Thursday, December 18, 2008

Map of Newark Public Housing Complexes

Project Abstract- Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is the discrepancy between people who have access to new information and communication tools, such as the internet, as well the skills, knowledge and abilities to use the technologies and those who do not. The digital divide has been studied, analyzed and is well documented in the report Falling through the Net: Toward Total Digital Inclusion, published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Economic and Statistics Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. According to the reported statistics, Newark, New Jersey has a dismal income scenario as well as many other factors that attribute to the digital divide. The proposed project will not only provide a resource to information technology, but also allow low-income residents in Newark, New Jersey to learn data cabling and other important skills to be competitive in the job market with those who have the access to these technologies and possess necessary technical skills. The internet as well as technical ability is a clear necessity in the modern world, opening doors to education and employment. The digital divide is apparent in Newark and needs to be addressed immediately to impede long-lasting affects of social and technological injustices; this report is the first step at addressing and solving the issue.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trans-Hudson-Express Tunnel- FEIS Approved

As a former employee of THE Tunnel Partnership and a contributor to the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and I am excited to see alot of hard work come into fruition. By 2020, THE Tunnel will be built, there will be 28 more trains in and out of the city and more jobs for NJ Transit. Ridership is expected to peek, which is great for decreasing traffic congestion and pollution. Very exciting news and I am proud to have been a part of such a landmark engineering effort. Below is the article detailing the approval of the FEIS. Access to the Region's Core is the parent project with THE Tunnel being the subsidiary project.

Environmental impact statement clears for new Hudson rail tunnel
by Brian T. Murray/The Star-Ledger
Tuesday November 11, 2008, 5:56 AM

Federal authorities have approved a final environmental impact statement for the new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, clearing an important hurdle to federal matching funds for a proposed project that will cost $8.7 billion.
Gov. Jon Corzine, who is getting heat from Republican legislators for proposing to fund New Jersey's share of the price-tag through highway toll hikes, Monday called the Federal Transit Administration's approval a "major milestone" for a project that "will greatly enrich commuter rail service between New Jersey and New York."
The project aims to double train capacity by building two single- track tunnels under the Hudson River, expand Penn Station in New York City and improve track and signal operations from east of Newark to New York.
The federal approval kicks off a 30-day public comment period, after which the FTA may end an environmental review process and allow agencies involved in the rail tunnel construction to obtain federal funds.
Corzine, echoing remarks made last week by Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, also touted the rail tunnel as a means to boost the economy and get thousands of people in the area working.
"This key federal approval dovetails with our economic recovery plan, which includes a commit ment to major capital projects that can jump-start the state's construction sector and ensure the creations of thousands of jobs for New Jersey residents," Corzine said.
But Republican New Jersey legislators, noting the price tag on what is called the Access to the Region's Core has risen by 14 percent in a year, vowed last week to fight Corzine's plan to hike tolls over the next decade on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike to fund New Jersey's share of the costs. Republicans contend the tolls were never intended for such a venture.
The rail tunnel is a joint effort by the Port Authority, NJ Transit and the state, all of which have promised to pay $5.7 billion. Authorities said they hope to obtain another $3 billion in federal matching funds.

Friday, November 7, 2008

States' Rights/ No Child Left Behind

While I don't agree with No Child Left Behind and its proficiency mandates, I do agree that states must write their own individual tests as well as set standards. I have found that there are stark differences in education throughout the country and what part of the lesson is emphasised. Yes, there is a general curriculum that is taught, but the "frame of reference" of the teacher and the chosen texts are definitely regional. When I lived in the south, I was taught extensively about the Civil War, Robert E. Lee, States' Rights and Slavery. We lived near old, empty plantations and it was part of our lives, like it or not. While were we taught that slavery was morally wrong, we were also taught how the north did not understand how necessary it was for the southern economy. We were also taught that the abolitionists acted in hast and created additional problems for the blacks, as once they were no longer slaves, they were free-men, in a region of the country which was all farms with little to no urban job market. It's apparent to me that those in the north, were taught the same history curriculum, but in a different context completely, therefore the questions posed and answers given on a standardized test would be different as well. We must always remember that history, is "his-story" and different people/states have their own agenda in emphasizing different ideas. Check out this site- States Rights, One of the Causes of the Civil War. In discussion, I found that many who are extremely knowledgeable on historical matters, do not realize (possibly because it was not emphasized during that lesson) the severity of states' rights issues to southern states and though the states rights were given in the Constitution, it was a cause of the civil war because the abolishment of slavery was in itself unconstitutional as the federal government overpowered states' rights. Luckily NCLB at this point has been respectful of states rights allowing each states to dictate what is tested, as they are also aware of what is taught and what is emphasized. From Alaska to Hawaii, from Missisppi to Maine, each state is equally as different as each individual in this country.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

V.I.C.E.(VisionInnovationCreationErudtion) Proposal

Sent to Newark Housing Authority- Oct. 30 2008

Project Abstract
Domain Computer Services Inc. is seeking to install high speed internet service to low-income housing projects in Newark, New Jersey, as well as train individuals within the residences to install the internet data cabling into their own community buildings. The training should take approximately 3-4 weekends and at the completion of the training sessions the participants will be certified in data cabling installation. The participants will then have the skills to install data cabling in other housing complexes through the city of Newark. Once the buildings are wired and internet accessible, funding/support will be needed to provide each building with internet capable computers. It will be necessary to promote the action and initiative taken by the Newark residents to receive computers for the buildings by donation or at little cost.

Statement of Need
U.S. Department of Commerce data from 2001 indicated that 78.9 percent of people in families making $75,000 or more had Internet access, compared to 25 percent of people from households earning less than $15,000 a year. Newark, New Jersey had over 40,000 public school students, most of which do not have a computer that is accessible on a daily basis. The internet as well as technical ability is a clear necessity in the modern world, opening doors to education and employment. The Digital Divide is apparent in Newark and needs to be addressed. The Digital Divide is the discrepancy between people who have access to new information and communication tools such as the internet, as well the skills, knowledge and abilities to use the technologies and those who do not. This project will not only provide a resource to information technology, but also allow Newark residents to compete in the job market with those who have the access to these technologies and possess necessary technical skills.

Program Description
This project will enable low-income housing residents an opportunity to become certified in data cabling which can be extended into a profitable life-long career. During the training sessions and by the labor of the participants in the program, the community housing complexes will be cabled for internet capability. After the buildings have internet accessibility, it is imperative to promote the initiative taken by the Newark residents to receive computers for the buildings.

V.I.C.E.(VisionInnovationCreationErudtion) Annotated Bibliography

Cooper, Mark (2004), Expanding the Digital Divide and Falling Behind on Broadband, (Consumer Federation of America, Benton Foundation)
Being disconnected means being disadvantaged.
The percentage of household with internet access is around 60 percent. Over 80 percent of households that lack internet access have incomes below $50,000. Over half of household with incomes above 75,000 have internet. Almost 70 percent of households making below 10,000 do not have access to the internet. The internet is not just a communication tool, a means of commerce, or an entertainment medium, it also enhance productivity and in many aspects of life increases the standard of living. The “have-nots” in the digital divide may find themselves disadvantaged for life because they lack the skills and tools to participate in our globalized, knowledge-based economy. The needs of the group will never be well represented in cyberspace, if the group itself is growing up without internet access. Penetration of the internet into households has stagnated around 60 percent for the past decade. Monthly internet service fees hover around $50-$60 which is an unreasonable expectation for low and middle income households.

Morino Institute, (July 2001), From Access to Outcomes, Raising the Aspirations for Technology Initiatives in Low- Income Communities
The digital divides creates a permanent underclass in our society.
To date, most initiatives aimed at closing the digital dived have focused on providing low-income communities with access to computers and internet connections. The real opportunity before us is to focus on applying technology to seek meaningful improvements in the standard of living and eventual closing the social divide. Technology can be applied to help meet fundamental needs such as health care, effective schools, safe streets, and good jobs. Closing the digital divide has less to do with the quantity of internet access and computers and has everything to do with how well we can enable those who are less fortunate to elevate there lives with implementation of technology. Low income communities can become empowered to make financial and social contributions to society and will become less dependent on entitlement payments as well as other social payments. These are large challenged with larger opportunities and gains for the most hard-press citizens of this country.

Pinkett, Randell (2000), Bridging the Digital Divide: Sociocultural Constructionism and an Asset-Based Approach to Community Technology and Community Building
Teach technology from the inside-out.
Studies have found that the gender gap in computer and internet use is closing, although the socioeconomic and racial gap is growing. According to the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), with respect to computer ownership, minorities continue to lag behind Whites even at the same level of income. Social Constructionism involves participants as active change agents rather than beneficiaries, and act as the producers of information and content, rather than passive consumers. Social and Cultural Constructionism can lead to self-motivated learning. “Better learning will not come from finding better ways for the teacher to instruct, but from giving the learner better opportunities to construct”

Valadez, James R. (2007), Redefining the Digital Divide: Beyond Access to Computers
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

The likelihood of household computer ownership still varies as a function of socioeconomic status and race. Teachers are more likely to assign computer and internet work when their students have ready access to computers. Integration of technology into the classroom is essential in gaining the experience and practice necessary for using the Internet as an educational resource. Low-income backgrounds often find their access is restricted to computer labs where they are limited to instructional software that emphasizes low-level drill and practice routines. There are two types of technology participation “interacting” and the “interacted.” The “interacting” includes those who can take advantage of sophisticated applications and research possibilities available on the Internet, while the “interacted” are those individuals who must settle for the most simplistic offerings designed for lower level users. The key to closing the digital divide is to allow more “interacting” which will provide a knowledge-base for advanced uses of the internet and new emerging technologies.

Hann, Leslie Werstein, (April 2008), Profit and Loss in School- Business Partnerships
You can’t buy this kind of publicity.
There are many motives that influence a corporation to get involved with schools and the community, mainly marketing. Whatever the motive, the donations made by these corporations are immensely improving the lives and education of many. According to the article, 95% of schools have business partnerships. IBM says improving public schools is its top social priority and a strategic business investment. Refurbished computers can end up costing a lot to maintain. These corporations are essential to getting the most out of technology. HP provided 45 teachers with new laptops as well as 400 students with new laptops in Ravenswood City School District in California. They also donated a 3-1 match of any employee donation. Newark in particular has received great assistance from corporations. A CEO of an upholstery company reupholstered a schools entire auditorium. Panasonic installed 100,000 worth of surveillance cameras into Newark schools. Burlington Coat Factory has donated coats for a coat drive. And last, but certainly not least Prudential has donated 3.6 million to buy land for a new charter middle school as well as 1.6 million to pay for tuition for teaching licenses for 45 new math and science teacher in Newark. There are corporations that would like to help, just have to make the effort and have the motivation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Uniqueness of the Urban Student

I didn't write this-but it was very compelling and I can't say it any better. I think the entire purpose of the culture/ frame of refernece paper and collage boil down to relating to students.
Uniqueness of the Urban Student:
A Student by Any Other Name
Katherine M. Searle Article Here

As educators, we have been schooled to accept the decree that all students can learn if and when teachers and support staff find the magical delivery system that fits the needs exhibited at any given moment. Sounds pretty basic. Factor in a stint of living at the Salvation Army Shelter. Factor in a parent who'd rather hit than listen. Factor in a comprehensive family history of poverty and illiteracy. Factor in a defeatist attitude honed throughout the educational experience. Factor in a neighborhood steeped in blaming the system. Factor in a flagrant distrust and contempt of authority. Factor in an inability to interact in socially acceptable ways. The picture begins to develop. Initially, the uniqueness of the urban student seems tied to a catalog of negatives too ingrained to be significantly affected by teachers and schools.

Not so. Yes, the urban student is a challenge, but the rewards in meeting that challenge are sweet. To that end, each urban student must be considered as an individual. To lump such students together with generalizations, however well meaning, is to lose the chance to be an effective teacher. Square pegs in round holes don't always want to become round to fit. Urban students expect the holes to become square. Being able to "honor" the unique quality each student brings to the educational process while tempering it is a difficult balancing act that requires more energy and passion from the teacher than from the student.

As an English teacher, I try to find opportunities to respect what an urban student knows. In the process, I learn. After reading a story about a neighborhood honoring native heroes by creating a mural, I combined an earlier letter writing lesson with a real-life situation. Students had to work in groups to brainstorm perceived neighborhood problems. The final product was a persuasive letter written to neighbors urging them to work together to solve problems like litter, loud parties, speeding, run-down property, drug houses, and gang activity. Students who had previously done haphazard work, generated detailed work plans to clean up the neighborhood, created sign up sheets and posters, and designed tee-shirt logos on the computer for specific neighborhoods.

Had I not given that assignment, I would never have seen the organizational skills, the tact in explaining why the neighborhood should be cleaned up, and the highly developed sense of pride in neighborhood held by the entire class. Students were proud of the products they created. They did extra work because they were engaged with the outcome. During the course of the activity, I saw students who previously had not gotten along work together to reach a desired end. Quiet students who had not done much of anything took charge of a small group and kept everyone on task. Given the chance to demonstrate what they could do, these students did just that. The likelihood of their continuing to meet my expectations is great because they have experienced success on a variety of levels.

Dealing with the urban student is not always that easy or that rewarding. A roller coaster ride of ups and downs is the rule. One boy wrote a gritty 3-page poem which I'm sure detailed his home life "hidden" behind a persona he created. I was touched by what I read and shared it with several teachers and support staff. These adults spoke to the boy and praised his writing talent. The change I saw in class was nothing short of miraculous. He wrote another poem and didn't have time to use the computer. I typed his poem at home and added a graphic. I gave him a copy and submitted the poem to a poetry contest. The beatific smile on his face said it all. In the flush of success, I thought no more problems here. That lasted until I asked him to pick up a piece of paper for me. The vituperative harangue that followed told me how wrong I was. I used that "argument" to explain/model social skills, but in the heat of the moment, it was wasted. Regardless, that student knows he can do something well. He has continued to write on his own time and sometimes shares pieces with me. We can get past each outbreak of misdirected anger.

Over the years, I've taught a number of female urban students whose contempt for me has seemed unparalleled. How could I possibly know anything about their lives? They took one look at my white, upper middle class exterior, turned up their noses, and closed their hearts against me. One girl in a fit of anger screamed, "I bet you have your own washer and dryer." To her and her friends, those possessions marked the dividing line that guaranteed our experiences would never mesh in a way that could allow me to teach them anything. I patiently explained that the washer and dryer were anniversary gifts from my father because I couldn't afford them at that time. Still, I had a father who would spend that kind of money on a married daughter. In my naivete, I'd only made matters worse.

Through repeated attempts to get these students to write for me, we gradually arrived at a delicate truce. They would not throw desks at me if I shared my life with them via comments on their papers. The couldn't put the exterior together with the fact that I'd grown up the child of an alcoholic mother. They had trouble believing that my fancy jewelry was a legacy from my mother's suicide. Because I had been willing to put myself on the line, dialogue had been opened. Truly teaching an urban student means taking risks. These students feel their private business is written all over them. Leveling the playing field by being honest goes a long way toward breaking down the barriers that often cause an insurmountable, adversarial relationship in the classroom.

The examples I have discussed come from my own classroom because I feel it's important to note how much impact the classroom teacher can have. However, there are a number of programs at J. B. Young Intermediate that deal with the urban student. Young Intermediate houses the Health Initiative, an on-site medical screening program; a Rape/Assault Program; a juvenile court liaison officer; a breakfast club sponsored by CAD's; mentoring; tutoring; Puppeteers; and the Family Service Center, a program to help families connect with social service agencies. The school is part of the Iowa Behavioral Initiative and uses the Boystown model. Many good things come out of these varied programs which are supported by staff members, students, and families.

However, for the urban student, these programs are just one more indication that they are somehow lacking in what everyone else has. They need a personal connection from someone who doesn't see them in the capacity of "urban student" and who doesn't represent an agency geared to solving urban problems. Although I have used the phrase "urban student" repeatedly, I don't think in those terms. It is likewise important that urban students don't apply those very limiting and inherently negative connotations to themselves. To that end, the classroom teacher has a responsibility to approach each student without labels. "What's in a name?" you might ask. Very simply--success or failure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Data Cabling

The key to closing the digital divide is to teach the students computers not just give them the computers. Rather than simply setting up the housing projects with wi-fi, we can take this opportunity to teach our youth a marketable trade, data cabling. As part of my community inquiry project, I am looking to have students in the building become certified cable installers and install data cabling in their buildings. I happen to know that data cabling is a very profitable field and by allowing the students to contribute to their wi-fi capabilities they will also respect it. It is important to not only give them computers, but to show them how they are relevant in the real world. There are many jobs, including the mechanic, in which computer knowledge is essential. The refurbished computers can and will come after the cabling is installed. And by that point I am sure that we can get funding/donations to get refurbished computers for a building in which students have already installed the data cables and put in the effort to make themselves technically savvy. I have begun investigating ways to make this effort happen and it's beginning to come together and seems within close reach.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Culture Collage

I am very self aware. By this point in my life, I know where I am from and know where I'm going... and where I'm going is more important to me... I don't enjoy delving into my past too much this is why my collage was based off of cultural artifacts such as music and art. I was taught not to share unnecessary personal information and it was reinforced with "what happens in this family, stays in this family". I have had great ups and downs and have experienced sooo very much in my short 24 years. My life has been a wild and bumpy ride thus far- but I have learned alot about myself and others. Some people carry their memories with them for life... I've learned something long ago... memories are like books on a shelf, you take them down sometimes, dust them off, read some excerpts and put them back... There are a couple of types of people who would like to do such a personal collage. 1. Those who have never really experience terrible hardship and pain and like discuss the past and people in the past- because it takes them back to good times and there are 2. those who may use the collage as "therapy" because it gives them some control over their lives, whose on the collage, whose left out, etc. The dynamics of my life and the people I know are typical of many other inner city children. I believe that if I were to do such a collage in my class, I would make sure it was less personal. I would ask my students to find science in their daily lives (cars, sports, light) and ask them to come up with scientific questions (why does a light go on when switch is flipped?) that we can find the answers to together. For a teacher to expect that a student would plaster his/her life story on a poster is wrong and is actually not culturally sensitive. I am tired of discussing this "sugar coated" view of the world. It is hard out there... and sometimes race, money, culture has nothing to do with it... making those who struggle remember why they struggled in the first place, is just irritating the wound.

Let's stop focussing on how we got here, and let's focus on making our situations better.

Closing the gap on the Digital Divide

This article discusses a WI-FI project building that is bringing technology to those who can't afford it. The world is changing and how can those in the inner city keep up if they don't have the technology... A non profit and some help from the city were able to put a community computer center in an empty apartment in the building and help get those with a little money to spare refurbished computers that have wi-fi capabilities. This is a great accomplishment and hope to be involved in initiatives like this in the future.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I've been thinking... and came up with a possible solution to some parenting concerns...

What if in order to receive government assistance such as WIC, Welfare and Section 8 housing, parents had to attend a "parenting class" prior to receiving assistance, would this ease some troubles in the schools?

Education is important, and a teacher can only go so far... It all starts in the home....Just a thought....I'd like to know your opinion on this... I am interested in possibly finding some grants to fund projects that will increase the chances for inner city children. Often the parenting lessons that are given at planned parenthood-are directed towards infancy(diapers, formula, all that jazz). But the baby grows quickly and some parents may not know that reading is to the child is the first step in the educational process or that brushing a toddler's teeth is essential to good health... the list goes on. I am sure there are many girls that would appreciate a program like this... and would like to raise their children the same as everyone else... just haven't got the money or the parenting skills... we can help,but by the time the child is in school it is too late... the education begins in the home and with the parents.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Learning about Newark

I had to post this....and this... you know what.. everything at the Newark Metro site is so well written and thought provoking ... all from Rutgers Students who live in Newark. Read as much as you can... some are harder to swallow than others, but get familar with the voices of Newark students. I have lived in many cities, and they each have their story, positive and negative, and no place is alike. I want to be a great teacher and really relate to my students. I feel the best way is to listen to their stories. I have my own, but they are mine and particular to the places I have lived. Every city has its own unique story and I want to know Newark (Nork) City. My husband is from Newark and has always had such pride for "Brick City" (he writes this all the time when he scribbles). Since I am from the city and know urban life, my goal out of all this urban discussion is to really get to know Newark. I am learning so much from my discussions with my husband, I can get to know his struggle and why he chose the path he did, and he treats it as a lesson for me, rather than a confession from him. I am filled with a desire to know more and more about Newark and feel closer to him and hope that this will allow me to relate his struggles to my students. As I read these essays and discuss childhood with my husband I learn about Newark(the good and the bad) and I am intrigued. I am looking forward to becoming a teacher and I hope that those who read my posts are not getting scared, just informed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

True Stories from Newark

Take a look at this if you want to know what our students will be facing. The life of the streets/drug dealing is tempting when you are poor. As teachers we need to provide encouragment and hope. The article written by a Rutgers-Newark Journalism Student, I feel this most relates with a true inner city lifestyle that is not discussed in "Unequal Childhoods". Those who drop out and subsquently deal drugs to survive are only living the life they know. This article too. There should be no watering down of this as the "Unequal Childhoods" does. How can we really examine the truth of "unequal childhoods" if we can only discuss what is politically correct. Often the "addict" is not the aunt climbing in the window, it is the parent in the bedroom. I feel this book "unequal childhoods" is very politcally correct and paints rose colored glasses on the true urban lifesytle. Drugs(read this), violence (read this), teen pregnacy and prison are ideas that many inner city children live with and hope not to encounter but accept that it is real life. Those who act oblivious to the real problems are just stinking their heads in the sand. Higschools in Newark including Barringer have had childcare centers for their teens for 20 years or more. The Laureu book makes it out to be that all the only problems are race, socioeconomic, and culural issues. I think this is too simplifed with respect to true inner cities and only skims the surface of obstacles in a Newark childs life. To give a true representation of the students we will be teaching, why go to Arts High and University High, this are two exceptional schools and are not neccesarily the norm of our students since they are magnet schools which the best of the students in a district attend. According to this, 60 percent of the city’s kids are growing up without fathers. This New York Times articles addresses many issues in Newark. It thought this was the most interesting part------

"The mayor (Cory Booker) recounted an encounter he had early this week with three teenagers who were walking the streets about 11 p.m. The three boys told him they were no longer in school and when pushed, admitted having no plans for the future. Mr. Booker found the encounter troubling. “It’s not O.K. for children to be walking around at night,” he said. “They have to be confronted.” He added: “They were not bad kids, but they had fallen through the cracks. We have to show that this is a city that truly loves its children.” These are true problems. Children need guidance and if no one gives it to them, they could end up chillen on the streets at night, which leads to a life of crime.

I feel that there is a certain desire to paint a pretty picture of Newark while ignoring the truth. Newark is a dangerous city, not for the "whites" who work/walk to their cars, but for the people who live and sleep there. Shots ring out often, whether we would like to accept this as our definition of Newark, our students are aware of it all. Hopefully things will change and the new Booker administration has some great ideas on curbing violence and reforming the cities education polices. I have a idea that with some push for new "attendance" regulations rather than "proficiency" regulations we can reach more students. The goal should be to get the students to graduate in an area were the drop out rate is high. Why is it high? It is easier to accept your fate as a drug dealer than to fail as a student. One though that I have is that since money makes the world go round, the government should give a monetary incentive for attendance in school. A computer incentive would be even better. I know this would cost alot, but half the reason why the achievement gap is getting greater is because the children in the inner city don't have computers, and let's face it, they aren't going to go the the library. Teachers who give many computer assignments (ie, blogs) are overlooking major obstacles that students must overcome and it shows their inability to truly relate to the problems they face. I know some like to say go to the library, and many parents would argue that it is not safe and it is inconvenience(think bus fare). Parents don't have 1000-2000 to provide a computer for their children, nevermind pay $30 a month on Internet. This puts the poor at a huge disadvantage in a future filled with technology. The government could give laptops with wireless Internet, and make the project buildings wi-fi. This is the only way to incorporate technology in their lives. Making the students do "projects" on a computer is not enough practice with the technology. WE need to provide children in the inner city more opportunities and encourage them to graduate. Getting the students to attend school, when they are 16 is hard, a good way is positive reinforcement.

Music is my outlit. This is a fitting song. There has to be a way to get them to choose a better life than this....

Nas-The Life we chose
It's the life we chose, where friends become foes
and the dough'll get you killed quicker than you know
This is the life we chose, bring fake snakes and h%#s
and the only way out, is death or goin broke
This the life we chose, ain't too many happy endings
That's why there ain't too many happy niggaz in it
And I'll admit it, this life is fxxxed up but yo..(but yo..)
this life is the only life I know

Melting Pot vrs. Meaty Stew

I found this great essay by Richard Rodriguez called "Does America Still Exist (you can find it here) The essay was written in the 1980's when America was going through a "ethnic revolution". There was a new desire by immigrants to maintain a culture and language of their own. During the era of immigration from Europe, there was a desire to become "American" to leave all the tradition behind and assimilate to American Culture. Rodriguez was born to Mexican immigrants but was raised in California. He admits that at a certain point in life, where his home life was no longer the most prevalent, and socialization was more important, he longed to call himself an American, but dared not to for fear of abandoning his family tradition and culture. There is an unconscious debate that occurs within ones self, am I ______ or am I American? Rodriguez states that "children of immigrants are perched between two countries. As the generations increase the perch swings more and more to the American side. We are in an era of ethnic pride, which is why it is now politically correct to refer to America as a "stew" rather than a "melting pot" where new immigrants keep their traditional culture. This was not always the case, and probably won't be as the demographics of our country continue to change drastically. As the amount of immigrants/settled immigrants increases, there will be a changing face of America that we be integrated into the new American Culture.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Newark- Social Conditions

About a year age, I worked for NJ Transit and prepared Environmental Impact Statement for new construction that is proposed for the Newark area. Part of the study was to take a a good look from a social justice stand point to make certain that there was no injustice during construction based on socioeconomic reasons. The following table is a summary of my findings in Newark. I hope you can read the table, I had to add in an image, as it wouldn't let me add a table.

As shown in Table 6, according the 2000 Census Data, the total population of Newark was 275,000. Persons that were Black accounted for 55 percent of the population, while whites accounted for almost 30 percent of the population. Those of another race accounted for 18 percent of the population, while Asians accounted for two percent. Forty percent of the households indicated that they had a female as head of the household. More than half of Newark’s population spoke English as their primary language. Twenty-two percent did not speak English fluently and were considered linguistically isolated. In 1999, 30 percent of households had incomes below poverty in 1999. The average household income is $26,913 per year. 44 percent of the population did not own a car and were transit dependent.

I did the same population analysis for other cities in the project area ( Kearny, Secausus, Harrison, and Jersey City)and found very different results. I have a table but it looks terrible on the blog, so I'm not going to bother. I am going to put my final anaylis for each city.

The total population of Kearny was 40,000. Whites accounted for 80 percent of the population, while blacks made up 5 percent of the total population, Asians account for 6 percent, 0.6 percent are American Indian and Alaskan Native, 0.2 percent of the population is Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, while 13.5 percent claim other as their race. Half of the population spoke English fluently, while about 25 percent of the population was linguistically isolated. Female head of householders accounted for 26.5 percent. Ten percent of the population reported incomes below the 1999 poverty level. The average household income is $47,757 per year. Twenty percent of the population is transit dependent with no vehicle available.

As shown in Table 12, according to the 2000 Census Data, the total population of Secaucus is about 16,000. Within the population, about 80 percent were white, about 5 percent were black, almost 13 percent were Asian, 0.2 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, and about 4 percent claimed some other race. About 20 percent of the households were listed as female head of household. About 70 percent of the population only listed English as their primary language. Twelve percent indicated that they did not speak English fluently and were linguistically isolated. The 1999 average household income was $60,000. Eight percent of the households reported incomes below the 1999 poverty level. Most of the population, about 85 percent, had at least one car available, leaving only about 15 percent of the population that were transit dependent.

Jersey City
As shown in Table 11, the total population of Jersey City is about 240,000. Of that, 40 percent were white, 30 percent were black, 18 percent were Asian, and one percent was American Indian or Alaska Natives. Twenty percent considered themselves to of some other race. Female householders with no husband present accounted for 20 percent of the total households. Those who spoke English as their primary language accounted for 50 percent of the population. Of those who spoke another language, 20 percent did not speak English fluently and were considered linguistically isolated. The 1999 average household income was $40,000. Almost 20 percent of the persons in Jersey City reported incomes below the 1999 poverty level. Over 40 percent of the population was transit dependent with no vehicles available.
I will elaborate more later when I address the questions posed for the anaylis of the "real cost of living" document... but for now I will leave ya hanging with this one question... Is the "real cost of living" for Essex accurate with such a variety of life styles in the most densly populated state in the country? In order to make an accurate assumption about what our student's, the one's in Newark City are facing, we must take a look at Newark and realize that NJ as a whole is a wealthy state (as far as I am concerned, don't believe me check this out ) but in the mix are different economic climates in each city and different factors that shape their growth and stablity. There are those who struggle in NJ, but by generalizing the states median income ( ~$65,000) with the "real cost of living" (~46,000), NJ is ahead of the game.
Another good example of cost of living is starting teacher salaries, which is based off of cost of living analysis. I have lived off a teachers salary (my mother's) and gotta tell you there are differences. When we moved to NJ, it felt like we hit the lottery. Many of us will be starting in Newark Public Schools in a year or so, our starting salary is 49,000 (a little high than NJ as a whole due to "battle pay") while if we were starting in Mississippi we would be making 27,000-35,000 while the cost of living is not that much less. According to this cost of living calculator 49,000 in Newark is 35,000 in Mississipi, Gulf Port.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Culture vrs. Personal Frame of Reference-Huge Difference

Culture generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. Cultures can be "understood as systems of symbols and meanings that even their creators contest, that lack fixed boundaries, that are constantly in flux, and that interact and compete with one another" (Wikipedia) Culture analysis begins with basic components of culture, including symbols, language, and values.

And another definition of culture from here.

Frame of reference. “A set of standards, beliefs, or assumptions governing perceptual or logical evaluation or social behavior” (Websters)

I will elaborate more just a quick thought. I think we need to re-evaulate if we understand the foundation of a culture. What we have been defining as culture (race, class, religion, ethnitcity, geoprhapic regions) are "subcultural groups".

Thursday, October 2, 2008

American Culture-Culture of the United States

It's Thursday night, almost 11. Just watched the vice presidential debates, they were interesting. While taking my dog out to dog his business, I ran into the girls(2 Rutgers college graduates) that live upstairs and they asked about class tonight. I told them I was told there was no "American Culture" when I suggested so and they were shocked. We googled it, google sent us here . We talked for about an hour and came to the conclusion that there is an American Culture, all semantics aside. (ie, Culture of the United States). People who argue over semantics on this one are closed minded and not thinking of the big picture.Yes, America is our continent, but our country is also called the United States of America. When is the last time anyone has heard a person from Canada(a Canadian) or Mexico (a Mexican) refer to themselves as American. American is the US of A for short. In fact, there are American Studies departments at most universities and courses taught on American Culture. I didn't want to argue and I don't normally fight what I am told unless I am right, and I feel I am right. We are a 200 year old country, that enough time for several generations and assimilation into the American Culture. Why is there an assumption that culture has to due with lineage? Yes, we are a nation of immigrants but don't forget that we are also a nation of immigrants who became Americans. America is a melting pot and there are many who have lost a connection with past lineage. For example, my grandfather who was born in Italy, fought in WWII against for America and against Italy. There are culural aspects that he and his family have that are italian, but as for me, I am a second generation American with Italian and Greek heritgage, neither of which are that influencial in my life. There are many individuals in this country (myself, my husband, 2 girls that live upstairs, and many more including our future students) who do not associate with a specific food(I eat anything that tastes good) or religion or race. Do we not have culture, or is our culture simple based on our class and our ability to survive in this world? I live my life for today and my culture is American Culture. I am America's lovechild. I view the world as an American. My culture is ever changing and do not feel attached to anything in particular. I watch TV, listen to the radio, read magazines. I enjoy entertainment provided to me by the various media outlets and media has a direct affect on culture. I left class feeling as if I was devoid of culture. I can't deny that there are some who are more closely attached to other cultures or are bi-cultural, but to deny that there is an American culture is absurd and some here are two many generations off from their original immigrants to have another culture of influence. We have this collage poster to do. I am having a problem summing up who I am and what my culture is other than American Culture which is a fad and pop culture. I do have circumstance in my life that have altered my view in one way or another, but overall I do not choose to say my circumstances make me who I am culturally. I love rap music, but I do not feel particular attachment to anyone other than Lil Wayne (and there are somethings he raps about and does that I disagree with). People assume that pop culture is shallow. But when devoid of any other outstanding factor that contributes to our definition of culture,American Pop Culture is what there is. I do not let my class define me. My race is white and I feel no particular attachment to that either( although I understand if minorities do). Someone suggested putting my dog and my husband on this poster, but they are not part of my culture, they are people and animals, that I love and enjoy to be around. I have a great mother and sister both whom I love, All of these things mean the world to me. But... They do not make me who I am. I have never felt defined and restricted to a specific culture and now I do. I love America, and so should you. What makes this America is that you can have freedom of speech and the right to have an opinion. This is mine. There is the down fall to allow the platform for speaking your mind, sometime we do.:) Sorry for the rant. Til next time.

The Popular Culture and American Culture Association website if interested

Restraint- Valuable Lesson

As I am reading Unequal Childhoods by Lareau, I am becoming more and more thankful that I grew up poor, and when I have children, I don't want to raise them by middle-class standards. I can relate to many things in the book, with regards to Harold McAllisters childhood. The author says Harold's restraint in asking his parents for materialistic items is "disconcerting". I don't agree with this, I think what is disconcerting is the middle class children who think "ask and get". These parents are quick to give in to their child, maybe so that they don't have to feel bad or hear them whine. As a child, I can remember times when I did ask for things, and my mother would say light hardly but serious " We can't afford it". After a few times, I realized we couldn't afford it, and stopped asking. Til this day, my mother and I say it together when thinking of certain luxuries, "We can't afford it." It reminds us of the times that were very hard and that we can be content without the luxuries. Being content is one thing that I think middle class children lack when compared to working-class and poor children. At some point no matter how rich you become, the ability to be content in life is imperative to be happy. Maybe it's my poor upbringing and maybe I am a product of the pedagogy of poverty, but I think the fall of our country is the parents who allow their children to speak as equals. There should be respect for parents, money, and the household. Restraint is an important lesson to learn. Without it, survival in todays economy could be rough. If parents give into every whim of their child, they are not teaching them self-control and restraint (or the value of a dollar), I wonder if they even do chores. Parenting strategies have changed drastically and the middle class society is raising our future generations to think they get everything they want... and to think that they deserve it too, isn't that called spoiled. The parents who allow these behaviors are creating "monsters" because it is easier to spend the few dollars than teach a valuable lesson on restraint.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Street Poetry

Ok, so I am at work listening to my old CD's and heard this Ghostface Killah song that I haven't heard in forever. The lyrics are so moving, I had to post them. If you listen, you can here his pain behind the music, it's real poetry, written from true struggles.

I have several other song lyrics that describe real-life situations that our students will be facing and will post them soon. Rap, like any art is often imitates life.

Ghostface Killah- All That I got is you

Yo, dwellin in the past, flashbacks when I was young
Whoever thought that I'd have a baby girl and three sons
I'm goin through this difficult stage I find it hard to believe
Why my old Earth had so many seeds
But she's an old woman, and due to me I respect that
I saw life for what it's really worth and took a step back
Family ain't family no more, we used to play ball
Eggs after school, eat grits cause we was poor
Grab the pliers for the channel, fix the hanger on the TV
Rockin each others pants to school wasn't easy
We survived winters, snotty nosed with no coats
We kept it real, but the older brother still had jokes
Sadly, daddy left me at the age of six
I didn't know nuttin but mommy neatly packed his shit
She cried, and grandma held the family down
I guess mommy wasn't strong enough, she just went down
Check it, fifteen of us in a three bedroom apartment
Roaches everywhere, cousins and aunts was there
Four in the bed, two at the foot, two at the head
I didn't like to sleep with Jon-Jon he peed the bed
Seven o'clock, pluckin roaches out the cereal box
Some shared the same spoon, watchin saturday cartoons
Sugar water was our thing, every meal was no thrillI
n the summer, free lunch held us down like steel
And there was days I had to go to Tex house with a note
Stating "Gloria can I borrow some food I'm dead broke"
So embarrasin I couldn't stand to knock on they door
My friends might be laughin, I spent stamps in stores
Mommy where's the toilet paper, use the newspaper
Look Ms. Rose gave us a couch, she's the neighbor
Things was deep, my whole youth was sharper than cleats
Two brothers with muscular dystrophy, it killed me
But I remember this, mom's would lick her finger tips
To wipe the cold out my eye before school wit her spit
Case worker had her runnin back to face to face
I caught a case, housin tried to throw us out of our place
Sometimes I look up at the stars and analyze the sky
And ask myself was I meant to be here... why?