stories. It is how we humans survive.

What I tried to give them, and what I hope to give my students this fall, is the power that comes with the freedom to write about themselves, to tell their own stories and the stories of their communities, populated by people they know, real or imagined.

My students are like me: Often the first in their families to attend college. I say to them, you have stories no one else has, and you write about places no one else does, and you give voice to people no one else knows. Don’t let anyone tell you that a Huntington Beach surfer’s story doesn’t deserve to be told (that student went on to teach English in Japan). Don’t ever let anyone tell you a migrant farmworker picking grapes in Coachella doesn’t deserve poetry (that student teaches at the New School in New York City).

What to do tomorrow, then?

I agree passionately with the demands behind the strike. My sister-in-law is a custodian at UC Riverside, a single mother of three. Close friends work as clerical staff or in food service. Anyone who makes less than $40,000 a year should be insulated from the cuts. The faculty, the students and all of us who “own” UC should know precisely how it is spending its money. The faculty should not be powerless, and the latest tuition increases — 50% by the time this academic year is over — only make it all worse.

And yet, what is the right thing to do?

Read her solution here.


Photo by Renée C. Byer for the Sacramento Bee rbyer@sacbee.com

Posted in academic freedom, California budget, Education | 16 Comments »

Jonathan Lopez, LA City College and “Free Speech 101″

February 27th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

imprisoned_speech.jpg

In this morning’s editorial the LA Times says, at a bit more length, what we said a week ago
about the case of the the speech making class at LACC, the Christian student, Jonathan Lopez, and the idiot teacher who tried to shut Lopez up.

Here’s a clip or two:

If Lopez’s claims – including allegations that his teacher, John Matteson, called him a “fascist bastard” and told him to “ask God what your grade is” — are accurate, Matteson’s behavior was unconscionable. Even in a college classroom, where there is a tradition of professors provoking lively discussion, his words would be a violation of a professional trust. The teacher also would have crossed a legal line. As Lopez’s lawyers point out in their federal complaint, the courts have ruled that public schools may not discriminate against student speech because it is religious in character.

[SNIP]

Some might say that Lopez’s discussion of how his faith shaped his view that marriage is between a man and a woman was polemical, not informative. (A different assignment required students to deliver a “persuasive” speech.) That’s a quibble. Lopez was informing his audience about his views; that they were rooted in religion is irrelevant.

So is the fact that two students were offended by Lopez’s speech, calling it “hateful propaganda” and “preaching hate.” As long as he was opposing same-sex marriage on religious grounds — and not harassing individual students — he was making an argument that figured prominently in the public debate about Proposition 8. It’s not an argument this page finds persuasive, but we wouldn’t try to suppress it. Neither should a college preparing students to live in a contentious democracy.

On Lopez’s evaluation form, Matteson wrote that proselytizing “is inappropriate in public school.” If he’s referring to himself and other teachers, he’s correct. If he’s referring to college students expressing their views in an open forum, he deserves a failing grade in Free Speech 101.

Posted in academic freedom, Education, Free Speech | 2 Comments »

Two Green Dot Schools Among US News’ 100 Best

December 12th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

gold-high-schools-hi-res.jpg

The US News and World Report has announced their 2009 list
of America’s 100 best high schools.

In the article, which may be found here, the magazine tells how—together with their project partner School Matters— they evaluated a total of 21,069 public high schools , out of which 1,925 were recognized for considerably outperforming their state’s standards. In that group, there were 604 schools that also were “found to be doing an excellent job of preparing students for college-level coursework.” Then out of the 604, USN found 100 that ” performed the best in our three-step America’s Best High Schools analysis.”

Two of Green Dot’s charter high schools were in that top 100.

Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High was 53rd on the list.

And Animo Inglewood Charter High School was 94th.

I know I natter on a lot about Green Dot on this site. And, look: I don’t think they’re perfect by a long shot. They’ve got a good model, but in some of the newer schools there are ups and downs as they continue to refine their stroke, so to speak.

But they’re doing an awful lot right, as this ranking suggests. And they’re doing it in areas of town where students have been chronically underserved to the point of what often constituted grinding neglect.

Oscar de la Hoya, which was originally located in Boyle Heights, opened its doors to kids who’d been failing in other East LA Schools. At De La Hoya, they began to thrive. (I watched it happen with a couple of kids I knew well, who had crashed and burned at their local public school, and then first began to feel capable at De La Hoya.)

So when, one wonders, are Green Dot’s critics (cough–teachers union—cough) going to decide to do all they can to replicate the best aspects of these school’s successes—- rather than peevishly opposing them?

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PS: While we’re on the subject, here is a video of the three Locke student’s self-taped reactions to the documentary ion the Green Dot charter conversion of Locke High School in which they were profiled.

Posted in academic freedom, Education, Green Dot | 1 Comment »

Cut Education, Wound the Economy?

March 27th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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Two thousand students, administrators and education advocates
gathered at Cal State Long Beach on Wednesday afternoon to send a message to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that the proposed $313 million dollar cut out of the California State University system will not only do harm to students, but it will have an adverse affect on the economy.

Among other things, say CSU officials,
the cuts are set to feature a ten percent student fee increase, and could reduce planned CSU enrollment by up to 10,000 students.

The University of California system is targeted for a similar hit.

Republican lawmakers don’t want to raise taxes, said one speaker, but students are “are swimming in taxes, which we call fees.”

Other CSUs like San Diego State and Sacramento State have also held rallies.

In Sacramento, 900 Sacramento State administrators,
faculty, staff, students and alumni packed the University Theater and several additional rooms to listen to speakers.

California Faculty Association President Lila Jacobs led a chant of “Stop the cuts,” and then outlined the stakes. “We graduate teachers, nurses, engineers, police, state workers; we graduate the infrastructure,” she said. “When we can’t do our job, the whole state is negatively impacted.”

California State University Employees Union President Pat Gantt added that cuts to the CSU budget will harm all Californians. “CSU is part of the American dream because without a prepared workforce, California cannot move forward,” he said.


Arnold and both Dem and Repub state lawmakers would be wise to listen.

Posted in academic freedom, Economy, Education, State government, State politics | 29 Comments »

The Return of the Chemerinski

September 17th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

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Deals have been struck. Kisses have been exchanged.
Troths have been plighted. Mutual non-proliferation treaties have been signed. Drake and Chemerinksy are NBFs, reports the LA Times.

Drake traveled over the weekend to Durham, N.C., where Chemerinsky is a professor at Duke University, and the two reached an agreement about midnight Sunday, the sources said.

Cool. All’s well that ends well.


(photo, Duke Law Magazine)

Posted in academic freedom, Education, Free Speech | 20 Comments »

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