Bookbyte Blog

Posts tagged ‘current-events’

A Mixed Drink Inspired by Today’s Russian Meteor and Close-Call Asteroid

meteorBetween Asteroid 2012 DA14 passing a mere 17,200 miles from the surface and the meteor impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia causing over 1,000 injuries, I think it’s time we  start calling February 15th International Space Junk Day. Children can celebrate by throwing rocks at each other. Adults can coat ice cubes in 151, light them on fire, and drop them into a vodka & tonic. We can call the drink an “Atmospheric Entry,” or maybe a “Siberian Sky.”

Florida Approves Setting Different Academic Goals for Different Races

The Florida State Flag

In its official strategic plan, Florida’s Board of Education projected its goals for the next few years. The document set targets for the percentages of students the board hopes will be at grade level in the near future. But then it further breaks down those targets. By race.

Take a look below (or view the full document here):

 1.3	  Percentage of students  scoring at or above grade  level on statewide English  Language Arts, science,  and mathematics  assessments by subgroup  to reduce the  achievement gap   Current  (2011-12 unless noted) Reading:  • American Indian 55%  • Asian 76%  •	 Black/African American  38%  • Hispanic 53%  • White 69%  • Economically  Disadvantaged 46%  • English Language  Learners 33%  • Students with Disabilities  29%  Math:  • American Indian 58%  • Asian 82%  •	 Black/African American  40%  • Hispanic 55%  • White 68%  • Economically  Disadvantaged 48%  • English Language  Learners 41%  • Students with Disabilities  32%  2017-18 Goal  Reading:  • American Indian 82%  • Asian 90%  •	 Black/African American  74%  • Hispanic 81%  • White 88%  • Economically  Disadvantaged 72%  • English Language  Learners 72%  • Students with Disabilities  78%  Math:  • American Indian 81%  • Asian 92%  •	 Black/African American  74%  • Hispanic 80%  • White 86%  • Economically  Disadvantaged 78%  • English Language  Learners 74%  • Students with Disabilities  72%

Now you can see right there in the chart that this was driven by good intentions. In terms of raw percentages, Florida’s plan is an ambitious one, looking for around 20-30% boosts in each subgroup. And while the differences in projected percentages between the different subgroups is disturbing, the differences in the current percentages is much, much more disturbing. Clearly the people on the board thought that by pointing out the harsh realities of the achievement gap, they’d be better positioned to fight it.

Now, I can understand why you’d want to point out the numbers in the second column. Those are terrible numbers. 38% of African-American students in Florida are at grade level for reading. That’s tragic. What I don’t understand is why we need that second column. It follows up the first awful statistic with, “…therefore it’s OK if we can only get 3 out of 4 students up to par.” How does that help anyone?

The closer you look at the projections, the more troubling the discrepancies become. African-American students currently have a 9% higher rank than students with disabilities in reading, but the board’s goals are to bring the students with disabilities 4% ahead. What data could that possibly be based upon?

It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to see how this could become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Ever heard of the Pygmalion effect? It states the greater the expectation placed upon a person, the better that person will perform. Conversely, the lower the expectations, the worse the performance.

The problem with this plan is that it doesn’t simply tell teachers, “hold everyone to a much higher standard.” The document says “92% of Asian students and 80% of Hispanic students should be at grade level for math.” So the teachers hear, “the Asian students will be better at math.” If the public school system sends out documents lowering teachers expectations of certain groups of students, the teachers will project those lowered expectations on to the student. And, according to the Pygmalion effect, students being held to lower expectations are more likely to underperform.

For the record, this has nothing to do with teachers, or even the members of the school board, being bigots. It’s an institutional form of bigotry. It’s setting up a system that places a lower value on the success of certain students. It’s just hard to see that when it’s buried beneath good intentions.

#Kony2012

If you’re on the internet at all or watch the news, you’ve likely already heard of Kony 2012. An effort put forth by the organization Invisible Children to bring war criminal Jospeph Kony to justice. For the last 26 years he’s kidnapped children and forced them into his Ugandan rebel army. The goal of the campaign is to use social media to make him famous and to help him be located and brought to justice.  To help keep his name and face in the public eye, they are utilizing social media, hash tags, videos, and interviews.

Invisible Children is a unique organization and they divide their efforts into 3 categories: Movies, The Movement, and The Mission. Their mission statement is listed on their website as:

INVISIBLE CHILDREN USES FILM, CREATIVITY AND SOCIAL ACTION TO END THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS IN JOSEPH KONY’S REBEL WAR AND RESTORE LRA-AFFECTED COMMUNITIES IN CENTRAL AFRICA TO PEACE AND PROSPERITY.

They have been extremely successful with getting the video shared, viewed, and talked about. In 3 days the video has already been viewed over 55 million times. They have conducted interviews on E! News, The Today Show, and Piers Morgan Tonight. They are also targeting 20 culture makers including Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Mark Zuckerberg and 12 policymakers like Condolezza Rice, Mitt Romney, and Bill Clinton. Within 24 hours several had already tweeted and made Facebook posts encouraging their followers and fans to watch the video and share. To stand up and use their voice.

Over the last few years we’ve seen time and time again how powerful social media is. Within just a few hours this story went viral and brought people together and united over a cause. I can’t think of a better reason to be a part of  social media then to let your voice be heard.

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve watched the video and what you thought.

All the links and ways to connect with Invisible Children and Kony 2012 are included below:

Twitter:

@invisible

Invisible Children founder Jason Russell  @jasonrussell

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/invisiblechildren

Kony 2012 website

Invisible Children website

Invisible Children tumblr

Invisible Children financials website

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