Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's not looking good for my 8th graders

The NY Times reports today that fewer than one in 10 black and Hispanic kids in NYC graduate with a Regents Diploma. I'll try not to think about that while I'm helping my kids (almost all of whom are black and Hispanic) fill out their applications today and tomorrow.

Real Solutions on Immigration

Great common sense op-ed by Douglass Massey in the Washington Post that everyone should read now that Bush and some Republicans seem determined to make immigration a wedge issue.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

High Expectations

As part of the after school program for 8th graders, I've been trying to get the kids (and parents) to take the high school application process seriously since September. I've had a couple of workshops, taken trips to local high schools and have spent a lot time talking about it with individual kids, but it wasn't until this week (applications are due this Friday) that everyone seemed to find the high school book. So it's been crazy this week talking to dozens of kids that want to go to a good high school but really have no idea what they're doing. The process of choosing a high school is incredibly complicated for a good student, and most of my kids are LEP or have really bad grades and test scores from 7th grade (which is what the high schools look at).

So instead of telling my kids that they can go to the really nice high schools, I'm forced to find ones that take students with lower test scores. New York seems to provide options to kids like this because of all the small schools that are opening up, but it feels terrible to dissuade them from applying to wonderful schools like Townsend Harris (I do have one girl who might get in, which would be really great). I just finished reading Kozol's "Ordinary Resurrections" about the South Bronx and he discusses the problems he has with the more realistic expectations held by educators and social workers that he respects. He feels like even though many kids in poor neighborhoods won't make it to college, it's wrong to limit their opportunities by assuming that they can't be doctors and lawyers (for example). I agree with him, even as I find myself succumbing to the same pressures. I know that going to a neighborhood school isn't the worst thing in the world for my 8th graders, and I'm getting ready to take them on college visits to show them that I expect them to be serious in high school. But I also know that going to college from some of these high schools will be tough for them. It's a tough battle, but hopefully some of these kids will find their way in whatever high school they get into.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

DREAM Act Reintroduced

I haven't seen anything in the big papers about this, but the DREAM Act was re-introduced yesterday (see the National Council of La Raza press release about it here). And here is an excellent article in the NY Sun about immigrant kids with college degrees forced to work low-wage jobs because of their undocumented status.

College Grads Who Are Illegal Immigrants Face Barren Job MarketBY DANIELA
GERSON - Staff Reporter of the SunNovember 22, 2005URL:

Each year, thousands of New York City students earn college degreesand yet have no possibility of finding work. The reason is not a lackof job offers, but because they are illegal immigrants."We have people who graduate at the top of their classes and they can't get jobs," the director of the City University of New York's Citizenship and Immigration Project, Allan Wernick, said yesterday at a City Council hearing. By recent counts, he said, there are 3,000 undocumented students in the CUNY system. Nationally, 65,000 illegal immigrant students are thought to graduate from high school each year. Alfredo, an illegal immigrant who is a senior at Baruch College, is facing the prospect of graduating this spring with a degree in business administration and no potential to work legally. At 10, his parents brought him to Long Island from Guatemala, but it was onlyyears later that he realized the implications of being illegal. "Inever thought it was such
a big issue until I started hitting theroadblocks," the 21-year-old said, noting
that teachers began tonominate him for awards he could not accept without a
Social Securitynumber. On Friday, a glimmer of hope appeared for immigrants such
as Alfredo. The Senate reintroduced legislation that would grant students
the opportunity to become permanent legal residents. If President Bush signs it by
the end of 2006, the bill, known as the Dream Act, would allow students to
receive temporary legal status when they graduate from high school. Upon
completing their studies or military service, the immigrants could then apply for
permanent legal status.
Additionally, the legislation would increase the number of statesoffering instate tuition to undocumented students and make more financial aid available. Unlike most other states across the country, schools in New York offer in-state tuition to immigrant students who have lived in the state, regardless of status.However, even the $4,000 tuition for senior colleges in the CUNYsystem or $2,800 for junior colleges can be a stretch for some immigrants. A teacher with dozens of undocumented students at Flushing High School in Queens, Martha Cruz, said some of her best students could not join their peers in college because their illegal status bars them from most forms of financial aid."I have one who graduated with over an 83 average and he's working at McDonald's because he wants to save to go to college, plus he has to help out at home," Ms. Cruz said. "If they continue to be undocumented they will work menial jobs." In Alfredo's case, his parents rented out two rooms in their Long Island house so he could attend Baruch. Unable to work legally while in college, he has helped cover his educationfees by working at restaurants for under-the-table pay.The evident humanitarian and economic case for providing students who had no choice in immigrating illegally to America with a chance to study and work make it a fairly popular bill. Critics, nonetheless, say it is a
sugar-coated amnesty rewarding illegality. Still, the Dream Act is generally
considered the immigrationlegislation most likely to pass next term. Senators
Clinton andSchumer were both cosigners of the initial bill but have not
yetsigned on to the reintroduced bill.For Alfredo, who is heading a campaign
with the CUNY Senate's newlyformed immigration committee to bring attention to
the issue, theDream Act is a question of practicality. "Without it there's
really nofuture for me. Even though I will have a bachelor's degree, I'm
goingto have to work some low-wage job," he said. "It makes sense forAmerica to
let me participate as much as I can."November 22, 2005 Edition >

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sending Immigrant Kids Back Home

Interesting NY Sun article about Chinese immigrant mothers in NYC sending their babies back to China because they can't afford childcare in the city, are afraid to apply for subsidized childcare if they're undocumented, and because they're working too much. The kids usually come back to start school here, but have trouble learning English and adjusting to the US. The Latino families I work with generally don't have the option of sending their kids home (or just don't want to), but they seem to really struggle to find childcare when both parents work.

It should be worth it to Bloomy to make an effort to provide affordable childcare for immigrant families, if only to start investing now in these kids' futures. No reason to focus all the attention on test scores in elementary and middle school when some immigrant kids are being left behind a lot earlier.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

new orleans school takeover .. ?

Just wanted to make sure that everyone knew about this big story: the Louisiana legislature approved Gov. Blanco's proposed state takeover of many New Orleans schools. Commentary to come ...

Monday, November 14, 2005


This just in from my professor:

Sent Monday, November 14, 2005 8:53 pm
Subject Tuesday meeting place

Yes, we have a place to meet tomorrow:

McDonald's ... they will allow us to meet upstairs so even if they have that area blocked off when you go in - fear not - they are expecting us and our discussion of Dewey.

Nutrition aside, please try to buy something as you come in..... as thanks....

Now THERE's an ethical dilemma for you. I haven't stepped into a McDonalds in many, many years. Not that I really have a choice in the matter. But an interesting question still: which is worse, patronizing a university that union-busts, or patronizing one of the more evil companies in the world?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

El Seviche

My school recently had its annual "Multicultural Festival", which actually turned out to be really nice. Most of the immigrant students in the after school program produced some great displays about their native countries, but it was the work of the kids who barely remembered being out of the U.S. that was particularly interesting. Some of them really got into looking up information and recalling tiny details of their old house or relatives. For these kids, it seemed, food was the most direct connection to their homeland - a Peruvian kid wrote a long, detailed essay about how his family in Lima prepares El Seviche (a typical seafood dish from South America usually spelled Ceviche), and a kid from Honduras drew a nice picture of a rice and beans plate that was his favorite. One kid who left Mexico when he was four was frustrated and a little embarrassed for most of one afternoon because he couldn't remember much about his village, but later talked to me for a long time about how much he loved thinking about the desert and the wide-open spaces in Mexico.

There have been a lot of problems with ethnic and racial tensions in the school recently (more on that in the next post), but it was really nice to see so many of the kids show some pride and emotion when talking about their countries.

Monday, November 07, 2005

More always enlightening

Paul Krugman, one of the school of bloggers' favorite columnists, writes about healthcare in his column today.

It's one of our favorite topics too (past posts here and here), so I'll risk whatever consequences it may bring and post excerpts from the column for those of you not graced with Times Select.

Here's the nut graf:

The funny thing is that the solution - national health insurance, available to everyone - is obvious. But to see the obvious we'll have to overcome pride - the unwarranted belief that America has nothing to learn from other countries - and prejudice - the equally unwarranted belief, driven by ideology, that private insurance is more efficient than public insurance.

Huhhhh?? He explains further:

The journal Health Affairs recently published the results of a survey of the medical experience of "sicker adults" in six countries, including Canada, Britain, Germany and the United States. The responses don't support claims about superior service from the U.S. system. It's true that Americans generally have shorter waits for elective surgery than Canadians or Britons, although German waits are even shorter. But Americans do worse by some important measures: we find it harder than citizens of other advanced countries to see a doctor when we need one, and our system is more, not less, rife with medical errors.

Above all, Americans are far more likely than others to forgo treatment because they can't afford it. Forty percent of the Americans surveyed failed to fill a prescription because of cost. A third were deterred by cost from seeing a doctor when sick or from getting recommended tests or follow-up.

Krugman, I have observed this phenomenon in my own employer-provided health insurance plan. In fact, it has been nearly impossible to find a doctor who actually exists and who will see me. Why is this?

The U.S. system is much more bureaucratic, with much higher administrative costs, than those of other countries, because private insurers and other players work hard at trying not to pay for medical care. And our fragmented system is unable to bargain with drug companies and other suppliers for lower prices.

Always enlightening

zwichenzug has a good analysis of the importance of the NYU grad worker strike.

Friday, November 04, 2005

academia's corporate apologists strike again

Dear NYU Student,

The United Auto Workers union has announced that it has decided to proceed with a “strike.” I want to reassure you that classes will continue to go forward and we will do our best to minimize the impact of any disruption the UAW may cause.

As you know, the University entered into a contract with the UAW in 2001, the first and only private university to do so. We had choices, but we decided to enter into a contract because the union committed – in writing – not to interfere with NYU’s academic decision-making. Regrettably, they broke that promise. In so doing, they damaged a genuine opportunity for partnership. Remarks from the union leadership, as recently as this past week, establish that they continue to believe that grievances of academic decisions, including who should be appointed to teach, are appropriate.

Still, in August we proposed a new agreement: recognition of the UAW as the bargaining agent for our graduate students on economic matters (stipends, health care, employment conditions), but not academic matters. We made this proposal to bridge the goals important to the University and the UAW. The union unambiguously rejected the proposal.

We have tried to find a way to make it work with the UAW, twice. At some point, one must turn from trying to mend an imperfect past and towards creating a better future.

So, we have implemented increases in stipends ($1000 per year for three years), and a commitment to an “evergreen” look ahead to enable graduate students to know the financial aid support three years in advance. A committee of graduate student representatives has begun work on a new grievance procedure and a rights-and-responsibility compact.

The UAW is now threatening to disrupt classes. In moving forward after the UAW rejected our proposal, the University was aware that the UAW might threaten class disruptions. You are entitled to ask “Is this worth it?” The answer to that question lies not in whether the autoworkers union chooses to disrupt classes, but in whether the University’s decision advances or erodes NYU’s long-term efforts to achieve academic excellence. Along with many others on campus, I believe it will advance them.

NYU values the freedom to express differences of opinion. In an academic environment, however, disrupting classes is not an appropriate form of expression. An academic institution and its faculty must be committed to classes going forward, to teaching and learning continuing, and to supporting all its students – including its graduate assistants – as they pursue their education. In a community of scholars, this is our vocation, and it is the right course. Despite what may happen over the coming days, we cherish all of our students. We will remain committed to them, to their studies, and to their scholarly aspirations, and to your academic progress.

David McLaughlin, Provost

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Get on the bus ..

.. is hosting this week's carnival.

NYU grad students to strike

The NYU graduate employees have voted to strike. The professor who teaches my "Inquiries into Teaching and Learning" class told us that if they strike, she will not cross the picket line, and we'll have class off-campus. She's an adjunct, and apparently adjuncts went on strike at NYU a few years ago, although I'm not sure if that has anything to do with her decision to move class.