Open Thread: Michelle Obama’s CCNY Commencement Speech

FLOTUS is getting well-deserved plaudits for this speech. The PoliticsUSA version starts partway through, at the most immediately political portion:

… Some folks out there today seem to have a very different perspective. They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped. They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree. They act as if name-calling is an acceptable substitute for thoughtful debate. As if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than optimism and openness that have always been the engine of our progress.

But graduates, I can tell you that as First Lady, I have had the privilege of traveling around the world, and visiting dozens of different countries, and I have seen what happens when ideas like these take hold. I have seen how leaders rule by intimidation, leaders who demonize and dehumanize entire groups of people often do so because they have nothing else to offer. And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished, how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.

Graduates that is not who we are. That is not what this country stands for. No, no, here in America, we don’t let our differences tear us apart. Not here. Because we know that our greatness comes from when we appreciate each other’s strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other, because in this country, it’s never been each person for themselves, no we’re all in this together. We always have been. And here in America, we don’t give in to our fears. We don’t up walls to keep people out because we know that our greatness has always depended on contributions from people who were born elsewhere…

But it’s also heartening to listen to the whole speech, through Mrs. Obama’s congratulations to the various speakers and honorees, because the City College of New York is the best of the American dream made real, a place where wealth and race and birthplace mean less than brains, hard work, and big dreams. We are not a ‘melting pot’, but a rich stew, where every ingredient adds new depth and richness to the mix.

Lift Off! Donovan Livingston Inspires

Text of his spoken word poem:

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,
Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.
At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — couldn’t write.
Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.
For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.
Yet somehow, we’ve never questioned the keeper of the keys —
The guardians of information.

Note to self, NEVER read the comments at YouTube.

I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,
“Donovan, we can put your excess energy to good use!”
And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.
She gave me a stage. A platform.
She told me that our stories are ladders
That make it easier for us to touch the stars.
So climb and grab them.
Keep climbing. Grab them.
Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.
Light up the world with your luminous allure.

To educate requires Galileo-like patience.
Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.
If you take the time to connect the dots,
You can plot the true shape of their genius —
Shining in their darkest hour.

We were born to be comets…. (full text here)

I thought we could use a little inspiration to go into the weekend.

Open thread.

ETA: Regarding Authors In Our Midst, I have enough for one more post, but as I was reading through the previous posts there were quite a few others who mentioned their projects in the comments. It was too overwhelming to pull them from the comments, but if anyone wants to be highlighted in the next post, send me cover art, blurb of your work and link to where we can find it. Email is Whats4DinnerSolutions (at) live (dot) com.

Sort of Maybe a Bit Like Friday Recipe Exchange on Monday: Do NOT Try This at Home Edition!!!!!

Alton Brown has been tinkering again. He’s invented a way to make ice cream in under 10 seconds. The video is below. Whatever you do, do not try this at home!

Bon appetit! And open thread.

Significant Read: “She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’”

A lot of white people were stunned by the sheer viciousness of the racist revanchist assaults on President Obama. I believe a lot of men are going to be equally stunned by the crudity and volume of the assaults on future President Hillary. A. Hope Jahren, in the NYTimes:

OVER the past two decades as a professor, I’ve grown thousands of plants, studying how their biology shifts in response to our changing environment. Soon I’ll begin to design and build my fourth laboratory; I’ll teach classes and take on more staff members, as I do every year. Like all professors, I also do a lot of extra jobs for which I was never trained, such as advising former students as they navigate the wider world. Last year, after one of my most talented students left to start her next adventure, she would text me now and then: “This is such a great place,” “I am learning so much here” and “I know his is where I am supposed to be.”

Then, a month ago, she wrote and asked me what to do. She forwarded an email she had received from a senior colleague that opened, “Can I share something deeply personal with you?” Within the email, he detonates what he described as a “truth bomb”: “All I know is that from the first day I talked to you, there hadn’t been a single day or hour when you weren’t on my mind.” He tells her she is “incredibly attractive” and “adorably dorky.” He reminds her, in detail, of how he has helped her professionally: “I couldn’t believe the things I was compelled to do for you.” He describes being near her as “exhilarating and frustrating at the same time” and himself as “utterly unable to get a grip” as a result. He closes by assuring her, “That’s just the way things are and you’re gonna have to deal with me until one of us leaves.”

Women are no longer a minority within higher education. According to the most recent statistics released by Unesco, women’s enrollment in graduate education in the United States has been greater than men’s for each of the last 30 years; as of 2012, there were 13 women enrolled for every 10 men. Yet, every school year, science, technology, engineering and math programs — known as the STEM fields — shed women the way the trees on campus lose their leaves in the fall…

In the rare case when a female scientist becomes a faculty member, she finds herself invested in the very system that is doing the weeding, and soon recognizes that sexual harassment is one of the sharpest tools in the shed. My own experiences as a student, scientist and mentor lead me to believe that such harassment is widespread. Few studies exist, but in a survey of 191 female fellowship recipients published in 1995, 12 percent indicated that they had been sexually harassed as a student or early professional. My experiences have also convinced me that sexual harassment is very rarely publicly punished after it is reported, and then only after a pattern of relatively egregious offenses.

The evasion of justice within academia is all the more infuriating because the course of sexual harassment is so predictable. Since I started writing about women and science, my female colleagues have been moved to share their stories with me; my inbox is an inadvertent clearinghouse for unsolicited love notes. Sexual harassment in science generally starts like this: A woman (she is a student, a technician, a professor) gets an email and notices that the subject line is a bit off: “I need to tell you,” or “my feelings.” The opening lines refer to the altered physical and mental state of the author: “It’s late and I can’t sleep” is a favorite, though “Maybe it’s the three glasses of cognac” is popular as well…

The comments over there, of course, are a thesis on Margaret Atwood’s quote: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

And keep in mind — these male scientists are obviously not “stupid” or “ignorant” individuals — they’re just as unconscious of their own sexism as a fish is of the water through which it swims.

Local Elections Matter

I have been waiting for these election results all day. And since somehow the link I have is borking the site, I’ll paraphrase here:

Jefferson County, Colorado has voted to recall all three board members that were voted in when a lot of out of state money poured in for their campaigns.

You may or may not be aware, but last year students began walking out of class and actively protesting for days when the board tried to turn their advanced college prep classes into jokes.

Teachers and parents took up the cause and started the recall process. The same out of state money tried to swing the vote but were unsuccessful. I’m hoping this starts a tide of recalls in the state.

I’ll post a link to the information in the comments. And yes, I’m contacting Tommy to let him know I broke everything.

ETA: John just PM’d me and said it wasn’t me and it wasn’t the link, so here it is.

No One Could Have Predicted- Schoolteacher Edition

Some unsurprising news:

In a stark about-face from just a few years ago, school districts have gone from handing out pink slips to scrambling to hire teachers.

Across the country, districts are struggling with shortages of teachers, particularly in math, science and special education — a result of the layoffs of the recession years combined with an improving economy in which fewer people are training to be teachers.

At the same time, a growing number of English-language learners are entering public schools, yet it is increasingly difficult to find bilingual teachers. So schools are looking for applicants everywhere they can — whether out of state or out of country — and wooing candidates earlier and quicker.

Some are even asking prospective teachers to train on the job, hiring novices still studying for their teaching credentials, with little, if any, classroom experience.

Louisville, Ky.; Nashville; Oklahoma City; and Providence, R.I., are among the large urban school districts having trouble finding teachers, according to the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban districts. Just one month before the opening of classes, Charlotte, N.C., was desperately trying to fill 200 vacancies.

Nationwide, many teachers were laid off during the recession, but the situation was particularly acute in California, which lost 82,000 jobs in schools from 2008 to 2012, according to Labor Department figures. This academic year, districts have to fill 21,500 slots, according to estimates from the California Department of Education, while the state is issuing fewer than 15,000 new teaching credentials a year.

First things first- if, in a recession, the first thing you cut is teacher ranks, you’re just a moron from a pure investment standpoint (as recessions will generally require re-education and retraining of the workforce) and completely ignorant of basic macroeconomics, because public sector spending should be increased, and expanding education is a better way than most. So let’s just get that out of the way. Additionally, I guess a decade of slashing salaries to give tax cuts to those who don’t need them, vilifying them and their unions and blaming them for every societal ill, cutting benefits and lengthening hours, not supporting them and allowing parents and students to run roughshod over teaches, while acting like their pensions are a gift to ungrateful slobs instead of the delayed salary they negotiated for and took less up front so there would be something for their retirement may not have been the best fucking idea.

People aren’t stupid. They know a shitty job with unstable employment when they see it. Most people who become school teachers are already willing to forgo huge salaries because they love what they do- you add on the rest of the bullshit, and people say to hell with it and pursue other options.


Thursday Morning Open Thread: The Way We Live Now, #473

The Moustache of Understanding is never one to let go a bad old idea, and it looks like his rummaging through the dustbin of such turned up 1994 Newt Gingrich‘s least popular proposal. From Adam Johnson’s FAIR article:

The piece reaches peak whitesplaining when pro-charter school Secretary of Education Arne Duncan chimes in and parrots the pernicious trope that the Baltimore Uprising was the result of “absent fathers”:

I asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan what he thought generally about the public boarding school model, which is expensive. He said, “Some kids need six hours a day, some nine, some 12 to 13,” but some clearly would benefit from a more “24/7” school/community environment. “I went to Baltimore and talked to teachers after the riots,” Duncan added. “The number of kids living with no family member is stunning. But who is there 24/7? The gangs. At a certain point, you need love and structure, and either traditional societal institutions provide that or somebody else does. We get outcompeted by the gangs, who are there every day on those corners.” So quality public boarding schools need to be “part of a portfolio of options for kids.”

The not-so-subtle implication here: Absent black parents caused the “riots.” Not legitimate outrage. Not the brutal killing of a black youth. Not the subsequent lack of an investigation. Not the decades of rampant police abuse. But absent fathers and the catch-all of gangs. This is the type of centrist racist dog-whistling one would expect from the man who once said Hurricane Katrina was “good for New Orleans” because it led to more charter schools.

If only more kids could be funneled into the boarding schools of benevolent billionaires—who, incidentally, get massive tax breaks for running these programs—all would be well with the black community…

Our awesome “meritocracy”, where guys like Tom Friedman and Arne Duncan are well compensated for explaining that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds!

Apart from keeping a sharp eye out for civic improvers bearing gifts, what’s on the agenda for the day?