Archive for September, 2012

It’s Banned Books Week!

Go check out some of the most frequently challenged books and leave me a comment about one of your favorites on the list. Why do you love it? When did you read it? Did it make you think differently about yourself or the world?

If you’re a teacher or librarian try these suggestions for highlighting banned books in schools!

Finally, though this week is a good way to celebrate the First Amendment, critical thinking and the freedom to read,  it’s important to remember the problems that banning books brings to individuals and communities. In this episode of Brain Burps about Books podcast, Amy Timberlake and Adam Rex share their feelings after their picture book The Dirty Cowboy was banned in a Lebanon County, PA school district. (Not too far from me, in fact.)

Censorship is a complicated topic and what makes Banned Books Books Week worth celebrating is the chance to have conversations about why censorship happens and how it affects people and society. So go on, tell me about one of your favorite banned books! Later in the week I’ll upload a video of myself reading one of my own favorites.

She looks like a teenager

It’s as if children can sense a change in the air whenever a visitor arrives in their school. As soon as I appeared at the doorway of classroom 207, second grade eyes were on me.

“It’s the reporter lady,” one girl quasi-whispered. Their teacher had told them I’d be coming to take photos of iPad use in class.

“She looks like a teenager!” another exclaimed.

I choked back a laugh and made my move toward the teacher. As I mentioned last week, I often get mistaken for a student by public officials at meetings I cover for the newspaper. It happens in plenty of other places, too.

For example, one time in college I was sitting in the student union when an old man approached me and said, “You don’t look old enough to be in college. You’ll appreciate that when you’re older.” I was baffled that this was a noteworthy enough observation to come tell me. To be fair, though, many of the people who underestimate my years are old enough to be my parents or grandparents. But having a second grader doubt that I’m the right age to be a working professional takes the routine to a whole new level!

Friday 5: Sure signs you are young at heart

Archival photo of high school friends Mistral, Sarah and I singing “Can you feel the love tonight” during play rehearsal.

My magnificent friend Sarah is guest posting for today’s Friday 5, which is a follow-up to last week’s “sure signs of adulthood.”

Sarah and I have been friends since high school but we often lament the fact that we didn’t meet as children because we would’ve had fantastic imagination and creation play dates.

By way of introduction to this post she said to me, “You, more than anyone else in my life, have always kept me young at heart and even though your last Friday 5 says otherwise, I still don’t think of us as adults!” Ironically, Sarah is the one I was thinking about when I wrote the bit about having tax conversations with friends and not being bored. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to present 5 signs you are young at heart!

  1. You dramatically reenact scenes from your favorite Disney movies while getting ready for responsible grownup activities (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” was this morning’s pre-work selection…thank you Pandora!)
  2. You keep two Nerf guns tucked into the entertainment center beside the air freshener refills and TV owner’s manual…just in case.
  3. Best thing about winter? Breaking out the snowflake vision glasses.
  4. The highlight of your one-year-anniversary trip to Baltimore is spending five hours in the Science Center playing with every single exhibit…some more than once.
  5. You’d rather spend Friday night going for frozen yogurt or making Cosi-style s’mores than doing anything that requires someone to check your ID.

Thank you, Sarah! And as for the rest of you…go play!

Friday 5: Sure signs of adulthood

I turned 25 last month. Despite the fact that I still get mistaken for a high school students at meetings I report on, my age is one that definitively classifies me as an adult. This week’s Friday 5 is a hat’s off to being a grown-up…5 sure signs of adulthood:

  1. You see young motorists and think “that kid can’t be old enough to drive yet!”
  2. Similarly, when you see someone younger than 16 in public on a weekday you think, “why aren’t they in school!”
  3. You have a mortgage…or friends with mortgages.
  4. You no longer do your laundry at your parents’ house. (Okay, this one is only true for me about 10% of the time.)
  5. You can conduct entire conversations about filing taxes and not be bored out of your gourd. (I really can!)

What makes you feel like an adult? Did I miss any good ones?

Quote of the Week

Journalism is not a career. It is a fight.

-Barbara Ehrenreich addressing the 2009 graduating class of Berkeley Journalism School

 

Source: “Why are working people invisible in the mainstream media?” on Truthout.

Friday 5: Testing the tests

Show some love to public education

Students with signs at a rally for public education in Harrisburg. February 2012

This is fight for the soul of public education,” says Brandon Johnson, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union.
One of the focal points of the Chicago Teachers Strike that began Monday is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s demand to have teacher evaluations and pay based on students scores on standardized tests. In corporate ed. reform this is known as the “value-added” model, and it’s being pushed across the country.

Without falling into the “good teacher/bad teacher” trap or debating the need for effective teacher evaluation, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves what we actually know about standardized tests before pegging their results to the pay of millions of people. Here are some starting questions.

  1. Who actually writes standardized tests?
  2. Do the tests encompass the full range of content and skills teachers should be imparting/encouraging in students?
  3. Who scores standardized tests? (And how often are the scores wrong?)
  4. Who is profiting off test creation/delivery and all of the remediation programs schools buy to improve student scores?
  5. What forces outside schools stand to benefit from linking teacher pay to student test scores?

If, as I suspect is the case, most Americans don’t know the answers to these questions, we ought to start thinking a little more critically before making employments decisions based on these tests.

And finally…GO CTU!

This is a much more important fight than any sports match.

Life, loss, and grief camp

“Obits,” as obituaries are called in newspaper land, are not part of my domain as a reporter, but they do get talked about in the news room. Usually that’s the older staff members noting people who’ve died that they knew for one reason or another. Last week, one of my younger co-workers was working on an obits page and commented that one woman seemed pretty young. I asked the age, and the co-worker determined that the woman had been 50 when she died.

50 is young to die, but hearing that didn’t faze or surprise me. Sunday will mark two years since one of my best friends died at age 23, and the way I experience the world has been forever altered by that loss. The real possibility of my own or my loved ones’ death is present in my mind in a way it never could be before—when I cross the street, when a sibling goes on a trip, or when I hear friends vow to love each other till death do they part, I’m sharply aware that we never know how long we have together, and that our best-laid plans may never happen.

After a truck hit Andrew on a bicycle trip, I saw the pain of his death cut across a wide web of people. Although I’ve been told by grief counselors that my experience is rare for someone my age, I’ve become keenly attuned to how many people have been touched by untimely deaths. Now, when I hear about people I didn’t know that died young, it’s easy for me to imagine the waves of impact that is having on their family and friends.

This new depth of empathy motivated me to volunteer at a grief camp for children this summer. Camp Chimaqua is run by Hospice of Lancaster County. About 25 children who have lost a close family member attend for one weekend each summer. They are paired with an adult buddy, and therapeutic activities are guided by counseling professionals. The adult volunteers have typically experienced the loss of a relative or close friend, enabling them to relate to the child’s experience. Children often feel isolated in their grief and “my” camper clearly craved the opportunity to be around other children and adults who could talk about and understand their loss. Within five minutes of meeting me, she asked me to tell her about the person I knew who died. Throughout the weekend I listened to her stories of times spent with her mother.

I would change what happened September 16, 2010 in a heartbeat if I could. Knowing that’s impossible, however, I’ve learned that death offers some gifts. In mourning the loss of one friend, I formed closer friendships with others touched by the tragedy. I was able to be a friend to a young child grieving the loss of her mom. And when not overwhelmed by sadness at the possibility and reality of people’s lives ending, I remember that Andrew lived in a way we should all strive to emulate: loving those around him, appreciating the sunshine, and acting on his dreams.

Camp Chimaqua

Camp Chimaqua. June 2012


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