America’s Promissory Note . . . Still Outstanding

bart-simpson-chalkboard-wallpaper-generatorIn a startling article in the New York Times, columnist Charles M. Blow lays out some statistics published in a recent UNICEF report that should equally appall and inspire us. He writes,

According to the report, the United States has the second highest share of children living under the relative poverty line, defined as 50 percent of each country’s median income, and the second largest “child poverty gap” (the distance between the poverty line and the median incomes of those below the line).

The United States ranked 25th out of 29 in the percentage of people 15 to 19 years old who were enrolled in schools and colleges and 23rd in the percentage of people in that cohort not participating in either education, employment or training.

When we consider the gravity of the challenges these young people face, both in terms of early educational opportunities and educational outcomes, we can’t help but confront our own moral and ethical responsibility to fulfill what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”

We must work together to reverse these trends and actualize a better tomorrow . . . starting today.

Below are some additional facts Mr 100mg viagra. Blow provided that are both sobering and enlightening.

In fact, according to data released last month by the Children’s Defense Fund, each day in America:

2 mothers die in childbirth.

4 children are killed by abuse or neglect.

5 children or teens commit suicide.

7 children or teens are killed by firearms.

67 babies die before their first birthdays.

892 babies are born at low birth weight.

914 babies are born to teen mothers.

1,208 babies are born without health insurance.

1,825 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.

2,712 babies are born into poverty.

2,857 high school students drop out.

4,475 babies are born to unmarried mothers.

Image: Simpson Chalkboard Generator
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Year at Mission Hill, Chapter 5: The Eye of the Dragon

missionhillSo much of the language that we know to be valuable in education comes alive at Mission Hill. Art. Empowerment. Choice. Voice. Inspiration. Creativity. Student experts. Student teachers. Community.

Every year they employ a school wide theme that aims for depth and breadth throughout the school. This year’s, “Long Ago and Far Away,” and the students share a seam of study (though not necessarily specific content) that everyone can relate to, no matter the age.

Year at Mission Hill, Chapter 4 Love and Limits

Working and playing — essential components of learning and keystones for establishing both the love and limits that create a safe space for each student. The question of how to best set appropriate boundaries within a loving context became all the more important because Mission Hill is a full inclusion school, meaning students with exceptionalities are not pulled out and separated from their peers.

This chapter unpacks the false dichotomy between social emotional learning and academic learning, looking instead at how they inform one another.

Breeding Civilty With Civility

2680397236_29306068f8_bA recent “Grey Matter” piece in the New York Times Sunday Review entitled “This Story Stinks” takes a look at the impact comments have on people’s perception of content (in this case, nanotechnology). The goal of the study being reported on was to better understand how civil and  uncivil comments on blogs, digital newspapers, or other Internet hosted domains shape readers’ reactions and opinions.

They split up their study subjects into two samples, both of which read the same article on nanotechnology and then different sets of comments to the piece. The authors, Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele write,

Half of our sample was exposed to civil reader comments and the other half to rude ones — though the actual content, length and intensity of the comments, which varied from being supportive of the new technology to being wary of the risks, were consistent across both groups. The only difference was that the rude ones contained epithets or curse words, as in: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” and “You’re stupid if you’re not thinking of the risks for the fish and other plants and animals in water tainted with silver.”

The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.

In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.

While the focus of this particular study was on Internet user comments, and on a very specific subject topic, it would not be hard to see how these micro trends might play out in schools and classrooms.

Do student comments influence how other students perceive an activity, information, or learning experience?

Can civil or incivil discussions supplement or distort students’ perceptions of knowledge, opinions, and even themselves?

Do words directed at others shape self concept, both negatively and positively?

To these questions, I would resoundingly answer, “YES!”

The language of schools and learning communities very much shape the culture, attitudes and norms of any particular institution or group. If our goal is the cultivation of life-long learners who are capable of collaboration, creativity, and effective communication toward solving problems, civility must not only be embraced by schools as a worthwhile theory, but actively taught, modeled and practiced.

As this study suggests, incivility breeds polarization. And as we have seen all too often in Washington D.C., polarization breeds paralysis. Before “achievement,” we must consider the intellectual, social, and emotional well-being of each and every student and stop at nothing to ensure students feel safe to listen, share, and learn.

Photo Credit: eric Hews via Compfight cc
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