December 04, 2014
By Marian Wright Edelman
In the wake of Ferguson and a series of young Black male deaths at the hands of official law enforcement personnel (and one self-appointed neighborhood watchman who cost Trayvon Martin his life), I hope we will use this season of Thanksgiving and celebration of Native American Heritage month by some first Americans, as an opportunity for national and personal soul searching and discussion about what it means to be an American. I also hope we will recommit to doing what we can to serve, speak up, and work with others to build a nation where every child is safe, seen, heard, respected and hopeful, and every parents’ son – and daughter – is valued and justly treated.
On the cusp of a holy season for Christians and Jews, it is timely to remember and help America remember that the kinship of human beings is more important than the fellowship of race and class and gender in a democratic society. We must all try harder to be decent and fair and insist that others be so in our presence by not telling, laughing at or tolerating racial, ethnic, religious, or gender jokes – or any practices intended to demean rather than enhance another human being. Walk away from them. Stare them down. Make them unacceptable in your presence. Through daily moral consciousness we must all counter the proliferating voices of racial and ethnic and religious division that are regaining too much respectability over the land. And let’s face up to rather than ignore our deep seated and growing racial problems while applauding the great progress we have made. We must all struggle to wake up and recognize that our ability to compete and lead credibly in a majority non-White world is as inextricably intertwined with our poor and non-White children as it is with our White and privileged ones, with our girls as well as our boys.
Let’s not spend a lot of useless time pinning blame and denying rather than thoughtfully examining the root causes of our country’s systemic racial disparities and healing our divisions. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put it aptly: “We are not all equally guilty, but we are all equally responsible” for building a decent and just America and ensuring the safety and hopefulness and opportunity of every child. So I offer a prayer for all of us in this time of national trial.
I Care and Am Willing To Serve and Work to Protect All Children©
Lord I cannot preach like Martin Luther King, Jr. or turn a poetic phrase like Maya Angelou and Robert Frost but I care and am willing to serve and stand with others to build a movement to protect all our children.
I do not have Harriet Tubman’s courage, or Eleanor Roosevelt’s and Wilma Mankiller’s political skills but I care and am willing to serve and stand with others to save all our children.
I cannot sing like Marian Anderson or Fannie Lou Hamer or organize like Ella Baker and Bayard Rustin but I care and am willing to serve and stand up with others to build a powerful nonviolent movement to protect all our children.
I am not holy like Archbishop Tutu, forgiving like President Mandela, or disciplined like Mahatma Gandhi but I care and am willing to serve and stand with others to protect all our children.
I am not brilliant like Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or as eloquent as Sojourner Truth and Booker T. Washington but I care and am willing to serve and stand with others to protect all our children.
I have not Mother Teresa’s saintliness, The Dalai Lama’s or Dorothy Day’s love or Cesar Chavez’s gentle tough spirit but I care and am willing to serve and stand with others to save all our children.
God it is not as easy as the 60’s to frame an issue and forge a solution but I care and am willing to serve and stand with others to protect all our children.
My mind and body are not so swift as in youth and my energy comes in spurts but I care and am willing to serve and stand with others to protect all our children.
I’m so young nobody will listen I feel invisible and hopeless and I’m not sure what to say or do but I care and am willing to serve and stand with my peers and adults to save myself and all our children.
I can’t see or hear well speak good English, stutter sometimes and get real scared, standing up before others but I care and am willing to serve and lift my voice with others to save all our children.
God, use me as You will to save Your and our children today and tomorrow and to build a nation and world where every child is valued and protected.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
November 27, 2014
LAWT News Service
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) hosted its second annual 5K ‘Move It’ Challenge and Health Festival on Saturday, Nov. 22 at Dodger Stadium. In partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers, this District fundraiser aims to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle among students, employees and community members, while raising important funding for the District’s Wellness Centers.
“The LAUSD is committed not only to the education of our students, but to their health and wellness as well,” said Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King. “We know that healthy students do better in school. With that said, our goal with this event is to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity and to encourage families to visit our Wellness Centers to learn more about programs they can use to improve their health and the health of their families.”
November 20, 2014
Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Citizen
In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.
A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”
“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”
The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.
“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”
In a dissenting opinion, appellate court judge Douglas Shapiro accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are governmental entities, and of protecting the rights of all who live within Michigan’s borders, particularly those, like children, who do not have a voice in the political process.”
MEAP test results from 2012 painted a bleak picture for Highland Park students and parents. In the 2013-14 year, no fewer than 78.9 percent of current fourth graders and 73 percent of current seventh graders will require the special intervention mandated by statute. By contrast, 65 percent of then-fourth graders and 75 percent of then-seventh graders required statutory intervention entering the 2012-13 school year.
“We respect the decision of the court in this manner,” says Bill DiSessa with the Michigan Department of Education, “and commend all educators who work to get all children in Michigan reading at grade-level by the end of third grade.
“In a general sense, 3rd grade reading proficiency has been and will be one of this agency’s top priorities. Students learn to read by 3rd grade, and read to learn after that.”
Referring to State Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s July 2014 announcement he will use his authority to suspend low-performing charter school authorizers from chartering new schools, DiSessa says, “The department wants to make sure there’s accountability for all schools in the state be they public or charter.”
November 13, 2014
By JEFF KAROUB
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra took a tour of more than 400 schools Wednesday November 12 in its hometown and beyond, but the road trip was a virtual one.
Orchestra officials launched the first in a series of educational webcasts with two back-to-back performances that were viewed in 300 Detroit schools and 125 others nationwide — reaching about 40,000 students.
The Classroom Edition is an extension of Live from Orchestra Hall, the free symphony webcast that launched in 2011 and now is watched in more than 100 countries. The goal of the new grant-funded, three-year series is to bring the webcasts to students by holding them during the day and incorporating interactive lesson plans for teachers.
“This is ingenious,” said Jonathan Walker, dean of kindergarten through fourth-grade students at University Yes Academy, one of Detroit’s participating schools.
“It broadens their horizons, and it exposes them to something that they're typically not exposed to,” he added. “I hope it sparks something and maybe one day they'll want to join (the orchestra), or maybe it will spark an interest in music.”
The premiere of “An American Adventure” was hosted by actor and Detroit native Damon Gupton and featured the debut of assistant conductor Michelle Merrill. And it was, in fact, live from Orchestra Hall.
The series is also an evolution of the orchestra’s Educational Concert Series, which brings Detroit students to see the orchestra. That continues, but officials recognized that some students will not come and it would be important to go to them.
Paul Hogle, the ensemble’s executive vice president, said the funding will allow the orchestra to produce two webcasts in each of the three seasons. The series was developed with people who worked on the Public Broadcasting Service series “Sesame Street” and “3-2-1 Contact.”
Kristana Spearman, a 10th-grader at University Yes, said she usually listens to hip-hop and rap and gets her classical from “elevators and restaurants.” But the performance gave her new perspective and interest in the form.
“I really like how they’re combining different things. ... I didn’t know you could do all that,” said Spearman, 16, who previously “tried” to play sax and cello. “It never seemed to work for me but I might try again,” she said.