Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Times

In the 21st century, things like e-mail, blogs, and face-space enable the 10,000 miles between us to not seem so far. Furthermore, The New York Times online and IndoCafe have enabled breakfast to be a time of both relaxation, education and connection to my home, despite taking place before 6 am :). Recently, I've been intrigued by three stories in particular: "What is it About 20-Somethings?" (including later in the day having it independently sent between multiple friends and commonly posted by other friends online), "For New York, $700 million in School Aid" (oh Race to the Top...), and "A Fight on New York's Skyline."

"What is it About 20-Somethings?":
As of late, I've been fascinated with all things dealing with psychology, and the early reference to Teach For America (and other programs my close friends have participated in, like City Year and Fulbright) sought to specifically assign the period of "emerging adulthood" to me and my peers. Within my own close group of friends, there are certainly those who will easily clear the five hurdles before reaching 30 (leaving home, completing one's education - I think that's a bogus phrase since I intend to be continually educated throughout my lifetime, but that's a whole different issue, financial independence, marriage, and having a child), but I've started to seriously question whether or not I will be married, let alone have a child, before 30 (of course assuming the other three will be completed, but at my rate of postponement of law school, that may even be in question :) lol)

However, "emerging adulthood" deals with so many factors outside of the five milestones. First of all, NPR (thanks for the article Greg!) has an article citing continued brain development well into one's 20s. Second of all, thanks to the way in which my generation was told we can achieve anything, there's much greater hesitation to "settle" before at least attempting to give our dreams a try. Finally, I am convinced that my time in TFA was vital for my personal growth and that spending time in Indonesia will make me more well rounded and increase my perspective. Furthermore, not only are these experiences benefiting me, but due to an increased exposure to other professions, ways of life, and cultures, all future interactions will be impacted in a positive way. Thus, while me, and many of my peers, may be "emerging" into adulthood, there could be many worse ways to emerge than Teach For America, City Year, or Fulbright :)

Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t.html?src=me&ref=homepage

"For New York, $700 Million in School Aid"
It's encouraging that New York was able to place in the top ten of the second round of Race to the Top, but it sounds like a large factor was Arne Duncan's relationship with Joel Klein. Granted, New York has made a number of important steps in education reform, most importantly that the status quo is crippling to the long-term health of the state and our country. However, and this is for Joe C, I don't think the fact that New York has increased the number of potential charter schools is necessarily going to lead to a turn-around in results. While New York is blessed to have some of the best charter schools in the country (thank you Harlem, KIPP, Uncommon, and Achievement First), it is important to note that a school is not inherently better simply because it is a charter school. I think it is much easier for a charter school to achieve greatness, but that's already been discussed.

Additionally, assessing teachers based on student performance is a needed change. While there are many issues regarding the practical application of this (ie, what to do with subjects without state-wide standardized tests, how to measure students growth, etc), the simple fact that teachers need to be accountable for their pupils learning material seems to be a work-place fundamental.

Furthermore, re-working the curriculum is drastically needed in New York, but I don't know if they're taking a step in the right direction by making it more standards-based, especially in the "common core" subjects of English and Math. The article, and the state, acknowledge the assessment for these subjects is inappropriate, but I think we need to focus more on the teaching (ie the proliferation of "master teachers" or other specialists who can provide meaningful PD throughout teachers' careers) than on the assessing.

Finally, Klein is right that a key element to education reform in New York is the elimination of "Last In, First Out." Yes, I'm biased due to my Teach For America experience, but it doesn't make logical sense that a highly effective (by any measure) teacher must go first if they were the last one hired.

Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/nyregion/25nyrace.html?_r=1&hpw

"A Fight on New York's Skyline"
This article is interesting simply because of the focus it puts upon how we deal with change. A development group has gotten plans for a structure nearly as tall as the Empire State Building to be built only two avenues away from the iconic landmark. The development group is following the wishes of the city and planning major office space near transit hubs (the proposed skyscraper would literally be across the street from Penn Station), however, the owners of the Empire State Building and other purists of tradition are claiming the new office tower would be a monstrosity that would destroy the city skyline. While I completely agree with the city that high-rise office space should be built as close as possible to major transit hubs, I have some issues with 15 Penn Plaza. First of all, they don't have any major tenants planned. It seems that with the new World Trade Center Tower (which will over-take the Empire State Building as the tallest structure in NYC) being built downtown, one should line up a few tenants before dropping $100 million to help ease traffic in Penn Station, to say nothing of the cost of building the actual structure. Furthermore, regarding its affect on the skyline, I don't so much have issues with another tall structure close to the Empire State Building, but I do have issues with structures that lack inspired design. 15 Penn Plaza is nothing special and there is one rendering that makes the building appear to be a simple block of steel erected in Midtown. If you're going to make a substantial change on the skyline of New York, do so in a classy and inspired way :)

Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/24/nyregion/24empire.html

Lastly, this is just funny: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=5491740 I was confused as to why they would've needed to use a stun gun until, "Thomas refused and dropped into a three-point stance like a football player and lunged at the officers..." Way to keep in classy in Corvallis...

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