Commentary


I have always loved school and am glad that I have always been around other kids. I am not sure how I feel about this court ruling, but I wonder if the judge asked the kids.

I like the questions that Nate asks.  My only other addition is to ask if the judge would make a parent stop sending kids to an evolution-hating  school run by fundamentalists.

Home-Schooling

Home-Schooling

Recently, a judge in Raleigh, N.C. ordered three kids who were being home-schooled to attend public school instead.  The issue arose in a divorce proceeding where the father wanted the kids to go to public school, and the mother wanted to continue home-schooling her children.  I have not had the opportunity to read the case itself, but if you’re interested in reading more, click here.

Apparently the problem was that the kids were receiving a creationist focused education when it came to science.  However, the kids were also testing two years above their grade level.  So that begs the question, why were they forced to go to public school?  I don’t believe in creationism, but it does seem to me that no matter what they are learning, if they are testing two years above their grade level, then home-schooling seems to be working out.

My greater concern, though, is: when is it okay to home-school?  The lesson here is that if a judge disagrees with the curriculum, then he can order the kids to public school.  Not enough math?  Too much math?  Not enough structure?  Not reading the right books?  Cases like these can be slippery slopes.

What do you think?  Did the judge make the right decision?  Is it okay for parents to home-school their children?

from Nate at  The Young Writers Blog: The Only Writing Blog For Young Writers And Everyone Else

These judges should be put in jail in solitary. How much hope have they cost the kids who were innocent? Or who were only guilty of small things? What would they do if it was their own kids?

This is from the New York Times:

Judges Plead Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit

Niko J. Kallianiotis for The New York Times

Hillary Transue was sentenced to three months in juvenile detention for a spoof Web page mocking an assistant principal.

Published: February 12, 2009

At worst, Hillary Transue thought she might get a stern lecture when she appeared before a judge for building a spoof MySpace page mocking the assistant principal at her high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She was a stellar student who had never been in trouble, and the page stated clearly at the bottom that it was just a joke.

Prosecutors say Judges Michael T. Conahan, and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., above, took kickbacks to send teenagers to detention centers.

Instead, the judge sentenced her to three months at a juvenile detention center on a charge of harassment.

She was handcuffed and taken away as her stunned parents stood by.

“I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare,” said Hillary, 17, who was sentenced in 2007. “All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing.”

The answers became a bit clearer on Thursday as the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

“In my entire career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely approaching this,” said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003. Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention.

The case has shocked Luzerne County, an area in northeastern Pennsylvania that has been battered by a loss of industrial jobs and the closing of most of its anthracite coal mines.

And it raised concerns about whether juveniles should be required to have counsel either before or during their appearances in court and whether juvenile courts should be open to the public or child advocates.

If the court agrees to the plea agreement, both judges will serve 87 months in federal prison and resign from the bench and bar. They are expected to be sentenced in the next several months. Lawyers for both men declined to comment.

You’d think that they would DEFINITELY be going to jail, right?  Forever?  But the article talks about their pensions!  Like they ought to be around to enjoy them or not!

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Maybe it’s worth a lot if you look like her.  I’m not selling anything at the moment.

Natalie Dylan Auctions Off Virginity For Offers Of Up To $3.7 Million

Bidding in the auction for the virginity of Natalie Dylan, a 22-year-old student from San Diego, Calif., has reached absurd new highs. The Daily Telegraph has the story, saying that the price has now hit $3.7 million:

Last September, when her auction came to light, she had received bids up to £162,000 ($243,000) but since then interest in her has rocketed.
The student who has a degree in Women’s Studies insisted she was not demeaning herself.

Natalie Dylan has appeared on the Howard Stern show and is conducting this transaction through Nevada’s Bunny Ranch brothel. Natalie Dylan photos are readily available online and are, unsurprisingly, a popular search term.

Why are you a democrat?  Or a republican?  Or a liberal?  Do you know?  Is your vote for sale?  Here’s a true story about a boy from my school who is a republican for life because of skittles!

skittles

When George Bush was governor of Texas, Oscar and his dad won some sort of contest and the prize was a year’s supply of water bottle.  Stupid prize, but OK.  But now Oscar is a republican for life and he’s only 18!

I wonder if there’s a stupider reason for voting republican.


Contradictions, Misleading and Outright Lies: Recent Speeches by Sarah Palin


Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s speeches are excellent examples of the use of propaganda, distortion and dishonesty in support of an ulterior motive.  In Palin’s case, she attempts to energize the base of her party by promising things they want to hear, while using absolutely contradictory and often false buzz words that are the currency of conservatives in this country.

This is some of what she said in Hershey, Pennsylvania on Tuesday:

Our opponents put their faith in government; John and I, we put our faith in all of you.

If they don’t put their faith in government, why would they want “all of us” to put our faith in them?  This is empty rhetoric which is contradicted by the fact that they are running for the presidency.

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Dear Governor Palin,

I understand that you want to be the VP of a party that thinks no one should ever be able have an abortion no matter what. And you don’t believe in teaching kids about sex and STD’s and birth control. AND your 17 year old daughter is pregnant, still in high school and not married. AND you don’t want us to talk about it because it is your family.

Well Mrs Governor, it doesn’t work that way.

You see, your policies and your republican platform are terrible! They don’t work! Here are some examples:

Abstinence-only sex ed defies common sense. Education policy spreads ignorance, sends confusing message to teens

“One in eight youth are sexually experienced, having engaged in intercourse, oral sex or both before the age of 14,” the Journal of Adolescent Health reported in 2006. According to the Project Connect study, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: * “9 percent reported ever having sexual intercourse…and 8 percent ever had oral sex (active or receptive).” * “Of those who reported intercourse, 36 percent were age 11 or younger at first sex, 27 percent were 12, 28 percent were 13, and 9 percent were 14 or older.” * “Alarmingly, 43 percent of sexually experienced participants reported multiple sex partners.”

Kate Walsh: Abstinence-Only “Not Working.” Cites One-In-Four Teen Girl STDs Rate In U.S. As Proof Fed-Sponsored Sex Ed Needs Broadening

So we do get to talk about your policies. And we do get to talk about hypocrisy. You asked us to repect your family’s privacy, but you won’t respect my family’s privacy to make our own decisions!

“Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that, as parents, we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned,” said Palin, 44, and her husband. “We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents.” They asked the media to respect their child’s privacy.

How come she gets to make a decision but the rest of the girls and women in America don’t! You won’t even let me learn in school about all the decisions I might need to make!

Governor Palin, when I had my first boyfriend, my brother talked to me and to him about why we shouldn’t have sex. Actually, we had to sit down in my boyfriend’s living room with his parents and my brother and hear all about STD’s and love and all the reasons we were too young for sex. AND they told us about condoms and other ways of preventing pregnancy even though we promised to keep all hands above the waist until at least 16.

Did you have a talk like that with Bristol and her boyfriend? Did anyone show him how to use a condom? These are fair questions because of the policies you advocate for.

I am glad that Bristol decided to have her baby. Will she and her boyfriend raise it? Will they give it up for adoption? Who is going to pay for her to give birth? And for all the other doctor visits?

If you want your family life to stay private, the please don’t bring your family on stage with you when you campaign, and please stop being a hypocrite.

Sincerely,

Cassie

I wish my friends and I had thought of this! Maybe next year. Time to kill the tests from the grassroots, and that means us in our classrooms. And I hope that the teacher gets OUT of trouble.

New York 8th-Graders Boycott Practice Exam But Teacher May Get Ax

by Juan Gonzalez

Students at a South Bronx middle school have pulled off a stunning boycott against standardized testing.

More than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx – virtually the entire eighth grade – refused to take last Wednesday’s three-hour practice exam for next month’s statewide social studies test.

Instead, the students handed in blank exams.

Then they submitted signed petitions with a list of grievances to school Principal Maria Lopez and the Department of Education.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year,” Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders, said Tuesday outside the school. “They don’t even count toward our grades. The school system’s just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams.”

According to the petition, they are sick and tired of the “constant, excessive and stressful testing” that causes them to “lose valuable instructional time with our teachers.”

School administrators blamed the boycott on a 30-year-old probationary social studies teacher, Douglas Avella.

The afternoon of the protest, the principal ordered Avella out of the classroom, reassigned him to an empty room in the school and ordered him to have no further contact with students.

A few days later, in a reprimand letter, Lopez accused Avella of initiating the boycott and taking “actions [that] caused a riot at the school.”

The students say their protest was entirely peaceful. In only one class, they say, was there some loud clapping after one exam proctor reacted angrily to their boycott.

This week, Lopez notified Avella in writing that he was to attend a meeting today for “your end of the year rating and my possible recommendation for the discontinuance of your probationary service.”

“They’re saying Mr. Avella made us do this,” said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. “They don’t think we have brains of our own, like we’re robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests.”

Two days after the boycott, the students say, the principal held a meeting with all the students to find out how their protest was organized.

Avella on Tuesday denied that he urged the students to boycott tests.

Yes, he holds liberal views and is critical of the school system’s increased emphasis on standardized tests, Avella said, but the students decided to organize the protest after weeks of complaining about all the diagnostic tests the school was making them take.

“My students know they are welcome in my class to have open discussions,” Avella said. “I teach them critical thinking.”

“Some teachers implied our graduation ceremony would be in danger, that we didn’t have the right to protest against the test,” said Tia Rivera, 14. “Well, we did it.”

Lopez did not return calls for comment.

“This guy was far over the line in a lot of the ways he was running his classroom,” said Department of Education spokesman David Cantor. “He was pulled because he was inappropriate with the kids. He was giving them messages that were inappropriate.”

Several students defended Avella. They say he had made social studies an exciting subject for them.

“Now they’ve taken away the teacher we love only a few weeks before our real state exam for social studies,” Tatiana Nelson said. “How does that help us?”

jgonzalez@nydailynews.com

0522 03 1

This is TAKS week here in the Texas schools. As a 10th grader, I take four tests this year. Some years we take two and other years three or four, but this is the big year that determines how well our school does compared to other schools. For us as students, every year matters because certain classes are open or closed for the following year depending on whether we pass or fail the tests. But for the school, 10th grade test scores are the ones that decide how well the whole school does. Some schools can even close if their scores are still low.

The Texas Education Agency has told the Austin school district that it needs to use the word “probable” — not “possible” — when referring to the closure of Johnston High School, district officials said.

The shift in verbiage was made at the suggestion of state officials who are part of Johnston’s oversight team because they wanted to underscore the urgency of the situation at the school in East Austin.

Agency officials have said the school, which has received “unacceptable” ratings for the past four years, will be closed or put under alternative management if it fails to achieve an acceptable rating this year.

Under the state’s accountability system, schools are rated “academically unacceptable” if they don’t meet target graduation rates and goals on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Are we being deliberately undereducated or miseducated? Is our whole generation being purposefully denied essential elements of a meaningful education as a byproduct of spending all of our schooling preparing for tests? Is that an accident?

Here’s the disturbing part. The bureaucrats don’t care if WE improve individually from year to year. They don’t care if our CLASS improves. They only care that we do better than last year’s 10th grade, even if they were a bunch of idiots or a bunch of screw-ups or a bunch of genii. By extension, BETTER doesn’t mean that our average is higher than last year’s class. It means that a larger percent of white kids pass (70%) than last year; a larger percent of black kids, a larger percent of immigrants, a larger percent of girls, a larger percent of poor kids, a larger percent of left-handed kids, and a larger percent of soccer players who only eat ice cream for breakfast.

This means that kids like me who get 90% or 99% every time only spend a THIRD of our school time learning how to answer the test questions and regurgitate essays. The poor kids, meanwhile, who got ONLY 60%-80% spend ALL their time on nothing but test practice. Kids in honors or pre-AP or advanced classes learn some other material and get interesting projects from time to time, like in-class debates, short story assignments and geometry construction projects, but the kids in academic or regular classes have every single test look like a TAKS question. That is not an exaggeration.

Last year, my test scores were all above 92%. I could go down by 10 points in every single subject and no one would care. If I went down 20 points, my brother would wring my neck and I’d probably have to drop some honors classes and possibly lose the chance for AP US History, but the state and the government STILL wouldn’t care. I would be within acceptable parameters.

Our school would still show improvement even if every single kid in honors right now dropped to 71% as long as one kid whose older sibling failed last year passed this year. That’s crazy!

Clearly they don’t care whether we as individuals pass as long as the scenario I have presented makes my high school look good. What’s the point? Could it be that the point really is to dumb down yet another generation; to keep us from learning about the Constitution and our rights. Only in understanding them both may we learn when our republic is at its BEST.

Laura sent me a link to this blog, and I think it’s amazing.

Days of My Life

Talk about daily life of a teenage girl in Iraq, and days of suffering and success. My nick name will be Sunshine.

The author is my age, but lives in Mosul in Iraq. She talks about school and friends and watching movies in class, but she also talks about the dangers of living in Iraq. Here’s some of what she says that I was really impressed with:

I admire M’s courage, she’s attending school everyday, doing her homework, attending exams and taking 100%, I’d say she’s a hero because she didn’t kill herself after her mom’s death, I can’t find a word to describe her courage, her determination, I don’t know how can she handle everything.. I was there for R, Rita and their families, and I’ll be there for M and help her in every possible way, all the girls in my class are with her, in the break-time, the girls and I explain to her the lessons she missed.

I think some of the stuff she writes sounds just like me.

One of the things that makes me really proud is my blog , you know that..
When I started 3 years ago I had no idea what’s going to happen, I remember the pleasure of receiving the first encouraging comment, and in the next day I got 9 E-mails I started to jump in the middle of the living room shouting “ I GOT 9 COMMENT OH I AM FAMOUS “

I don’t know anyone who has had this experience but I can still relate. I don’t care if it is war or child abuse or having drug addicts in your family, the only way any of us survive is if we have friends who can help us through. Some of what Sunshine writes is so horrible that I can’t relate at all. And I DO know what it is like to be afraid.

On Friday morning, my mom told me that dad was asking her to take care of the kids, and his parents, I went to my room, opened my book to study but I burst into tears, and cried for long time until I was unable to open my eyes, and my book page was completely wet. I throw the book away, and kept blaming myself and cry for not doing my best to fix my relationship with dad, I was telling myself, what have I done? If something bad happens to dad, I won’t forgive myself ever, part of me was ordering me to go to my dad, apologize and make sure he forgives me for every time I was adversarial to him, for every word I said and made him upset, for every night I slept without wishing him a good night, but I couldn’t, I was tight, I don’t know why..

I suffered from horrible headache and insomnia, I want my dad to see me publishing my first book, graduating from the best collage, being successful person in my life, and more important I want to be so nice to him and make him forget everything, every disparity we had, & every time we argued, I hope he’ll forget those memories.. and be proud of the girl he raised, although he tells me he’s proud but I want to make him even more prouder..

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Some teenagers are stupid! And some are just uninformed. They NEED to start giving us the real facts or kids will be killing themselves trying to stay healthy. I wrote about teen pregnancy and sex education previously here and here and here.

Nobody Could Have Predicted…

And on and on…

ORLANDO, Fla. — A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.The survey showed that Florida teens also believe that smoking marijuana will prevent a person from getting pregnant.

State lawmakers said the myths are spreading because of Florida’s abstinence-only sex education, Local 6 reported.

The kids I know have a lot of opinions about race, but I’d say that in my HS, only about 30% of the kids care at all about politics, and most of them don’t know a lot about the issues. Most opinions are no more complicated that “Dude, that ain’t right.” or “Well he’s a Christian so I agree with him.” But Feministing has this great video up about HS kids in NY talking about Barack Obama, politics and race. The video is kinda long, but really worth watching.

I’ve written before about prison camps for teenagers and the abuse that happens there, but this one’s the worst I have seen described INSIDE the U.S. Nothing, NOTHING these girls did could justify this. Never!

AP: 13,000 abuse claims in juvie centers (AP)

ADVANCE FOR MARCH 3; graphic shows state by state statistics on juvenile abuse; two sizes; 1c x 2 1/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 54 mm; 3c x 5 7/8 inches; 146 mm x 149.2 mmAP – The Columbia Training School — pleasant on the outside, austere on the inside — has been home to 37 of the most troubled young women in Mississippi.

If some of those girls and their advocates are to be believed, it is also a cruel and frightening place.

The school has been sued twice in the past four years. One suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department, which the state settled in 2005, claimed detainees were thrown naked in to cells and forced to eat their own vomit. The second one, brought by eight girls last year, said they were subjected to “horrendous physical and sexual abuse.” Several of the detainees said they were shackled for 12 hours a day.

These are harsh and disturbing charges — and, in the end, they were among the reasons why state officials announced in February that they will close Columbia. But they aren’t uncommon.

Across the country, in state after state, child advocates have deplored the conditions under which young offenders are housed — conditions that include sexual and physical abuse and even deaths in restraints. The U.S. Justice Department has filed lawsuits against facilities in 11 states for supervision that is either abusive or harmfully lax and shoddy.

Still, a lack of oversight and nationally accepted standards of tracking abuse make it difficult to know exactly how many youngsters have been assaulted or neglected.

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I write about prisons and prisoners a lot, so you might never know that it’s a really hard subject for me to write about, but it is. It’s not just numbers and statistics and information; it’s family. My mom is in prison, on drug charges, and would be much better off in a drug treatment program or in a psych hospital. But, like more than 1% of the adult population in the United States, she is in prison.

It’s even worse here in Texas, which leads the nation in inmate population. This is from Channel 10 in Amarillo:

Tougher state and federal sentencing is one of the main reason for the ballooning prison population. Legal experts say new laws will increase that population because punishment ranges are being extended every year. So people will get longer sentences. But some say it’s a problem that is much more deeply rooted in Texas history. For instance 1 in 9 inmates are of black males. With hispanics being a close second.

“Our system in Texas is absolutely broken that’s why all these people are coming out of prison now on DNA results. In 50 years we’ll look back and we’ll see our system incarcerated lots of innocent people. Former Texas Prison Board Chair Selden Hale said. Hale says he believes the numbers are more like 3 in one hundred blacks that are locked up and 4 and 100 hispanic.

I wonder if anyone really does want to change the current system.  Prisons are big business in the U.S. There is a private corrections industry in addition to the large number of federal, state and local jobs that revolve around guarding, feeding and monitoring prisoners. Someone suggested to me that prisons are our society’s way of NOT dealing with the poor and “stupid” among us.

In California,  

As the costs for fixing the state’s troubled corrections system rocket higher, California is headed for a dubious milestone — for the first time the state will spend more on incarcerating inmates than on educating students in its public universities.

Based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget will overtake spending on the state’s universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on its prisons compared with universities.

And that does not take into account how many people are involved in each system. It’s even worse in other states:

Those states are (in order of spending the most proportionally on prisons in 2007): Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware. The state spending the least on prisons relative to higher education was Minnesota, where for every dollar spent on higher education only 17 cents was spent on corrections. The average for all states was 60 cents, nearly double the 32 cents spent 20 years earlier. Only three states saw gains in spending on higher education, relative to corrections: Alabama, Nevada and Virginia

This link allows you to

Click on a state to see how much its incarceration rate has grown, how its spending on prisons and higher education has changed, what proportion of its prisoners are drug offenders, and the racial disparity between its general and prison populations.

What does all this say about our society?  Nothing good.  Time for us to start thinking about people instead of prisoners, inmates or offenders.  Time to start thinking about helping people with drug problems instead of throwing them in jail for decades.  Time to start treating mental health problems instead of waiting until those problems lead people towards crime.  Time to start acting like a society instead of acting like prison wardens.


Dan Solis from ThinkYouth sent me this video along with this note:

If this doesn’t get you motivated to endorse Hillary on your blog, I don’t know what will.
I gotta admit, this video made me tear up a bit. Have you seen it already?

I’ve seen the video, and I am well convinced that Hillary should make a statement with her hairstyle. So why does her hair look so flat on the video? And why should any of that mean that people should vote for her?

Vote for the candidate who will be the best president! Vote for the one who will be able to fix all the things that Bush and the Republicans broke. Don’t vote based on gender or race.

Here is my tribute to Ann Richards the week that she died.

So, if my parents or guardians made me sleep in a room like this

or spend all of my time lying on the floor face down like this …

they would probably get arrested, right?  Either for child abuse or neglect.

But what about if parents outsourced abusing their kids?  What if they sent thm to places where things like THIS take place?

Many who have been there describe a life of pain and fear. They say they spent 13 hours a day, for weeks or months on end, lying on their stomachs in an isolation room, their arms repeatedly twisted to the breaking point.

….

 “You could hear kids screaming when they were getting restrained,” Mr. Bucolo said. “It was horrible. They would do it behind closed doors. And say the kids were lying if they complained.”

What would you say about parents who spent $30,000 to send their kids to this place?  Or what about this one?

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On Blogging for Choice day, the 35th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion, I wrote a post right here about anti-abortion eighth graders at a Catholic school. That post was read on the air and discussed on the Head On Radio Network, and you can hear the whole discussion here. If I’d known it was on, I would have called in!

Click to listen. Click the FREE version.

(Also, if you know how to post an audio file to wordpress, please leave me a comment! Thanks!)

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