Category Archives: education

Short but Sweet: Kim Ho’s The Language Of Love

By Arturo R. García

Charlie (Kim Ho) tries to find the words in “The Language of Love.”

If you’ve got a little less than 10 minutes to spare, the short film The Language of Love is worth your time, as 17-year-old writer and performer Kim Ho navigates young Charlie’s coming to terms with his own sexuality when asked to write an essay describing his best friend.

“What the f-ck is happening to me?” he gasps after confessing to the viewer how he really feels. “Like, my heart beats faster when he’s around. And I can’t think of anybody else. I don’t need that. Especially not in a French exam. But, I can’t help it. I can’t control it.”

The film was produced as part of The Voices Project, part of the Fresh Ink development initiative organized by Australian Theatre for Young People. Now in its’ third year, Voices began as a way with a stage show involving various monologues dealing with the subject of young love. Ho’s piece follows in that tradition; it began as a monologue and was adapted into film format after winning a competition.

The language in the film gets a little NSFW, but overall do give this a shot. The film, and a look at the making of it, are both under the cut.

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From Science Class To School-to-Prison? Criminalizing Black Girls

By Guest Contributor Sikivu Hutchinson; originally published at Feminist Wire

kiera wilmotHigh stakes test question: a female science student conducts an experiment with chemicals that explode in a classroom, causing no damage and no injuries.  Who gets to be the adventurous teenage genius scientist and who gets to be the criminal led away in handcuffs facing two felonies to juvenile hall? If you’re a white girl, check Box A; if you’re an intellectually curious black girl with good grades, check Box B.

When 16 year-old Kiera Wilmot was arrested and expelled from Bartow High School in Florida for a science experiment gone awry, it exemplified a long American-as-apple pie tradition of criminalizing black girls.  In many American classrooms black children are treated like ticking time bomb savages, shoved into special education classes, disproportionately suspended and expelled–then warehoused in opportunity schools, juvenile jails, and adult prisons.  Yet, while national discourse on the connection between school discipline and mass incarceration typically focuses on black males, black girls are suspended more than boys of every other ethnicity (except black males).  At a Georgia elementary school in 2012, a six-year-old African American girl was handcuffed by the police after throwing a tantrum in the principal’s office.[i]  Handcuffing disruptive black elementary school students is not uncommon.  It is perhaps the most extreme example of black children’s initiation into what has been characterized as the school-to-prison pipeline, or, more accurately, the cradle-to-grave pipeline.  Stereotypes about dysfunctional violent black children ensure that the myth of white children’s relative innocence is preserved.

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And A Child Will Lead Them: Aamira Fetuga And Suzy Lee Weiss

By Guest Contributor Tressie McMillan Cottom, cross-posted from TressieMC

8-year-old Aamira Fetuga tails Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R), author of a bill that would have tied welfare benefits to scholastic performance. Image via Colorlines.com

When Suzy Lee Weiss wrote her now infamous, high profile screed about how diversity initiatives in college admissions unfairly penalize white middle class kids who don’t have the good fortune of gay moms, Indian headresses, or African poverty, I condemned the Wall Street Journal for running it.

My thinking is that permanent records of our intellectual and emotional development should not be used as fodder for pushing an editorial agenda of a for-profit company. I sincerely hope Suzy Lee Weiss comes to understand why Indian headdresses, queer parents, and geopolitics that reduce a continent and a people to poverty porn are not useful tools in presenting one’s self as educated or human. Thus, my critique focused on the cynical editorial decision to profit from her while ultimately, implicitly betting that she’ll be at 30 who she is at 18. The Wall Street Journal did not leave a lot of public room for Suzy to grow.

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To (All) the White Girls Who Didn’t Get Into The College Of Their Dreams

via HTMLGiant.com

To (All) the White Girls Who Didn’t Get Into the College of Their Dreams,

I’m not gonna lie. When I applied to Brown University back in 2005, I was positive that I was getting in. I didn’t care what my college counselor was telling me. “Reach” my ass.

I was a legacy. An African-American legacy. An African-American legacy applying from a New England boarding school where I was also a legacy. My academic record wasn’t perfect, but I arrogantly told myself that “not perfect” at boarding school basically equated to public-school excellence. I had fantastic SAT scores, and I had great extracurriculars. In addition to varsity sports and stage crew, I was a Black competitive figure skater!

As far as I was concerned at the naive age of 17, I was a freakin’ unicorn.

As far as Brown was concerned, I wasn’t even worth the wait list. Continue reading

Controlling Portions, Controlling Pregnancies: Race And Class Panic In New York City Public Health Campaigns

Poster for New York City’s “Real Cost of Teen Pregnancy” campaign. Via NYC.gov

By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta

This month, New York City launched a new campaign called “The True Cost of Teen Pregnancy.” The 4,000 bus and subway posters, which reportedly took two years of planning and cost the city $400,000, feature wailing toddlers and babies (mostly of color) next to captions such as Honestly, Mom, chances are he won’t stay with you… and I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.

Yes, teen pregnancy is experienced disproportionately by girls of color and girls living in poverty. Yet data shows that national teen pregnancy rates across ethnicities are dropping not rising, including in New York City. So why this public health campaign? And why now?

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Quoted: Native American Lawmaker Schools Congressman

Kansas state Rep. Ponka-We Victors (D). Image via Kansas state legislature.

The hearing concerned the legality of offering children of illegal immigrants to pay the in-state tuition rate to attend universities and community colleges in Kansas. The Legislature was seeking to overturn a statute that has been on the books for nearly a decade –a Topeka Capital-Journal story described the effort as an “annual attempt.”Ponka-We Victors (D-Wichita), a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and the Tohono O’odham Nation, and the only American Indian in the Kansas State Legislature, offered her reading of the situation to Kris Kobach, Kansas’ Secretary of State.

“I think it’s funny Mr. Kobach, because when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you,” Victors said, prompting cheers from the gallery, described by the Capital-Journal as “heavily pro-immigrant.” Rep. Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe) the chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, felt moved to tell the room, “Please don’t do that.”

- From Indian Country Today Media Network

Protecting White Kids From History

By Guest Contributor T.F. Charlton; originally published at Are Women Human?

Content Notes: racist violence, slavery, infanticide, Japanese internment.

So, this is a thing: a white parent has spent 6 months trying to get the Fairfax County,Virginia school system to ban Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved from its schools. Why? She feels its content isn’t suitable for children – where “children” here means older teenagers in an Advanced Placement class intended to provide college-level instruction – and is upset that reading the book gave her then 18 year old son nightmares.

Laura Murphy, the book-banning mom in question, has apparently also tried to get Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, a novel about the Canadian government’s internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II, removed from the county curriculum. I have no idea what her objection to Obasan is, but there appears to be a pattern here, and it looks an awful lot like whiteness.

There’s so much one could say about this.

Firstly: Yes, Beloved is a deeply disturbing book, no doubt about that. It’s the story of a mother who would rather kill her children than be forced to have them grow up as slaves. Morrison doesn’t spare feelings or constitutions in her descriptions of all kinds of horrific violence.

Kimberly Elise, Oprah Winfrey, and Thandie Newton in "Beloved."

Kimberly Elise, Oprah Winfrey, and Thandie Newton inBeloved. Still from The Ascension Blog

I’ve read a good portion of Beloved, but have never finished it, because I was strongly advised that it wasn’t a book I wanted to read while I was pregnant (I believe my friend’s exact words were “STOP READING IT RIGHT NOW”). So, I get it. It’s an unsettling read.

It’s a bit sad that this needs saying, but many books that are worth reading can be profoundly unsettling and scary, even traumatic to read. And this is in part because many unsettling, scary, traumatic things are part of the human experience.

It’s hard for me to imagine there aren’t several books on Fairfax County’s AP English curriculum that are potentially as disturbing as Beloved or Obasan. Say, for example, Lord of the Flies, which gave me nightmares when I read it in 10th grade. Kids going feral after being stranded on a desert island and hunting and killing each other is pretty nightmarish stuff, no? Or how about Hamlet? Dude pretty much slaughters everyone at the end [eta: hyperbole alert :-p]. Let’s ban, that, too.

But no, those books are part of the awfully white male “Western canon,” and not so vulnerable to these sorts of crusades. Their literary merit is established, so the violent and disturbing aspects are more easily taken for granted.  Despite Murphy’s claim that her objection to Beloved is purely about protecting kids and has nothing to do with her assessment of its literary merit, it’s quite obvious that her concerns about literary violence don’t apply equally to all books or all authors.

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Quoted: Tressie McMillan Cottom On Emory U.’s President Invoking The Three-Fifths Compromise

Emory University president James Wagner. Image via Emory University Facebook page.

When Emory University president, James Wagner, made a plea for  restraint in contentious debates about the future of higher education he appealed to history. The history he chose to appeal to is shocking. Building on the U.S.’s “three-fifths” compromise, which famously enshrined blacks as 3/5 of a person into the legal and cultural coda of a nation built on an ideal of individual liberty, Wagner puts forth his vision for academic guidance during turbulent times for higher education. In it he says that the compromise between the North and South over the political value of a slave is an example of “pragmatic half-victories” that keeps in its sights a “higher aspiration”. It’s a tasteless allusion at an institution built with profits from slave labor at any time but particularly during black history month. Still, it is an allusion that reveals a lot about similar debates being had about the future of higher education. If we can, for a moment, suspend distaste to extend Wagner’s exemplar for compromise to its logical end we can ask: who, in the ideological debates over higher education, are the slaves?

That is to ask, what is this debate Wagner characterizes with such incendiary historical references a debate about really? There are the tried and true positions on who is being oppressed in academe. Education disruptors argue that recalcitrant, inefficient university models are holding hostage innovation, progress, and economic growth.  Others would argue that low wage contingent labor – adjuncts and contract teaching labor – are fueling the lower classes in the academic prestige hierarchy. It’s been said more than once that adjuncts are often working for “slave wages.” Students are profit centers with their lucrative tuition payments and keep the university machine humming along.

Innovation, adjuncts, students: all possibilities but none feel quite right. The problem lies with Wagner’s construction of a contentious debate. For a debate to be had, there must exist two opposing ideologies. There was but one guiding ideological principle at work as the North and South battled over the measure of a black body. That ideology was a commitment to maintaining cultural, political and economic hegemony for whites at the expense of black humanity and lives. The regional elites of the North and South merely quibbled about their share of the hegemonic pie, not that the pie was rotten with strange fruit.  That is not a debate. It is competition.

From her blog, February 17